Tag Archives: hormones

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression

Picture of sunset, Cotswolds, England March 2005

“I wish that I had let myself be happier. “ I was reading this article that described the top 5 wishes/regrets of people on their deathbed, and this was #5. It reminded me of a question/accusation people with depression often hear: “Why can’t you just BE HAPPY?”

Here’s the thing. Someone struggling with depression literally cannot “just be happy.” Our brains are malfunctioning in such a way that prevents it. We wish with all our might to have the ability to choose happiness.

When we are crippled with depression, the only thing in our power is to choose to FIGHT. And making that choice is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Choosing to FIGHT depression often looks and sounds simple. Just talk to someone! Just go for a run! Just get better sleep! Just pray! But you guys, there is no “just” about any of that. Each tiny step is HUGE, because every part of you is weighed down with the suffocating blanket of depression.

I write this because I don’t want this post to sound trite. When I say this is my battle plan, I mean it quite literally. As in war, to plan a battle implies there will be fighting and pain. Battle plans are not made flippantly, and are not easily kept. Fear creeps in, opinions differ, doubt rises, and the feeling of self-inadequacy is at its peak.

And making the choice to follow through with ANY of it takes massive effort. If you’re struggling with depression, I hope that this list might be of help to you, even if just to know you’re not alone. If you haven’t yet made your own battle plan, I’m going to be so bold as to suggest you choose something (whatever sounds easiest) from this list to start your own. Baby steps. Because a baby step for other people is a huge, giant leap for us.

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression*

  • I talk about my depression. This is one of the biggest issues for me, and for many people. It’s SO HARD to talk about depression, especially during a low moment. The key for me is to be talking about it especially when I’m NOT struggling badly. This enables people (my husband and close friends specifically) to feel comfortable asking me how I’m doing. And this is a big deal. To know that I won’t be judged and that these people love me anyway is a huge relief and support, and it forces me to be open. But choosing to be (sometimes brutally) honest about how I’m feeling is still so hard to do, even though I’ve been talking about it for three years now! But it is by far the healthiest thing I can do for myself and my fight.
  • I get outside and get exercise. We moved to a new flat in September, which now means that Tori’s school is exactly a one-mile walk away. Which means I walk a minimum four miles each day, quite often up to six or seven total, rain or shine. Most days I easily meet my FitBit target of 15,000 steps. While it’s not always fun, it has definitely been providing the exercise I need to help fight my depression. I’m known among my friends for being a “fast-walker” and I do this deliberately to increase my heart rate and serotonin levels. I’ve also noticed that exercising outside has had more positive effects than doing it indoors… Perhaps this is because I’m exposed to natural light, or because I have to be thinking about more than just myself (ie kids, fellow pedestrians, avoiding dog poo, etc). While I liked going to the gym, it got monotonous and dull at times.
  • I take supplements and vitamins. When I remember. For some reason it’s so hard for me to remember to take them! I take a whole-food multi-vitamin, and have adjusted the following vitamin amounts according to what is and isn’t in the multi. All of these have been linked to fighting depression: Vitamin D (it’s physically impossible to get enough Vit D from the sun during the winter if you’re north of Virginia/Spain! I don’t take it during the summer as often), Vitamin B complexKrill Oil (for Omega 3 fatty-acids), and St. John’s Wort. I always look for whole-food, no additive supplements. **PLEASE consult your doctor before adding or adjusting any supplements to your diet. **
  • Light therapy – I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just an extra-bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood. And when it’s sunny, I try and sit in the sunlight in my living room, even if for 10 minutes while I fold laundry. It really is so therapeutic!!
  • I have memorized Bible verses and am very intentional with my prayers. Why? I know some of you don’t believe in God or prayers, but I do, and I hope you can read this knowing that I’m just sharing my own experience. :-) I can honestly say that I feel a sense of peace and hope when I read the Bible. Hope is something that depression steals from your mind, and focusing on the hope of Christ replenishes my spirit. The best way I can describe it is that it quenches my thirst for peace. Scripture and prayer help me feel more centered and stable, and I swear it makes my blood pressure drop :-) For a list of my favorite verses that help encourage and empower me, visit my resources page!
  • I pay extra attention to the calendar. In the past couple of months since I’ve stopped taking my anti-depressant, I’ve noticed I need to be desperately aware of my menstruation cycle. The days before my period is a very low point for me emotionally, so being objective about it and thinking, “just get through these few days!” instead of “my depression has returned” really helps. You guys, I’ve even set an event on my phone reminding me for several days; it literally says “YOU MIGHT BE HORMONAL RIGHT NOW. IT WILL GET BETTER.” Call me crazy, but whatever works!

