Yesterday at one point I was feeling just miserable. A lot of little things added up to make my outlook on the world impossible negative. It felt like there was nothing I could do to make myself feel better.
But then I hit the gym. 15 minutes of walking, lots of core work, and an arm workout later I was sweaty and tired and felt great. After the gym session my mind felt clear and I didn’t feel the same crap I had felt before.
I don’t really make it a secret that despite my general happiness and love for life, I struggle with mild depression. I’ve dealt with it on and off for about ten years. Technically my diagnosis was/is PMDD, but mild depression has also been a problem for me beyond that. For the most part it stays mild and I’ve only had one experience (in high school) where it became worse and I had to seek treatment.It generally just hangs around as a mild thing I deal with via my own treatments: exercise and stress management.
Somehow in our culture people have decided that admitting they suffer from things like depression is a terrible thing. Some people seem to view it as a character flaw. I read somewhere that people are scared to admit something like that at work for fear that it would affect their job. I wish it wasn’t that way, so that’s why I’m extremely open and honest about the fact that I’ve struggle with it. It doesn’t make me less of a person, it doesn’t make me unworthy of anything. It’s just something that is.
I think a lot of people are scared to admit things like that because maybe they think people will look at them differently. I understand that. I worry that people will look at me differently. I know they already make judgments based on my size. I wonder if people who know will look at me and wonder all the time if I’m sad or not. I wonder if because I admit things like this on my blog, will my readers look at me differently? Will they relate or not if they know I gained weight because of depression instead of just bad habits? Will they think I’m weak when they know it’s hard to overcome?
But I’m not here to debate or belabor that point. I’m just here to talk about mild depression and exercise – two things I am very well acquainted with.
For a lot of people with mild depressions anti-depressants don’t work. When you have major depression that nothing you do will pull yourself out – they work. They are the only option for a lot of people. But for the people like me who suffer from mild depression on and off? Nope. Doesn’t really do anything useful.
What does help, and I’ve found this to be amazingly true in my own personal experience, is exercise. Generally the best prescription, or the one I see recommended most on websites discussing this kind of thing, is a combination of therapy and lifestyle changes like stress reduction and regular exercise.
I’ve never really done the therapy aspect, but I’ve been a regular exerciser since I was 18. The periods where I’ve ignored exercise and skipped it for several weeks or months are the periods where I look back now and realize I struggled with the depression the most. It seems that I can’t take more than two days off before the chemicals in my brain go crazy. I need the exercise to make me feel better and keep the depression in check. Basically I can exercise and take care of myself so I feel happy and normal or ignore those things and suffer.
That’s what happened yesterday. I was starting to spiral downwards and I felt it. In the last few weeks it’s been getting worse and after skipping three days of exercise and stressing out because of the storms/floods I started to feel depressed. I felt like I was almost gone with nothing to pull me out and make me feel normal, but exercise did it. It totally saved me from slipping off the edge. It’s done this before. It’s kept me sane and happy and depression free for a long time. My entire college experience was my happiest party because college is awesome and partly because I stayed very active and worked out regularly for the entire four years. It’s when I stop exercising – like the year after college – when things get worse. When I let the stress build up and don’t exercise, it’s all too easy for me to fall back into mild depression. And it’s all too easy to go from mild to something worse.
Part of my struggle with depression has involved a very unsupportive family situation. Whenever I live at home – high school, post college, now – I struggle with this battle the most. It’s why I’ve been plateaued in my weight loss lately. It’s why I regained so much weight after college. It’s why I gained the weight in the first place. This time I’m trying to make it manageable, but yesterday I realized it wasn’t. If where I live makes so much of a difference in how I feel and how I live my life then I need to make it the best place possible. So that led me to a couple decisions I will discuss in another post. But for now let’s just say I’m taking care of myself and making sure I don’t slip any further than I already have.
So there it is. Some of what I’ve been thinking and dealing with lately. Depression is a mean ugly thing. It can take people’s lives if left untreated. Even if it’s only an occasional mild struggle like mine, don’t ignore it. Take care of yourself with exercise and stress management. And if it doesn’t get better go see a doctor. It’s not something you choose and it’s not something you can always control on your own. In a way I’m lucky that I can – if I make myself realize how important it is.I realize how important it is. I realize how I’ve had to struggle and live my life because of it and I know that I want a completely happy and healthy future – full of exercise and absent of any depression.