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Fighting Depression On My Own

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Imagine spending your life surrounded by a dark cloud and feeling as if a glass wall separates you from everyone else. You can see other people, but you can't quite reach them. You aren't one of them, and you feel like you never will be. This describes what my life was like almost every day for the 14 years that I was depressed..

Imagine spending your life surrounded by a dark cloud and feeling as if a glass wall separates you from everyone else. You can see other people, but you can't quite reach them. You aren't one of them, and you feel like you never will be. This describes what my life was like almost every day for the 14 years that I was depressed. If you've ever suffered from depression, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And if you haven't, I hope you never do.

Depression ruined the first part of my life. I made poor life choices because of it; I was self-destructive, and I sabotaged nearly all of my relationships. Depression played a big part in why I got married to a "bad boy" right after high school, why I didn't talk to my mother for a year, and why I eventually alienated nearly every friend I ever had. My depression came to be so much a part of me, I eventually believed that it was me.

I finally realized after the birth of my son that I had to get help. I didn't want this beautiful new life to suffer because I was ill. Depression may have ruined most of my life so far, but I didn't want it to ruin his. My doctor prescribed Paxil, and while the drug relieved my anxiety, I still felt as if my head was stuck in a dark cloud. I felt groggy, spaced out and unable to connect with others--not a good way to be when you're caring for a baby. I tried another antidepressant, and then another and another, from Zoloft to Prozac to Celexa. Each one brought relief from anxiety, but the side-effects--the nausea, fatigue, dry mouth and headaches--never subsided. Frustrated, I finally decided to ditch the drugs and fight the depression on my own.

I had heard about St. John's wort as a popular alternative to conventional antidepressants, so I decided to give it a try. I was surprised to find that my depression, while not completely gone, was greatly reduced. But the best thing was I had none of the usual side-effects. My doctor was pleased, too, and approved my use of St. John's wort, as long as I informed other doctors who wrote prescriptions for me (some drugs can interfere with St. John's wort).

Intrigued by my success with this herb, I sought out other natural remedies for depression. I read How to Heal Depression by Dr. Harold Bloomfield (Prelude Press, 1994) and learned that nutritional deficiencies are very common in depressed people. I followed Dr. Bloomfield's advice and added folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium to my daily vitamin and mineral intake. Although it took a few weeks for the effects to kick in, I was soon amazed at how much better I felt. And because I felt better mentally--I was no longer irritable, anxious and sad--I wanted to feel even better physically.

I started eating better, avoiding sugar, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. While doctors don't know for certain how sugar affects depression, I know I felt better with less of it in my diet. I wasn't fighting the fatigue that comes after eating too much sugar. Without caffeine in my diet, I was much less agitated and restless, and without alcohol, I didn't have to fight the depression that inevitably follows the high. Without processed foods, which I learned can deplete the body of important vitamins and minerals and create a hormonal imbalance, I felt healthier and more energetic.

As I began eating better, I started losing some of my extra weight--and that felt great. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted to exercise so I could tone up my slimmed-down body. In my readings, I learned that researchers suggest exercise may be the best natural way for battling the blues and can, in fact, be more effective than antidepressants. That was good enough for me, so I started running on the treadmill at the local gym. I was slow at first, but it wasn't long before I was running five miles per day several days each week. Although I was taking pretty good care of myself, I still had my down times, and when I did, the first thing I'd do was jump on that treadmill. Pretty soon my endorphins would kick in and I'd feel good again.

I have since added meditation and regular massage to my fight against depression. Taking care of myself, both physically and mentally, is the best thing I can do to beat the blues, but I had to travel a long road to realize that. Sure I have sad days, and even get the blues for a day or two, but I never feel so depressed that I can't get out of bed, or so hopeless that life no longer seems worth living. Diet, exercise and herbal supplements have helped my depression more than any antidepressant ever did--they saved my life.

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