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Coming Out of the Depression Closet: My Long Journey to Mental Health

Coming Out of the Depression Closet: My Long Journey to Mental Health

I’m feeling better.

My moods have stabilized, and my depression has lifted – and it seems like it’s going to stay lifted, for now anyway.

It’s also been quite a few weeks since I’ve had major panic episodes and anxious-downward-spiral-physically-debilitating moments.

You might be wondering how somebody who teaches fitness and yoga for a living can possibly be depressed, especially with how happy Zumba makes me and how happy I am when I see you in class.

Well, the fact is – I *am* happy in class! I’m also a professional, and I know how to pull myself together against all odds. But I only teach 4 classes a week, and really, teaching makes up a very small part of my life. (Those of you who attend my classes: I love you. I mean that. You make my day, you make my week, you give me purpose, you give me strength.)

I don’t take antidepressants, not because I’m against them in any way, but because I know myself very well and the fact is, despite being a nurse, I am horrible at taking meds regularly. I can make a 2-week prescription last over a month (I know, I know). And if I learned anything from my Mental Health First Aid training, it’s that antidepressants lose their effectiveness every time you start and stop a course, plus apparently one of the worst things you could do is to stop taking them cold turkey.

Basically, I’m saving their effectiveness for when I really need them, if ever I totally crack, which I hope I never do.

At this point, I’m very happy and confident to share that I don’t think I will.

I don’t like to get this intimate on my blog, especially about my depression, for a number of reasons:

  1. I don’t want to depress anybody (whaaa?)
  2. I don’t want to BORE anybody (did I seriously just say that?)
  3. I don’t like being depressed, so I try not to highlight it so I can forget about it (REAL SMART, TIMMIE)
  4. And this is perhaps the most important point: I am working very, very, very, very, VERY hard to alleviate my depression and cure myself of this nasty mental cycle NATURALLY. And if there’s anything I hate, it’s people who urge others to quit their prescription meds in lieu of natural options because I have personally seen the effects of that as a mental health nurse and they are not good! So if you are on meds, do not stop taking them without your doctor’s guidance! More on this here.

But, I’ve decided to share it now for the following reasons:

  1. This is something I’ve been dealing with for a significant part of my life, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. I’m not making it up, it’s part of who I am, and it’s followed me around. So regardless of how horrible it’s been, somehow, I believe it’s helped shape me into who I am today, and I think I’m pretty freaking awesome overall
  2. Women – especially mothers – need to talk more about depression. We need to remind each other that while it certainly is NOT NORMAL, it is far more commonplace than we think
  3. Denying something doesn’t make it go away, in fact, it just makes things worse. I’ve been online since I was a kid so the fact is, my online personality is very much 100% a part of me, and therefore denying it online would be denying it to myself on a huge level
  4. I hope that my experiences and what I’ve learned throughout this natural healing journey can help others

At this point, I want to make something perfectly clear: I have taken antidepressants in the past. Zoloft, to be exact, although not the brand name, just the generic kind (sertraline). This is what I have to say about Zoloft: IT IS FABULOUS. It did for me, exactly what it claimed to do: Made me feel normal. No, I did not become overly happy or elated. I still felt anger and sadness at appropriate times, but I found that my sadness was not as deep, my thinking became clearer, I was able to make decisions faster, and I finally had my head on straight.

My OB also assured me that Zoloft is safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (ask your own). Because I had a history of depression and postpartum depression, a Zoloft prescription was always on the table. He never forced me, he always just asked me how my moods were at every visit, and assured me that if I felt that I needed the medication for support, that I had it.

Sometimes all you need is to know you have the option.

I took antidepressants between the ages of 18-19; I was prescribed them again when Jonathan was around one year old, and took them for a short period of time. It was at this point that I decided that medication was not for me, and set out to find a way to bring peace, calm, and joy back to my life.

It’s been almost 5 years since I made that pivotal decision, and boy, has it been a wild ride.

And I don’t mean that in an exciting, amusement park ride kind of way, I mean that in a more scary, dangerous, holy crap we just set out on a safari and somehow lost our guide and got lost in the jungle full of wild animals kind of way.

So how bad was my depression anyway? Was it mild? Moderate? Generalized? Deep? Severe? Honestly, I don’t know what my actual DMV diagnosis was, but I will say this much: Whenever I would see a sad story on the news about a mother having done unspeakable things to herself or others, I would think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

I have never contemplated hurting myself or others, least of all taking my own life, but I must say that I can understand where that line of thinking comes from.

As depressed mothers, I feel like we’re all on the same, long, winding path to destruction; some are just further ahead than others.

I have walked that path, but was fortunate not to get farther than a few steps. Some women are lucky and are able to get help partway through; others walk the entire path and fall right off the cliff.

I am grateful and honoured to share with you that my biggest support on this journey has been my husband. I think I scared him so much with my first bout of postnatal depression that he was willing to do whatever it took, whether or not that meant I was taking meds, to help me get through this. Like all married couples, we have our ups and downs and roundabouts, but if not for Johnny, I don’t know where I would be.

I didn’t really share my “journey to mental health” with anybody else, even my sister or my mom, with whom I share almost everything. I just did NOT feel understood and I didn’t want to risk not being taken seriously by the two women whose opinions matter to me so greatly.

In any case, I truly believe that we need support from our spouses more than anything else, especially when it comes to recovery, whether physical, mental, or emotional. They’re the ones who are with us every day, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have come as far as I have if I didn’t think Johnny had my back.

Sometimes, it felt like I was walking on a tightrope – just the slightest breeze and I would fall off into the dark depths of oblivion. As time went on, the tightrope turned into a wood plank – still precariously balanced over a deep void – but at least slightly more stable.

Today as I write this, I feel like I may actually be standing on solid ground.

I’m afraid to write this, because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it. That after having publishing this post I’ll have cursed myself and wake up tomorrow totally unwilling to participate in the world again, having lost all passion for life, empathy for others, and strength to live.

But somehow, I just feel called to do this; to write these words and share them with you.

LET IT BE KNOWN: I tried many things, virtually throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck. In an attempt to cure my depression, I tried:

  • Yoga poses specifically targeted towards alleviating depression and anxiety (thank you, Tara Stiles)
  • Meditation
  • Pranayama
  • Reiki
  • UV Light Therapy (NOT self-tanning, I have a little blue light thingy meant for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD] on my desk)
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage (REGULAR massages)
  • Megadosing with Omega 3s + Vitamin D
  • Crystal Therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • BodyTalk
  • Studying spirituality

All while trying to eat as best as I could while maintaining a fitness routine (which admittedly, consists mainly of my teaching schedule).

The verdict?

They work.

They all work for me.

I can’t say which one is the most effective, because I honestly don’t know. Some work better for certain aspects of depression: For example, in the midst of a major anxiety spell, I find Reiki to be the fastest, most effective “way out”; for reducing brain fog, meditation is key. Etecetera.

For me, they all work together synergistically. Yes, it seems like a heck of a lot of effort, especially when compared to simply popping one pill daily, and it is! These therapies cost time and money, and with the exception of chiropractic and massage, they are not covered by your typical health benefits plan. In an attempt to “reduce my costs”, I’ve become a Crystal Healer and Reiki Practitioner – both of which obviously required an investment of more time and money.

But it’s so, totally worth it.

At the risk of having to change the byline of this blog to “My natural journey to mental health”, I’m going to be expanding on my experiences with these alternative healing therapies in future articles.

I’ve come out. I’m better. And I need to share.

Thank you for reading.

Yours in health + happiness,

Timmie Wanechko Edmonton Reiki

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