Let’s Talk About… Depression

This isn’t an easy post to write. I’m about to get super-real with you, peeps. But I feel that this is a really important conversation to have. So, let’s talk about… Depression.

Let's Talk About ... Depression | Life, UnleashedI have suffered from depression since I was a young girl. But it wasn’t until April 2013 that I finally started taking medication for it. The reasons for my delay were these:

  1. I had been misinformed / ignorant about the different types of depression that exist, and therefore didn’t feel that I was a candidate for medical help. I didn’t fit the description of someone with major depression — though, I did have some of the symptoms — so I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.
  2. I had long been under the impression that antidepressants are habit-forming, so I didn’t want to take them for fear that I would suffer awful consequences when I tried to go off of them.

What changed for me is that, in 2013, I read an eBook called, “Pros of Prozac” by Beca Mark*. In it, Beca outlines her own struggle with anxiety and depression, and how much taking antidepressants had helped her. Reading Beca’s story, I could relate to so much of what she described of her life before taking medication. As such, I started to –once again– really research depression and antidepressants.

Side note: I’ve also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks since 2001, so I have done a lot of research on these topics over the years.

Thanks to my new research, though, I learned two things that I’d missed before, that made all the difference for me:

First, antidepressants are not habit-forming. If you follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take them, and for how to be weaned off of them, there shouldn’t be any major issues.

Second, I have what is called, Dysthymia, also known as chronic low-level depression. That’s why, although I have some of the symptoms listed for major depression, I don’t have all of them. Yet, my form of depression is no less serious, and can still benefit from the use of antidepressants. Here is the description {source}:

Persistent depressive disorder, also called Dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh), is a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression. You may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings last for years and may significantly interfere with your relationships, school, work and daily activities.

If you have persistent depressive disorder, you may find it hard to be upbeat even on happy occasions — you may be described as having a gloomy personality, constantly complaining or incapable of having fun. Though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.

Because of the chronic nature of persistent depressive disorder, coping with depression symptoms can be challenging, but a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication can be effective in treating this condition.

Armed with this new information, I went to see my doctor to talk with her about trying antidepressants, and she wrote me a prescription.

It took a while to figure out the proper dosage, and which brand of antidepressant worked the best for me (turns out, it’s Zoloft). But I just have to tell you: choosing to go on antidepressants was the best thing I ever did for myself. It has made a world of difference in my life. Some of the benefits include:

  • I can have important conversations with my husband, or family, without falling into tears, and then being unable to continue the conversation
  • I’m no longer irritable, grouchy, and snippy with everyone all the time
  • I can respond, rather than react, to stressful situations
  • I don’t cry over the stupidest little things
  • I have battled my anxiety and panic attacks… and (still, by the grace of God), I won! {see below}

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these things are the major highlights, for me.

When I first started taking the medication, I didn’t tell my husband about it. Reason being, he is one of those people who doesn’t agree that depression is a mental illness. He thinks it’s just “all in one’s head” and can be overcome through “mind over matter”, diet and exercise {side note: yes, a healthy diet and regular exercise have been shown to lessen the effects of Depression, so they’re still highly recommended}. In order to “show” my man that I actuallywas helped by the medication, I waited a few months of being on it before I let him in on this choice of mine. And, when I finally did tell him, I asked if he’d noticed a change in my personality over the previous few months — he had. So, he agreed that maybe this was an important choice for me to have made.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to depression and antidepressants. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and also a lot of misunderstanding. People who have never suffered from anxiety, or never had a panic attack, don’t fully know the horror of it… the feeling of being so very out of control, and the feeling of utter terror. Anxiety and panic attacks are not just “all in your head”… they are physical manifestations of a chemical imbalance in your physical body. You can know all of the statistics and information, but your body is going to react (usually there are “triggers”), regardless of your level of knowledge.

For example, in 2001 I had my first panic attack. My family and I were eating dinner, when all-of-a-sudden, I heard a helicopter flying over our house. And much as I knew it made absolutely no sense (mentally), I was utterly convinced that that helicopter was going to come and crash into our house. I ended up excusing myself from the table to go to the washroom, where I collapsed into a shaking puddle on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. I was scared-to-death, because this had never happened to me before, and I had never heard of panic attacks. I thought I’d completely lost it, and that I was going to have to be locked away in some mental institution. I’d gone off the deep end. (Thankfully, this wasn’t the case!)

