Getting Down and Out with Depression

A Review of the Problem and A Nurse’s Personal Map Toward Healing One Day at a Time

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people ages 15–44. In 2015, 16.1 million American adults over the age of 18, or 6.7% of the total adult population in the United States, had experienced at least one depressive episode. A recent report issued by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that depression is the leading cause of illness and disability for children aged 10 to 19 years old. And according to the WHO, 350 million people, or 5% of all human beings struggle with depression globally.

Depression is a mental illness that impacts every walk of life, regardless of social status, race, age, ethnicity. If you’re human, chances are you’ll have a go with depression at some point during your lifespan. If you’re a woman, those chances increase. In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience clinical depression at some point in their lifespan, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 women will suffer from postpartum depression or some type of perinatal mood disorder. All of these figures and statistics are based on reported diagnosis, and don’t account for the un-reported cases in which stigma associated with mental illness plays a serious role. So these figures realistically may be higher across the board.

To say that we have a pandemic of depression is an understatement. The problem is only projected to increase according to the WHO — by 2030 the amount of disability and loss related to depression will exceed any other condition including stroke and cancer.

Photo from Google Images

Depression is a multi-faceted condition that may or may not cause full disability. Regardless, it certainly encumbers and dampens life for those who do suffer from this condition. Diagnosis usually hinges on symptoms perpetuating for more than a couple weeks. Those symptoms vary greatly from person to person and may include a persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, feeling helpless, feeling worthless, lack of energy, fatigue, feeling restless, inability to rest, oversleeping, increased or decreased appetite, pain, digestive issues, difficulty focusing, memory issues, ineffective decision-making, loss of interest in typically pleasurable events and activities, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, and thoughts of death.

Causes of depression are as varied as the people who suffer from it, and the symptoms that comprise the condition. There are genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors involved. And the effects of the condition may permeate into every facet of the struggling person’s life.

Indeed, I am one of those struggling persons, and depression does impact just about every aspect of my life. Depression causes me to have insomnia, causes me to lose my appetite completely, to have absolutely zero focus, and basically fight all day long to stay on task and stay present. In addition to the above, I get to battle the fatigue left from not being able to sleep. Interactions with my family are not exactly sitcom silly when I’m depressed, and the guilt I feel for being a sad Mommy is more than I can bear most days. It’s a sick, sad, not-so-merry-go-round. A ride that I’ve ended up on too often in my life and one that I am slowly but surely learning how to get off of more efficiently.

So what does this nurse do to help herself with bouts of depression? First of all, I have to cultivate awareness for where I’m at because being stuck in a depressed mood makes everything clear as mud. It also amplifies stressors and in the face of depression, I have no energy to deal with unnecessary stressors. I start by getting quiet and detaching from the electronic world. A holiday from my phone, from social media, from my laptop where most of professional life resides is just what I need to start fresh. If you are struggling in any way shape or form with stress, I recommend trying this! Detach. See how you feel. Also note how many times you go on autopilot to embrace your little glowing box of power, light, and information — you may be really surprised how often your brain asks for that device. Admittedly, I go through a little detox each time, but it’s not uncomfortable because I realize how much time I have to care for myself. Plug in the good things that your devices take you away from — spending time with a child, taking a walk, taking a nap, journaling, drawing, creating art, creating music, practicing yoga. If you gave up your phone for even a few hours, what would you do with those hours? For me, detaching from electronics literally frees me up for self-care. It may do the same for you.

