This year has been an endless stream of sucker punches: every time we think it couldn’t get any worse, BAM, uppercut to the jaw. I barely have any teeth left.
No matter your political views, news sources and musical tastes, it’s hard to evade the gloom that has descended around the globe. And if you’re predisposed to or are a chronic depression sufferer like me, then these are exceptionally wonky-inducing times. Yes, wonky, which, by the way, encompasses the following:
- feeling like you should do something – anything – to improve the global/local/family situation, but you are paralyzed and/or exhausted
- feeling agitated but overwhelmed by global/local/family events
- feeling numb, like you’re in a movie (“surreal” was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2016, because of the serious spikes in look-ups that followed major events)
- feeling like you want to hide under the bed covers until ___________ <insert year>
- waking up in the middle of the night, sure that the end of the world is imminent
- feeling sensory stimulation overload – too much noise, lights, smells, information
- feeling like Grumpy Cat
If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know I’ve written quite a lot about causal linkages and complementary treatments for depression: nutrition, gut microbes, yoga and meditation, neurofeedback, exercise, blue light therapy, vitamins and supplements, you name it. All good stuff. I work all these angles for my own depression.
However, sometimes you may find those treatments help you stay in minimally functioning mode, but they don’t get you over the hump and back to better living.
What hump, you ask. Ahhhh. See, this is where I lost track of the bouncing mental health ball myself until last week. The hump is the creep. Whaaaat? (I’m not messing with you, seriously.)
There’s only one creep at this party (okay, yes, there’s two…). The creep we’re talking about is the onset of a cycle of depression. Even for the most aware and experienced, sometimes you get stuck on the hump and depression creeps up.
These are the times to look at medication. If you’ve been on it before, do you need to go back on it? If you’re currently on it, do you need to adjust the dose or try something else? If you’ve never been on it, but nothing you’re trying is working and you are feeling SO WONKY, do you need to explore medication as an option?
The reason I’m posting about this is simple: I’ve been talking to doctors and therapists about my brain for 30 years, and I’ve been on antidepressants for 20. I’m pretty darn self-aware. There ain’t nothing that’s my first rodeo (except an actual rodeo). And yet, I still don’t always notice when I’m stuck on the hump. Depression can be such a creep.
A medication adjustment came up as a side conversation in a recent visit to my doctor. Not because I said I was feeling wonky. Not because I identified that I needed help. Because I ate a protein bar, went for a three-mile walk and had such a severe sugar crash in the middle, I had to summon an Uber driver to take me back to my car. (Bonus: he gave me a Snickers.) Low serotonin is linked to low blood sugar. Whaaaaat? YES. I was surprised by this, even after all of my research and I-am-my-own-guinea-pig experiments.
My doctor increased my medication dose, and a week later, I feel SO MUCH LESS WONKY.
Yoga, meditation, healthy food, supplements, exercise: yes, yes, yes, yes. Any other alternative and complementary therapies you use to combat depression: yes, yes, yes, yes. We are warriors, all of us. But even the strongest warrior can only handle so many body blows. Sometimes the most effective and compassionate solution is right in front of us and we don’t see it. And that, in a nutshell, is 2016.
Wishing you a heart-centered, joy-filled, small-humped 2017.
Creative Commons images: Grumpy Cat by Gage Skidmore; Yosemite by Luke Pamer; warrior by Henry Hustava
Jodi Aman says
Love your sense of humor in it all. Hugs!
Laura Zera says
Thank you, Jodi! As soon as I saw your name on my screen, I realized that I didn’t specifically include “a good therapist” as part of the list. And that’s, of course, an important strategy, too! 🙂 xox
April Bussey says
Seems a chicken & egg thing, all the news & maybe the weather(ugh!) brings you down or being down makes those things worse but it doesn’t really matter, does it? We just need to recognize the creep, which is good at disguising itself &/or we don’t want to see it! Good read & good points & great link, learned a few things!! Will resist commenting on potential ‘creepy’ presidents – ha!
