A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture about depression on my Facebook page:
I also mentioned that as someone who grew up with, was medicated for and cured my own depression, I felt that I had some ground to talk about it in this way. What I didn’t know was that I would be getting people messaging me sharing their own stories and struggles with depression and asking me for advice. I soon realized that a lot more people were going through varying levels of this than I had realized and that maybe I had something to offer some of them.
Before I keep going, I think this is the right time to insert a disclaimer.
**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or treat anxiety and depression. Please consult your doctor before going off of any medication or making any big changes to your lifestyle. This article is only the reflection of one person’s opinion and experiences and not meant to be taken as a one size fits all remedy.**
You see, I grew up with depression and anxiety that ranged anywhere from frazzled nerves to full blown panic attacks where I was sure I was dying. Actually, I was sure I had already died a few times. I could say that it all started when I hit my teenage years, but given what I know now, I know it started much younger, it just looked differently as a teenager.
Growing up, symptoms were addressed and repressed and the cause was ignored. Never even questioned. Much like the West still deals with health. It was as if depression and anxiety were just a “part of life.” My mom had it, her mom probably had it, and so on. Louise Hay says the emotional cause of depression is anger that you feel you don’t have the right to have. In my family the anger runs deep and it doesn’t come out with calibration. It seethes and leaks out in a slow drip that eventually covered the entire foundation of our lives. No one has ever admitted to being angry, but it’s how we all deal with everything. Passive aggressive resentful anger. I am not immune to it, and as a mother, some days it takes A LOT to not fall back on the conditioned response of yelling and blaming and gritting my teeth through the day. The anger part isn’t what’s bad. It’s the feeling that as women we are not allowed to have it, part. It’s the shame around feeling angry.
What am I so angry about? I reckon most of it isn’t mine. Anger has probably been passed down for many generations in my family and is one of the reasons why most of the women are prone to anxiety and depression. We all deal with it differently. Pills, alcohol, food, television, etc. I dabbled for a long time in all of the above. Until I decided I wouldn’t anymore. None of it worked anyway.
Anger might be one of the reasons that contributed to a roller coaster of emotions but it certainly wasn’t the only thing. I could spend a lot of time telling you all the things that I believe contribute to mental health problems. It’s a combination of the way we are raised, living in conditions that are unnatural to our species, eating food that is unnatural to our species and all the shame we have about who we are, what we want and how we feel, to name a few.
I have spent the greater years of my short adult life (I am only 28) inquiring about myself and the patterns from childhood that keep me stuck and don’t serve me. I am still nowhere near perfect and don’t think I ever will be. Rewiring your brain from your conditioning is no easy feat. Simply being aware of it is sometimes the best I can do.
Back to anxiety and depression.
It’s just a “chemical imbalance” they would say, as if the best one could do was take a pill to balance out the imbalance. Maybe it IS caused by a chemical imbalance, but what causes the imbalance? I am not of the belief that it “just happens” and that we are mere victims to our lives, body and health. Same goes with cancer, heart disease and so on. It is not bad luck or fortune. There is a cause. If you have read my previous article about natural hygiene then you know what I think about the body. Which is that it was given to us in optimal conditions and it is us and our environment that brings our body and mind out of its optimal state. I believe that given the right conditions, health issues are little to none.
I was medicated from the time I was 14 until I was about 22.
Scratch that. I was on and off medication from the time I was a very young child, but depression and anxiety medication began when I was entering my first year of highschool. Xanax was my drug of choice. It was my best friend, partner in crime. Literally, I was probably on Xanax the one time I got arrested. My nickname was Bar Baby. If there is anything that will numb you to all of your uncomfortable feelings that you want to avoid, it’s Xanax.
When I was 22 and had been living on my own for a while it started to hit me that the only way I could feel “normal” was by taking a pill, and that freaked me out. I was already in the process of trying to recover from a medical event gone bad when I was almost 19 and I knew that the pills had to go, too, if I truly wanted to be healthy and happy.
Fast forward 6 years and I am not only off of Xanax, but I don’t take any medication-prescribed or over-the-counter-whatsoever. I don’t visit the doctor, and my panic attacks are almost non-existent. I have about 2-3 manageable ones a year whereas before I was having that many a day at one point. I have lulls in mood just like anyone else, but again it lasts anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days (usually when the weather is gloomy) and it is very mild compared to the depths I used to go. A little melancholy from time to time, but overall my spirits are high and I feel good.
