Depression is an issue that can be extremely difficult to explain to someone who has, thankfully, never experienced it. There seems to still be a prevailing belief among many Christians that it is nothing more than laziness or at best, that it is a mild mood change that can be set aside because you have things to do. Often as a result, we don’t talk about it. No one wants to admit that they haven’t done dishes in 2 weeks or that they never got out of bed yesterday because they’re afraid that those who don’t understand will forever after see them as an irresponsible person.
We need to talk about it. We need to be balanced and offer real, practical solutions, but first we have to talk about it. This is me…talking about it.
I woke to the sun pouring in my windows and my cat snuggled up next to me. I rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen. Working from home now meant I didn’t have to shower, so I didn’t. Instead, I grabbed some breakfast and my laptop and sank into my comfy couch.
I checked Facebook and then pulled up the websites I needed to work that day. 15 hours a week, 3 hours a day and my bills would be paid. Not much extra, it would still be tight, but the ample time to build my business would be worth it in the end. Plus, I wouldn’t have to go job hunting. I despise job hunting and don’t even enjoy most of the jobs for which I am qualified anyway.
I was ready to go…but then it happened. My relaxed, chill mood turned into a weight holding me down and a little voice telling me that I couldn’t do this job. My brain was too foggy, the little coding knowledge I had was long outdated, it was slow going testing this and that to figure out how to produce what I wanted, was I really as tech-savvy as I had thought? Should I just tell my new boss that it wasn’t for me? Or worse, would she eventually tell me I couldn’t do it? The most influential employer in my life had spent 3 years subtly telling me that I couldn’t do anything, why would this be any different?
I stared at the screen, trying to gather my thoughts to push through but it just wasn’t happening. I decided, that’s ok. It’s not a big deal to make up the hours over the rest of the week. I can try again tomorrow.
The next day started much the same, I did get some things done, not as much as I’d hoped, but it was something. The third day, I lay in bed staring at my beige wall. I thought, well, maybe if I just force myself out of bed…but I remained immoveable. That unseen thing that we sometimes call motivation, that silent force that we use to propel us to do the things we want or need to accomplish, it just wasn’t there. I willed my legs to move and nothing happened. Like being paralyzed except…not.
As the week went on and I continued to feel this way, my frustration and anxiety grew. Only once or twice before had I ever had it this bad and even then it didn’t last quite so long. I always knew that I could just wait it out and within a few days I would get that second wind that I needed to catch up, but it didn’t come this time.
I decided to get a dog. I’ve planned to for months but never did because I was gone all day, but this week, snuggled under the covers clutching my giant stuffed frog and wanting to cry for my perfect life that I couldn’t even live, I realized that I could get a dog now. That in the absence of a husband to hold me and drive the blues away, a dog would be there (with no ulterior motives *cough* orange tabby cat *cough*) to cheer me up, to give me a compelling reason to go on a walk every single day, to add to my tiny family someone who can’t survive on their own unlike the beloved low maintenance resident who poops in a box.
As if God was sending me a gift straight from Him, almost as soon as I started looking around to see what might be available, a grinning little boy surrounded by a litter of pups popped up in my newsfeed. Puppies which turned out to be exactly the mixed breed that I need.
This little guy or girl is part of my plan for life change. Here are just a few things that I have learned in my own journey that I hope may be helpful for others in the same situation:
- What is depression anyway?
The simple definition is: “A brain disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
But as far as whether it is merely a mood or a chemical imbalance or hormones…we could talk all day and never come to a conclusive answer. I have noticed that, at least for me, it seems to be better or worse according to where I’m at in my monthly cycle, indicating that there is at least a hormonal component at work. I have also noticed that it is different according to how much sleep I’ve had, how balanced my meals have been and whether or not I’ve gotten adequate nutrients. I also know that before I was sexually abused at 9 years old, I was a joyful, light-hearted and creative little philospher with not a care in the world. And before I lost the man I loved as a young adult, it was not as a major issue.
- My personal conclusion is that there is no one single thing that is blame because we are whole, complex beings. You can’t do anything spiritual that does not have a physical effect and you cannot treat one thing without treating the entire body.The closest you’ll get to hitting something at it’s root is if you address it emotionally. Emotions are matter that can either make us healthy or physically ill because our bodies store negative emotions that have not been properly handled IN our bodies to manifest later as illness.
- Does repentance help?I mentioned that many Christians would say to repent, as if depression itself is a sin. This I very strongly disagree with, however, I do believe that the Gospel changes the way we think, the way we handle emotions, our thoughts and desires, what we eat, if we exercise, things we allow in our bodies and minds, etc. Everything is covered. I would not say that you should simply believe on the Lord and be saved and suddenly you’ll be as healthy as an ox and it will miraculously solve all your woes, but if I had to pick only one medicine, between the Gospel, essential oils and nutrition, the Gospel will win every time.
Does repentance help? Repenting of depression…a very big no. But repentance in general? Absolutely.
- What should NOT be done for depression?Pharmaceuticals have been known to make depression WORSE as a side effect of the drug. It is also interesting to note that even the word, “pharmaceuticals” comes from the root, “pharmakeio” which means literally “witchcraft”. It is the word used in Scripture to refer to and condemn sorcery.
I personally am not dogmatic on this. I’ve been in situations where I used my oils, but because I hadn’t used them consistently or coupled with a proper diet, I ended up needing to resort to a quick, temporary fix in order to accomplish something. I know people who have been vastly helped by anti-depressants. So in my opinion, if you absolutely must take the drugs, go ahead but actively work toward the day that you don’t need them.