Next — move! Move your body. Most people who are struggling with depression also struggle with tension and pain. The physical body literally becomes depressed, slow, sluggish, clumsy, not well-functioning. Thankfully, we have built in healing chemicals that help to relieve all these icks. When you move (or for those of you familiar with this four-letter word “exercise”) your body releases it’s own kind of morphine called endorphins. These endorphins bind to the same receptors that opiates do, but they’re created for your body, by your body. So they’re completely safe and guess what? They will make you feel better. Start with a walk. I am a yogini, a practitioner of yoga and I am also a teacher. I tend to work stuff out on my mat, but when I’m really depressed and fatigued, I push for a walk outside for 10 minutes. This 10 minute walk always ends up being longer, but my soggy brain seems to agree that a 10 minute walk is feasible in a depressed state. Trick your brain, it’s okay. When you have endorphins flowing through your body, you will have effectively used your own body’s healing properties to relieve symptoms.

Lastly (but not least), I prefer to medicate with cannabinoid therapeutics to stimulate another healing entity in my body — the endoCannabinoid System. This network of receptors is found throughout the body in the nervous and immune systems. It is homeostatic in nature — its purpose is to regulate all of the other physiological systems. Just like our bodies create its own supply of morphine, our bodies create its own supply of cannabinoids too. My endoCannabinoid System does well when it’s nourished and upregulated with whole food nutrition, meditation, yoga, movement, and sweet sleep, but when I’m depressed, it really benefits from plant-based cannabinoid supplementation. I find that cannabidiol (CBD) oil provides a calming effect that allows me to be present. CBD turns the volume down and allows me to focus. I typically vape quality CBD oil, or administer CBD oil under my tongue — sublingually. Tetrahydracannabinol (THC) helps too in very low doses— It lifts my mood, helps my brain process pain differently so it’s no longer the focus, and allows me to smile which is no easy feat in the face of the depression I struggle with. I use THC sparingly when depressed because I don’t want to escape my symptoms, I want to treat my symptoms. And in the past, THC was certainly an escape. (There’s that awareness piece again!)

In closing, it’s important for me to note that everyone is different and everyone who is struggling with their own depression needs to choose the methods of healing that best serve them. Perhaps that’s the best piece of advice I can provide here — There are many avenues to healing from any chronic condition, including depression. What may work for me may not work for someone else. But healing won’t happen without effort. If you are struggling with depression, I implore you to take out your own map and try walking down the avenues that interest you. Maybe conventional medicine holds the key to you feeling better. Maybe cutting out sugar and process food would help. Maybe meditating at a silent retreat for ten days is what you need. (Worked for me at one point.) Keep trying different things until you find the elements that make you feel better, that help you feel whole again. After a while, you’ll have your map memorized and you may come into another obstacle of depression, but you will remember that you can find your way home. You’ve done it before. It’ll get easier. One breath, one step, one decision to prioritize self-care at a time.

If this article resonates with you and you’d like help from me, please reach out via email — marissa@greennursegroup.com. Or check out GreenNurseGroup.com to learn more about how we can help you find your way onto your own healing path.

If you or a loved one are struggling significantly with intrusive thoughts, suicidal ideation, or thoughts of death — please know that there is help, you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273–8255.


Caught in the Waves of Life

My heart has been broken for a while. I’m finally coming to grips with it.

Too many of my greatest loves are suffering these days. And I suffer along-side them in my own way. Sometimes it’s controlled, sometimes I can’t stop the tears. And most of the time, I can’t sleep.

My dear Dad is sick. He’s struggling with lung cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Any other patient and I would springboard into a discussion about cannabis and how it supports someone undergoing chemotherapy. But it’s not a patient, it’s my Dad. This circumstance is deeply personal. And for me, the typically brave warrior healer, it’s overwhelmed me to the core. I don’t have much more to say about this currently…Let’s just say this cancer doesn’t know who it’s messing with. It’s really effed with the wrong family.

Earlier this year, my Aunt, my Mom’s youngest sister passed away. We were estranged for years, but I can’t help but feel her loss. Another family member gone from this physical world. I’m amazed how quickly life changes.

And then my best friend in the Universe, one of my true soul sisters has been struggling with severe postpartum depression. Getting the help she needs has proven to be challenging. It shouldn’t be, but it has been. Again…I would typically springboard into a dissertation about all the problems steeped in the women’s health field. But this is my bestie and again, it’s deeply personal.