From that point on, I couldn’t hear any aircraft going by overhead without seizing up in a fit of anxiety. My heart would race, my fists would clench, and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Thankfully, my faith has helped a lot with this… I’ve learned to pray through the attacks, asking God to protect both my family, and those on the aircraft.

 

Mind you, the 9-11 attacks certainly didn’t help. Especially since I’d had some eerily “prophetic” (for lack of a better term) dreams about them before they even happened! Put it this way: I saw what the people in the World Trade Center must have seen, seconds before the plane went crashing through those windows.  This still shakes me to my core.

Anyway. Like I said, my faith has really helped me in overcoming my anxiety and panic attacks. But I also believe that the antidepressants have, as well. As proof, I can proudly say that — thanks be to God! — I was able to get on a plane and fly out to visit my sister, last summer … and I didn’t even have to take anything (tranquilizers) for the trip, either! Was I still scared? Absolutely! I was very, very nervous. But, would I do it again? Yep — in a heartbeat!

To wrap this up, let me just encourage you in a couple of things:

  1. If you, yourself, suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression (in any of its forms), please don’t hesitate to get help. Research it, if you need to. Talk to friends or family, or go see a counselor. Talk to your doctor. It’s not worth it to continue to suffer alone. You don’t need to… Heck! Send me an email if you need to talk, and feel you have no one else! I’m here, okay?
  2. If you have, or are considering suicide, PLEASE call this number, right now:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). Reach out — you are NOT alone!
  3. Ignore the haters and those who tell you that it’s “all in your head”. Do what you feel is the right thing… for you. That’s all that matters. You are the only one who truly knows your body, and what you need. You are the only one who needs to make this decision {with the help of your doctor, of course}.
  4. If you aren’t opposed to it, seek God in the matter. Tell Him what you’re struggling with (He already knows, but He wants you to come to Him with this). Ask for His help in overcoming this. It IS possible… Did you know that the Bible encourages us by saying, “Do not fear”, 365 times?  You could also go talk to a local pastor or priest. They are trained counselors.
  5. Help spread the word! The more people who talk openly about mental health issues like Depression, the more we can get rid of the “stigma” that surrounds it, and the more we can help those who truly need help.

ETA: Have a look at this article, on the Health Ambition website, all about the top 10 anti-anxiety foods that help reduce stress… it may be of some help to you, as well.

HAVE YOU GOTTEN HELP FOR DEPRESSION? DO YOU TAKE MEDICATION FOR IT? SHARE WITH US A BRIEF SNIPPET ABOUT YOUR STORY IN THE COMMENTS! LET’S SHOW THE LOVE!

How to Hang On When You’re Tired

Do you ever just get so tired of trying to move forward? Do you have times where you’ve gone at things with such intensity for so long and, all-of-a-sudden, it hits you and you feel bone-weary? I do, too.

How to Hang On When You're Tired | Life, UnleashedI’ve got a feisty, stubborn, independent spirit, so I tend to fight long and hard for what I believe in, and/or am passionate about. Yet, every now and then, I hit a wall, and I just cannot summon the strength to keep going.

Can you relate?

I’m not saying that I’ll give up entirely. Definitely not! But I think that life has a way of telling us that it’s time to slow down, step back, rest, and refresh. If we don’t pay attention, and we don’t take a breather once in a while, life seems to force us to do so, whether we want to or not!

Some of the ways I’ve found to help me slow down and regroup include the following:

LET IT GO

Instead of fighting to continue, I recognize my soul’s need for a time-out, and I mentally tell myself that it’s okay — that I have permission — to let things go for a while. It’s not forever. And, by taking some time off, I know I will come back to things with more clarity, and renewed energy, later on.

GET CREATIVE

I got into the whole adult coloring trend, a year ago, along with the practice of Art Journaling. And, while I don’t pursue these things daily any more, I do find that they are very relaxing, they allow me to “zone out”, and they get me into a creative “flow” state for a while.

