Tackling a big project or digging oneself out of a deep hole can be daunting. This fall, I encountered the worst case of seasonal affective disorder (AKA SAD, the winter blues) I have suffered in over a decade. The deep depression left me without an appetite for food or life. I had no interest in my usual pursuits. I stopped exercising and practicing yoga. I ate very little and lost 20 pounds. I began to withdraw from friends and social situations. It was hard to see people going about their merry ways when I was feeling so miserable. Plus, I didn’t want to be the sourpuss, talking about how sad and miserable I was all the time.
Today, I have gotten the upper hand over my illness. How was I able to dig myself out of the deep pit of depression I found myself in for three long months? It sure didn’t didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it was a lengthy, months-long process.
1. I talked openly and honestly about how I was feeling. My therapist gave me her cell phone number, so that I could reach her at anytime of the day to talk through my emotions. We had many an early morning conversation before work and several late night ones as well.
2. I allowed people to encourage and support me. A good friend cooked dinner for me and allowed me to bring the leftovers home when I told him I wasn’t eating. Other friends asked me out to dinner once a month and treated me like normal. But my biggest thanks goes to Dr. Nadia Richardson for starting No More Martyrs, and spreading her message about mental illness among African American women. No More Martyrs is a mental health awareness campaign committed to building an online community of support for Black women with mental health concerns. Last fall, I was able to participate in one of her No More Martyrs online workshops. It was wonderful to participate in a community of strong, talented Black women who also faced mental health issues. Follow No More Martyrs on Facebook or Twitter.
3. I took the medicine my psychiatrist prescribed. First, we tried Zoloft and then Paxil. Neither worked on those neurotransmitters to release the serotonin I so desperately needed to feel better. Finally, Wellbutrin worked, and I slowly started to feel like my old self.
4. I lightened my load. Until last October, I had been teaching six yoga classes a week, running a new yoga studio and managing a successful education consulting business. I worked 10-hour days, six days a week. Taking time off was rare, and I often was overwhelmed. My brain could barely rest, as I was consumed with all the stuff I had to do. It was just too much. So, I stopped teaching all but one yoga class, recruited staff members to help me manage the yoga studio, and eventually closed it down. I had to pick one thing to do as well as I could, and allowed myself plenty of time for rest, recuperation and rejuvenation.
5. I forced myself out of bed and showed up for the few commitments that I decided to maintain. Even though I was sad, even though I wore a sourpuss on my face, even though my students and clients kept asking me what was wrong, I showed up to teach and work with my low-performing schools. I didn’t expect my best; showing up was enough. Now that I am feeling better, I’m ready to start getting back to some of the other things I enjoy. But I am going to add commitments into my life again slowly and with lots of intention. I know that I want to volunteer, join a church, and teach more yoga classes. I will add them in one at a time, and see how it feels before adding more. I don’t want to overwhelm myself again.
Some may wonder why – and how – I am able to speak so frankly about my bouts with depression. It wasn’t always the case. But I have seen too many people suffer in silence with mental illness over the last few years, and then take their lives when the disease(s) became unbearable. If I have no reason to feel ashamed about having lupus, I shouldn’t be embarrassed by the fact that I suffer from seasonal depression. I hope by writing these words one person out there will know that he is not alone, and will seek help wherever she can find it.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.