The story of my journey and how I came to these different remedies is long and I have already given an extensive introduction. With that said, i’ll just go right into the 10 things I do/did that helped me cure and manage my depression and anxiety.
1) I changed my diet, Drastically.
I couldn’t deny for long that how I was eating wasn’t helping my situation. I was also suffering from other health issues and I knew deep down that what you eat effects your health (duh, right?). I researched and tried every diet you can think of. Finally, I learned about what the body needs for optimal health and I never went on a diet again, but I did majorly change my lifestyle. Now, I really don’t want to make this post about veganism or a plant-based lifestyle, because I know how charged it can be and I really do want to appeal to everyone here, but I will say a few things. First, the body wants whole fresh foods in its natural state. I don’t think anyone will disagree that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is a good thing. Second, the body doesn’t work well when food sits in the gut for a longer period of time. Digestion and assimilation should be quick, smooth and easy. Lastly, the body THRIVES in an alkaline environment. Anxiety and depression thrive in an acidic environment. I remember when I was a teenager my mom told me that her doctor told her that, “God just made us with a lot of acidity in our bodies. ” Again, that is the victim mindset and I have since learned that this isn’t true. God aside, we weren’t made with highly acidic bodies. We make our bodies acidic by what we choose to put in them. Our natural state is more alkaline and it’s very hard for disease of any kind to exist in that environment [alkaline]. I still notice to this day that the cleaner I eat the better I feel. If you want to know which foods are acidic and which foods are alkaline then you can study this chart.
2) I addressed the cause and faced it (mostly).
Easier said than done, right? Again, I truly believe that the events in our lives are what cause us to have problems with mental health and it is not something that “just happens” for no reason. Everyone is different and it is up to you to determine where it started for you. I’ll give you a hint: it’s probably from childhood. Even if an event happened as an adult that brings about the feelings of anxiety and depression, it is most likely because it triggered a feeling you had when you were younger and that is how you dealt with such events and/or your subconscious is afraid it will happen again.
Admitting and facing our childhood issues isn’t easy. It is so hard in fact, that most people would rather die than do it. I am not exaggerating. They will let it kill them. Unaddressed feelings fester in the body and manifest in all sorts of toxic ways, like depression and anxiety. Like me, there may be a combination of things that contribute to your mental health struggles.
It is hard because it means looking at all the ways you operate unconsciously that keep you from having what you want out of life. And damn, that’s hard. I cringe when I see a pattern in myself that I carry out over and over because I don’t know any other way to do it. More often than not, the way to get it would be for me to get vulnerable, and vulnerability isn’t something I saw growing up. It isn’t my conditioned response. I have to train myself to be vulnerable and it’s crazy how difficult it is (for me).
The ways in which a person can face their internal issues that hold them back are endless. The self-help world is a huge huge industry now and it definitely has it’s place. I have dabbled in a lot of it. I have listened to videos, read books, attended workshops, meditated on it, resentment work, made amends, got vulnerable, went to 12 step meetings, etc.
It’s okay to admit that your parents messed up. More than likely, they already know, and more than likely, they have their own healing to do around all the ways their parents messed up. A little forgiveness can go a long way, too.
3) I got Authentic.
Okay, so that is terribly cheesy, but hear me out. What I mean is, I joined a couple of groups who were committed to authenticity. Am I perfectly honest and speaking my highest truth in every moment? Pshh, no. But I learned to do it more, mostly with my partner, which has really changed my life. This is sort of similar to #2, but it is about saying what is real. The thing under the thing. The thing you don’t want to say. Yep. THAT thing. Back in 2012 my partner and I went to a workshop in Chicago that was facilitated by Brad Blanton. Brad is a psychotherapist who founded Radical Honesty Enterprises and is committed to bringing about change and healing by telling the radical truth. A lot of what he does and what we did at the workshop is what he calls resentment work. Simply put, resentment work is sitting in front of the person you have resentments towards and expressing them without using blame language. Ever since then, I can express and release my resentments in my relationship and so can my partner. I don’t always do it in real time, like I said, I am not perfect, but I can trust they will eventually be said.
Another thing I did was get involved in a community called Authentic Relating. It is pretty much how it sounds. A bunch of people getting together and in various ways and activities, we relate as authentically as possible. Which brings me to number 4.
