Monday, April 11, 2011


It's not pretty, nice or easy. It's like the common cold of mental health these days. Hard to treat, lingering, off-putting and generally unattractive.

I've stuggled with depression for many years, off and on. I am so grateful for the kindness of my friends when I don't return calls, emails, letters or other generous gestures because I'm in a funk. I am blessed to have them in my life. And my amazing husband, who cheerily trucks along when I'm acting like a Cymbalta commercial. He does the laundry, cleans the kitchen most nights, helps put the kids to bed, empties the garbage and does a million other helpful things around the house. Did I mention he also gets up with the kids in the morning and usually has the coffee water on by the time I stagger out?

I don't takes medications for depression. I've found some treatments within my control that work well. For me, a good analogy is a to treat it as someone else might treat a propensity for type 2 diabetes. Prevention is key. I know that if I don't take care of myself, I will go into a big black place and need to take medication, but if I do the things that work for me, I can keep healthy.

Everyone has activities/people that fill them up emotionally as well as things that drain them. And we all empty and fill at different rates - unfortunately some of us empty faster than others. To keep myself from emptying quite so quickly, here are some things I use:

Exercise. This, for me, is the biggest factor. I beat this drum a lot. Everyone benefits from moving - in many ways. 'Nuff said.

Healthy relationships - also a biggie. I have friends who have know me since I was born: that's a long time. Unfortunately, a side effect of being nomadic means that I've dropped out of their orbit. I'm like a comet now - I zoom by sporadically - which is not conducive for building community or mutually supportive relationships. I haven't given up on those foundational relationships, but I want to put more into them for the long term. Additionally I want to invest in the friendships I have near me. As adults it is harder to make new friends, (than, say, in the dorms at college) but not impossible.

Spiritual practice - spending time with God. I'm obsessive about running by myself in part because it's on of the few times that I have alone to talk to God. Doing 5 minutes (10, 15, whatever) of meditation has never worked for me. But praying and running: that works. (Which means it's a double whammy when I don't exercise)

Productivity - even small things - like hanging a picture I've wanted to get up - help immensely. While it can take a huge effort to get it together to do it, the satisfaction of finishing one thing rebounds me into others and builds on itself.

I'm also a believer in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Basically this theory is that your thoughts form your mood. When you change your thought patterns you can change your depressive cycle. That said, depression, with its lack of self worth and low energy, is a challenging place from which to start developing new thought patterns. But it is a helpful strategy for me.

Light - Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and winters are hard. Get a full-spectrum light, get somewhere sunny once a winter, play outside every time the sun is shining - all those things.

There's no magic bullet for curing the common cold, nor depression. But my hope is that other people who struggle with it will find their right mix to get and stay healthy. And I want to be a support for those people in my life who need it.

1 comment:

  1. I love you Jen and I'm honored to call you one of my close friends. I hope I'm never one of the people who drains you!