It’s been a lot for this empath to bear. It’s been a lot for this healer to manage. To stay grounded. To function. To be even remotely productive.

But I’m doing it. I’ve been doing it. I was finally able to shake free from the trappings of insomnia after a stream of seemingly endless tears and an agreement to prioritize a regular sleep schedule. I’ve got one leg free from the anxiety trap.

One foot in front of the other.

I realize now that I had some expectations about this year. I thought it was going to be my time to focus on my work, focus on the things that I’m truly passionate about. I was expecting to focus on furthering my career and honing in on my development as a nurse entrepreneur with the endlessly talented group of health professionals that I am remarkably blessed to know and work with. My husband and I still plan on having another baby.

I guess I expected this year to be unencumbered by circumstances that are out of my control.

It’s not going to be that simple. Indeed, it never is. Expectations always breed trouble. So now, I am focusing on acceptance for this life that just keeps coming lately.  Life for me has been like getting knocked down by a wave and struggling to find your footing, only to be sucked in by the undertow again.  The sun is bright and shining, and all I want to do is get out of the surf, catch my breath, and enjoy the warmth on my skin.

I’m working toward acceptance. I may need to learn how to surf, or scuba dive though.

I’ll close this collection of thoughts with a list of gratitude for my own health, for my incredible husband who stands by me as the waves crash in and pulls me out of the surf, for my sweet daughter who reminds me to be present because it’s really all we truly have – this present moment. For my family and friends who support me through it all and take me as I am, blubbering hot mess of goo and all. And for you dear readers – I know it’s been a minute. Thank you for being here.

In the end, one way or the other, I know that all of the stuff happening in my world, in the lives of my loved ones, will quiet and pass. Healing will happen. The tide will flow out and it will be quiet again. We just won’t be the same after we’re weathered by the storm. And that’s the part that I need to accept most of all. One second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.


When You Are A Calming Influence in the Storm…

Not-Selfish-2
Life has been a trial lately. There have been sharp right turns off of the map into uncharted territory. There have been urgent matters, a loss, and emergencies in the lives of my greatest loves, my people, my humans. Crisis has sort of splashed itself all over this very young year. And it’s all very personal in a way that I couldn’t anticipate.

With these events, I realize that there are no accidents in life. Everything is meant to be as it is. And for some of my greatest loves in life, I have been able to use my professional skills and training to assist them in their times of need. I am grateful that I am able to help. I realize that I am the calm in the storm at times, or I am at least well-equipped to steer the boat into calmer waters. It’s a role that I am committed to playing, but I have to help myself with the same level of commitment.

BECAUSE THERE IS AN ABSOLUTE ENDLESS SUPPLY OF GOOD HAPPENING RIGHT NOW TOO!!!! AND I NEED TO SHOW UP FOR THAT EVERY DAY!!!

Admittedly, I have crumbled, I have fallen apart a few times. I have been anxious and fatigued for months. I have overreacted to challenging stimuli. I have been a bit lost. I have literally fallen on my ass with legs flying out from underneath me. (Thank goodness for yoga or I would have broken my ass!)  Life will keep throwing things at you until you face the music. At least, that’s how it goes for me. Life can get really noisy and loud. And I need to turn the volume down. And I need to face the music. For me, it’s answering this question…What actions do I need to take to feel better?

To this end, I realize that I need to be writing. I realize that I have been resistant to writing because I have been afraid to let all off this emotion out. I’ve been trying to keep it all under wraps, and those wraps are failing. So I will be writing about it.

photo-broken-cup-iv.pngSo dear readers, I look to you to keep me accountable once again. Because my self-care cup has a crack, it’s leaking, and it barely gets filled. Time to change this. Time to commit to taking care of me in the same way that I will always take care of my greatest loves, my people, my humans, my community. Because I deserve the same level of care. And I’m the best person for the job. I can do this. I know how to do this. I must do this.

