If the first step getting over my depression was admitting I had a problem, the next was asking for help. I found a therapist and started seeing her on a regular basis. At our fist appointment she did a sort of intake questionnaire, and at the end of the hour she put down her papers, turned to me with her hands in her lap and she said, “Well, I think we need to make some changes.” I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was to hear those words. In that simple sentence, she validated everything I’d been feeling over the past few months. All of the doubt, all of the shame, all of the sadness—none of it was normal, and I could get better.
She told me I needed to be on a different medication. She told me what I’ve been hearing for years, that taking care of my body will actually help my mind. That exercising and sleeping better could be key factors in my recovery. She made an appointment for me with a nurse practitioner that specialized in mental health, a saint of a woman who spent SO MUCH TIME WITH ME. Our first appointment lasted ninety minutes. We talked and analyzed and talked some more. We have regular follow up appointments, even now. I never felt like she was giving me a random medication and putting me out to pasture. She wanted me to get better as much as I did, if not more. She got me off the Ambien, a crutch for sleep that I had come to depend on more and more. She switched me from Effexor to Cymbalta, the last medication I’d been on before I had the kids, and one that had worked well for me. She performed a depression screening at my first appointment, which I scored highly on, meaning I had severe depression, even while taking Effexor. The next appointment she did it again, and my score was half what it was. The changes were working.
She scheduled me for some lab work, wanting to rule out anything physical that could have been contributing to my depression. Everything came back fine except my vitamin D levels, which were less than half of what they were supposed to be. I was shocked—I’ve always done well on tests, even ones on my blood. But it made sense. During the long winter months, even on those sunny days when the glare off of the snow is almost blinding, I stayed inside. I had no desire to go out and run errands, to meet people, to do anything but be in my cozy warm house, tucked into my cozy warm bed, everything I needed (book, phone, TV, more pillows) in arms’ reach.
I started taking a vitamin D supplement, and my outlook started to improve. I joined our local YMCA and began swimming twice a week. I used to swim in the summers when I was little, and then in high school, and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to start with something easy, something that my body would remember and something I could look forward to doing. I also took a weightlifting class on Saturdays (BodyPump, for those of you who are into that sort of thing). Almost overnight, I started to feel better. Suddenly I had more energy. After exercising in the morning, I’d have more drive to complete my chores the rest of the day. My desire to take a nap after lunch all but vanished. I was so physically tired by nighttime that falling asleep was easy. I was getting better.
To be continued…
Photo by Markovich Photo Art.