There are many routes for reclaiming your health when confronted with depression. I share my journey to help inspire your own path to healing.
Sometimes our life’s difficult journeys are wake-up calls in disquise – propelling us to see our circumstances differently, and in so doing allowing us to reclaim our power. Here is a path I took to transform my past into something defining — a true exploration of self.
A few years ago, I started noticing some changes in my mood. Always an anxious person, the increase in feelings of uneasiness was not uncommon. However, the lack of motivation, bouts of anger, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and fear were rampant.
But like any good avoidant, I persevered, moving forward and finding ways to ignore these feelings.
And then I lost my job.
After years of working myself to the bone and questioning my purpose, being let go felt like winning the lottery. I had wanted to focus on my coaching business full-time and was waiting for a sign. Hello, could it get any clearer than this? So, those first few weeks felt electric as inspiration fueled through my veins and I woke up motivated and centered for the first time in years.
Then reality set in.
For over a decade, while I was navigating life sober, attending grad school, working two jobs, managing relationships, I was also experiencing significant grief due to losses: deaths, breakups, miscarriage, and physical/emotional abuse.
While I thought I was coping, I was actually trying to control what had happened by avoiding (or staying busy). As a result, I bypassed any opportunity to sit with the discomfort.
At times, I would acknowledge feelings of pain as they surfaced and would even go as far as meeting with a therapist or coach. However, I was not addressing my wounds in the long-term way needed to heal. When I found myself with all this free time, everything I had endured came flooding up to the surface.
My nervous system took a serious hit as I found myself struggling to manage the intensity of what I had failed to look at in the past. Suddenly, it was hard to get out of bed. I cried all day long. I worried about my future. My thoughts scared me. I felt raw and exposed. I was breaking open.
After a few weeks spent drowning in this emotional state, I reached out to my doctor. After 15 minutes, she diagnosed me with depression brought on by traumatic events. She suggested starting a low dose antidepressant to stabilize while I continued working through my grief with a support team.
I was hesitant due to the fear of being stigmatized. Sadly, this fear is commonplace in today’s society.
Eventually I agreed because I knew what I was experiencing was different and I wasn’t just feeling ‘down.’ I needed support to find a healthier way to manage everything I had endured. Within a few days of taking the medication, I returned to baseline. I slept throughout the night, noticed a reprieve from anxious thoughts, could regulate my emotions, and actually felt hopeful.
During this time, I was keenly aware that medication alone was not the answer and that I didn’t want to rely on a pill to make me feel okay. So, I also practiced yoga, meditated, spoke regularly to my coach, and focused on addressing the underlying issues that brought me here.
At the 90-day mark, things changed… for the worse.
I started struggling with sleep again, was overeating, lacked energy to work out, and found myself more emotional than before. I was nervous because what if I fell back into the abyss of sadness I had experienced prior? I was encouraged to increase my dose of antidepressant, but my heart told me that wasn’t the answer.
I decided to stay at my original dose and explore alternative options for healing with the goal of eventually getting off medication completely.
It took me another 90 days until I was ready to commit. By that time, I no longer felt in control of my body. My hormones were completely imbalanced, and the weight gain triggered my past history with an eating disorder. Each step I took felt heavy and cognitively, I felt like I was living under water. So, I started to taper my medications and if I’m being honest, it wasn’t that bad. I was mindful and followed medical protocol, which helped me manage withdrawal symptoms.
In time, I began to recover.
It has been three months since I’ve taken any medication and I feel like myself again. I am at ease and comfortable in my body. Emotionally, I feel stronger and I am no longer a prisoner of unexplained sadness. I’ve been diligent about staying on top of my mental health and continually work with a coach to process feelings as they arise. I have also embraced a plant-based diet, take supplements to promote hormone regulation, move my body on a daily basis, meditate, check in with my partner, set boundaries, and practice self-care.
For me, having this arsenal of tools has been essential for my well-being.
What I learned from this experience is that I am not a failure for needing help. I believe medication was necessary, albeit temporary, for my body and mind to find a harmonious balance, especially during such a challenging time in my life. The path I took to heal and the decision to stop taking antidepressants was personal — and one that worked for me. I am comforted in knowing there are many avenues one can take and there is no shame in turning to medication for support. I value the commitment I’ve made to myself… and you can, too.
NOTE: As many of you know, I tend to write about personal experiences, ones that hit on some intense, emotionally-charged subjects. I try to remain as honest and transparent as possible because I find it not only helps me in my own recovery, but it also serves as a healing tool for others. That said, this latest piece touches on a sensitive topic and I want to be clear that this is my experience. The choices I made were done intentionally and with careful consideration for what I needed. I am in no way advocating for one medical modality over another or supporting a western vs. eastern approach to healing. Everyone is unique. There is more than one option to treatment and taking a one size fits all approach is unrealistic.
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