I have been feeling a pull to write about my personal experience of being diagnosed with ‘depression’.
Around the year 2000 I was working in a training centre, helping to support disadvantaged clients with training, advice and a limited amount of counselling. I was in my 30’s, with children aged 7 and 8, working full time, driving 60 miles a day, studying several diplomas to improve my education (to earn more money and be of more assistance to clients), and my husband was working abroad, and when he came home we rarely had quality time as he had 2 children from his first marriage (who were then 12 and 14) and we would have them at weekends. My mum was living with me as she was on a waiting list to move to my county, and so she helped around the home. She was in her 60’s and retired and we clashed a fair amount of the time on most topics of child rearing and housework.
After a year or two of living like this, I began to notice something. Or rather, I began to notice the lack of something.
I realised I was finding it hard to feel.
What I mean is, I was finding it hard to laugh at funny films, or play with my children, or want to do anything for myself that wasn’t associated with work.
I felt like my life was on repeat, wake up, go to work, come home, study, go to bed.
We had only been living in our house for about 2 years and had been making refurbishments to it. One day a delivery of slate arrived for our inglenook fireplace. When the chap delivered it he was chatting away, telling me what lovely slate it was and what a lovely day it was, and what a lovely house I had,… and all I felt was wretched.
He looked a bit concerned and then tried to cheer me up by saying how nice the fireplace will look when we have the slate down.
And all I said was ‘Well I thought it would be nice to get the house straight for my children, so that when I die they can sell it and have plenty of money…’
The delivery man was really taken aback and said ‘Blimey love! That’s a bit dark!’
But I was more surprised that those words had even come out of my mouth! And as the man walked back to his lorry and I turned to go into my home, the tears began welling up, and I realised …….. ‘I do not feel well 😥 I think I need to get some help.’
A short time later I went to the doctor who suggested that I had a mental illness called Depression. I was offered Antidepressants and counselling. My first reaction was that I did not want to put chemicals into my body, mostly because I worried I might have a physical reaction and then not be able to look after my children properly. I decided to try the counselling and was offered six appointments.
The sessions were held at my local surgery, in a small room with a large table in between the therapist and myself. I was asked a succession of questions and when I started to cry, a box of tissues was pushed slowly across the table towards me, with no words of comfort or change of facial expression. It was all very surreal. The only suggestion I took from that one hour session was that I wasn’t having enough rest time. I didn’t connect with the therapist at all and decided to investigate other ways to feel better. I did not return for further sessions.
I reluctantly decided to ask my manager to reduce my hours to 4 days a week, and had my day off on a Friday. I then searched for someone to help me. At first I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I knew that I didn’t want talking therapy, because going over and over the same thing wasn’t helping me. I knew I didn’t need to be given a label for feeling sad, or medication.
After a short time I found a health practitioner, who did kinesiology (muscle testing) which would tap into my body and find out what I really needed. I was a teeny bit sceptical at first, but decided I needed to have a leap of faith and try something different. If I didn’t like her or the therapy I simply wouldn’t go back.
I attended the sessions over a period of a couple of months, and each time I went I was given homework and we discussed what worked, what didn’t, and what to do next. It was a very proactive approach and for the first time in years I felt like I was getting somewhere.
Suggestions to improve how I felt
The muscle testing sessions ascertained that my diet wasn’t helping with my mood and I needed to make few small changes. The microbes in our gut have a surprising influence on our brain and therefore on our mood. It was recommended I change the following:
- Eat more veggies
- Use extra virgin olive oil
- Add more beans and pulses to meals
- Reduce my meat portions as this was more digestible
- Reduce caffeine
- Drink more water
I tried a variety of fruit flavoured teas and also flavoured my plain water with slices of fruit (apples for example) just to add a little taste. It transpired from my sessions that I was quite dehydrated and simply not drinking enough water.
Dehydration equals stress, the body makes chemicals and it needs more water, which makes more dehydration, which creates more stress. 😞
It was recommended that I try a mindfulness technique, where I sit still in a chair for 10 minutes and do nothing. At first I thought this was just plain daft, as when I started I found that it was incredibly difficult to adhere to without constant fidgeting, sighing, moaning; in fact a whole load of behaviours to make me want to totally give up on something so simple! Eventually I was able to “allow” myself to sit still, and found myself gazing into my front garden, which was surprisingly relaxing.
The therapist suggested that I watch funny films. Of course I just felt that I really didn’t want to do that at all!!! It almost annoyed me, and it nearly made me stop going for sessions. However, I decided to persevere because I was desperate to feel better, and so I made sure that I watched small amounts of silly stuff to see what would happen. At first it was so hard to relax I just couldn’t seem to find anything funny, but then I discovered slapstick, which would provoke little laughs here and there, and that really felt good!
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection fighting antibodies; it triggers the release of endorphins, which promote an overall sense of wellbeing and increases blood flow to protect the heart.
Her last suggestion was to have some regular healing to get my body back into balance. I had never experienced just laying down on a couch to relax. The only time I just laid down was to go to sleep at night! I had some gentle hands on healing, which really helped me to sleep better at night and made me feel more connected to how I felt. I was then able to express how I felt to my family, and because I did that I felt a bit more understood, and I felt better.
I realised that my body was responding to overwhelm and that practical and grounded techniques really helped me to regain my balance.
Not too long after that I changed my job, but decided to keep my working week to 4 days because it really helped. A few years later I reduced my working week to 3 days, which felt even better! 😄
Recap of what I did
- Looked at my Work/Life balance and reduced my working hours
- Changed my diet slightly; had less processed and sugary foods
- Reduced my caffeine intake
- Increased my intake of water
- Included a short Mindfulness session into my day
- Tried laughter therapy
- Started having regular healing sessions
My thoughts about receiving a Mental Health diagnosis
The traditional approach to emotional distress is to offer a medication and then to give the person a label. This is not helpful and sometimes the labels can stick with people for a very long time. Medications can have long lasting side effects and create other disturbances in the body, such as raised blood pressure, insomnia, weight gain, blurred vision, etc
My thoughts from my own experience, and now also from treating many hundreds of clients, is that emotional distress comes from one or many events in a persons’ life where they had overwhelming feelings that they were unable to cope with. These feelings include grief, pain, anger, rejection, shame and guilt.
All of these emotions are perfectly normal for a human being to experience if they have suffered in some way. Personally I found that my experience, which I will now call ‘low mood’, had gone on for too long without intervention, until a tiny catalyst gave me some perspective and I decided to take action.
If any of this blog post has resonated with you, and you would like to try another approach to staying healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually, please do get in touch via my email firstname.lastname@example.org