LISTEN TO MUSIC

Along with getting my creative juices flowing, I also love to put my earphones on, crank up my favorite music, and tune out the world for a couple of hours. Combining my coloring time with listening to music has a really beneficial effect on my state of being. It calms me and brings me joy.

READ FICTION

Because I’m such an avid nonfiction reader, I’m constantly soaking up knowledge, and learning, usually taking notes while I read.

So, every now and then, I find I have to force myself to dig into a novel (fiction) in order to just relax with my book, and “escape” the world around me. I am always happy after having done so, too!


Now, because everyone is unique, the things I do to step back and relax may be different from the things you would enjoy. The point, though, is to find what it is that helps bring you a sense of calm, and then make time for that in your day-to-day.Matthew 11:28-30 | Life, UnleashedHow long you take time off for will always depend on your unique circumstances. If you pay attention, your body and soul will let you know when it’s time to pick up where you left off. If necessary, you can always set yourself a flexible deadline — once that date comes, you can then check in with yourself, see how you feel, and decide whether you need a bit more time, or if you’re ready to roll.

We aren’t meant to always be “on”. Even the Master Creator (God) took time off after creating the world! Follow His example, and take a break when you need to.

 

How do YOU make the time to relax? What are your favorite downtime activities that help you feel refreshed?

How Personality Quizzes Set Me Free

I love personality quizzes! Mind you, I’ve always been very self-reflective, and I love psychology (knowing what makes people do what they do).

Either way, I honestly believe that knowing my personality type has brought me freedom. Let me show you how…

personality quizzes set me free

A LITTLE HISTORY

I started learning about personality types back in 1997. Florence Littauer’s books were the first to introduce me to these, and from there, I have taken several others.

THE RENAISSANCE SOUL

Margaret Lobenstine has a book called “The Renaissance Soul“, and it describes me perfectly! When I found this book, I immediately recommended it to my sister, and she, too, feels that it perfectly describes her. She and I now frequently reference this aspect of our personalities. ;)

STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0

Tom Rath’s book, “StrengthsFinder 2.0“, had a code for you to go online and take the Clifton StrengthsFinder quiz. From that, I learned that my “Top 5” are Empathy, Connectedness, Input, Intellection, and Strategic.

This explained for me my love of keeping empty boxes around in case I might need them some day (Input), and my love of books & reading (Intellection / collecting knowledge!).

MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR

Through reading several descriptions online, I learned my MBTI — only to then take a quiz at 16personalites.com and have my findings confirmed. I am predominantly INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving), but also ENFP (probably about a 60% | 40% mix).

[Fun fact: One who has a fairly even split between Introvert & Extrovert is called an “Ambivert“! Thanks, Pinterest!] LOL

ENNEAGRAM

I haven’t done enough research on this one, yet, so I don’t know enough about it. But, from the quiz I took, my Enneagram number is 5.

HOROSCOPE

Generally, I tend to stay away from Astrology & horoscopes — they’re never very accurate, anyway. However, there are bits of the Sagittarius profile (my horoscope) that fit me perfectly … fiercely independent? Yep! A fiery temper? Not so much. I’m quite easy-going, in fact.

CORE VALUES

I also researched my core values, and came up with a list of my top 10 (plus a few extra). Suffice it to say, Freedom is my #1 core value, and Life, Unleashed has that as its overarching theme — the thread that ties all of my various interests, and all of the topics here at Life, Unleashed, together. ;)

So, having done all of these quizzes (plus, a whole slew of the ones through BuzzFeed… Thanks, Facebook! LOL), I now feel I have a really good grasp of who I am, what makes me tick, and why I do what I do… especially on default/instinct, when I’m not really responding, but reacting.

LEARNING TO “SEE”

Because I know my personality type and core values, I can now see why certain jobs never fit me (mainly any of them where I work for an employer! LOL), and why I’ve acted as I have — or made certain choices — in the past. Knowing that I’m a right-brained creative, for example (INFP is “the Artist”), shows me why the left-brained, secretarial jobs I’ve had never worked out for me (I had 3 of them in 3 years!). I was trying to force the proverbial square peg into a round hole, so-to-speak… acting in a way that was in opposition to my type.

