RX for Happiness: Getting Personal

You may be wondering why I’ve been a little quiet on the blog lately. This may help you understand.  

I’ve been told by many people that  I make it all ‘look easy,’ and that I ‘have it together,’ but in my mind that’s far from the truth. I even spoke last year at FinCon about balancing it life and work (you can see the video and all my tips/advice here).

In reality things aren’t always as they appear on the outside.

I don’t know when it started exactly. It was a slow slide, a slippery slope–gradual. It wasn’t a new feeling. In fact feeling familiar, like an old coat you haven’t put in months that fits you so well and is so cozy you just want to curl up in a ball in it. When you realize you are in its’ grips it feels ilk this is who you are at your basest. That this is your default.

Depression looks and feels very different for everyone it effects, but for me it’s a slow sinking of all my emotions into a flatter plane. My depression looks like feelings of frustration, anger even, that come out when I least expect them. The rest of the time I’m on this even keel-that’s slightly too even, if that makes sense. The happiness is hollow, the sadness is shallow.

I close myself off from everyone. If I have to interact it’s minimal. I stress about. I replay it in my head.

When it finally dawns on me that the lack of joy I feel for an accomplishment, and the astounding self-hatred I feel over the smallest of my own transgressions is in fact depression–it almost feels too late. Too late to ‘fix’ what may be ‘wrong’ with me. Too late to take back all those moments I wish I could live over again more fully and present.

Depression steals away so much, and when I realize I am indeed in the midst of a bout, I get even sadder to think I’ve missed out. Of course that’s what it does best-pushes me deeper into its grip.

This time along with my numbness, my frustration, my self-loathing came a new feeling of anxiety. Anxiety over the smallest things, like getting out the door in the morning. Anxiety over nothing, and everything all at once.

So, I did what I always do. I asked for help from my best friend, my husband. I told him and for a moment I felt free of breaking into a million little pieces on the floor.

I made an appointment with our family therapist (yes, you should have one too), and spilled my sadness over everything and nothing.

She gave me a prescription for happiness, and shared that these small things can help, but that if it’s necessary we would look at medication.

Here’s the RX for happiness she shared with me:

1. Walk 10 minutes, 3 times a week. This is not exercise per say, and it is not meant to get you into shape. Rather it is meditative. A way to connect with yourself.

2. Eat foods that fight depression, and eat a healthy diet overall. Allow for some cheating, but focus on fruits, veggies, and foods that fight depression (salmon, avocado, nuts)

3. Sleep. It’s essential after all. If you have kids, they have a bedtime routine. You need one, too.

4. Plan something for the future. A life list item, a vacation, a date night.

5. Be. It’s okay to just be in the sadness a bit. It’s okay to embrace it, and just take a day to live in your pajamas and watch crappy TV and ignore everything.

I tried all of these things for several weeks, but they weren’t enough for me. It took me so much time to work myself up to that 10 minute walk. Bouts of insomnia paired with intense anxiety kept me up at night. Eating was necessary, but I found no ability to provide healthy meals for myself. I would cook a healthy meal for the family, and walk away from the table without eating. It was time to consider medication.

While I am the last person to use medicine needlessly (we prefer homeopathy and old-fashioned remedies whenever possible), I was hanging on by a thread and needed help. I hoped that the medication would be the help I needed.

I had seen the transformation others had been through once they started the right medication. I had talked to friends who shared their stories, their cautionary tales, and their triumphs. I knew I was not alone which was a huge comfort.

I was still nervous. Would it work? Would I experience side effects? How long would it take to work?

The worst part about taking antidepressants is that they take weeks to work their way into your system. So you take this little pill, and feel nothing for weeks. Slowly, slowly, slowly you start to notice things shifting. Happiness seeping in. Anxiety  dissipating. Calm overtaking you.

There comes a time when it’s really working (or not) and you make adjustments. You begin to feel like yourself again in a way you haven’t in a long time.

