I have written a great deal about my fight with depression and some of the more challenging and painful times in my life. I have shared my thinking, my revelations, my failures - my journey to good mental health in general. What I haven't done is share the more practical side of my journey and I thought given the subject matter that I should.
Take into consideration that my diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder which has been an underlying issue for me since I was a child. So I have had to change my lifestyle to a certain degree. But all in a good way. These are the habits I try to use on a regular basis.
1. I take medication as necessary. Carefully researched and proven medication to help normalize my brain. With every new medication, I try to wait out the side effects unless they are dangerous or I can't function. I have learned the hard way not to yo-yo medicate and now take my medication regularly and as directed.
2. I have a very knowledgeable Dr. that I like and trust to manage my medication and touch base with.
3. I go to therapy when I feel I have an issue I can't work out alone. I don't use therapists that I don't vibe with. If I am not comfortable or feel like they don't 'get me". Whatever help I seek out has to get my spirituality as well as my practicality. Although I no longer take therapy (associated with the depression) with people who are not mental health professionals. Having the word DR in front of a name does not automatically make them qualified to treat mental health issues.
4. I make sure that I am not overwhelmed by my obligations. I carefully weigh what others ask me to do outside of my family and household. I try to keep my life as simple as I can with three young kids and two dogs.
5. When I was in crisis, I admitted myself into the hospital. Part of my crisis came from the fact that I was on a new medication that I didn't like and I didn't take it properly.
6. I get my rest as best I can.
7. I take a break if I need it when I have a lot on my plate.
8. I try to keep myself inspired and I do those things that bring me pleasure. It helps me with mood regulation.
9. I take Vitamin D and get outside in the sun.
10. I try not to believe every single thought that crosses my mind.
11. If I feel 'off'' I try to figure out what may be contributing to it. Most of the time I haven't been getting rest, which means I don't eat well, which means I have no energy, which means I don't get my stuff done, which means I feel like a failure....you get the point.
12. I try not to freak out if I feel depressed. Last summer I did freak and went to a therapist. She was able to point out all the things going on that would make anybody depressed. My son was in the hospital for a week and I stayed with him, and didn't take my meds.
13. I try to be aware of what I watch on TV or at the movies. There are certain things that act as triggers and mess with my mood. I am also aware of the people I surround myself with on a regular basis.
14. I am honest with my Drs. and Therapists. I do not try to sugar coat to make myself look less (or more) crazy. The key is finding someone you enjoy talking to, even though some of the conversations can be really hard.
15. My husband knows to get me help when I am in crisis, no matter what I may say. So far he has never had to do more than tell me I need help.
16. I had a complete blood workup. You need to rule out allergies, hormones, nutritional deficiencies and all the other things that can cause or mimic depression.
17. I have a rich spiritual life and know that my faith has been critical in my recovery. I pray and meditate regularly and have a church home.
18. I do not beat myself up for being depressed. If I need to lie down for 3 days (and I can) then I lie down. However, I still do the things I know I need to do.
I don't think everyone suffering from MDD needs to be on medication. But everyone needs a treatment plan. Left untreated, the cycle of depression can worsen as you age.
You don't have to be suicidal to be in crisis. If you feel extremely overwhelmed, like the walls are closing in, if you can't get any quiet, if nothing you do helps alleviate the extreme pressure - you need help. That is okay, the best thing I ever did was to check myself into the hospital a few years ago.
Medication may be a part of getting you out of crisis mode. When you are stabilized, do what really works for you. But don't NOT take meds because of shame or pride. And that is ok. The best thing I ever did was to check myself into the hospital. The intake part is awful - so if you can get your Dr or a Dr. to arrange your admittance - do it.
Most studies show that mediation with therapy has the best results. The people I know who are successful without meds are disciplined, diligent, vigilant in doing the things that keep them healthy. They work out, eat the right things, have a support system and usually have some type of spiritual or stress reducing practice.
So those are my basic thoughts on the matter and what I do to stay healthy. I am still moody, imperfect and have my issues. But depression does not have the same type of hold on me that it used to. I hope it never does again.