Depression: the three pillars of my recovery

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When I don’t know what to write about, I try to focus on what I know. It is true that by studying, taking courses or going to class, one learns many things. But I think there is no greater learning than experience, you know, practice makes perfect…

One thing is being told, being taught, studying and analyzing it and something diametrically different is to feel it in your own flesh. The experience allows you to empathize in a deeper and more immediate way.

There is also the problem of misuse of terms, misrepresentation, indiscriminate use of them. And, of course, dehumanization, that process by which a certain pathology is restricted to the few symptoms that one can read in a psychology manual.

I’ve already written three paragraphs and I still haven’t managed to name it. When I was offered to be part of this project, I immediately thought that sharing this experience would be the key and most logical thing, the place from which to start. However, the months have passed and I have not yet dealt with this issue.

I remember it blurred and confusing, perhaps because of the bad administration or adjudication of the psychotropic drugs that were prescribed for me at that time. Maybe it’s my own defense or denial system that decided to block part of the process.

However, every day I hear about people suffering from depression and I am exasperated by the poor handling of the situation. My own mismanagement and that of everyone involved as well. I wonder if, in some utopian future, we can handle information on how to treat depression as naturally and organically as someone who talks about a cold.

Because it’s just that, one more disease. And, at the same time, it is so many other things. It is, above all, fear, loneliness and an enveloping anguish.

Many times it originates when we experience inflection points in our life: a breakup or a divorce, the death of a relative or a person who was close to us, choosing a career or ending it, a dismissal, the empty nest, an accident, abuse, etc.

For others, it is not a particular event but a sum of things that is bottled up from within and starts to consume the person from the inside.

This second option entails the added difficulty of how frustrating it is to not know how to explain what is happening to you, or that people around you do not feel compassion to not understand that you are going through a really difficult time even if nothing has specifically happened.

The stigma is very real. As you change country or meet people from other cultures, you see that it differs in intensity depending on where you come from. It may be that in your country going to therapy is super-established and naturalized, as a usual practice of personal growth. But, in others, the concept of going to a psychologist with “being crazy” is still associated today. It is frowned upon, people evade it and hide it.

That is why thousands of depressed people do not get the proper treatment, which only causes the illness to stretch and intensify until making it reach critical situations.
It is difficult to fight for the normalization of something that can lead to death. Naturalizing it should not be minimizing it.

Suffering from depression is something serious but, at the same time, it is much more normal than you think.

It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic or cultural level.

The word has become commonplace, for everyday use. But how to deal with the situation hasn’t. It is complicated, especially for people who have not experienced a depressive episode, to understand and identify the severity of what is happening.

Because, yes, we all experience sadness, heartbreak and grieving with greater or lesser intensity. And so people don’t think too much of it: “it will pass”, “it is not that serious.”

A person who is depressed not only has to face what is causing the discomfort but often this adds to the misunderstanding of the environment and the mishandling of the situation by family and friends.

That is why it is very important to take into account the symptoms that can signal that we are facing a depressive episode. And, above all, from a place of empathy and compassion, leave the euphemisms on the side and start calling things by their rightful name.

The most common symptoms of depression are:

  • Generalized reluctance
  • Apathy
  • Constant anguish
  • Insomnia
  • Hopelessness
  • Difficulty to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Deterioration of personal image
  • Change of eating habits, either lack of appetite or excessive consumption
  • Isolation
  • Recurrent crying
  • Feelings of guilt, loneliness or abandonment
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Low self-esteem and feeling of inferiority
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach ache
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
  • Headaches
  • Loss of pleasure in activities that he/she liked before

If someone in your environment shows these symptoms and has drastically changed their habits, it is time to be alert. The depressive person may not be fully understanding what is happening and the support of their environment is crucial. It’s important for them to know that they have a solid support system. It is, of course, important to take into account that the decision to heal depends solely and exclusively on the person in question.

Once you suspect that the person, or yourself, may have depression, it is very important to consult with a professional to accompany your recovery through therapy. I’d like to emphasize that the psychotropic drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist are something additional to a therapeutic process with a psychologist, as that should be the central axis of the treatment.

In my opinion, medication without therapy is evasion. No pill can make your problems go away. Our body is a perfect machine that regulates itself if we give it the fuel it needs.

The three pillars to recover:

In this sense, my recovery was based on three fundamental pillars that contribute in equitable ways to move ahead:

Therapy

As I mentioned, the first pillar is therapy. There are many psychological currents, you can choose the one that suits you, what you want to deal with, the urgency of the situation.

Food habits

The second pillar is food. When you are depressed there is a chemical imbalance in your body and eating a balanced diet is vital to achieve balance again. This is even more key if you are consuming some type of medication because it tends to be quite aggressive for your body.

We are what we eat. It is a cliché but it is true. As you leave junk food, sodas, alcohol aside, you begin almost immediately to feel better. And, in fact, it is proven that all those harmful foods make depressive symptoms worse and make you sink even more.

Physical Activity

The third pillar is physical activity. The endorphins that I segregated in the gym were the closest I got to “feel good” at that time. Humans are extremely complex beings. But there is a part of us that is strictly chemical. It is true that facing any activity in that state is an odyssey, but I can guarantee that if they exercise they will feel better.

It was these three joint pieces that made me recover and I firmly believe that it is a recipe that everyone can use to get out of depression. I know it’s a controversial statement and I don’t take it lightly. Especially because I know, because I lived in despair of not knowing how to get out. Having the conviction that you can’t leave. I was wrong. With these three pillars, you can.

I feel like I wanted to tell my story and I couldn’t. I feel that I did not give details or share specific experiences. I still can’t. It was an extremely dark time and I remember it with a lot of pain. I even try not to remember. But I accept that it is part of my past, that I managed to leave it behind, that I came out even stronger, that when I broke apart, I learned more than ever.

I am happy today. I do not take medication. I never had another depressive episode again. Those three things seemed impossible to me. So while I may not be ready to tell you everything, I am ready to tell you this: I had depression and I no longer have it. Yes, you can overcome it too.