During the second of those secretarial jobs, I was super-stressed because of work, and decided to make up a list of all of the things I both loved & hated from all of my previous jobs. Doing this, plus taking into account my personality & values, I was able to make my next job a much better fit for me, even if it still wasn’t perfect. Of course, at that time, I still hadn’t realized the bit about my right-brained creative side (I knew I had it, but it’d been buried for years at that point). Therefore, I still didn’t see that secretarial jobs weren’t a fit for me. After all, I’d gone to college and had gotten a certificate in Office Administration! So, I assumed that that’s what I needed to (should) be doing! I knew that, eventually, when finances allowed, I wanted to start my own business — I didn’t know what business, yet, but I knew I wanted to work for myself. But again, finances at that time didn’t allow for that.

Well, fast forward nine months, and I found myself out of a job — again. And, being that the job market was pretty sucky (especially in the small town where I live), hubby suggested that I go through the government-run self-employment program (here in Ontario, Canada) and try starting up the business I’d told him I’d been considering (virtual assistance for authors). So, I did!

LIGHTBULB MOMENTS

Since October 2013, I have been self-employed (yay!). As previously mentioned, I’ve always had a gut feeling that I was meant to be an entrepreneur — long before I got the chance to be one! I come from a family of entrepreneurs, actually (both of my grandfathers, two of my uncles, and my sister), so I like to say “it’s in my blood!” LOL

Mind you, even this last year-and-a-half of self-employment has been a learning curve. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the “virtual assistant” thing didn’t last long, partially because it was yet another secretarial gig.

I then thought about doing Life & Business Coaching and took the steps toward that, but I realized I’d need years of training first, which I don’t currently have the time or money for. So, that got set aside.

And now, here we are at Life, Unleashed, where I’ve decided to just do what I already love — blogging. Add to that the fact that God’s been pushing nudging me to be a Writer for years, and it seemed to be the right path for me to follow right now.

I love that I can combine all of my passions — books, creativity, psychology, faith, music, etc — in this one site/career path. I even get to say that reading is a part of my job! (hee hee…) So yeah, I’m totally loving the “pro blogging” thing, so far!

FREEDOM!

The biggest thing my path has shown/taught me, though, is first, to know myself (ala Socrates), and second, to trust my intuition. All of the various versions of my “business(es)” over the last few years have been me getting an idea, trying it, feeling that something was still “off” (not quite “it”), and then pivoting to the next thing. It’s been frustrating, at times, and somewhat discouraging, too. However, I’m blessed to have an amazing business coach & friend who helps me work through all of that, as well as my sister — a business-owner herself — whose business is thriving after just 2 years being open!

Another thing that helped add to my feeling of “freedom” is that I started going to an Art Journaling class once a month. This has helped me to reconnect with my creativity.

I used to spend a lot of time doing “creative” or artsy things, but motherhood pushed that (mostly) into the background for the last seventeen years.

I also met some great new friends, in the last couple of years, who are musicians and creatives, themselves — which has helped me to realize (after having spent time with them) that they are my “tribe”, my people… the creatives and the dreamers are with whom I feel at home.

TO MY FELLOW DREAMERS, ARTISTS, AND CREATIVES…

I know a lot of you, here at Life, Unleashed, are also creatives & artists (writers are artists — as are wanna-be writers!). And I love that about you guys! So I hope that this blog can become a sort of hub for not just books, but all sorts of creative, right-brained things (don’t worry, you left-brainers… I’ve got psychology and other things for you, too).

Your turn... | Life, UnleashedDo you know YOUR personality type? (Share it here! I’d love to see what mix we have!) If so, how has it helped you? 

Who Says?

Have you ever gotten into something, realized it wasn’t the greatest fit for you, and then… accepted your fate and stayed put? Maybe you thought it was the “responsible” thing to do, or that, since you’d already invested this much time in it, you may as well keep going. But, what if I told you that it was okay to quit — to let it go?

Who Says? | Life, Unleashed!

