I always say I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. If I’m having a good day, I think it’s awesome that I know a little bit about everything, that I can do just about anything well, maybe not exceptionally, but competently. If I’m having a bad day, I think that’s great and all, but no one hires the person who’s OK at a bunch of things. You hire the expert and I’m not an expert at anything. Except I am. I’m an expert at depression. And I really wish I weren’t. I don’t want to make a career out of depression. I want to leave it behind me, but I have to admit that living with it since I was five pretty much makes me an expert, though I have no official expertise other than my own experience. In the thirty-seven years since, I’ve learned ways to cope, ways of surviving but not really coping, gone down numerous dead ends on my quest to healing, and sought out just about every alternative option known to man.
Western medicine and psychology were the first stage for me, but after the initial slight improvement, they were pretty much worthless to me. If anti-depressants and therapy work for you, do it. Use anything you can find that helps you return to your natural well-being. It did nothing for me and I know that there are others like me out there thinking there has got to be a better way. I think that’s why I’m still here—thinking that there must be something else that I just haven’t tried yet. Otherwise, I would have committed suicide long ago.
I tried just about every alternative therapy I could find from reiki to massage to acupuncture to energy work and everything in between. Many things helped, but I was never able to really turn the corner until I went to Peru for ayahuasca ceremonies. Now, there are clinical studies on the use of hallucinogenics for treating alcohol and drug addiction and depression, but in 2006, it was something only to be found in National Geographic Adventure magazine, which is where I read an article about a women who went to Peru and healed her depression with ayahuasca. At that point, it was literally do or die time because I needed a solution or I was going to kill myself. I was done. But because I was done, I was also able to let go of the resistance enough for a solution to come through. It was an incredibly extreme solution, but it was the only thing that helped me. I came back after doing ayahuasca feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I still had a lot of work to do, but there was hope again. It turned out to be a lot longer road than I anticipated, but I finally felt like I was on the right path.
Ayahuasca is illegal in the US. It’s worth looking into what’s right for you. When the options available in our healthcare system aren’t working for you, you need to think outside the box. We’ve been taught that these types of drugs are morally wrong, but OxyContin was not only legal but advertised as non-addictive until millions of people became drug addicts because of it. What feels right to you? What do you need to return to your well-being? Don’t rely on doctors who don’t know and don’t have all the information to be your sole source of guidance. Learn to rely on your own guidance. Your body knows what it needs. Your inner being will guide you if you listen. That’s what this is all about. Learning how to hear that guidance and then listening to your connection to Source energy and following that guidance. Only you know what’s best for you.
Here’s what I know now that I’m mostly out the other side of depression. I say mostly because you’re never “cured” and never have to think about it again. For me it’s daily maintenance. Maybe there will come a day when I’m just happily living my life but right now it’s WORK. You can’t go to the gym every day for a month and then say, OK I don’t need to exercise anymore, I’ll be in shape for the rest of my life. You have to be consistent and your mental health is the same as your physical health. What you put in is what you get out.
My mental health is dependent on my physical health and vice versa. You need to take care of yourself mind, heart, body and soul. That means moving my body, getting out in nature, eating properly and meditating every single day. For me that’s going for a walk or hike, doing yoga, meditating twice a day and eating lots of vegetables and whole foods.
As I walk you through what I do on a daily basis, a lot of you reading this will think, are you kidding me? I don’t have time for that. I understand, but I’m single, with no kids, and a mostly anti-social introvert, so I basically have no life and have a lot of time on my hands. I’m working on opening up to more relationships, but in the meantime, it means I have a lot of time to focus on myself. Not doing everything I do on a daily basis means I fall back into the black pit of despair pretty quickly. It sucks some days because I think my entire day is taken up just trying to maintain the basic foundation of mental health. But the alternative is darkness and suicide, and I know I don’t want to go back there. So when someone tells me I don’t have time for that, I think I don’t have an option. It has to be a priority for me or else I’m barely even alive and I’m certainly not thriving.