Laura Zera says
Hi April, you’re totally right, the “how” doesn’t really matter. And thank you for your restraint. 🙂 xo
Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says
Hi Laura! I so agree. We do what we can with what we have and then go from there. I always like the statement of a man named Ernest Holmes, author of the Science of Mind, who said, “If you need an aspirin, take an aspirin.” In these times it is good to take care of ourselves in any way that is helpful. And yes to a better 2017! ~Kathy
Laura Zera says
I like that, Kathy! I use a variation of it quite frequently: “If you need to eat cheesecake, eat cheesecake.”
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year! xo
Marie Bailey says
Wonderful post, Laura! Definitely a must-read post for these times. I have definitely been feeling wonky and have even thought about going back on medication. I used to be on a low dose of Zoloft, for a few years, and then weaned myself off. Ironically (maybe), the medication made me feel more confident and capable which led to me taking on more projects (personal and professional) than I could really handle. Eventually I decided it was better to feel less confident and capable if that meant I was also better in touch with my limits. Anyway, I have felt very, very low these last few months. I do practice yoga, try to eat healthy, and exercise routinely. I do things that give me pleasure (knitting, listening to audio books) as well as a respite from the “real” world. But I probably won’t go back on the meds. The key for me is that, at least this time in the doldrums, I can point to what ails me. When I was on meds before, I was simply trying to cope with my tendency to get stressed out over the small stuff. Now, I’m stressed out and it’s not about small stuff. It’s about real big stuff. But I recognize that so, instead of meds, I’m on a knitting and audiobook binge while I plot and plan for a better 2017 🙂 Truthfully, though, if my depression starts interfering with the pleasure I usually derive from yoga, etc., then it may well be time for the meds again. Life is too short to be depressed. Cheers to you and good riddance to 2016 😉
Laura Zera says
Hey Marie, it sounds like you’re pretty tough to creep up on. 🙂 Yay you for all the self-care that you do, and recognizing your limits and working within them. That’s radical self-compassion, and it’s amazing. xox
Val Poore says
Ah yes, depression is the one thing we don’t always know we’ve got. It isn’t always obvious, is it? I mean we don’t always feel miserable or like crying…things that would make it clear. It can be much more insidious than that, and simply be just not seeing any point in anything, along with all those GAD feelings that seem to assail us at different times. I was convinced the world was going to end, or that I was going to be run down by a car every time I went out. I was so full of ‘what if’ scenarios, I never noticed it might be a symptom of depression. For me, the cure is not medication (it makes me feel worse) but sunshine. For me it cures everything….funny that! Great post, Laura, and I’m so glad you found the solution! Wishing you a peaceful and rich 2017.
Laura Zera says
Sunshine. *Sigh.* Something we don’t get enough of here in the Pacific Northwest. And it was only in the past couple of years that I’ve realized that GAD is part of depression (and hence to look more closely at symptoms of depression when GAD symptoms arise).
Thanks for stopping by, Val. Now I am going to go check out your memoirs list for 2016!
It’s been a wonky year indeed, but still better than my 2015. One of my goals this year is to get more into yoga. I’ve tried more traditional weight training, but I think yoga and more pilates will be better for my body. I try a T25 cycle and all that planking and burpee stuff always messes up my wrists. Shaun T sure is pretty to look at though, plus his CIZE videos are fun 🙂
Laura Zera says
That’s one of my goals, too! The problem for me is that I’m not keen on the yoga classes at my gym, so I’ll have to pay an additional membership to go do yoga somewhere else. I’m never motivated enough to do anything via video at home (I had to Google “Shaun T!”).
So yes, let’s up our yoga game. BONUS: It releases GABA, which counters depression.
Yeah getting over that hump is important. Finding and taking the right treatment too and if its medication than surely that is important to do. It’s a problem I think that there is such a stigma attached to it that people don’t place on other illnesses. I do though from reading your post realize I need to make more time for yoga and meditation. And hopefully this year will be less wonky
Laura Zera says
I’m in the same boat re: trying to make more time for meditation and yoga. I’m going to start small. Five minutes a day for meditation, but do it every day. Right now, I’m going in spurts, and then I fall off of it completely. And yes, there’s the stigma. Although I’ve been pleasantly surprised since I started talking openly about my own challenges how people have responded. They’ve been overwhelmingly supportive.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your yoga/meditation practices!