So often, we blindly follow rules and perform actions without questioning why. We accept that things just are the way they are, because that’s how it’s “always been”, or we do things a certain way because it’s what is “expected”. The problem is, we then end up just going through the motions in life, and things continue to feel boring, or routine, or mundane. We continue to do and think things, but then wonder why we feel so unfulfilled.

Thanks to a couple of books I read, recently (see them here & here), I feel like I’m starting to wake up to the possibilities.

Here’s a question for you: Who decided that you must keep doing things that way? What would happen if you changed things up? And, who said you can’t do this or that? What if you all-of-a-sudden just…did? (obviously, I’m not meaning anything illegal, or morally corrupt, okay?)

Seriously, though… I think far too many of us are left with unsatisfying and unfulfilling lives because we forget the following 4 things:

QUESTION

It’s okay — and even GOOD! — to question things; to ask “why”. Until I was in my late teens, I never really questioned my faith or the things I’d been taught in church, or even the way we did things in that church. Yet when I learned to question, I saw the flaws, and I realized I’d fallen into legalism. My faith has actually grown by leaps & bounds, ever since I learned to question why I do & think the things I do.

BE CURIOUS

Despite what they say about our poor feline friend, curiosity won’t (normally) kill you. Instead, it makes life brighter, and it adds an element of fun! We are born curious… it’s how we learn! Which leads me to…

TRY

You know that thing you’ve been wanting to do, but you’ve put off doing out of hesitation? What would happen if you took a leap of faith, and just gave it a try? Sure, you might fail at it. Would that really be as bad as you think? Isn’t regretting chances not taken ultimately worse? Don’t let your fear hold you back, and leave you with end-of-life regrets. Take chances! Have an open-minded attitude. Decide you will try the thing, and if it doesn’t work out (or you end up really disliking it), you can just let it go and try something else! You have the freedom to choose. Use it! (and hey… maybe it will work out — maybe you’ll succeed — and you’ll have a blast! Only one way to find out!)

PRACTICE

All too many of us (myself, included!) tend to forget that it takes practice to become good at just about everything. All of us start at Level Zero when we’re first trying something new. Every single one of us starts as a beginner — a “newbie”. And that’s an okay place to be. Why? Because you can only go UP from there! By practicing, you may never reach “perfection”, but you –guaranteed!– will see progress. Yes, it may take a while. The more you do a thing, however, the better you’ll get at it. Keep practicing, and you’ll keep “leveling up“! It’s the only way to succeed.

Practice | Life, Unleashed!

 

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck or bored, ask yourself if you need to throw out the old ways, and try something new. Be curious about how you can change things up. And, when you find something that does bring a spark back to things, accept your “beginner” status, and commit to practicing until you’ve gotten to your preferred level of excellence. And, don’t forget: nothing is ever permanent (except death). You ALWAYS have the freedom to make a different choice.

Do We Have These in Common?

Just for fun, let’s see how many things we have in common, shall we?

Do we have these in common? | Life, UnleashedSTATIONARY STORE JUNKIE

I absolutely love stationary stores! One of my earliest memories includes going to the stationary store with my Dad, and watching as he chose new markers (Dad was a sketch artist for the police department, back then). He had a whole bin full of different markers at home, and I do believe I got my love of browsing these stores from him.

PEN PARTICULARS

I’m very particular about the pens I use. My favorites are the Bic Cristal (usually blue). They write smoothly, don’t usually leave any smudges or ink drops, and they’re comfortable to hold.

Back when I worked at Staples Business Depot (I know, right?! See my first point, above), I once asked my co-workers about a different kind of pen — I thought I’d maybe change things up. They couldn’t understand why I was making such a big deal of choosing a pen … they reiterated that the store had plenty! LOL. However, they didn’t understand how important it is (at least to me) that a pen meet certain criteria. I write a lot — I’m a Writer … duh! — so I need my pens to be “just right”.

NEW NOTEBOOKS | JOURNALS

There is something about a new notebook or journal that always draws me in … I just cannot help myself. I should never be allowed in the stationary aisle of the local Dollarama store, as I can’t help but walk out of there with at least ONE new notebook or journal. It’s a serious problem. It’s not like I don’t have any at home. LOL. But, I will always find a new excuse to buy another one. Maybe it’s the “possibility” that comes with a fresh book?

