Updated: Jan 8
When I was young, everyone told me I was just emotional. Maybe it’s because I was a passionate ballet dancer, they told me. My “artsy” side took over my emotions...not the case. It took until my Freshman year of college for anyone to even consider depression and anxiety to be the culprits. By then, I was 18 and some behavioral patterns were already ingrained.
Let me rewind a bit. I am the only biological child of my parents. Surprise! I have two older brothers. Growing up the only girl and the youngest seems to most to be idealic. WRONG! Having older brothers is no picnic ;) Sadly, my mom passed shortly after my 10th birthday from pancreatic cancer. During my short, but incredible time with her, I remember her strength. I also remember how quickly she’d get really upset. It was like a light switch was flipped on or off. Don’t get me wrong, she had EVERY reason to be upset at any time and she was the strongest person I know to this day. The issue is that apparently, from what I remember, her mood swings were frequent and large. Some even think it was undiagnosed depression or something else.
After her passing, I was in and out of therapy. Therapy to focus on communicating with my dad. Therapy to learn how to open up about my sadness. You name it, I talked about it. Still nothing was working for me. No one had ever brought up the idea of depression.
Fast forward to college. I will never forget the day the nurse practitioner at my school asked me if anyone had ever thought about this. She was so kind in her approach. I remember her just chatting with me almost like she was a friend. I felt so comfortable. “No. Not that I can remember“ I said. We talked a while longer and decided to give medicine a try. It was AWFUL! The dry mouth, the feeling of being woozy all the time, I wasn't sleeping. I was tired and unmotivated. After another consult with the nurse practitioner, I decided that it wasn’t for me. The side effects greatly outweighed the benefits. So, I stopped taking it. BIG mistake. At that time, I wasn’t aware of how dangerous that could be and how your doctor needs to give you a plan on how to carefully wein off of medications like these. I spiraled. It was the first time and I didn't know what was going on. Never again did I want to feel that way. Sadly, that would not be my happy ending.
From that point on, I didn't really think about my diagnosis. In fact, I almost forgot about it. I even blamed my experience with the medication for my emotional roller coaster and wouldn't take anything. Not good. Eventually, maybe around 2006, maybe 2007, a dear incredible friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, we'll call her Suzie, called me. She knew I was having a bad bout with my depression. While I had never told her, she knew and could see me struggling. When she called, Suzie had a list of doctors for me to call. All with opennings. I have never been so greatful! To my surprise, the first one I looked up looked perfect! This doctor not only prescribed medication, but she also had a strong focus on nutrition, exercise and sleep routines for her patients. I was in luck! I called and got an appointment. At the appointment I instantly clicked with the doctor and felt a sense of relief. This was the start of a new beginning.
Over the years I have slipped...a LOT. When I moved to Denver almost 6 years ago, I hadn't been on anything for quite a while. Partly because I was eating right, sleeping well and exercising regularly. You know, training for 2-3 marathons a year plus multiple triathlons. My endorphins were through the ROOF! It wasn't until mid to late August of 2016 that I really hit rock bottom for real. I had just finished my first IRONMAN triathlon in Boulder and was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. After the race, while letting my body heal, I wasn't working out as much and not producing as many good hormones. I crashed. I remember my brain hurting. It felt like it was disinigrating. This was something I hadn't even thought to pay attention to in my preparations. Veteran racers tried to educate us newbies on what to expect, but it is different for everyone. I thought iId be OK. I was ready for the recorvery, but I didn't take into account the brain chemistry and what part those played in all of this. Thinking back on this now, almost 6 years later, I am so very glad I had had at least one other experience with this type of a sprial.
As soon as it began, I called my best friend. She has been through every up and down with me for 20 years. And no, it wasn't the same friend that helped me the first time. This was someone that knew me even better. It didn't take her long to convince me to go to the walk-in clininc. I did. I was at the point where I didn't want to see anyone. I didn't want to eat, didn't want to sleep, didn't want to talk or even text with anyone. There was this deep ache in me that I couldn't pin point. So, I went to the walk-in clininc. The doctor I saw was absolutely wonderful. She completely understood. It turned out that she was an IRONMAN herself and had been through a similar experience. It was her kindness and openness with me that helped me get passed my embarrassment of slipping this far.
The reason I am telling you all of this is so that when you or someone you know is struggling, you can have some sort of idea what it might feel like for them. THe best thing you can do is listen. Encourage them to talk and to seek regular check-ins with their doctor. Unfortunately, this past weekend, I had another slip. The bright side? When this happens, I know that I will get through it and call a friend. I go to the ER if the walk-in clininc near me is closed. I am not afraid to ask for help. This past weekend felt like utter SH*T. But I made it through and was able to ask for help.
I will continue to add to my story if you'd like to follow. It takes effort and work every day to maintain a healthy balance. Eating, sleeping, exercise, interaction with friends and family as well as ME time for self-care. In fact, I just posted a Self-Care Bingo contest on my social media. For every BINGO you get, your card/name is entered into a drawing to win a FREE Pilates session with me. Huh? Yes, you read it correctly. Part of my self-care is staying busy and helping others feel good. It is when I stop and do absolutely nothing that I just sit and let it all slide downward.
Who will join me on my daily self-care routine? We are stronger together than we are alone.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it helps even one person to feel that they are not alone or one person to have a little more insight as to how you can help someone struggling with depression.
Be well. Love to you all,