So there you have it. I wish I could say that one or all of these are a magic, happily-ever-after antidote to depression, but I can’t. They are just little but difficult things I choose to do, in the hopes that the collective effort will be rewarding. After all, my greatest desire is for you and me to live our lives in full bloom!

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLV)

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*Disclaimer:

I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, therapy or medication of yourself or your children.

How I knew it was more than “just hormones” – PART TWO

In my previous post, I talked about the reason why it is so dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

I want to preface this post by saying this: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. And that really sucks, huh?!? No fair! If only we had clarity and common sense and objectiveness DURING our trials instead of AFTER! But alas, it is what it is, and I’m grateful that now I’m looking at things in hindsight and not in the depths of it.

imageWhen I was 7 months pregnant with my second baby (my adorably charming son, Anders, now 21 months old), my husband and I went on a much-needed date. While we were waiting for our food to arrive, my husband looked me in the eye, and said, “How ARE you?” And to thank him for such a kind question, I started sobbing. You guys, I don’t mean like, oh, sniff, a tear! But, GUSH, swollen nose, red eyes, snot and drool. NOT pretty. Poor AJ. He was flabbergasted.

I told him, “I’m just so hormonal…” And then the moment came. I knew I needed to TALK to him, to tell him that, maybe, just maybe? it was MORE than “just hormones” and that, maybe? I was actually depressed. I told him we’d talk when we got home, that P.F. Chang’s other customers didn’t deserve to see or hear what I had to say. :-) And when we got home, I talked. And cried.

This was a pivotal moment for me; it was the first time I’d said the word “depressed” to my husband. I told him how I’d been feeling that everything was pointless and that I just couldn’t get excited about things anymore. I told him I felt like I was walking around outside of myself, watching me interact but not truly being present. I knew he didn’t fully understand; how could he? But he listened and was supportive. And life continued.

I gave birth to Anders on April 5, 2012. He was 8lb 10oz (2 oz shy of his big sister!) and we were so excited. My healthy, strong baby boy was delivered after 3 pushes and being in the hospital for 2 hours. Talk about easy!

But then I tried to breastfeed. And all of my horrible memories of trying to feed my daughter came flooding back. Even our lactation consultant was the same one we had with her!! And Anders had the same exact issue as his sister: he literally could not open his mouth wide enough to feed properly. So we went home.

To read a little more on my struggle with breastfeeding, I wrote a brief post on it during Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

Anders was a perfect little champ (except in the feeding area) for the next 4 weeks. He was a very typical baby, waking every 3 hrs or so, and otherwise just sleeping all day. To be honest, I don’t really remember too much of those first 5 weeks. This is, in hindsight, the first big symptom of my post-partum depression: I was not fully present in my surroundings. It was a complete fog. I was going through the motions.

imageBut I do remember when we first started noticing his acid reflux (how can one forget your child SHRIEKING in pain?!?) and the many, many doctor visits and the trial and error tests of formulas and prescription medicines and refusal to eat and his loss of weight and general discomfort ALL DAY AND NIGHT LONG. His doctor asked me, “How are you doing?” and I said, “It’s been a long month” and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, you’re just tired. It’s just the hormones.” He was about 6 weeks old at this point.

I had my 6 week check-up with my OB. I was still sore (I had 3rd degree perineal tearing) but was healing fine. She said, “Any symptoms of depression?” and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual hormonal stuff…”

What I didn’t tell these doctors (kind, caring, professional women who have known me for years, by the way) was that every time I tried to get Anders to fall asleep and he didn’t (which was quite often) I would be so overcome with ANGER and RAGE that I would literally leave him, crying, in his swing, while I fell to the floor shaking and sobbing.

What I didn’t tell them was that when I attended any sort of social function, I felt that my speech was stuttered. That I literally couldn’t form a complete sentence and say it properly.

What I didn’t tell them was that during the night, during those precious few hours when my son was actually asleep, I was wide awake, my mind restless and unrelenting.

I didn’t tell them that in general, I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my children desperately, and, thank the Lord, I never once felt that I was going to harm anyone, even myself. But, when I wasn’t overcome with anger, I had an extreme apathy for everything. My daughter’s laugh on the swing didn’t make me smile. Her interactions with her baby brother made me feel, if anything, a desperate hopelessness that I would never be the mother they really needed.

I didn’t tell anyone that all day, every day, I felt like a failure.

