So, here’s a familiar story… I wasn’t feeling well for a few months. I was getting crippling migraines, I was tired all the time, which prevented me from working out or getting to enough recovery meetings. That led to more fatigue, body aches from a lack of exercise, and eventually, a general feeling of lifelessness.
Convinced that my low blood pressure was making me sick, I went to the doctor to find out what disease was causing me this discomfort. After doing some tests and going over all my symptoms, something came up that completely threw me. It always throws me even though it’s happened several times over the decades.
It wasn’t low blood pressure that was causing me to feel unwell. It was depression. See, I had been concerned my migraines, lifelessness, and dread were signs of some serious physical illness coming. Turns out, depression had manifested in some symptoms that I had failed to recognize.
Let me be clear, my life in those months was great, as it is most of the time. That doesn’t mean life doesn’t happen. Life means change. Change is uncomfortable for most, but particularly those of us in recovery who like to know what’s going to happen next. Even a cluster of small, slightly stressful events can trigger a mental health reaction.
So, the diagnosis came in, and there I was again in that space where I had to go back to basics, take my own advice, and get myself back on the beam. I’m sure everyone’s needs are different, but there are some universal truths for battling the blues.
One, make your medical plan. If you need medication and a responsible doctor is prescribing it and monitoring it, then better living through chemistry, I say.
Two, The nutritional plan. Some people lose their appetite and some gain. I’ve gone both ways over the years. If I’m struggling to eat, this is when smoothies and meal replacement foods become really helpful. You can get a lot of calories in with a couple high protein bars and shakes. If you’re in an overeating mood, keep to healthier food, even if it’s on the comfort food side.
Three exercise. Once I have a bit more energy, exercise is a necessary part of the recipe for me. I often start by walking the dogs and move to hiking when I’m ready. After that, I work my way up to spin classes, hot yoga, and boot camp.
Four recovery support groups, AKA meetings. I’ve been in lots of 12-step programs, so for me it doesn’t even matter which I attend. Just get back to my community. Share with my recovery friends I need some support and let the system work for me. Work the program, not the problem someone smart once told me.
Five, the final piece, will be to share with my significant other, or the people closest to me how to help. No one is given a manual on how to be there for someone who is depressed. It’s not common knowledge, and we can’t expect people to know what to do if we can’t communicate what’s going on. Often, the biggest challenge for me to is to simply let someone know I’m not up to doing as much as I usually am. But, once close friends and family know what to do, they can help in appropriate ways.
There it is, my recipe to battle the blues. Hope it helps. And, for all those out there with serious Depression that requires a doctor’s help and supervision, I urge you to find one so that you can have the support you need. Psychology Today’s website does a beautiful job of listing mental health professionals in major cities.