Stay tuned for an action plan. And if you too have a cracked, leaking cup…Let’s join forces so we can fill our cups with nourishing, delicious self-care together. Reach out to me!

As always dear readers, I wish you a bright and beautiful day. Much love, many hugs. Namaste. ❤


Finding Myself in the Fog

I’ve had an anxious morning that won’t subside. The morning is over and my goal is to get this anxiety to let go of me before it wastes the entire day. So I’m fishing through my mind, body, and soul to figure out what I can do to banish this unwanted emotional asshole.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain lately. Headaches are pretty bad and I can’t remember when I didn’t have some sort of a headache. It sucks. It just wears me down. I’m stuck in a thick fog and I feel vulnerable. Like dying animal vulnerable. Never a good place to operate from.

Too often lately, I’m so worn out by the time I go to bed that I sort of pass out. If Little Miss Toddler Girl sleeps (a crap shoot with the current cold she’s got) I sleep through the night. Unfortunately, I don’t really ever feel rested because the pain seems to be waiting for me when I wake up. And then the anxious feelings get going because living with pain is frustrating and anxiety-provoking in ways that I can’t even express at this time.

I’ve also felt stuck professionally lately. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and I just feel frozen. Too many avenues to explore. I need to review and prioritize the avenues that need to be explored, and eliminate avenues that don’t need to be explored right now. Or ever. And go from there.

Let’s see, what else. Marriage….My husband is really great at letting things go quickly. And I’m a processor. It takes time for me to come to a place of letting go. It’ll happen, but not in the time frame he understands or appreciates. We have many areas of common ground, but we also have marked differences. And those differences certainly challenge us at times. Through this challenge, I realize that I have to work toward a place of acceptance for myself as a person who needs time to process my feelings. And in accepting myself for being a processor, I hope my husband does too. Because I need and deserve that acceptance. I really do. I realize how damaging it is to just try to “let go” without actually dealing with the challenging emotions. I won’t do that to appease anyone, especially myself.

One more thought on letting go…it’s hard to let go when you’re experiencing physical and emotional symptoms that plague you all the damn time. But giving these painful symptoms a place to harbor and grow (like some nasty bacteria in a petri dish) is no good either. I know this intellectually, and with every fiber of my being. But it’s still not easy to manage along with everything else that needs to be managed. Sigh.

Some days hit you like a ton of bricks. And sometimes, it’s easier to let it. Yes, it will do damage and I’ll have to pay for that damage. But sometimes pain, anxiety, and fatigue win in ways they shouldn’t. And I’m hard-pressed to find the energy to fight today. I really am.

Okay – I’ve rummaged through the rubble…time to salvage this day. I will try my best to take care of myself. Starting with a toddler-assisted shower. And then I’ll apply some Healing Rose Extra Strength CBD Salve on my neck and shoulders.  And then perhaps I’ll do some toddler-assisted yoga. And then off to a toddler-assisted adventure to the store so I can stop ruminating about needing groceries. Perhaps Little Miss Toddler Girl will nap today and I will be able to sneak in a little meditation session then. I will also meet negative self-talk with positive affirmation. And I’ll start there and hope for the best. Wish me luck. I hope your day is starting off brighter than mine. ❤


 


Missing Tom

I woke up with Tom Petty on my mind, but not singing in my head. I miss him. Just knowing that he has left, that he finished his life makes me a little sad. Thankfully I can listen to him and the Heartbreakers and smile. Music is incredible medicine. This video features Howie Epstein – the Heartbreakers bassist from the early ’80’s till the late ’90’s or early 2000’s. He succumbed to heroin addiction in 2003. I remember Tom Petty saying in an interview that Howie’s loss was the Heartbreakers’ greatest tragedy. And sadly at this point, it looks like Tom has upstaged Howie. Sad face. But…I like to think that they are together now in rock and roll Heaven. And that brings the smile back to my face. ❤