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R U OK? Day 2021: My Journey with Depression

September 08, 2021 5 min read

Are you ok? One question can save a life. At Abundant Natural Health we recognise how crucial it is to check in on the people around us – family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

This R U OK? Day we share Annie’s journey with depression & what she has learned along the way.

Hi! My name is Annie, and I am 26 years old. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 21 after years of battling negative thinking and suicidal ideation. This R U OK? Day I thought it would be a good opportunity to share what I go through & how I keep my mental health in check.

In today’s world, the word ‘depressed’ gets thrown around quite a bit. In a way, the word has lost its meaning… at least for me anyway. Without sounding cliché, depression is like a cloud, so thick, dark, and all-encompassing. At my worst, I honestly thought I would never feel joy again. I felt lethargic, unmotivated, and empty, and confined myself to my room for the good part of 2 years.

I was medicated for over 4 years and saw a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly. It was tough- the treatment was expensive, and I just felt like I was going nowhere. The drugs increased my appetite, and I put on a lot of weight. I felt worse about myself than I had ever felt. As a former national level sprinter, the difference was quite shocking, and I struggled with my weight for years.

I weaned off the medication when I was 25 years old after a discussion with my doctor as it was no longer doing anything for my mood. As a health professional, I know full well the dangers of abruptly stopping psychotropic medications. If you’re thinking of getting off your medication PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE have a conversation with your doctor about your options and the safest way to go about it. Anyway, I was determined to manage it with the help of my psychologist and some lifestyle changes.

I’ll be 27 this year. Off the antidepressants and feeling a lot more like myself. I am lucky enough to have an amazing and supportive partner, who cares about and checks in on me regularly. While he doesn’t always understand, he gets that it is part of who I am, and that it’ll pass. It’s taken time, but he’s learned to validate my feelings and not take my depression personally.

I’d say, although at times I still experience bouts of depression, I am far better at coping with it than I was in my early 20s. I feel like my mood is less volatile, more predictable and I am better at preventing the downward spiral.

Here are some things I learned on my journey with depression:

  • Goal setting is key! I am an avid goal setter. When I first started writing them down, they were simple things like ‘take a shower’ or ‘hang out the washing’. It’s surprising how accomplishing small things and ticking them off can make you feel better and more motivated. Really simple, small things turned into larger, more complex goals. I feel happy about where I am in my life and what I’ve managed to achieve. One of my biggest achievements so far has been surviving six years of university and getting my registration as a nurse.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise has a protective effect on depression and anxiety and is roughly equivalent to the potency of drugs and psychotherapy. Sport have always been an important part of my life. I play a tonne of sport- at the moment I’m playing oz tag, netball and soccer. Sport not only gets me active, but gives me something to look forward to and the opportunity to socialise. I also go to the gym twice a week to do weight training, which is more protective to mental health than cardio on its own.
  • Communicate! It’s R U OK? Day! Talk to other people about what you’re going through! For years I shut people out and closed myself off. I was seeing a psychologist once a week for an hour, but outside of those sessions I didn’t speak to anyone about my mental health. A lot of the time I felt people wouldn’t be interested in hearing about it… I didn’t want to be a ‘downer’. It took me a long time to learn that there were people who cared and were willing to listen. Now I have a great support network of people who I feel comfortable getting things off my chest.
  • Recognise your emotions and practice positive self-talk. One thing I’ve taken out of my experience is being in tune with how I’m feeling. I am much better at noticing small changes in my mood and recognising triggers. For me, one of the biggest triggers is perceived failure. If I feel like I’ve left myself or someone else down, I become fixated and can ruminate about it for weeks. The talk inside my head can become very negative, and at times suicidal. For me, I am still learning to challenge those thoughts… but I’m getting there. Positive self-talk is certainly a skill and something that comes with practice!
  • Keep your stress levels under control. For me, stress is a big trigger for my depression. When I am stressed, I become very quiet and shut down completely. Living a life free of stress is unavoidable. Keeping it at a manageable level and using preventative strategies such as eating well, exercising regularly, and taking breaks from work and study have been quite effective.
  • Embracing your body. My body has changed so much over the past 10 years and it has taken me a long time to accept. Body image issues are rampant in today’s society, and I think the media has a lot to do with it. As women, we are told that ‘skinny is beautiful’ and ‘fat is ugly’, and it has become so ingrained in our culture… just look at the diet industry! I’m not on a diet and I haven’t been on one for a while. My focus is on what my body can DO. My fitness goals are functional rather than appearance or weight-loss based. For example, one of my goals is to do a muscle-up (something I used to be able to do when I did gymnastics). I also want to improve my upper body strength and get back some of my running speed. Shifting your thinking away from appearance has been a challenge and every now and then I have a moment where I see some excess fat and wish it wasn’t there.
  • Magic Magnesium. I am slightly obsessed with magnesium. It has become my new ‘go to’ and I use it for everything. What a lot of people don’t know, is that magnesium is great for your mental health. Depression and body inflammation go hand-in-hand. Studies have shown that people with depression have higher levels of inflammatory markers and stress hormones circulating in their body. Magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory, which really helps me to wind down and calm my mind. It works a treat! And it’s great for muscle soreness after a heavy training session at the gym. I use Abundant Natural Health’sMagnesium Spray andGel The Gel is great for massages (when I can convince my partner to give me one) and the Spray is great when I’m busy and need a quick fix. Cannot recommend their Magnesium Range enough!

If you know someone struggling with their mental health, reach out and ask them “R U OK?”. Listen to their experience, be present and validate their feelings. Visit https://www.ruok.org.au/ for some tips on how to start a conversation!

Struggling with your mental health? There are many places you can for help. Visit the Beyond Blue website or reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support.

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