Val's tips on keeping the blues away, blog entry #22, October 23


Keeping the blues away...move a muscle, change a thought.

As Macon County folks probably noticed, today was one dreary looking Monday! I faced the let-down after enjoyable time away, coupled with a long to-do list of chores which did not magically do themselves in my absence. None of them are actually that onerous, but I realized I was looking with despair and overwhelm at the laundry basket. Uh-oh. And that despite a really good night’s sleep, I felt the urge to climb into bed and pull the covers up. Uh-oh. I know what this is, and these days, I have some good tools for keeping it at bay.

I had my first experience with depression when I was pregnant with my third child. I knew about post-partum depression, though I had been spared that. But who had ever heard of pre-partum depression? It was awful. I had 2 darling little boys, a happy marriage, and our dreams were coming true around us. Jim had started the practice I had spent six months setting up. We had a beautiful new home. And I could barely get out of bed in the morning. What the heck was wrong with me? It didn’t even occur to see a doctor about it, I just thought I was a defective human being and resolved to be grateful for all the good things that were happening. Fortunately, the issue cleared up when my daughter was born, (Hormones? Maybe…) and did not dog me again for several years.

I had a more serious experience with depression in my late 30’s/early 40’s. By then people were talking about it, and I was able to get some help in the form of medication (counseling was out of the question, in my mind – I had a job, and 3 kids, and just when would this time magically present itself?) Medication helped, a lot. I experienced it as giving me a whole lot more rope to play with, so I was not at the end of it all the time. Not being at my wit’s end gave me more room to think about how I wanted to conduct my relationships with the people important to me. I didn’t have to fly off the handle, I could consider, and speak as if I’d thought first.

I forgot my medication on a family reunion in 2001, and realized that I was managing what can be fraught situations just fine without it. So I stopped taking it then, and have since managed my condition with exercise, diet, sleep hygiene, and sometimes, when things were particularly tough, counseling. This time of year I add a 10,000 lux lamp that puts out sunlight on my bathroom counter in the mornings while I am getting ready.

So, when I felt myself feeling desperate and overwhelmed at the sight of the moderate load of laundry that needed to be done, I knew what to do. I hung out in front of the lamp for a bit. I made a good breakfast. And I put myself in the car to go to the Y for our Challenge workout, even though most fibers of my being thought curling up on the couch would be a better idea.

Molly had a fun workout planned today. Called 5 card draw, it was a 23 minute partner circuit, with just enough of an element of chance to keep us on our toes. Rachel Roettger and I partnered and held our breath as we drew our cards – hearts were for squat and press, as many as the face value of the card, unless the card was a jack (10 reps) a queen (12 reps) or a king (14 reps). Diamonds were push ups, clubs, long arm crunches, and aces of any suit bought the participants 60(!) Reps of rope climbers. The idea was that we turned over 1 of our 5 cards at a time, did the exercise associated with it, turned over the second card, did the exercises for card 1 and card 2, and so on, until we’d done all 5, after which we were treated to 2 laps around the gym.

Rachel put me to shame, having chosen a really ambitious set of weights. I probably went too low, (Yay! I am stronger than I used to be!) but I really hate wearing myself out early and being unable to do stuff late in the game. So I made up for it a little bit by carrying the weights on my run. 23 minutes FLEW by. Molly treated us to a bunch of delicious stretches at the end.

Not only don’t I feel desperate, I feel good. Endorphins are a real thing, and movement sends them all around the bloodstream. In some circles, it is said “Move a muscle, change a thought.” I feel accomplished for having moved past my inertia to show up for the workout, I feel accomplished for having competently met the challenge of the workout, and the rest of my day no longer looms as just too much. I think I beat the Black Dog today.

Depression is a serious issue. I’m lucky I’m able to manage it the way I do. Not everyone can. But there is lots of effective help these days. Primary care doctors have tools. Therapists have tools. One of the lies depression likes to tell people that it’s trying to grab in its clutches that “it’s no use, nothing will help, and nobody wants to talk to you about this stuff.” That is not true. There are people who VOLUNTEER to talk to strangers who are struggling, because they know how much talking helped them. If you suffer from feelings of dread about meeting the everyday demands of your life,(or, certainly, if you are entertaining thoughts of ending your life!) and you aren’t sure you are ready to seek help locally, there are numbers to call. I found the ones below with a quick Google Search.

It’s absolutely true that exercise can make a major contribution to mental health. Studies show that regular exercise can have as much beneficial effect as medicine. I’m really grateful that the Challenge has shown me some new things to do that I would not have thought to try before, because liking what I’m doing makes it a lot easier to overcome the gravitational pull of my couch, especially on days when that pull is strong.

Free Hotline Numbers

If your depression has caused you to lose a job, drop out of school, lose touch with family or friends, or if you’ve noticed changes in your sleep and appetite that have not improved, contact one of these free resources to learn more about treating your depression.

SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator is an easy and anonymous way to locate treatment facilities and other resources, such as support groups and counselors, to treat and manage depression.

If your depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, call the National Hopeline to connect with a depression treatment center in your area. The Hopeline also offers a live chat

feature for those who don’t want to (or are unable to) call and can dispatch emergency crews to your location if necessary.

This national hotline is another valuable resource for people whose depression has escalated to suicidal or other harmful thoughts. Their network of crisis centers provide emotional support and guidance to people in distress and are also available via a chat service and a special hotline number for the hearing impaired: 1-800-799-4889.

  • National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663

This resource provides brief interventions for youth who are dealing with pregnancy, sexual abuse, child abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. They also provide referrals to local counseling, treatment centers, and shelters.

The Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice is pleased to announce the Warm Line!

Sometimes what is needed most in difficult times is someone to talk to:
Someone who listens and understands.

The Warm Line is an opportunity in Illinois for persons with mental health and/or substance use challenges and their families to receive support by phone. Peer and Family Support Specialists are professionals who have experienced mental health and/or substance use recovery in their own lives. They have been trained in recovery support, mentoring, and advocacy and are ready to listen and support you. The warm line is not a crisis hotline, but is a source of support as you recover or help a family member to recover.

  • Call: 1 (866) 359-7953
  • TTY: 1 (866) 880-4459
  • Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm except holidays
  • From the main menu, select option #2 for Consumers and Families
  • Next, select option #5 for the Warm Line: Peer and Family Support by Phone.

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