A different kind of how to

Today's post was supposed to be a crafty how to, but I was inspired by a podcast on the Unmistakable Creative with Janelle Hanchett to talk about something completely different.

I have depression and PTSD. You will notice that I did not say I 'suffer' from depression because, well, that's inherent in saying I have depression, and because depression is a disease. It is a mo-fo disease that has taken, and in some odd ways, given a lot. And I'm going to say it again- it is a disease that requires treatment and it is ok to get treatment when you have an illness.

I have been battling depression since I was about twelve. I chose to say battling because at times it has been a knock down drag out fight for my life. There have been people along the way who have helped me immensely, but those people couldn't step in and help until I asked them for their aid.

  • When I was 22 I was completely losing it and was fearful of what I was going to do to myself. I called a friend and she picked me up, took me to the hospital and I checked myself into the mental ward. The doctor there put me on zoloft and because I was completely broke he gave me samples. He also gave me the number for a councilor who did pro-bono work (she charged about 1/3 her normal fee). That was the first time I was in therapy and it was a huge first step for me. I saw her (for the life of me I can't remember her name) for a couple of years and it was life changing. I don't recommend this, but I stopped taking the zoloft because I had no feelings- happy or sad. I should have gone to the doctor and switched my meds. 
  • When I was 25 I moved to Madison, WI. The year prior I had spent in a wheel chair because I had shattered the fibula and tibia in my left leg. They put in two metal plates and about twelve screws and at one point there was talk of amputation. Luckily I healed and moved on with life. Things in Madison were really good and ironically that is when my mental state took another nose dive. I looked in the yellow pages, yes I did say the yellow pages, and found an amazing therapist. I had a lot of crap happen to me (that's a story for another blog post) but the therapist did say these things were coming up because I was finally in a place where I could deal with them. 
  • When I turned 30 the old problems resurfaced and I reached out to Ann at Millennium Counseling Center and did individual therapy and experiential group therapy. This is also when I found out I suffered from PTSD. All of the other therapy I had done to date helped me cope, but the group therapy helped me heal. 
  • At 36 I moved to Iraq to do human rights work. Yes, that situation was stressful and slightly insane, but I loved my job and the work I was doing. Then things took a turn for the crazy and there was a threat on my life and I had to flee the country. Shortly after that I lost my job and along with it a huge part of my identity. My doctor put me on an anti-depressant called citalopram. Then my grandfather's prostate cancer returned and he passed away. That sent me into a tailspin. I reached out to Ann and she reminded me of the things that I needed to do (journaling, reaching out to friends, and taking care of myself) and I set about doing them. I had a lot of loss in a very short time period and I am still grieving.
  • Today I am in a much better place emotionally but the last couple of years took their toll. I lost touch with myself emotionally and physically, I gained 60 pounds and I stopped exercising and eating healthy. 
First I would like to say as a control freak who hates asking for help-if you are depressed get help. In my case I received stepping stones of help and when I was strong enough I really examined the causes of my depression and started slaying emotional ghosts. 

Right now I am skirting along the edge of depression.  I am not one hundred percent myself, so here are the things I am doing to touch base with myself and feel better. 
  1. I get a massage once a month. I lost touch with my body and I stopped feeling anything. I went from a size 12 to a size 18 in one year. That is a whole hell of a lot of weight. Getting a massage helps me reconnect with my body, especially since I tend to ignore any physical pain, and it helps me accept myself for who I am. 
  2. I started doing yoga. I used to be able to run a 5K. So, to have difficulty going up a flight of stairs is really hard emotionally and physically. I am committed to doing yoga once a week and when I am ready I will add more exercise. I am trying to be gentle with myself and rebuild my strength. Plus yoga really helps with my emotional state.
  3. I take my vitamins. I had a severe vitamin d deficiency last year and I have to make sure to take my vitamins. Also be aware that a vitamin d deficiency mimics a lot of the symptoms of depression. 
  4. I am seeing an acupuncturist and oriental medicine practitioner. Grainne McKeown is amazing. It is my first time doing acupuncture and after only a few visits I am starting to feel a difference in my emotional state. I also take an herbal drink that is helping me with my energy level and decreasing my cravings. 
  5. I take naps and build time into my calendar to just be. I am amazed at all I've accomplished in the last couple of years, including starting Meandering Design, but I need to allow myself time to meditate, nap, dream and be creative. 
  6. I try to cook something once a week. Cooking is my zen space and I find if I cook something to bring to work for lunch, then I am less prone to eat something unhealthy. Plus the money I save not eating out means I can get a massage. 
  7. I say affirmations. Ok, fine I will start saying my affirmations! I just bought the Power Thought Cards by Louise Hay on the recommendation of my roommate. Today I have one card tucked into the bathroom mirror, but they will work better if I say them out loud instead of passively reading them. 
  8. I give myself permission to ask for help. 
What do you do when you get a case of the 'mean reds'?

Originally published 3/11/14

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