Isn’t That Ironic? My Personal Story of Depression.

I started writing this over a month ago, but I’ve been struggling to find the words I want to say because I feel so many emotions when thinking about the past year. It was a year filled with a great deal of pain, questioning, and desperation, but also one that I had to go through to gain the strength, confidence, and perspective I have today.

At the start of 2018, I felt inspired and courageous. I had been a stay at home mom for 4 years, and felt it was time to make my aspirations a priority. I decided to go back to school and follow my passions to become a holistic health coach.

Ironically, while studying everything health and wellness, 4 months in, I realized that burnout is a real thing. I couldn’t be a full time mom, take care of my household, stay up late doing school work, wake up with my kids 3-4x a night, then start all over again the next day, while still finding time to care for myself, maintain my relationships, and everything else in between. I was completely overwhelmed, exhausted, deflated of my optimism, and had absolutely nothing left to give.

Simultaneously, I was learning through the literature in my curriculum at IIN that there are many aspects of life that contribute to health and happiness. At the forefront, are relationships, career, physical activity, and spirituality, all of which needed improvement in my life.

My education opened my eyes to so many things I wasn’t addressing that were having big impacts on my wellbeing. I had been so hung up on fixing everything with nutrition, and blaming every negative symptom on my food sensitivities, that I was essentially burying my head in the sand, and completely ignoring all the other red flags that had been waving around me for years.

Around May, I began a downward spiral of depression that would make me question everything – my marriage, my friendships, my sanity, and my ability to be the person I wanted to be. I experienced constant fatigue, extreme episodes of sadness and hopelessness, I distanced myself from people and things that I loved, I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, and my whole body ached. I felt like a stranger to myself, and I couldn’t seem to shake it.

I thought I did an okay job of hiding it all, until a simple question like, “how are you?” became enough to bring me to tears. People were noticing and I had to start addressing my problems. At that point, I had so much to say that I hadn’t been, that I’d find myself spilling out my personal life to anyone who would listen. This, of course, left me with many vulnerability hangovers (that’s the feeling you get when you word vomit on family, friends, and even strangers and regret it later). Because of this, I began talk therapy. When sharing with a third party there are no judgements and no hangovers. I recommend this to absolutely everyone.

I learned so much during my personal great depression, but the most bewildering part is that there was an immense silver lining amidst it all. The low points I experienced served as a catalyst for me to take ownership of my life. It inspired me to stop playing the victim and realize that I have a choice every day when I wake up. This catapulted me into having much needed hard conversations, and getting to know myself in a way I didn’t care to before. Ironically, the most problematic year of my life ended up being the biggest year for inspiration, transformation, and growth.

Depression can coexist with overwhelming awe and even reverence for the mystery and miracle of life, though when we find ourselves in a pit of despair, that second bit might not be so readily available. It’s that second bit, however, that, like a ray of light beaming into a chasm, keeps giving me something to crawl toward, something to crawl with.

Jennifer Williamson, Reasons to Stay Alive

Sometimes it’s not until you hit rock bottom that you realize what matters most. There was so much value that came from my lowest points. I learned that I had to speak up about my needs and expectations (after all, no one is a mind reader!) and become a crystal clear communicator. I had to honor my state of vulnerability, swallow my pride, and accept help. I also recognized that I had to tighten my friendship circle because I only had so much to give. But, most of all, I had to love myself unconditionally, trust my decisions, and learn to say NO.

This will be an ongoing process for me, as I am a recovering people pleaser who also sets high standards for herself, but moving forward I will bring awareness to the moments in question. My biggest intention for 2019 is to respect my boundaries and limitations, and to be honest with myself and others.

I feel compelled to talk about my depression because it’s become an epidemic, but simultaneously remains taboo in our every day conversations. Major depressive disorder effects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, but many of us share our “highlight reels”, but hide the real stories. The more we talk about our emotions and stop hiding behind a facade of rainbows, the more we can prevent the harmful experiences from occurring in the first place. Support is everything and it means so much to know you’re not alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by the year 2020, depression will be the second cause of morbidity, and currently, it’s estimated that approximately 1 out of 7 will experience an episode of depression in their lifetime. There are common themes among all people experiencing depression, and I think it’s time that we address the problems.

Why is depression such a problem?

People can experience depression for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • stress
  • loss of a loved one
  • divorce
  • past/present emotional traumas
  • hormonal imbalances
  • alcoholism
  • food allergies/sensitivities
  • neurotransmitter imbalance
  • sleep deprivation
  • lack of sunlight (often seasonal)
  • exposure to toxic compounds and mold
  • serious medical issues for you or a loved one (cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease)

Are you unsure if you or someone you love are experiencing depression? Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • fatigue
  • low mood
  • disinterested in things that normally bring joy
  • hopelessness
  • extreme sadness/crying often
  • trouble sleeping
  • doubting yourself
  • pessimism
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • aches and pains
  • weight changes (gain or loss)
  • changes in appetite
  • trouble concentrating
  • memory issues
  • irritability
  • thoughts of suicide or death
  • attempted suicide

These symptoms can have widespread effects on your life and the lives of those who love you. Please be honest with yourself and speak up if you need help. Or, if you notice someone is a little “off” that you love, let them know you are a safe space and you care.

Many people choose to medicate, and while this can be a great option for some, it can mask the symptoms without addressing the root cause. In these cases, when patients go off of their medications, the symptoms can reoccur so they find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of discouragement. If you’re currently taking medications, absolutely continue to do what you feel is best for your body, and follow the plan advised by your doctor, but I would like to offer some natural remedies that I’ve found helpful for anyone looking to take a whole body, holistic approach.

The following list are things that have helped me personally:

  • eat a well balanced diet, free from artificial ingredients, preservatives, and GMOs
  • avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, baked goods)
  • eliminate gluten and/or wheat
  • get adequate sleep
  • surround yourself with a positive support network
  • seek professional counseling – talking therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, health/life coach
  • get outside for that fresh air and sunshine
  • include supplements in your diet – vitamin D, fish oil, probiotics, and B vitamins
  • exercise/move your body daily
  • use essential oils to promote calming or uplifting moods (roman chamomile, lavender, rose geranium, ylang ylang, and rose are great options)

It’s important to remember that the healing process won’t happen overnight, but with an open mind, hope, and support, you can turn your life around.

In January, I graduated from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). After a long, hard year I am coming out on the other side with an action plan for self care and the knowledge to help others do the same.

Please share this to spread the light and let more people know that they aren’t alone. If you are interested in learning more about my program, head over to my website and contact me. Thank you for reading.

With Love & Gratitude,

Brittany

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