One of my darkest moments came when Anders was about 8 weeks old. As usual, I was trying to get him to sleep ANYWHERE BUT IN MY ARMS and was failing. My entire being filled with an inexplicable anger. I put him in the swing and sank to the floor, sobbing tears that were desperately uncontrollable. My mind was completely blank yet so out of control that literally the only thing I could think of to pray was the name of Jesus. I said it out loud: “Jesus”, over and over and over again until I finally calmed down. And then I prayed, “Please, please, please, don’t let my children be affected by this. Protect them from this, from me.”

It was that prayer that made me realize that maybe I needed help. The fact that that one day, my children might say, “yeah, my mom was depressed a lot” scared the daylights out of me. I needed to get help, even if just to protect my children from the effects of living with someone with unmanaged depression.

imageMy best friend visited from New Hampshire the next week. She is like a sister to me, and I’ve always been able to be completely honest with her. Talking about how I was feeling was such a relief. I told her what I was experiencing, and she saw it firsthand. She did not judge me, nor did she say, “oh, it’s probably just the hormones.” She was able to look at my situation objectively and simply said, “You need to get help. You need to call your doctor.” What a wise, beautiful woman she is.

I finally saw my doctor about 4 weeks later. 4 WEEKS!! It truly is amazing that, in the midst of feeling so out of control, the last thing I wanted to do was to talk to my doctor about it. As I’ve mentioned before, admitting you struggle with depression is the hardest step.

In my next post, I’m going to talk more about how I decided to fight my depression. I’ll go into detail about what I call my “battle plan” and the steps I’ve taken.

Please, if you have been wondering, “Is it more than ‘just’ hormones?” either about yourself or about a loved one, TALK about it. Share my story. Share my symptoms. Visit the links on my resource page. Use me as an excuse to bring the subject up. That’s why I’m writing this; I truly, firmly believe that all of us need the chance to live our lives in full bloom. :-)

How I Knew It Was More Than “Just Hormones”: The difference between hormones and PPD, PART ONE

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From the time I was in 7th grade, I have heard people blaming behavior on hormones. I distinctly recall being in shop class and hearing a boy say to a girl, “What? Are you PMSing or something?”, probably because she had told him to stop doing some 12-year-old act like kicking her under the table.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose siblings joked about PMS, or who heard boys and girls alike blame their own or others’ attitude on the menstrual cycle. It’s something, as a woman, I have heard almost my ENTIRE LIFE.  And, as a woman, I learned how to use it as an excuse. If I’m in a bad mood, I can say, “Oh, sorry, I’m just PMSing.” If I want to binge on chocolate chips, I can say “well, I’m PMSing, don’t judge me.” (Ahem, I’ll be honest, I said that just the other night…) :-)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I completely agree with science: hormones can and do have an effect on one’s attitude and behavior. It’s been proven many times over that a change in hormone levels can have a drastic impact on one’s outlook on life. Men and women may joke about PMS, but to most of us, it’s a very real thing and can be quite annoying.

imageSo. We’ve heard about hormones since we were kids. Now, as adults, enter: PREGNANCY. Holy Hormones, Batman! If there is ever a time to blame crazy emotional roller coasters on hormones, pregnancy is it. And quite legitimately. The hormone changes that occur in order to create a baby are intense. And after nine months of adjusting to those changes, you then have the baby, and your body changes AGAIN to produce milk and to adjust to not having a wee baby in your belly.

If you have ever been pregnant, had a baby, or lived with someone who falls into those categories, you know that often it is truly appropriate to say that hormone changes can make a person seem CRAZY! (I’ll be honest, when I was pregnant I cried like a baby to the opening scene of Star Trek. Not something I’d usually do, haha.)

When you [finally] give birth, you go through an emotional roller coaster of love, fear, exhaustion and excitement. Add crazy hormone changes to the mix and it’s quite a volatile time of life.

This is why it’s so very, very dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

So. How did I know it was more than just hormones affecting me? To be honest, I didn’t. Not for a very long time. In hindsight, I now know I was suffering from post-partum depression after my FIRST child, and it never fully went away. It drastically increased during my second pregnancy (but, you know, “I’m just so hormonal…”) and came to a terrible climax when my son was about 8 weeks old. I didn’t seek medical help until a full month later.

In my next post, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve not shared with most people. I’m laying it all out in hopes that I might help even ONE person identify that it might be “more than just hormones.” It’s too long of a story to put in one post, so stay tuned for more very soon. Love you guys, and thanks for reading.

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