From about June to December of 2019, I was in a pretty awful depressive funk.
I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety and been on medication pretty steadily since I was 20, so you’d think at 37 I’d have a decent grasp on the situation. Sadly, that’s not entirely true. After finally being done with pregnancy and breastfeeding after 10 years, about two years ago my doctor and I started trying to find a combination of medicines that would really work for me. Time after time, this only seemed to make me gain weight, feel more crazy, and want to crawl into bed.
I’ve learned in the last 17 years, though, that there is a lot more to dealing with depression than being on the right medicine.
I believe the issue in the latter half of 2019 was actually supplements I was taking that contained folic acid. For some women with depression, and especially those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, which I also have), I’ve read that folic acid isn’t processed properly, causing more harm than good. Unfortunately for us, many foods are fortified with folic acid, even flour and cereal. Yikes!
As per usual, I didn’t realize how bad I felt until after I got off the supplements and also started a new medication pairing. I felt like a completely new person in the weeks after Christmas, and immediately regretted my Grinchy attitude about Christmas this year. The truth was, I wasn’t feeling anything, good or bad. I was almost numb.
Since then, it’s been amazing how much more balanced I feel. And with this, I can also tell which days classify for me as Bad Depression Days. They still come, influenced greatly by the weather, media, my hormones, and whether I’ve been in the sunshine or been exercising. My thoughts start racing, I just want to sleep, and everything on earth annoys me.
I think having a coping strategy is the most important thing you can do when you have depression. (At least, mild to “average” [?] depression; I don’t have a lot of experience with suicidal, severe depression so I can’t speak to that.) Right now, knowing that the depressive state is probably temporary and I just need to give myself grace makes it much easier to cope.
Here are a few other things I do to cope when depression strikes:
Seek Out Social Activities, Immediately
Stuck in my own head and alone at home is the worst place for me. I need to see a friend, stat. Last week, I texted my dad to take a walk in the middle of the day. I soaked in some sunshine, I got some exercise, and I talked to someone. All these activities make me feel so much better.
I am a stay-at-home mom and work some from home, so it’s a lot of quiet when the kids aren’t here. I am not a big TV person, but occasionally turning on a favorite show and walking in place is enough to distract me and trigger some serotonin.
When I’m in a depressive state and just want to sleep all the time, I think it’s a good thing that I have four kids to make me get up and go. But I also feel okay acknowledging that I need some extra sleep. I may sneak in a nap while the kids are at school, or go to bed at 9pm. My body needs the rest to recuperate.
Do All the Healthy Stuff
Exercise, drink water, avoid sugar, get fresh air…we’ve been told these things our whole lives. And there’s a reason for it! They help keep our bodies in top form — NOT skinny, but everything functioning in the best way. FitBit keeps telling me dehydration leads to fatigue. I know a lot of sugar makes me lethargic. Too much caffeine will have me jittery and anxious. What we do with our bodies definitely affects how our brain is functioning, too.
Do What You Have to Do
Since I work only very part time, generally I can ignore work for a day and it’s not a huge issue. I realize that’s not the case for everyone. For me, to function as best as I can, I may have to only do the things that ABSOLUTELY have to be done that day: school drop-off, feeding the people, any set-in-stone appointments. But the housekeeping and laundry can wait. The emails can probably be sent tomorrow. It won’t kill anyone to eat grilled cheese for dinner. I need to focus on my mental health for a day, and not on the to-do list.