As I sit and listen to the spring rain I rearrange my afternoon plans to include a movie or book and cuddle with the kids. The weather also works well for the elaborate dinner my youngest wants to cook tonight. These are pleasant thoughts, very different from the ones that shadowed me at one time. Once called melancholia, we now use the term depression to describe the dark, hopeless, defeated feelings that can swirl us. Different from the sadness we all feel at one time or another, depression is defined as, “a mood disorder marked by a loss of interest or pleasure in living[i].” I felt as if I was being slowly sucked down into a deep, dark hole. It took every ounce of my strength simply to get out of bed in the morning.
Years later I learned that 1 was not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will suffer from major depression in her lifetime[ii]. If you are one of these women (or men), please know that you are not alone and that help is available, though it may take time.
Depression has many sources. Physical causes include hormone imbalance, vitamin deficiency, food intolerances, drug side-effects and pain. Depression can also be caused by physical or emotional trauma, and prolonged fatigue and stress. Environmental toxins can also contribute to depression by attacking the brain. Function or integrative medicine doctors will look at all of these things. The peace of mind to be found by determining the cause of depression is impossible to describe. Well worth the time and effort involved.
While you and your doctor are looking for answers, I would like to share some suggestions that helped me. I know from experience that every step into energy and joy leads to the next. May these help you on your journey
Know that you are not alone
Find support – This may be a friend, sibling or spouse who you can confide in and who will support you. Your doctor should also be a source of help and support. Support groups as Postpartum Progress have helped millions of women find the help they need.
Have a routine – Have something on your calendar every day that will force you to get up and out of the house. Ask a friend or coach to hold you accountable.
Move your body – Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical. Exercising outdoors will further boost your mood.
Eat well – A nutrient-rich diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables will support your efforts to heal, mind and body. One study[iii] shows that such a diet may reduce the risk and incidence of depression. On the reverse side, a diet high in sugar and caffeine suppresses the immune system and taxes adrenal glands (a symptom of which is depression).
Find joy – Do what has always made you happy, even if you don’t feel like it right now. There is a part of you that remembers why this activity brings you joy.
These strategies alone will not cure your depression and are not a replacement for the plan you create with your physician. They are meant to enhance that plan and support you on your journey to rediscover yourself.
[i] Depression. (2001). In Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (19th ed., pp. 538-539). Phildelphia: F. A. Davic Company.
[ii] Depression. (2001). In Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (19th ed., pp. 538-539). Phildelphia: F. A. Davic Company.
[iii] Mirhshahi, S., Dobson, A., & Mishra, G. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and prevalence and incidence of depressive symptoms in mid-age women: Results from the Australian longitudinal study on women’s health. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.