TREE-CLIMBER

Finally, something NOT stationary related! LOL. When I was younger, I used to love climbing trees. We lived in the country, so we had a bunch of good climbing trees in our yard … and Grandma lived across the street, and had a whole 4 acres of woods behind her house! If I had the strength (and I’m working on that!), I’d probably still be climbing trees! Who cares how old I am! (heck, I still wear pigtails in my hair, too!)

SO NOT  GIRLY!

I am not a fan of getting all dressed up, and I do not care that much for pink or sparkly things … sometimes my nails will get a sparkly or pink coat, but that’s close to the extent of it.

I much prefer to spend my days in t-shirts, jeans, and my Converse (“Chucks”).

FEISTY & STUBBORN

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had a super stubborn streak. My family loves to remind me of the time when I told my Grandma (who was babysitting me while my mom was in the hospital, giving birth to my brother) that I was going to “take these 2 feet” and walk all the way home, since she was refusing to give me a ride. Ha!

I can also be quite feisty, given the right circumstances.

The stubborn streak can come in handy, sometimes, though — for example, refusing to give up hope on my desire to remain self-employed. I’ll do whatever it takes.

SWEET TOOTH

I love sugar … especially Coca-Cola (classic) and chocolate. I’ve tried so many times to give up drinking soda, as I know how bad it is for me. But it never lasts for long. I’m still working on finding a fair compromise for this. And the chocolate … well, I’m never giving that up, thank you very much! (Faves: Reese Peanut Butter Cups & Snickers)

VROOM-VROOM!

I’m a girl who can appreciate a beautiful car. My husband might beg to differ (I don’t care for Corvettes), but to each their own, right? I love Ferraris and Lamborghini Aventadors… plus a wide range of more reasonably priced vehicles, of course. My Audi A4 and I were good friends… and I got plenty of kudos from others, given she was a manual. Now I drive my “beast” (a Dodge Ram pickup) … love her, too!

NON-FICTION

I used to read mainly fiction. I loved mystery novels, and romances set in Regency-era England. Somewhere, in the last several years, my tastes changed, and I’ve been reading primarily nonfiction. I’m like a sponge — I can’t get enough of learning through these books I read!

While it was already hard to find people who shared my love of reading (I was averaging 80 books per year, while most of my family & friends maybe read a handful of books each year), now it’s next to impossible … most of those who I “know”, online even, don’t read as much nonfiction as I do. But I love to learn all I can about things I’m interested in … so I just can’t seem to help myself!

Mind you, I have set myself a goal to read at least 4 fiction books, this summer! I’ve requested a couple of them for review, specifically because of this … and I have a few that I bought last year that are still waiting to be read. Here’s hoping!

CREATIVE, DREAMER, & VISIONARY

I’m a dreamer. I do better at seeing the “big picture” than I do keeping grounded in reality, or seeing what’s right here. I love possibility, and thinking of how things could be. I am always looking for the hopeful side of things, even if they seem impossible.

Creativity runs in my blood. My parents are both artistic, with Dad –as I said, earlier– having previously worked as a police sketch artist, and my Mom being into Interior Design. Music has also always been a big part of my life, with all of my mom’s family being musically-inclined (also a creative pursuit).

And, of course, the visionary bit comes into play in that I have great visions of where I want my life to go, and of changes that could be made. I’m always envisioning bigger and better … not just for myself and my own life, but also for other businesses or organizations, or even for other individuals.

SELF-AWARENESS

I’ve always been a huge fan of the self-help genre, and psychology. I also love personality quizzes! I’m naturally very introspective, always questioning why I do what I do, and thinking of ways to improve. I journal almost daily, reflecting on things that are going on in my life, or just the thoughts buzzing through my head. As a result, I feel like I know myself pretty well, compared to the general population. I don’t think many people take the time to really sit and dig into their personalities as much (I’d love for you to correct me, if I’m wrong about this!).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So, tell me … is there anything in here that you can relate to?