Those simple tasks (taking a walk, sleeping) become easy. I began to live life with ease. Problems and crises arose in life (as they do) and I was able to not only cope, but handle them with grace and love. I fight on instead of running away. I embraced the experience, I stopped pushing life away.

I know this is only the beginning. I know there will be more time, more adjustments, more challenges ahead.I started writing this six months ago, and only now am able to post it since I feel like I’m coming out of the other side.  Part of that moving to the other side of depression is to re-prioritize  my goals and my time. I’m finding more happiness in every day. I’m finding more joy in the small things.

The blog is still my home on the web, and I’ll still continue to write here as much if not more than before. Over the last few weeks though I’ve been sick (twice!), I’ve been diagnosed (again) with low Vitamin D levels, and so I’ve been spending more time just be-ing. Resting. Eating right. And yes, watching crappy TV while I do nothing.

A side note: Vitamin D deficiency is VERY common in women, so get yours checked at your annual physical. It causes fatigue, mental fog, aches and pains, and many other symptoms. It’s an easy fix, and believe me it will make you feel 100 times better if you’re vitamin D is low.

I could have shared my struggles sooner, but to be honest I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to share what I was feeling without the doubt and anxiety I have cropping up. So I waited, knowing the time would be right eventually.

Getting personal on the blog is a bit different, but I truly think my readers should know what’s going on. To use an overused phrase–I want to keep it real.

My depression, my health have all effected not only this blog, but my lifestyle and financial choices. Being healthy means I can focus on our finances without being overwhelmed or frustrated. It means I make better choices in the short-term, and the long-term. It means seeing something that needs fixing doesn’t overwhelm me. I fix it and move on.

I know this journey isn’t over, and I’ll certainly share it as I continue on this path to healing and health. It’s not easy for my to talk about, but in some ways sharing it with you means so much.

I’ll leave you with this quote. It is something I remind myself of daily.

“If you have any hesitation about getting help, my biggest message to you is this: You deserve happiness.”-From Oprah Magazine June 2001 by Andrew Solomon (author of the Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression)


About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


  1. Jennifer Worthington Lower says

    Very well written, Kelly :) You touched on some really key things that people don’t always associate with depression. The Anxiety is BIG. Thanks for sharing. I know it’s hard.

  2. Joey Fortman says

    As you know… I’ve been there. It’s real. It’s scary. And it’s a family illness. Take care of yourself Kelly. Be easy on YOU and know that the only thing in this world that really matters is your health & your family. Everything else can just wait. This blog will be here when you’re ready. xoxoxo Hugs!

  3. says

    Good for you. I’ve been there, too. It’s awful. Reading your story made me feel less crazy, less freakish. It’s been 2 years since my last episode, which lasted nearly 6 months. Keep going.

  4. Jessica R. says

    I’m so glad things are getting better. I wish I could hug you daily. Surely hugs from friends should be added to that Rx!

  5. Jo-Lynne Shane says

    Kel, I knew it was getting bad, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. I’m so sorry, but I’m glad you’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope you continue to feel well. xoxo

  6. says

    It was brave for you to share such a personal story. At the same time it was generous. Many readers share your problem and are wondering how to deal with depression of their own. By sharing your story you may have saved lives. I wish you health and happiness to come.

  7. Sommer says

    Thanks for your honesty and sharing, I now know I’m
    not alone. I’m trying acupuncture and attempted a prescription sleeping
    medicine to help with insomnia that is related to anxiety but then only makes
    daytime anxiety worse but that ended me up in the ER! I go to the doctor next
    week to continue working on a solution because I haven’t found the perfect fit
    for my body and chemical balance yet. Each person is so different but my moods
    are up and down and I hate being this type of wife and mommy – I want to feel
    better for myself and for them. You’ve given me hope, thanks.

    • says

      Sommer, you are definitely not alone! A friend recommended acupuncture to me as well. I’ll have to try it. I hope you find the right solution soon. It can be tough to find the right balance. Know that you are doing the best you can, and that by working hard to get better you are showing your family how much you love them.

  8. BeccaHeflin says

    Thank you for sharing such a personal and deeply touching subject. It takes a lot of courage to admit that life is anything but “normal” and even more courage to take the steps to turn an upside down world right side up again.