4) I built my community and got support.
Having people and trusted friends in our lives is so important. We weren’t meant to do this alone and I think the isolated family unit model that most of us live by is also a contributor to things like depression. I sought out people and relationships that were supportive of my process and of who I was. People who were also admitting their faults and committed to being vulnerable and looking at the patterns that keep them stuck. People who weren’t trying to look good, but who were wanting to get real no matter how it made them look. I found a camaraderie with people who were on their own, yet, a similar path as I am. This also meant I had to create space from the people who don’t serve me on my path. I am not best friends with everyone I have met through various avenues over the years, but I feel like I have an international web of people I trust that I can call upon for support if I ever need it. I am now a part of a bigger world-wide community that is really special to me. The hard part is reaching out and asking for what you need, but more often than not people are really happy and accepting when you do. I don’t often give much thought to this reality, but when I do I feel a lot of appreciation for my tribe.
5) I practiced Orgasmic Meditation.
Now before you get all weirded out and jump ship, just know that it may not be what you think. Or maybe it is and that’s still pretty weird. I get it. A sexuality practice isn’t exactly mainstream or even….the opposite of mainstream for some people. So what is it and how did it help with my depression and anxiety? According to the One Taste website:
“Orgasmic Meditation (OM) is a consciousness practice that is designed for singles and couples to experience more connection, vitality, pleasure, and meaning in every aspect of their lives. A partner strokes a woman’s clitoris for 15 minutes with no goal other than to feel, connect, and be present. With practice, you develop a larger state of consciousness, have better intimacy, and stronger connections.”
As a practitioner of OM since 2012 (yea, what a year, right?) I can attest that this is all true. I do get more connection, vitality, etc., especially when I hold a daily practice. For me though, the kicker was at the beginning of my practice. You see, when I started OMing I hadn’t really cried since my medical ordeal in 2006. Like, hardly at all. I remember getting the feeling that I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I was holding onto something very tightly that I didn’t want to feel. OMing made me feel it. All of it. The first three months of my practice I had so many emotional releases (AKA bouts of crying) and was letting go of everything I had been holding in for quite some time. Ever since then my emotions can flow and be released much more freely, because like I mentioned before, it isn’t healthy to hold onto that shit.
Now, do I think the ONLY way to get more in touch with your emotions is to do Orgasmic Meditation? No, but for me it was the quickest and most pleasurable way 😉 If you can find something better that works for you, by all means do it.
6) I ditched my television.
I grew up on TV. I probably had a TV in my nursery when I was a baby (that’s a joke, but it wouldn’t be too far off). I went to sleep with the TV on every night until I was 23 years old. I watched TV after work, after school, while I was eating, when I was bored and definitely to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings. It was a hobby. I loved “reality” shows. I could escape into someone else’s life so that I didn’t have to look at my own. The thing with television is that the networks are owned by only a few companies and the information coming in is extremely filtered and biased. Much of the time it is a downright lie. The agenda is thick, and when this is all people are consuming then they believe it is true. I believed what I was being sold was true, and when I inevitably wasn’t ending up looking and living like all the people on TV like I was promised, I was only more depressed because I thought something must be wrong with me.
When I made the decision to get rid of my TV it was more of a challenge or experiment to see how long I could do it. I had no idea it would be forever, and I know it will be forever because the sound of a TV now literally makes me sick. Not many people know this, but I met my now partner about a week after I ditched my television set. When you don’t have the TV around to use as entertainment it forced me to get out into the world and find other things to do. Which brings me to be next point….
7) I got really cozy with nature.
I know the whole, “go be one with nature” thing might sound cliche, but it’s one of those things that is said over and over for a reason. There is some deep truth there. As a kid I always loved being outside, in the dirt, swimming and riding my bike. I guess as adults some of us forget that joy. I know I did for a little while. Another cliche is that we are not separate from nature, we ARE nature. I believe that a lot of mental and physical health issues arise because of our culture’s insistence to live so distantly from our natural state. I find that not much feels better to me than when I am spending a lot of time outside, hiking, swimming, in a garden or exploring.
There is a lot of truth to be found in the natural world, and in my opinion this truth can bring about a lot of understanding which can give one a sense of relief and lift those anxious feelings and low moods.
8) I meditated using binaural beats.
