healthy mind, healthy body

As most people know, I struggle with depression. It's been a force in my life for as long as I can remember. I have bipolar disorder, actually, which means that I have extremes of high periods and very low periods. I'm rarely at a happy medium. This has been fixed for the most part, through various methods [mostly medication, yoga, and exercise], but I still have my bad days/weeks/months. It's still something that I struggle with. And I know that it'll never fully go away-- something I understand and accept on my good days [it's part of my identity] but on my bad days, it just makes it that much worse.

I've been in a bad place, mentally, for a while [well, I'm finally out of it now, but we'll get there]. Last summer I gave up my friends, a job I loved, a community I was welcome in, and complete freedom, because I moved halfway across the country. Suddenly, I had no friends nearby. I had no way of going to see friends who were close-but-not-biking-distance close. I had no job or money. I only had a bike in an area that relies on cars as transportation. But, on the bright side, I wasn't homeless! I was literally days away from that fate in Chicago, which prompted the move back east to be sheltered by my family. It was the best decision, which I knew, but it still sucked.

Having a place to live was definitely great, but I missed having friends and a job [spoiler alert: I still miss these]. And as these things didn't change, my mental state got worse. I hadn't been unemployed since-- well, the first month I moved to Chicago. Aside from that, I'd been steadily employed since high school. I like working [especially when it's a job I love, as with my gig in Chicago], it gives me a daily purpose. Without a job, I feel pretty worthless. Without a job or friends, I might as well not exist [says my depression].

So my self-worth kept plummeting, as months went by and nothing changed. By the time winter set in, I was at a low I hadn't experienced in years. I'd gained at least 20 pounds since the move [with another 10 still to come], I never left the house [except to go grocery shopping], I completely withdrew from everyone online. I moved my TV upstairs to my bedroom and pretty much didn't get out of bed all winter. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. I spent such long days in bed that my back would hurt from staying still. As someone who uses exercise to self-medicate my depression, I knew that curling up in bed and ignoring the world was pretty much the worst thing I could do, but I didn't care. Depression's funny like that.

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This picture sums up my entire winter.
There was a quiet, detached part of my brain that was whispering, Look what you're doing to yourself. You're ruining your health and not even trying to improve your situation. But the rest of my brain didn't care. I remember one thought that particularly stands out in my mind-- What does it matter if I let myself go to ruin? Only my cats care.

You'd think that would be such a low point, such a sobering thought, that I'd realize how awful things were and pull myself together. But, that's not how depression works. All those horrible thoughts just added up to make me feel worse. So I continued like this and fell deeper into my pit of depression. Until February.

Mid-February, Mark of Mark Reads and Watches was on tour and going to Boston. Mark's been one shining light in my life through all this. A vegan himself, he sent me encouragement and no judgment when I wasn't able to afford eating entirely vegan [or at all]. He openly shares his own experiences with depression and poverty, so I always knew I wasn't alone in this and at least had someone to talk to. And the community around his sites is awesome and was, for a while, the only bright moment of my day. So, he was going to Boston, and I knew I had to go. Boston is really close... unless you don't have a car. Foiled again! Luckily, some people were arranging a carpool from Rhode Island and they could fit me.

Most people probably wouldn't describe that night as life-changing, but it was for me. The combination of the car ride with 3 complete strangers, meeting Mark who'd helped me so much in the past year, and being in the middle of a community again, however temporarily... it was exactly what I needed, even though I didn't expect it. I got home that night feeling great, actually smiling. I couldn't remember the last time I had genuinely smiled.

It still took a couple weeks to come out of the depressive period completely, some time to change. One of the first things I did was to move the TV back downstairs, and I set a deadline for getting out of bed every morning. Then I realized how much damage I'd done to my body. At the end of February, I started working out and committed to buying whole foods instead of cheap crap. And here I am six weeks later, happier and a whole lot healthier.

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Now the cats and I spend our days outside working on the garden.
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Ginny's bad at gardening though.
I still struggle with a lot of the issues mentioned here [I'm still unemployed and friendless and living on a small food budget]. Not everything was magically fixed overnight. But I've shifted my outlook on some things [unemployed = more time to work out and spend cooking!] and try not to let the others get me down. But it's been almost two months since Boston and I can safely say that I've beaten that episode. It was hard, but I did it. So that's where I'm at now.