Overcoming Depression: One Step At A Time

I started writing this blog post a few weeks ago when I was really in a low place. Some days it took me until 2:30 p.m. to get out of bed. I spent all day watching TV and I barely ate. Night after night, I was plagued by insomnia. Almost all of my groceries went bad each week because, even though I normally love to cook, I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it. I felt anxious and reclusive and just plain sad.

I’ll say upfront that I much prefer to write about my triumphs on the internet than my struggles. But it’s important to admit that some days (and even some weeks or months), depression and anxiety can smack me in the face out of nowhere. And it’s confusing, exhausting, frustrating and really sucky.

As a very achievement-oriented person, it’s hard not to feel ashamed when I slip into a depression like I did a few weeks ago. I struggled with thinking that if I just worked a little harder or had more discipline, I would be able to fix it and feel better. It’s so easy to be consumed by embarrassment, loneliness and shame. But I slowly committed to a few things that helped me make it through.

  • I made an appointment with my psychiatrist as soon as I recognized the problem and I got a new medication that has helped dramatically.
  • I went to therapy more.
  • I took melatonin at 10 p.m. each night to ensure I was getting enough sleep, which is especially crucial for people with bipolar.
  • I dove into self-help books.
  • I dragged myself to a coffee shop each morning to give me a reason to get dressed and leave the house.
  • I tried to create something each day, no matter how small (more on that later).
  • I reached out to friends as much as I could to keep from isolating myself.
  • I finally cleaned my disaster of a room and forced myself to keep it that way.
  • I spent as much time as possible outside and in nature.
  • I did yoga.
  • I started writing down things I’m grateful for every morning

And little by little, I started to feel better.

Now, a few weeks later, I’m happier than I have been in a long time. I feel like myself again, I’ve re-established my positive habits, I’m exercising, and my drive and motivation are back (I’m finally finishing this post!).

I get really caught up in all the things I’m not doing when my mental health is in a bad place. But I’ve found that I have to be proud of the progress that I do make on bad days, even if it’s just getting out of bed and leaving the house before noon. If I can hold onto that pride, it helps carry me into doing a little more the next day. And then a little more the next. Overcoming depression is all about baby steps. But slowly, one day at a time, I promise it gets better.

Nature Heals!

Exercise has never been my friend. In fact, one of my first blogs talked about exactly this issue — how hard it is for people with ADD and depression to get out and move (even though it’s so important).

However, I’ve been in a strange season of life recently that has forced me to change some of my habits. I’m waiting for a new job to start and, without anything to do, I’ve been bored out of my mind. While navigating this transition, the strangest thing happened.

I fell in love with hiking and with nature. Who woulda thought!

Last week I hiked 11 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain up to Mount LeConte, one of the highest peaks in the Smokies. And I’m not going to lie — for a lot of the hike I wanted to die. It was exhausting and draining and at some points deeply challenging both emotionally and physically. However, when I got to the top, I felt a euphoria and pride I haven’t felt in a long time. After being bored all summer, feeling like I had achieved something once again inspired and exhilarated me.

In the last few weeks, I’ve walked and hiked more than I have in years and I’ve spent at least three days a week out on a trail. Mount LeConte was actually my third huge hike this month. And the more I’ve hiked and exercised, the more motivated I’ve become to keep it up.

People have told me to exercise more for years, but I had no idea how healing nature and movement could really be for my mental health. It forces me to quiet my brain, find time to be grateful for the world around me and gives me something I can continuously work to improve. I’ve started to understand how people can get so addicted to endorphins. Hell, this is probably the first time I’ve even exercised enough to even feel endorphins.

During a time of depression, it can be incredibly hard to get out and move or exercise. And this is not to say that time outside can take the place of therapy or medication. But I’m finding each day more and more that nature heals when I’m at my lowest. In fact, I’ve felt too unmotivated to even blog recently, but I felt inspired enough while out on the trail that I sat down on a bench and wrote this post in my iPhone notes. I even ran a mile this today and I don’t think I’ve done that since middle school PE.

So even if it feels extra hard, get outside. I absolutely know how tough (and sometimes miserable) it can be, but I’m learning that a little exercise or a walk in the woods each day really can turn things around.

What keeps you motivated to exercise? Let me know in the comments!