It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written a personal post on the blog, and I thought it was time to give you all a little update and answer some questions I’ve received about how I’m faring.
Before I share more though I want you to know I’m not a medical professional and the details of my experience are personal. While I hope you’ll try these methods, if you are experiencing depression please seek help. You can find resources and seek out qualified therapists at NAMI. If you need to speak with someone immediately or are considering suicide please call 1-800-273-8255 where someone is available 24/7.
It’s been 9 months since I shared that I had been struggling with depression. First I have to thank everyone who commented or reached out to me since then. I still receive emails about that post, and I appreciate that more than I could ever express.
Depression doesn’t magically lift or go away, but there are things you can do to help yourself. With seasonal or low level depression you can often take a holistic approach using diet, exercise, stress relief, and more to help you combat your depression. With moderate to severe depression though it’s often necessary to use medication to help your brain function properly. While I’m always interested in using holistic methods as a first line of defense sometimes it’s just not enough. In my case it wasn’t enough to ‘walk it off’ or eat better, I needed help.
When I shared that I was struggling I also shared that I had started taking medication to combat my depression. Due to the (annoying) nature of anti-depressants it can take weeks to see any benefit and even after 6-8 weeks you may need to increase dosages to get the ‘right’ balance for you brain.
All about Medications
I started off on citalopram (aka Celexa) and we increased my dosage until it seemed to be working well. Eventually I felt like the anti-depressants were keeping me on the right track. Yes, I’d still be sad sometimes, but I would be happy too. And I could really feel. I went from this feeling of surface emotions to emotions that could suddenly reach deep into my soul.
The only concern was there were some unwanted side effects. Mainly weight gain. While it wasn’t the worst thing I could have experienced once the weather warmed up (winter seems to be hardest for me) my doctor and I decided to try a new medication to see if it helped.
We added bupropion (aka Wellbutrin) to the mix and I decreased my dosage of citalopram. I found a dosage and rhythm that worked well-taking a small dose of Celexa and every other day taking Wellbutrin for a few months, but the weight was stubborn, so again consulting with my doctor’s office we agreed to try to work towards only being on the bupropin since many patients experience weight loss on it.
I worked my way off the Celexa slowly (since withdraw can cause issues and I experienced dizziness). I had to reduce dosages until eventually I was able to completely stop without any dizziness. Then was solely taking the Wellbutrin.
Wellbutrin is very ‘activating’ and made me experience anger in a way that I didn’t feel was good for me or my family. Like bursts of anger or frustration over nothing. It wasn’t a good feeling either. Leading me to be hard on myself for being angry or frustrated even though it wasn’t something I could totally control. So, I slowly reduced that until I was completely off both medications.
My hope was that by being off both medications it would allow me to lose the weight I had put on (about 15 pounds) and I would work harder on finding ways to combat my depression (which was manageable at this point) without medication.
No More Drugs
That was about a month ago, and since then I have experienced a lot of emotional toil and some lingering side effects. While I know I could go back to experimenting with medication I think it’s best for me at the moment to focus on other ways I can combat depression. It’s not easy at all. I have moments that I feel like I’m spiraling back to where I started, but thankfully I have support I can lean on (mainly my amazing husband) whenever I need a hug or a kick in the pants.
The kicker–I’ve actually GAINED weight going off both medications. So, the first one added 15 pounds, the second medication saw me lose 5, and now I’m up 20 pounds. I know I’ll be better off this way, and while the weight gain frustrates me I know I can change that given time. I’m working on making small changes in my diet and increasing my exercise to help, but so far the scale is being very stubborn.
Where I’m at Now
So, while I’m not exactly where I want to be emotionally and physically I feel healthier now than I did on the medication. I know that medication is life-saving for many people, and I truly think it helped get me over the ‘hump’ of my depression last year. Additionally, I wouldn’t ever say I won’t use it again-but I know I’m not in the same place I was a year ago.
In the end I think my depression is somewhat mild-practically a part of my introverted personality, but during the winter and in stressful situations it tends to get worse. A big part of this is that during the winter I practically hibernate, and when I’m dealing with a stressful situations or a super busy schedule the time I make for taking care of myself is the first thing to go out the window.
My aim this month is to take back me, inspired by my friend Erin (read more about the movement she’s created here) After all February is a time to share your love-so I plan to give myself plenty of love this month by fueling and moving my body more and taking time to do things that ‘fill my tank.’
Ways I’m working to Combat Depression without Medication
These are some of the ways I’m working to combat my depression and take more time for me. I’m still working on all these, so this is by no means a definitive list, only what I have the capacity for at the moment.
The benefits of exercise and physical activity can’t be stressed enough. While it can be hard to get motivated to get moving when you’re depressed there are some ways I’ve found that help me move more. Find a walking buddy, use a FitBit or similar tool to track your movement, get active with the kids (dance parties are a favorite here), and simply making time to walk once a day (well, when it’s not snowing out).
Food is actually more important than exercise in my book. What we choose to fuel our bodies with can make a huge difference to our mood and those nagging symptoms we may not even notice like headaches, joint pain, or stomachaches. Giving up gluten was a huge help for me but I need to do better.
I plan to do a full elimination diet in the Spring (when there are more fresh options), but for now I’m eliminating sugar and dairy to see if those help. In addition I’m adding more fruits and veggies to my diet by juicing and making smoothies with our Vitamix.
We all have different ways to relieve stress including gardening, cooking, crafts, knitting, or any other hobby you find relaxing. For me I find reading (not online) and painting or drawing to be tremendous stress relievers. I’m working to incorporate more of this into my week.
Meditation and Yoga
I know they may not seem like they are for everyone but simple guided meditations and yoga you can do at home are both simple practices that will allow you to connect with yourself in the midst of a chaotic day.
Sex and Intimacy
Yes, I’m going there. Intimacy like hugging, backrubs, kissing–these are all things that often fall by the wayside when we’re busy with life and kids. Taking some time to kiss each other goodbye in the morning or sit on the couch and hold hands. That connection is extremely healing. Sex is a proven stress reliever and it’s a wonderful way to connect with your partner or spouse. The benefits reach well beyond the act. (plus it burns calories!)
Make Time for Friends
I know I struggle with this the most when I’m feeling down or depressed, but being around others (especially positive people!) helps us get out of our heads. I tend to push people away when I get depressed, and it takes a true friend to stick by you during that struggle. By virtue of my introverted personality and our busy schedules it’s hard for me to make time for being social, but I keep pushing myself to connect with friends and colleagues (my work at home social media friends) in real life as often as I can. I don’t have a ton of close friends, so making time for those I do care about is key. Sometimes I have to practically push myself out the door and then I’m so glad I did.
I love to travel, and while it’s not something I can afford to do often I find that I need to have some break in the routine to help pull me out of my rut. Seeing new things, exploring a new place–it all just brings you outside of yourself in a wayyour day to day routine can’t. At this point I haven’t traveled anywhere in months and I definitely think that was a mistake this winter. Even a day trip or brief overnight trip can be a huge help for me.
Hopefully this will help someone else who is struggling like I did and it will answer your questions- but if not you can always email me or leave a comment.
As a reminder: I’m not a medical professional and the details of my experience are personal. While I hope you’ll try these methods, if you are experiencing depression please seek help. You can find resources and seek out qualified therapists at NAMI. If you need to speak with someone immediately or are suicidal please call 1-800-273-8255 where someone is available 24/7.