depressionI am not a doctor. I am not here giving advice. I am merely relating my own story.

In numerous situations throughout my life, I have said, “Just give me a lesson plan to follow, and I’ll be fine.” But when applied to my mental health, I questioned whether this strategy would provide effective relief to my debilitating depression. (See previous post)

So I did what any well-trained educator would do, and I applied the principles of task analysis to the problem. I figured if I broke it down into small enough pieces, it would feel more manageable, and half the battle would be won.

First off, I knew I had to get out of my own head. Hanging out in The Land of Second-guessing and Mindless Obsession is not good for anyone, particularly for those who have a bad tendency to over think and replay their roles in all things, ad infinitum.

Some call this “Monkey Mind.” Some call it “Navel Gazing.” My favorite saying on the topic is: “The wheel’s still turning, but the hamster is dead.”

Talking to a professional helped. Admitting personal limitations and accepting my shortcomings helped. Being honest with myself and others helped. I am not Superwoman; there is no red “S” printed on my chest. I am human.

I refused to go the medication route because of super bad experiences with antidepressants in the past. Instead, I returned to healthy eating and exercise. It’s absolutely amazing what a little exercise can do, and without negative side effects! I visualize those feel-good endorphins running around inside me, cheering me on as I pedal my bike every morning.

The eating right thing is a biggie. Sugar, caffeine, grease, salt—these comprise the “comfort foods” I reach for when stressed. And since I published a book about my 252-pound weight loss journey, even gaining a few pounds made me feel like a big, fat, fraud. But if I knew where the switch was to turn off the overindulgence and honor one’s body, I would have already made my fortune.

So I picked just one thing to start doing in order to choose my foods wisely. I started writing in my food journal again. I had stopped a few months ago, while I was caregiving and spending lots more time in a kitchen than ever before, and I had not picked the journaling back up. Being accountable is paramount to my success, and the simple act of writing my food down immediately started moving me (and the scale) in the right direction.

Forcing myself to get out and DO  things that used to bring me joy turned out to be harder than it looked. I knew I’d been isolating and not accepting opportunities for personal interaction for many weeks. I just couldn’t bring myself to put one foot in front of the other, get showered, get dressed, and get myself OUT of the house.

So I made a “rule,” that I could only go two days without face-to-face human contact, whether in the coffee shop or the post office or the grocery store. waitomo-dawnIt was a baby step, but the baby steps add up.

I put on my “Happy Music CD,” which normally gets me to singing along within the first couple songs, and it initially didn’t even bring a smile. But I keep turning on the CD player anyway, because it’s worked to cheer me in the past, and if it worked before, odds are, sooner or later it will work again.

I’m not saying my depression is “cured,” but little by little, I can feel that I’m making headway. As my dear friend Alex often said, “Just do the next right indicated thing,” and I can feel the gloom starting to lift.

And that gives me just enough daylight to keep going.