Whilst I have, and continue to develop, rational perspective on what happened, nothing I did when I was “in” depression helped.
The exercise, diet, talking therapy, alternative therapies etc might have slowly helped pull me out of depression given enough time, but I wasn’t prepared to wait. I’d been suffering 2 months of hell on earth, and I was over it. If I’d had to endure any more of the tortuous alternate reality that depression is, without relief, I’d have started considering ending it all: it was that bad.
My belief is that because of a biological imbalance in my system - a serotonin low triggered by intense sadness and heartbreak at losing someone I’d become intimately attached to - I experienced a “crash” or “nervous/mental breakdown” that was intensely traumatic, and to summarise:
· I couldn’t sleep
· I couldn’t eat
· I ruminated CONSTANTLY and RELENTLESSLY about the situation
· I experienced regular anxiety and panic attacks, manifesting in nausea, vomiting, and a perception of intense mental fragility
The trigger for that serotonin low was literally the “straw that broke the camel’s back” – the extent, and frequency, of my rumination over the loss of this new relationship, was relentless, irrational, nonsensical, and totally out of proportion to the actual depth of the relationship.
The resulting despair was of course actually a result of a multitude of factors that may have been building up over a long period of time.
I was unable to think rationally about either the trigger nor appreciate the extent of the build up of stress or unconscious internal angst that was the underlying cause of the depression.
· Losing my mother to a terminal illness over a period of 4 years
· Splitting up with a long term partner who’d been my “support” (whether appreciated consciously or not) throughout my mother’s illness, and the moving away of that person to a different country
· Unconscious and conscious stress over a period of 18 months at starting a new business
· Unconscious and conscious stress at taking on the responsibility of looking after a young, frenetically active dog
· Finding in that new relationship one of the most important things that had been missing from my previous long term relationship, and which was a cause of permanent low level angst during my relationship with her. Losing that which I had been yearning for, for years, was simply too much for my heart and mind to bear
My despair was focused on the loss of that fleeting and (when viewed objectively) incredibly shallow relationship, but the reason for the distortion of reality to such an extent that I couldn’t rationalize the situation and retain a permanent, healthy perspective; the deep, almost physical drowning in despair; these were due to a biological imbalance in my bloodstream.
The distortion of reality (caused by that biological imbalance) into one that sees you unable to shake the despair is not one that you can think your way out of quickly, nor is it one I believe you can talk your way out of – well, not quickly anyway.
Anti-depressants were ESSENTIAL to help pull me out of the despair; to give my mind and body some relief from the relentless nature of the despair. I remember when they first kicked in - having the warm fuzzies over a beautiful morning’s sunshine, and it was as if the sunshine had pierced the fog of negativity over my entire being. I had stopped drowning; I could breath freely; I felt “alive” again, not dead inside.
I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be able to smile authentically, to experience real joy; to have a clear mind with perceptibly rational and healthy perspective on the trigger, but more importantly the contributory factors to the depression.
I KNOW that the medication was absolutely necessary in my case – I wasn’t “me” during the period of time in which I wasn’t taking medication – I was someone else that I did not recognise. The fact that the “me” reappeared only after taking the pills proved to me that they were key to my recovery, and that the biological imbalance was the cause.
What I now find fascinating is the link between what was mental angst, and the resulting physical/biological imbalance – thoughts really can influence physical reality.
Well, they don’t kick into full effect immediately – it will take 2 or 3 months for the full effects of the biological rebalancing to take effect.
SO…you will experience ups and downs. This is completely normal, albeit frustrating and of course disheartening. You need to be doing other stuff to aid the recovery process. I did all of the below in an effort to get better as quickly as possible:
You’ve got to carry on going to counseling, to make sure you’ve identified all the issues that contributed to your depression. As part of your recovery, you need to address those issues, to accept them, to move past them.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, which I did and now realise was a form of PTSD - always sparked by thinking about the trigger for my condition - you need strategies to cope:
· I used diazepam (1.25-2.5mg) in small doses when I was experiencing bad attacks which calmed my mind and body
· Deep, rhythmic, mindful breathing into your tummy, pulling the focus away from your head and into your being
I drink a smoothie every morning with dietary supplements, all for all brain and body health:
· 1 banana
· Half an apple
· 1 kiwifruit
· Handful of frozen blueberries
· Cup of rolled oats
· A few scoops of natural yoghurt (probiotic)
· Heaped tablespoon of LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond mix)
· Teaspoon of dried wheatgrass powder
· Dried goji berries
· A few walnuts
· A few brazil nuts
· Top with orange juice & blend
This I drink every morning, taking 2 fish oil caps (brain health), 2 magnesium caps (muscle relaxation), 1 phenylalanine cap, 1 B-vitamin complex cap, and 40mg fluoxetine (prozac).
· Listening to uplifting music
· Starting ceroc dance classes
· Going to 1 or 2 vinyasa yoga classes a week – great for mind and body
· Take time out every day to treat yourself to something; this could be as simple as a savouring a cup of hot chocolate, watching the steam coming off the top, holding the warm mug in your hands…through to a 3hr massage with hot oils at a local spa…anything where you are consciously being kind to yourself
· Take time out every day to list 3 good things that happened to you today; 3 things to be grateful for; again, this could be as simple as appreciating some warming rays of sunshine on your face in the late afternoon, or a smile to/from a stranger, or a phone call from a friend to see how you are
If you start looking out for others, the universe will repay you in spades. Find ways to help others who may also need help. This also takes your focus away from your own issues – a distraction.
· Medication + counseling + TIME are the basic healing factors
· Exercise + diet + doing the things you love, for you, compliment the above
· Love & support from friends and family are also very helpful!
The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.