i haven't written in awhile; i love words more than anything, and creativity is what fuels me. but it's my depression and anxiety that keep me away. they trick me into believing that my words don't matter. but i believe in being braver than that. the best writing advice is to start wherever you are; so this is where i am. 

i struggle daily with depression and anxiety, two things i have never really been that familiar with. and while it hasn't changed me entirely, it's changed the way i see things, including myself. my biggest struggle when this all came about was finding helpful information. i didn't understand how i could have gone 27 years without something, and then in one fell swoop need immense help with it. i have, thankfully, found some help online, some help from friends, and a lot of help from curating my own "tool box", so to speak. this is a collection of sorts, one i hope to add to. but mainly, it is a collection of lessons that i hope help someone else, too. so here it is, in all its glory. and per usual, i am laying my soul bare in hopes of helping heal the wounds you might be experiencing. 

for depression

  • i asked my therapist if she thought i was depressed. but it's important to note that she wasn't the first one to notice my mood change; i was. the biggest lesson i've learned from this season is that i need to know myself in order to be true to myself. old rachel didn't wake up crying every day -- new rachel was doing that. i noted changes. i kept track of how long my sadness lasted. i paid attention to what triggered the sadness. realizing this about myself prompted me to ask my therapist for confirmation -- but i listed to myself first. that's important.
  • when i didn't want to jump straight to a pill. i tend to look towards more natural cures for ailments before popping a bunch of pills into my body. i use essential oils for headaches and stress and i try home remedies for colds and energy. a dear friend (who shares my 'crunchy' tendencies) recommended serotonin dopamine liquescence. aka 'my happy juice.' each day i would put a few drops under my tongue for fast absorption twice a day. it basically administers the happy hormones back into your system when your brain isn't producing enough. i also began a supplement regimen of st. johns wort, a flowering plant supplement that is commonly used for depression, anxiety, PMS, and insomnia. both of these helped me in big, big ways initially, and made me feel like i was staying true to my homeopathic preferences. 
  • however, there is no shame in medication. while i appreciated the natural remedies i had added into my life, i also found that my depression was a bit stronger than them. i knew i needed more, so i sought it out. i asked my therapist if she thought i was a candidate for anti-depressants. i worried she would tell me that this was just a shitty year and i needed to get over it, and people with depression are sad for bigger and more important reasons. instead, she told me i was a perfect candidate for anti-depressants because my depression was situational.  i was honest with my doctor as soon as i could get an appointment. in fact i was so honest, i cried in the waiting room when i ran into an insurance problem, and basically begged the medical assistant to let me see a doctor. once those emotions subsided, i told my doctor through tearful sentences that i didn't recognize myself anymore. i filled out a sheet that gave me a score and it somehow added up that i needed extra chemicals in my brain. she prescribed me celexa, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. i take it daily and i have felt a difference in mood and behavior. it definitely doesn't take the sad things out of my life, but it does take the edge off. i cry less and i stay calmer in situations that used to trigger a lot of tears (like the waiting room of my doctor's office.)
  • therapy forever. enough said. 

for anxiety (depression's awkward cousin that it feels forced to invite to dinner)

  • again, no shame in my medication game. the only way i can describe my anxiety attacks are like this: it feels like someone has disconnected my hamstrings from my body while simultaneously stacking bricks inside of my chest. xanax can be a huge help when my anxiety attacks strike. it calms me down quick and returns my heart rate to normal. it also knocks me out for the rest of the day, so i try to use it sparingly.  
  • when the bricks aren't there but i still need some help calming down. i turn yet again to my homeopathic roots. magnesium oil does wonders for me when i need to calm down. you spray it on your arms or your legs and rub it in. i usually pour a cup of tea while i rub the oil and by the time i'm settled, so has my anxiety. the oil does take a few minutes, and it leaves a white residue on your skin, so if you need something less messy and fast-acting, it comes in the form of a drink powder as well. keep in mind that magnesium is also really good at keeping your insides regular, so don't use too much. ;) another medicine-free solution is a bath of dried ginger, baking soda, and calming essential oils like lavender and chamomile. 
  • technologies can help too. i recently found this app called 'self-help for anxiety management' -- 'SAM' for short. it has a ton of breathing exercises that it will coach you through during moments of panic. it also offers various games and therapeutic activities that calm me down and redirect my thoughts. 
  • 4 - 7 - 8 breathing. i'm telling you, nothing calms me down quicker than this: breathe in through your nose for a count of 4; hold your breath for a count of 7; release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8; without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4, repeating the entire technique 3-4 times in a row, then resume normal breathing and activity.


do you also suffer from depression and/or anxiety? what has helped you?