Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we truly aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.
We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.
Though I was formally diagnosed with chronic depression at the end of 2015, I was told I had most likely been facing mental illness for most of my life. I didn't disagree — after looking back over the reel of events in my head, I could see these spans of darkness I had buried deep in my memory archives. In a way, it was heartbreaking. Remember that one antidepressant commercial where a woman walks around with a little cloud over her head? Yeah. I felt like that often. Everything was going well, but on the inside, it wasn't always.
When we care for our bodies and minds, we are that much more able to spread light to those around us.
I had been to therapy before, and quite regularly. Through talk therapy, group workshop sessions, dietitian appointments, and even yoga therapy, I battled a 10-year-long eating disorder, which we knew was coupled with my mood swings. I was — and am — a huge believer in the power of therapy to help in really any life situation, even if you don't necessarily have a current issue that needs sorting out. But when I was a few years out of college, my occasional mood swings were perpetuated by longer work hours, the gloomy foggy San Francisco days, and the constant hustle, so I knew I needed extra support to get me back to being me. With the support of my physician, we decided medication would be a viable option.
I will admit it — at first I was very skeptical, resistant even, to the idea of taking a pill to make me feel better. I had dreams of treating my depression naturally, filling my days with yoga and essential oils, superfoods, and breathing exercises sure to beat away the darkness. But in reality, I was idolising my recovery instead of approaching it in the best way to support me.
I had heard horror stories of people feeling brain-foggy and -fuzzy, zombie-like, and just not themselves on medication. My doctor assured me that was not what was going to happen to me. There were better options in the prescription realm, and our goal was to lift the fog I'd been carrying around, not numb it away.
Due to the various side effects of medications and how each body uniquely reacts to them, we worked over the course of six months to perfect my current dose. It is not always the easiest process. Working closely with a medical team I trust made all the difference. Even with the tweaking of dosages and brands, I began feeling better in mere weeks. I now take two prescriptions daily that complement one another. My initial side effects (dry mouth, weight loss, and lack of appetite and sex drive) are thankfully gone now, as well. While I may one day be able to cut down or wean off my prescriptions (or not) in the future, it doesn't matter. This is what works for me right now. With my prescriptions, support, and a healthy lifestyle that does in fact involve many breathing exercises, I finally feel like myself once more.
According to Mental Health America, more than 16 million adults in the US are thought to be suffering from depression, and about 1 in 9 Americans are currently taking antidepressant medication, a number steadily on the rise. Chances are, someone you know — family, friend, co-worker — is either silently struggling or seeking help as well. You never know what others you encounter on a daily basis are going through.
When we care for our bodies and minds, we are that much more able to spread light to those around us. If medication works for you, let it! Liken it in a way to birth control, acne medication, or any remedy you may harness to heal or balance your body: it's a lifestyle choice you make regarding your body and your mind — how do you truly live your best life? There is no reason to be ashamed of taking the brave steps you need toward recovery and leading a joyful, vibrant life. You are worth it.