I have struggled off and on with depression for most of my life. I was talking to a friend recently about some of these struggles and thought I’d try to explain it a bit here, especially since it is a fairly common affliction.

I know that if I exercise fairly vigorously on a daily basis, I feel better emotionally. (Well, and physically, but that’s not what this post is about.)

I know that when I am feeling lousy, don’t want to do anything or go anywhere, if I just get up and run or lift or bike or swim, I will feel better.  (If I “just” – ha!)

“Exercise is like Prozac for me,” I said.

So why don’t you do it? she asked. Fair question.

Most of the time, I do, whether I “need” to or not. But sometimes, it’s all but impossible. And this is the part that I couldn’t really explain so well.

It’s not quite as simple as just getting up and doing it. It’s not, “I feel sad, so I’m not going to exercise.” It’s not so much about sad, but I struggle to explain what it is.

It’s sort of like when you just don’t feel like doing something – feeling lazy or lethargic – but times 100. Or 1000. Or 10,000. Depending on the day. And often, it includes a component of “I don’t want to feel better,” which of course is entirely not true … But it feels true, which makes it true enough.

Really, it looks like a combination of sad, lazy, and self-pity. But it’s not. Again, I can’t tell you what it is, just what it’s not.

Many years ago, I read The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. It is fairly lengthy and very detailed. Reading it was cathartic. I felt validation. Finally, someone was describing perfectly how I felt, why I wasn’t functioning the way I knew I ought to. I have (thankfully!) never been as bad/deep/whatever you want to call it as he describes in the book, but reading it, I felt less alone.

My struggles these days are minor compared to where they once were, and I am glad to have a better hold on myself, on my life, on what helps and what doesn’t. My self-management isn’t perfect, but it’s quite good. And most of the time, I’m fine, fine, fine 🙂


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by stephanie on 27 September 2010 at 13:24

    thanks for this post. I am going through kind of a depression right now and have also struggled with it on and off my whole life. I find that exercising does help and fortunately I have made it a routine enough that even when I don’t want to, I know I will feel better after I do. additionally, it is something to distract me while its going on… at least somewhat.

    • Agreed on the distraction part. Working with a trainer was great for me for that — more accountability, working harder, often doing new or progressed exercises made it harder which made me think about it more.

  2. ((HUGS)) I too struggle with depression and anxiety. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed it’s ridiculous. I freak out over the stupidest stuff (mostly work).

    One thing that has helped me tremendously has been going gluten free. It has made a WORLD of difference. I never thought that being gluten free would help with depression, but it has. Of course, I still have bad days but no where near what I used to have.

    So, if you ever need anyone to talk to, let me know. I’d be willing to lend an ear. I know there is no worse feeling than depression sometimes. I’ll keep you in my thoughts!


    • Gluten-free — interesting! Wouldn’t have thought about it. Perhaps I’ll try it…

      As long as I’m eating well, getting enough sleep (or close), exercising regularly, and have enough (whatever that means) contact with people I’m close to, I’m great, even if other things are not going as I’d like.

      Thanks for the offer of an ear. I appreciate it 🙂

  3. How’s your diet Heather? Do you eat a lot of processed foods, or do you focus more on organic whole foods? Do you take a lot of prescription drugs, or do you perform exhaustive searches for natural solutions?

    I’m a little depressed now myself, because I want to sell my house, but am under water on it so much that I would have to bring $18,000 to closing to break even. *sigh* Oh well, since I can’t change it immediately I’m going to follow through with my working plan to make huge extra principal payments each month, and create my own opportunities dang it! 🙂

    Hope you feel better. Try focusing on the blessings, sounds lame, but it helps.

    • I don’t eat too much processed food … until I’m not feeling well, then I eat more of it (pizza, ice cream, etc.), which only makes me feel worse. But if I’m not in one of these funks and eat a bunch of crappy food, then my body just says, “Hey! Enough! Eat some vegetables!” and I do and life is happy.

      I don’t take any drugs at all, prescription or OTC. (That was one of my struggles in dealing with cancer — besides the poison known as chemo, there were so many other drugs involved…) My sure-fire way to feel better is exercise. If I’m just a little down (that is, not spiraling), usually something as simple as a walk will do it. The more I let myself get caught up in it, the more intense the workout needs to be. (I don’t ever exercise to the point of being dangerous, in either intensity or duration.) It’s just a matter of getting up and doing it. “Just.”

      I’m sorry about your house. We just refinanced and are now underwater — we were on the edge before and the closing costs put us under — but there’s no way this place will sell even for what it’s appraised at — there are way too many foreclosures in the area. Good luck with making extra payments! You’re diligent about stuff like that, so I am sure you’ll get there. And maybe in the time that you’re doing that, the market will turn a bit and you won’t need to put in as much to break even.

      Blessings indeed. Makes a big difference. It’s easy to put on the negativity glasses.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. I am so glad you found something that helps you. However, I am sure taking that first step some days is very difficult.

    Thanks for sharing your very honest story.

  5. thanks for being so honest with us!

  6. Posted by Fanfan on 1 October 2010 at 17:43

    Have been through where you are. I don’t think I cured my depression. Instead, I am hving less and less frequent episodes of depression. I used to feel depressed most days of the week. Now I may feel it once or twice a month. I now exercise regularly. I almost never succeed in pushing myself to exercise. I have to progress slowly. When I don’t wanna go, I have to hear from myself “It is ok if I don’t go”.
    From my own experience, when I am anxious, exercise helps right away, because I feel a lot of negative energy is disappearing on the treadmill or elliptical. However, when I feel depressed, it is a different story. If I keep pressuring myself when I am depressed, my depression feels worse. Thatz why certain times, meditation works, because it allows us to observe our feelings without judging. In general, I think consistent effort in cognitive therapy helps the most, because it deals with your childhood problems. Most of us are born happy, but we got unhappy, anxious and depressed because of bad social conditioning. Cognitive therapy is a good way to uncondition yourself.

    • I’m at the point now where most of the time, I function quite normally. But if I get busy and don’t take care of myself, or if too many stressful/unfulfilling things are going on, then I have issues. And I agree – therapy helps a lot, with a competent therapist 😉

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