When I wrote my #NoShameDay post last year, I ended it with a
commitment to treat my depression, just like any other illness, even
if it meant taking medication. While my resolve remains, I have changed my approach, and here is why.
When I wrote the post, at the time I was working for a company that didn’t offer health insurance. I had individual health insurance (what I call health catastrophe insurance) but since I didn’t elect to have mental health services included when I signed up, therapy sessions and visits with a psychiatrist weren’t covered under my plan.
On a particularly harrowing night during a particularly difficult summer, I called a depression hotline who referred me to a public mental health center not far from my house. After being evaluated (and being billed $200) I was referred to another center where I signed up for counseling sessions and (what I really wanted), sessions with a psychiatrist who could prescribe anti-depressive medication.
I will save the details for a longer post, or possibly, my autobiography, but between the Nigerian MSW who told me I was depressed because I didn’t have Jesus in my life, the man in the waiting room who told me (and everyone else in ear shot) that he liked my legs, and the psychiatrist who never showed up, I stopped going to this center after three visits.
I felt like I did have God in my life, and a higher power was telling me that there were other ways to deal with depression. I knew that, in general I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t exercising enough, eating enough whole foods, drinking enough water or putting myself in enough positive, social situations. I believe that we all have signs that we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Some people have skin break-outs. Some people get insomnia or headaches. Some people ignore the signals until they have more fatal issues, like a heart attack or stroke. For me, depression is an alert, a reminder that I’m not being good to myself.
In the past year, I’ve taken the following steps to address my depression (NOTE: Do not use the information in this post as a substitute for medical advice or any prescribed medications you are currently taking):
1) See a therapist once a week.
2) Use positive affirmations.
3) Meditate once a day.
4) Take supplements, such as B-vitamins, essential fatty acids, and adaptogens such as Rhodiola Rodea, Maca Root, and Holy Basil.
5) Address my current dissatisfaction with my life’s trajectory, and move back to Chicago to spend more time with my mom, and to do a life reset.
How am I today? To quote John Mayer, I’m in repair. I even started a Tumblr blog called The Mood Project, which is a chronicle of all of the steps I’m taking to improve my mental health. I post helpful tips, reviews on supplements, and other actions that I’m taking to remain healthy.
I’m not against medication for mental illness, but I also need to be honest about my own situation. For me, depression is more than a state that I want to avoid. It’s a sign that I have work to do.