You know when you’re weeding, and you pull out the plant but the roots stay in the ground? You know you haven’t seen the last of that weed, even if your lawn is pretty now. Give it a few days or weeks and it’ll be rearing its ugly head once again. To me, getting to the root and digging it out is the perfect analogy and strategy for overcoming life’s biggest issues, including depression.
In Part 1, I shared that I approached my healing with anti-depressants and prayer. I view those two moves as a sort of “zap” to healing. They pushed me forward to a place where I could actually feel a difference in my head. These next things I did either helped me dig up the depression from its roots or simply provided the tools I needed for maintaining the progress I had gained from the prayer and Zoloft.
Counseling. I don’t know why there’s such a stigma around counseling or therapy. Honestly, the people that I know irl who go or have gone to counseling are some of the most well-rounded, mature, and reflective people I know. Not that I’m putting myself into that camp, but in my experience there’s nothing weird about going to counseling, and there shouldn’t be. I think it’s an experience that could be valuable to anybody, no matter what you’re going through. For me, it was an opportunity to reflect on some of the hurts I had experienced when I was younger, and evaluate how they were still affecting me on some level. One major takeaway was realizing how simple wrongs done to me by others had led me to believe that I was and would never be good enough or worthy of love. Counseling helped me to realize that I was believing lies, and my counselor helped me to replace those lies with truth.
Eating differently. I will always be grateful for the time I spent working for a dietitian after my first child was born nearly four years ago. She’s all about real food and balancing your blood sugar for about a billion reasons. Working for her as an editor allowed me the opportunity to read all of this invaluable information daily, teaching me about food and its effects on our mental and physical health.
For the purpose of managing my migraines, after editing one of her posts, I decided to take four weeks off from eating dairy (read that account here, if you’re curious). I maintained my avoidance of dairy ever since, and after treatment with a specialist for migraines, he determined I needed to also avoid gluten, sugar, and caffeine. While these changes have certainly helped with my migraines (though I still get them time to time), they also have helped me to have a more clear brain. I’ve seen articles linking inflammation to depression, and in my case I believe cutting out inflammatory foods has helped create a neuro-environment capable of maintaining the progress I gained before changing my diet.
Being grateful. Here’s one tip where I’d say it’s safe for everyone to start implementing immediately. When I was depressed, all I could manage to dwell on was everything going wrong or everything I had screwed up. It was all internal, too. Like a loop, I couldn’t stop the negativity and it slowly ate away at me day by day. At various points in my life, someone or something forced me to verbalize (out loud) three or more things I was grateful for. It started out painfully, as I was convinced I had nothing to be grateful for. I was skilled in twisting everything into something ugly. But with the accountability from whoever was guiding me through the exercise, I could always manage to come up with at least three things I was grateful for. It was okay if they were dumb and simple, as later on I would be able to come up with more meaningful things that I was grateful for. Eventually I would even be grateful for the pain itself.
Good company. In high school it was hard to find a supportive group of people to lift me out of my depression, as most of my friends were going through similar emotions and circumstances. As an adult, I found incredible peace and belonging in various groups, especially faith-based groups. In one group, I serve as a bible study leader, and Tuesday mornings at leaders meeting are typically the highlight of my week. The support, love, and acceptance I experience each Tuesday morning is often enough to pull me through the rest of a hard week.
Accountability. After finally attaining a clear mind and being able to recognize when a dark thought was threatening to ruin my progress, it was and is important to me to identify that thought and share it immediately. Typically I share with my husband or mother, two people who have only good intentions for my well-being, and are genuinely invested in seeing me live my healthiest life. Sharing with them takes away the dark thought’s power, which is secrecy.
So many of the emotions tied to depression for me thrived on the fuel of secrecy; shame, guilt, embarrassment, scheming (in the case of imagining my suicide), and feeling like I was a burden. Bringing the secret to light immediately takes away the majority of its power, and knowing how to replace the lie with truth helps keep my brain free from the cloudiness it was once drowning in.
I’m sure there are other things I’ve done and am doing to continue building mental wellness in my life, but these are certainly the “biggies.” I struggled consistently with depression and suicidal thoughts for over a decade, but I don’t feel that it’s a present threat anymore. I’m joyful, confident, and content with my life and myself. It’s such a nice change and I hope that everyone who is dealing with depression or anxiety can find the same freedom. Take care of yourself, you’re worth it.