    I’ve traveled that lonely path of depression….and I continue to do so, even a minute at a time when I have to. Medication helps a great deal, but prayer and self-love go a long way towards healing, too.

    Take it from one whose been there…and still is. Life is worth making the necessary changes. When I look back on where I’ve been and what I am today, I can honestly say, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”

    My prayers of continued healing go out to you…and others like us.

  9. Amy says

    Thank you for your honesty. I believe that depression likes to be kept secret, it loses some of it’s power over us when we share our struggle. I hope you will continue to feel better, and find the right balance of treatment for yourself. I’m thinking I need to get my vitamin D levels checked, too!

    • says

      That’s a wonderful way to say it, Amy. It does like to be kept a secret. There is some shame and stigma that comes with sharing mental health issues, but mostly I feel like it’s the depression lying to me. Everyone I’ve discussed this with has been so supportive.

      Definitely do! Even if they aren’t low I’ve read some research that indicates it can’t hurt to take extra.

  10. Sarah says

    Hope your days are getting better. I can relate to this post, oh so well. If you need a walking buddy or want to play with a happy baby, call/text. I am (pretty)funny and have been known to make you laugh out loud over my everyday silliness. Xoxo

    • says

      Sarah, thanks for your kind words. Things are definitely getting better. :) Once this darn snow goes away I’ll be back out walking again. I love being outside!

  11. says

    Thank you for sharing this with us Kelly. I think the way you described it is just the way many of us feel. I have Depression (as well as anxiety and ADHD) and when I get into those lower parts of my life, I do want to just dig down and curl up. It’s so tough to do.

    I’m starting medication too and in the past it has helped me so much. One thing this country needs to do more of is talk about our mental health! There should be no shame in living with something that is not preventable. Thank you again for sharing a part of your story.

    • says

      That’s exactly how I felt, I just want to hibernate! I hope the medication helps you, it has been miraculous for me.

      I feel like the stigma comes from within-it’s the depression lying to me, if that makes sense. No one has said anything to me to indicate that I should be ashamed. I’m grateful we know so much more about mental health now, and it has become more normal to discuss it, but you’re right we have a ways to go!

  12. says

    Being vocal about it may end up being good medicine too. I sincerely hope that freeing this story from your mind to the blog here, for us to read, is one step on the way to happiness for you. All the best, Kelly.

  13. Lilkidthings says

    I could have written the first few paragraphs. And this SO resonates right now “the happiness hollow, the sadness shallow”. I have a long awaited appointment tomorrow and I can’t wait. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  14. Jessica @FoundtheMarbles says

    No only am I impressed by your candor, I am so very proud of you for putting yourself first when it was needed, Kelly. Kudos to your husband too for being a strong support system. Thinking of you.

  15. says

    Hugs. Been there. Will in all likelihood be there again someday. Glad you are getting some help. Amazing how your non-med Rx can be the answer to avoiding depression in the first place, but it’s hard to see it coming when all is busy and frantic in life. At least that’s my version of this tale. Feel better. Come back into circulation. See you soon.

    • says

      It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to know there are so many people I know who have been through or are going through the same thing.

      It’s so true, we get caught up in all the ‘to do’ lists and chaos that we forget to take care of ourselves.

  16. Carrie @ Chockababy says

    Thanks for sharing your personal journey through this. My doctor just told me he thinks I might be Vitamin D deficient. I get “down” in the winter and this year it’s also included some of the symptoms you listed. I need to start taking more vitamins!

    • says

      Carrie, it’s amazing how much they help. The more I read about it, the more astounded I am that I didn’t know how much certain vitamins can effect your overall health and mood. I’m definitely getting a ‘sun’ light for the winter. Every time the sun is out I feel a huge difference in my mood.

  17. says

    I am so glad I had a chance to talk with you on Saturday even if it was just for a few minutes.

