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Four things I Wish Someone had Told me about Depression.

Let’s be honest, depression sucks. It can steal the life from your day, make the best of intentions feel like an obligation and turn you into someone you don’t recognize.

I don’t know how long I’ve struggled with depression. Now, thanks to (finally) finding some meds that work, and talking to a counselor, I feel like myself for the first time in years! Which makes me question how long I’ve been just existing under this cloud.

I always thought depression meant the big waves of sadness, isolation, or emotion, I never knew the “lower form” of depression.

For so long I blamed my mood and discontent on something in my life – a job, a move, lack of something, etc. But what if I have simply been depressed for years?

Like most other mental illnesses, there are levels to depression. There are the moments when you just want to sleep and all forward momentum stalls, and taking a shower is a victory!

But then there are the minor times, when things are off a degree. It’s a lingering annoyance, a slight discontent, a view of the world you can’t shake. It’s snapping at the dog because you can’t pinpoint why you’re mad. It’s not doing what you love because the effort it too much. It’s pulling away when you really just want to lean in.
I used to say I had cyclical depression, down days or seasons, but overall was not depressed. I realized now that I can still have depression even when I’m feeling “up.”

I never realized how depression is attached to other things.
I have been seeing a nutritionist for about a year now. I had a bout of success (I’ve lost 20-ish pounds in three years!) but then I plateaued. I was doing what she recommended in regards to calories in and calories out through exercise. I watched my calories, adjusted what I ate, tried to move more, and nothing. And it’s not gaining muscle (don’t I wish!) but hitting a plateau.

I finally asked if depression can be related to weight gain (or lack of weight loss). There is some evidence that some depression drugs can trigger weight gain (or loss). There tends to also be a correlation between being depressed, therefore not moving, thereby gaining weight.

I am interested more in the mental aspect. As one of my favorite health professionals loves to remind us, it’s never about the number. It’s not about wanting a six-pack or for your thighs not to touch, there is always something deeper at work. So what if whatever is deeper is why I’ve plateaued even after months of moving and watching what I eat?

So what is the underlying issue? What am I holding onto that might be causing this plateau?

I’ve come to realize depression is rarely about the issue in front of you.
Back in January I was really angry, and I put all of that onto a situation that was not fair. Like I said before, I tended to equate my sour mood on a misaligned job, a co-worker, feeling adrift, etc. It is easy for us to look at one thing and say, “if that would be fixed, I’d feel better.” But we carry things. We repeat behaviors. And sometimes we don’t even know we are doing it or why.

Depression is a chemical imbalance, and not something we can wish away or “fix” on our own. Sometimes all you need is medication to get things back in balance. Counseling can help get a root issues or to talk through whatever is going on. Sometimes it’s more. And either way is okay.

Ultimately I’ve learned it’s okay to have depression. 
I am a planner. Give me a three step plan, point me to a path, tell me what to do! I like goals, definition and outcomes. I wanted meds to cure me. I wanted counseling to fix me. I wanted to be free of this ennui! I hid and denied my depression for so long because it felt like defeat. It felt like weakness. It felt like giving in.

But I’ve come to see that accepting – and treating – depression might be the bravest thing one can do. It takes courage, gumption, and honesty to live with depression. It takes resilience to function on the bad days. Ultimately, the hardest thing to do is to admit you are depressed and then find ways to not let it rule your life.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels
Depression can be an uninvited guest we face for the rest of our lives. There will be good times when you are “yourself.” The sun in warm on your face and joy comes easy. Then there will be times you have to seek joy out, intentionally search for it. Times when the things that bring us peace feel like toil. But through it all, depression is not about “us.” It’s not a flaw in us, something to carry with shame or deny. It’s a part of who we are and that is okay.

I’m learning to love myself through the hard days and cherish the good days when they come. I am also resting in feeling like me again. It has been so long, I almost forgot who she was.

What has depression taught you? How have you found to “manage” it? 

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