OM Harmonics describes Binaural beats as, “a brainwave entrainment technology designed to put your brain into the same activity state as when you are meditating using traditional methods.”
To go further, Wikipedia says that a binaural beat is, “an auditory illusion perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves, both with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, with less than a 40 Hz difference between them, are presented to a listener dichotically, that is one through each ear.”
There are 5 different brainwaves that can be activated using binaural beats which are alpha, beta, theta, gamma and delta. Each brainwave has a different frequency and more or less optimal for difference activities and conditions. For example, beta waves are a higher frequency wave (12 Hz to 40 Hz) that are mostly observed when we are awake. Too much of this brainwave activity can lead to anxiety and stress, while too little can lead to depression. An optimal level of beta waves can lead to good focus, memory and problem solving.
Things like caffeine, drugs, alcohol, toxic food and depressants can greatly increase these waves to the point they are causing harm to your mental state. When I would listen to some alpha waves when I was feeling a lot of anxiety, it would put me in a relaxed state.
I originally started listening to binaural beats because I was mesmerized by the sounds and it made me feel really good. The sounds were somewhat nostalgic and put me in a meditative, trance-like state. For about a year I would put in my headphones almost daily and lay back to listen to them. I noticed a significant change in my mood and it was then that I researched further and saw that there is actually some science that shows the positive effect on people with depression and anxiety when they listen to binaural beats. Even if you don’t struggle with these things I think they are still worth listening to.
And don’t forget that you have to wear headphones.
9) I stopped people pleasing.
Again, this is one of those things where I am still not 100 percent “there,” but I have come a very long way. If I never worried about people pleasing ever ever ever then I would write all sorts of triggering truthful shit on Facebook and may never go to a family Christmas party again, but alas, I don’t do those things…yet. What I did do, though, is learn to walk my own path and pave my own way. I have always known that I never wanted to work for someone else and be one of those 9-5 people. Something has always told me that I wanted to create something of my own and for my time to be my own. I have only focused on going in that direction, even if it totally confuses and pisses off my friends and parents. A lot of my depression and anxiety was bottled up thoughts and emotions. As an activist for women, children and animals, I have A LOT to say and express. Fear kept me from speaking out because I didn’t want people to judge me as the crazy, sanctimonious activist lady. I now talk more openly about that which I am really passionate about and it has proven to be a really healthy outlet. I am sure there are people who think I am the crazy sanctimonious activist lady, but I have become more comfortable with those opinions of me. Speaking out about what is most important to me has shown me that there are so many people who appreciate me for what I have to say, and that has been really validating, which boosts my confidence even more to keep going with what I love.
I have also learned to say “no” in more areas of my life where I am a no. I now know the difference between a “yes” because it feels good and “yes” out of acquiescence. Operating this way is huge when it comes to anxiety and depression because being a people-pleaser is extremely disempowering and it is one of those conditioned responses that runs so deep we often don’t even realize the extent that we are doing it. I think it is especially conditioned for women, but truly, it goes for everyone.
10) I reframed my “struggles.”
Not at the time, but later in life. Growing up, my stories about my dad leaving and that medical event when I was 18 were my stories of sorrow and tragedy. Now, I see them as perfect, and not only that, but I feel so thankful that those things happened. If it wasn’t for these poor parenting and health models….then I wouldn’t be a parenting and health coach! I wouldn’t have so much passion about parenting and health. I wouldn’t have been so driven to change the ways I parent and take care of myself. I have carried this tool with me, and now anytime something in life is hard I can much more easily see the value in it rather than all the pain. That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t painful, but that I have more perspective on the situation and can move forward with more functionality.
There you have it. My hope isn’t necessarily that these things will cure someones depression (awesome if it does), but that it might open a door to a new way of viewing things and from there a personal and unique path is forged. Everyone is different and it is up to you to feel out what is best for you and your health.
I also want to say that I know how hard depression and anxiety can be. I have been straight up debilitated by it. I don’t want to make light of anyone’s experience by claiming that healing is as easy as drinking a green smoothie or taking a walk outside. I know simple tasks such as those can seem daunting to someone in the depths of this disease. I didn’t do all of this over night. It was and still is a process. This piece serves as a guide only to those who find value in it and it’s okay to seek outside professional care if you need it. Please do, actually. You deserve to feel your best.