    That moment when you start feeling things again – I remember that from a few years ago. I had started taking St. John’s Wort after 2 bouts of mild ppd plus struggling with stuff going on in my life. The kids did something and I laughed about it. It felt pretty amazing. I’ve stayed on St. John’s Wort ever since. The one time I stopped I could feel the difference. Taking all my vitamins helps, too. I’ve also noticed that eating sugar, especially processed sugar, hits me really hard.

    It may take some time to find the right balance. That’s okay. I think sometimes as moms, we’re so outwardly focused on caring for others that we forget to monitor our own selves. We also change as we get older. We need things like Vitamin D that we didn’t need when we were younger.

    Hugs. My thoughts are with you.

    • says

      Ditto! It was good to see you as well.

      I’m glad that St. John’s Wort helped you. And yes, sugar is so, so bad. Though I know I need to go off sugar I can’t give it up until after Easter. Starburst jellybeans are just too good. 😉

      It’s so true that moms (and dads!) tend to put everyone else first. I just remind myself daily that I need to put my oxygen mask on first.

  18. says

    Sharing your struggles might be difficult but even if you can help just one person find the courage to get help it will be worth it. Being a wife, mother and woman in this day and age is HARD. I’ve had a lot of the same issues as what you are having right now and have taken steps to improve my outlook on life and I have to say it’s been the best thing for me, my marriage and family. Congratulations on taking the steps you need to so you can improve your life. xoxoxo

    • says

      Thank you! It is a challenge, but it can also be so rewarding. It’s all about finding the time and space for yourself, and I think sometimes I have to FIGHT for it mostly fighting my own instincts to ‘do it all’.

  19. says

    Thank you for sharing a very personal and difficult struggle with your online family. You remain an inspiration, Kelly. Sharing your story encourages other to seek help. Sending hugs and strength your way.

  20. Jackie says

    Kelly – thank you for your strength in sharing this very personal side of yours. I have gone through this as well. I somehow realized on my own what it was and pulled myself out of it. It’s not pretty. I didn’t want to socialize or be seen by anyone. I would just curl up in a ball on the couch as soon as the kids were off to school. We are all human and shouldn’t be embarrassed about our state of mind. It is all too common. Thank you for being honest. Jackie

  21. Lisa Lightner says

    You know, when I saw you on Saturday, I was just thinking I hadn’t “seen” you much lately, in reality or virtually. Glad there is light at the end of your tunnel, and I’m also a huge advocate for Vitamin D and taking it daily. Not to make light of depression, but even as a person who doesn’t have depression, for some reason I have found this winter to feel particularly long and dreary and I find myself longing for sunlight, moreso than usual. I hope your days get brighter, you deserve it!

    • says

      Thank you, Lisa. I’m definitely takin more time to pursue things that bring me happiness both offline and in other arenas online so I’ve been a little more absent.

      It has been a long winter, and the snow on the 2nd day of Spring only confirms that it’s not over yet!

  22. Hillary Chybinski says

    I have missed you. . .here and in other “circles” . . . thinking about you, hoping all was ok . . .knowing that you are smart and strong. . . happy to see you come “out to play”. . .Skype me if you want to meet up for a walk, coffee, wine or whine =) xox and much much love.

  23. says

    Thank you so much for sharing. This was a great, inspiring message. I hope you know you aren’t alone on this journey through depression and anxiety. Although (thankfully) I don’t suffer from depression, I suffer from OCD which causes me to have anxiety issues that leads to insomnia which leads to more anxiety, which leads to more OCD etc. and I had to start taking medicine as well. This is a hard decision, no one wants to be labeled or have to take medicines etc. but two years later I am so thankful I made the decision, with my doctor, to start taking medicine. Many blessings to you – I love your blog.

    • says

      Thank you Trish. It is such a vicious cycle isn’t it? I’ve been taking melatonin which seems to help regulate my sleep better.

      Wishing you the best on your own journey, and know I’m always around if you want to email me.


  1. […] a moving piece about mental illness. She’s been open about her own struggles. I have shared my own struggles with depression, but it wasn’t an easy thing for me to share. It’s not something we talk about openly […]

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