Your well-being needs to be a priority to you. You don’t have anything to give until you take care of yourself. You and your well-being need to come before your kids, your spouse, your job, and that’s really tough for people to do. We’ve been told that’s selfish, but if you’re empty, you don’t have anything to give and you’re teaching your kids and everyone around you that they need to put everyone else first, even if it means completely undermining their own health. That’s not the message we want to give and it’s not what we want to see repeated in the next generation.
So here’s my day.
3 mile walk
15 minutes yoga.
45 minutes exercise (squats, lunges, handstand, jump rope, core, etc. depending on the day)
25 minutes meditation
Get ready for the rest of my day
Walk to work setting my intention for the day as I walk.
Be conscious of when I’m going out of alignment and try to right myself immediately.
Walk home, mentally making the transition so I don’t take any of my work problems home with me
Get home and do 20 minutes exercise (The extra exercise is partly because I’m working on strengthening certain areas and partly it’s because I just need to move or I go stir crazy with anxiety.)
Another 25 minutes meditation before going to bed
Sleep meditation to fall asleep (25 minute meditationand then 1 hr of music)
Get up tomorrow and repeat.
- Follow the candida diet (no sugar, no dairy, etc.), gluten free, vegan diet, all organic if you can. Eliminate processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Do this for 6 months minimum and then start adding things back in slowly so you can assess which ones affect you adversely.
- No smoking or drugs, not even marijuana, which a lot of people use for the anxiety that so often accompanies depression. Marijuana mimics my depression, but makes me incapable of dealing with the issues that come up because I’m high. That makes me more anxious underneath even though the surface is numbed by the drug. Learn to deal with your emotions without any pharmaceuticals. That said, do whatever you need to do in the short term to take care of yourself. I went to Peru to take something similar to LSD, so I’m the last person to pass judgment. Just ask yourself, is it for your health or to escape your life?
- Exercise outside in nature for at least 20 minutes a day—every day no matter what. It can be a nice easy walk, just move you body. Studies have show that a 20 minute walk has the same effect as taking an anti-depressant, just without the side effects.
- Meditate. I started with guided meditations because I had so much trouble quieting my mind. I kept saying mediation where you quiet your mind and eliminate thought just didn’t work for me. The truth was I was too lazy and too scared to deal with what would come up when I did quiet my constant chatter. I only saw real movement when I put in the time to find that true connection to my inner being. There were times when I only got to half a second of feeling good and the rest of the 25 minutes was my mind going every which way. Then it became a full second, then a couple of seconds. I’m not going to lie, I was severely frustrated that I’d been meditating for six months and the most I could come up with was a couple of seconds of silence, but I kept telling myself that that was more than I had had before and I knew the other way lead to misery, so at least I was on the right track.
- Massage. I used to think getting a massage was a luxury and one I couldn’t afford, and it is out of reach for a lot of people, but if you can get a monthly (or weekly) massage, do it. For me it’s maintenance. I have a lot of anxiety and it gets knotted up in my muscles. The stress release, not to mention the lymphatic drain and overall benefit to my physical and mental well-being, are worth the money.
If you’re thinking no way, I’m not doing that, what if I told you this would turn around your whole life? Would you do it? If the answer is still no, then you need to ask yourself why you’re saying you want to heal but are turning down valid options. It’s a process. It’s been over the course of years that I’ve figured out what works for me. It’s going to be different for you. Take what works and leave the rest, but if you’re in resistance, then you’re avoiding and just saying it doesn’t feel right for me. Some things are presented to me that just don’t resonate with me. Other people rave about them, but they just don’t work for me. Journaling is a good example. I can feel I have some resistance to it, so I do need to look at that, but mostly it just puts me in my head when I’m trying everything to get out of my head. There’s something about writing things down that engages my left brain and instantly I’m in my Virgo list making brain. Check in with yourself and learn to distinguish between resistance and resonance. It’s ok if something isn’t for you, just make sure you’re not saying no from a place of fear.
I still have bad days, sometimes really bad days, but I always know I can bring myself back into alignment and balance. That’s such a huge gift. I know I have a rock solid foundation that can’t be shaken by anything. No matter what life throws at me, I know if I sit and meditate I will get to my happy place. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but I know that within a couple of days at most I will regain my well-being. Don’t let anyone make you believe that having a mental illness makes you weak. Every single day that you reach for joy and happiness makes you strong and beautiful.