This week marks one year that I’ve been without a depressive episode!
I know!!! That is the longest I’ve ever gone without a depressive episode since I first started getting them in high school. A year without depression is a BIG freaking deal.
As I started to explain in this post, there have been a lot of changes in my world that helped me get here. Today, I want to share them all with you! (Please keep in mind that this is just my experience, and not a mental health professional’s prescription)
There are a few people that helped me rebuild my foundation of health so that I could do the work it took to keep myself present and loving.
I went back to group therapy about 2 years ago and stayed in my regular group until about 6 months ago when I felt strong and stable enough in what I was working on to try life without. It was a great way to bolster the work I was doing in individual therapy as well as have the accountability and sounding board to keep me going. Upon “graduating,” I kept up with my therapist through individual appointments on a bi-weekly basis. I also go to group meetings (not therapy) for extra support for some of the issues I’m still working on.
I learned so much about myself and so many tools to use in every kind of scenario. I’ve shared most of them with you here over the last couple years. They have been truly transformative, but what I found is that you really have to want the healing enough to do the work…and the work is hard. Unfortunately, it won’t just come to us. No one has the answers if we’re not willing to put in the effort. I earned this recovery.
As I talked about in The Blood Sugar Trigger, my naturopath really helped turn my hormonal makeup and nutrient imbalances around. When I first saw her, my hormones were whacked the eff OUT. I wasn’t sure that we would ever be able to correct them! They were causing acne, fatigue, slow muscle recovery after workouts and fuzzy brain syndrome (that’s the scientific term). Oh, also, I had freaking adrenal fatigue! Bleghhhhhh.
After months of rigorous supplementation, I’ve finally found physical balance that has helped me find energy enough to deal with the issues that might have driven me to depression in the past. Bonus points: I regulated my hormones through the supplements and adjusted lifestyle! My body feels more balanced which allows me the energy to focus on self-care and regular mental/emotional health maintenance.
This year I had an epiphany that I had to start being completely f**king real with the people in my life about how I feel emotionally. I’d been protecting them from having to see that part of me for too long and I realized that it was holding me back from healing.
With all my friends, my husband and my supporters, I dedicated myself to saying what was real for me in the moment. I was afraid, but luckily, everyone received it quite well and I feel that my relationships have gotten even stronger because of it. I think the people close to me could always tell when there was something going on under the surface that I wasn’t talking about, but trusted me to speak up when I needed to. Now I do, and my whole world has changed as a result! More on this below in “Reaching Out.”
My tools are my life-savers. I placed myself on a steady diet of all these tools throughout the last year with extra doses if I started to feel triggered into depression. Here
Every morning I meditate for about 10 minutes with ambient music, then take a few extra minutes in silence to connect with the source of power within me. Super woo sh**, I know, but it really works for me! It helps me start my day in an intentional, peaceful and centered mindset which allows me to be more aware of myself and the situations I find myself in.
When I first started meditating, I used the Calm app. It’s a great way to get into meditation if you’re a beginner!
Oof. This one still isn’t easy, but it’s a go to if my brain won’t stop spiraling in a dark direction. Whenever I feel like I’m getting sucked into the black hole of anxiety or depression, I’ll use one of these journaling techniques to work my way back out.
This has been years in the making. Like, a decade of consistent effort.
When I first got into therapy for reals, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) was the name of the game. It helped me to become aware of thoughts that don’t serve me, analyze their validity, and then reframe them into thoughts that would help me grow (instead of keep me in the dark state). To learn more about the way I’ve turned around my negative self-talk, read this post.
When I hurt, my default reaction is to isolate. In recovery, I’ve learned that that actually worsens whatever I’m going through. It gives depression an in whereas reaching out to others and calling out what’s going on weakens that voice of darkness.
It’s hard for me to reach out to other people because that fear voice likes to remind me that “no one wants to hear my sh**.” You know what I’ve found to be true? My friends actually do want to hear it because I’m a good friend and am there for them when they have sh**. People in healthy relationships start to feel uneasy if there’s only one side supporting the other. Let them be there for you, too!
To make it easier on myself, I usually text for support unless I’m really going through a hard time. I’ve noticed that calling, however, makes for a better sense of connection, and seeing someone in person is always the best way to break a funk.
I can’t say enough for this specific tool. When I allow myself to feel what’s going on, I release it. When I don’t, it stays inside me and grows stronger.
This is most definitely the most difficult of all these tools to use because we feel “weak” when we experience emotions. This link is a nonsensical one, friends. Emotion isn’t weakness; every single person experiences it. Emotion is a natural reaction to things being out of alignment in our lives. When we refuse to feel what’s going on, we deny ourselves the lesson within the emotion.
Emotions are messengers. They bring us opportunities to learn more about ourselves. To learn more about emotions and how to feel them safely, read this post.
All that said…
Let’s be real about how I got here: each one of these things had to start one at a time, and took time to master. I didn’t start all of them together, otherwise I would have become super overwhelmed. Each took time to become part of my regimen, and now – after months or years of practice – they’re second nature.
My recovery is not due to any one of these tools. It’s a result of all of them practiced consistently.
If you look at these tools and automatically think “there’s no way I’ll ever get there,” let me assure you that I had the exact same mindset before I started. All I had to do was start just one thing. Focus on just one thing and the rest will come.
Being Realistic About Recurrence
I was diagnosed with clinical depression back in high school. That means that the chemicals in my brain are a little whacky so I can’t always predict when I’m going to be triggered into a depressive episode.
I might get depressed again. And that’s ok.
I am not “cured.” I never will be. Depression is always something I’m going to have to be mindful of. I feel good doing everything within my power to stay in a balanced, peaceful mindset and lifestyle, but I know that sometime in my future, that may not be enough.
All I can do is support myself so that I can hopefully prevent an episode by filling my needs in healthy ways, and/or minimize their strength and duration by working through the emotions and thoughts when they arise. And that has to be enough.
That’s where I am now, and it’s what I truly hope you’ll find, too. It won’t be easy, but this life is so worth the work it takes.
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