People condemning. Back to the Christians who think all you need to do is repent of your laziness…these people opening their mouths and spewing forth ignorance is one of the WORST things for depression. Someone who is depressed is already dealing with self-esteem, they’re already thinking about what an awful person they are, the last thing in the world they need is someone to come along and confirm it. Don’t kick a horse when it’s down and don’t tell someone struggling with depression to just get over it.
- What is Abbie’s plan for life change?Here is my list starting with what I feel is the most important for me at this point in time:
1. A dog. I have a cat and he’s wonderful, but I’ve realized that I am desperately in need of something more. I have a puppy on order who should be arriving within a couple of weeks as soon as we figure out transportation. Pets have been shown to be helpful for those with depression simply by being there and loving their owner. If you have somewhat milder depression like I do where I can still get things done if I absolutely have to, a dog scratching to go out in the morning may be exactly what you need to turn it all around. I have high hopes.
2. Emotional Release. Negative emotions, especially if we’ve had any type of traumatic experience, (and by trauma I’m including anything that had a traumatic effect on your life whether you felt like it or not) don’t just dissipate. We store them away to be dealt with at a later date. You may have heard stories of children who were very young when they subjected to a traumatic experience that they lacked the maturity to handle. Often, when they go into fight or flight mode, their bodies choose flight and all the emotions and memories associated with that event get stored away to be brought back up later when they are, hopefully, better equipped to handle it. This is something that we all do and it is why a memory you never thought you had can unexpectedly come to mind. It was there all along.
One of the things that makes essential oils so incredibly powerful is that, when inhaled, they stimulate the limbic region of your brain where memories and emotions are stored. They are one of, if not the, most effective way to release negative emotions. I recommend the books Feelings Buried Alive Never Die (for all the hows and whys and science stuff) and Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils, (for practically what to do with which oils for which emotions.)
Note: Essential oils are not only for emotional release. Learn how to incorporate them into your daily life. I never did get my second wind after last week, but I did get up and go today because over the weekend, I applied almost every essential oil that I own! Don’t be stingy with them and don’t be afraid to use them.
Regular exercise is supposed to help and I believe it. I’m incorporating a simple exercise program that I know I enjoy and works for me into my daily schedule. I love yoga so Callanetics is my kind of thing and they have both 1 hour and 15 minute programs. I personally prefer the 1 hour, but I have also done Wendi Pett’s Transformetrics program on days when I needed a 10-15 minute work out. Both are low impact, non-cardio that anyone can do no matter their fitness level and both can be done in the privacy of your own home without any special equipment.
I’ll also be walking the dog. Another point in favor of the canine world.
By far one of the most effective and easy to implement is Shaklee B-Complex. The only reason I had such a hard time last week is because I ran out of my B vitamins and never re-stocked! I need these every single day. I like to take at least 4 every day, but I will probably up that to 6. I was raised on Shaklee supplements and they’ve never let me down, but I intend to try Super B from my company and see how they compare. Do remember that, much like essential oils, all vitamins are not created equal. If you intend to purchase B vitamins in those little yellow and green bottles from our favorite grocery store, stop right there and go ahead and flush your money down the toilet…because that is literally what you will be doing.
Other important supplements to be taking include Zinc, Shaklee Energizing Soy Protein, Ningxia Nitro, Ningxia Red, Vitamin D, (especially in the wintertime) and Omega 3s. I recommend any products from Young Living or Shaklee and would be happy to answer any questions or concerns.
5. Proper nutrition.
There is a wealth of information on proper nutrition available…and they all contradict each other! It can be very confusing but I believe it doesn’t need to be. Here are the basic guidelines for a healthy diet that I recommend:
DON’T eat sugar. Except for honey or fruit, sugar is not something we were designed to be consuming, especially in the quantities in which it can be found in the typical American diet. All natural stevia without any additives is a good replacement if you want something to sweeten tea or coffee. There are differing opinions about Xylitol as a sweetener. I don’t care for it except in ice cream because it has a “cold” after taste, but it is easier than stevia because you can replace white sugar cup for cup. Just be sure to get xylitol from birch, not corn.
DO eat fresh! Buy vegetables unprocessed, not from a can. Purchase legumes in a bag or from a can with no more than 2-3 ingredients, (beans, salt, water).
DON’T eat grains except for oats or quinoa. Wheat flour today would not be recognized as food 4,000 years ago after all the hybridization and pesticides and what not that men have done to it over the years. If you want wheat, use Einkorn, (closest option to the original wheat available today) but you really don’t need it. You don’t have to have bread with every meal and you don’t have to make sandwiches or pasta and not only do most gluten free products taste like cardboard, they can even be worse for you than the wheat!
If you eat meat, get grassfed/free range without a bunch of preservatives, nitrates and junk in it. Go for more fish than beef. If you don’t care for meat, no problem, just make sure you replace it with a protein shake and/or plenty of legumes.
Some say to skip all dairy, but I refuse to give up my cheese! Get it as natural as you can and don’t go overboard. Get your eggs fresh from the farmer if possible or at least organic and never, ever drink that nasty, white-colored, pasteurized water that they sell at the grocery store! Raw milk, straight from the cow, is your friend.
Healthy fats are also your friend and coconut oil is your very best friend! Cook with it, make chocolate candies with it, eat it on a spoon, whatever works for you.
More importantly than anything else that I have said, if you too are coping, or attempting to cope, with depression, remember that you are loved, that you are capable, that you are strong and that no matter how bad things seem at the moment, this too shall pass.