Dealing with the Blues

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's note: If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental-health issue, please contact your health-care provider immediately. The information listed here is meant to inspire and offer hope but should not be interpreted as advice or recommendations.

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Among my health issues is a diagnosis of clinical major depression. It can be rather difficult to deal with depression and other mental health issues, especially on your own, so I wanted to share how I’ve dealt with my depression and anxiety, along with the help of my doctor and other health-care professionals. (If you think you're suffering from a mental health issue, talk to your health-care provider immediately.)

First, I want to talk about my anxiety. I have experienced full-on panic attacks that have stopped me in the middle of a store and made me abandon my cart and leave. I felt dizzy, like the world was crashing in on me. I couldn’t breathe, and most of all I just had to escape. I was nauseated, sweaty, disoriented, and needed to lie down after such an experience.

A therapist once told me the best advice I’ve ever heard that helped me with my panic attacks, and I find that it applies to binge eating, too: First there is an event that triggers the panic or the desire to binge, and then there is an emotion. We can either deal with that emotion or stuff it down with food or brute strength. Left undealt with, the emotion becomes another, even stronger event. Eventually one will give in and run or eat.

The answer to the problem is to deal with the emotion as it comes. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Then discern what could resolve those feelings: In other words, what action can you take? So the ideal model would be event-emotion-action. Without the action, you risk heading into complete downward spiral of emotion, panic, and bad choices (such as binging).

I’m a strong believer in getting help when help is needed. I personally need medication for depression and anxiety, among other health issues. Brain chemistry is at the root of these problems, I have been told by my doctors. Medications help, but not immediately and not the same for everyone. If one medicine didn’t work, I didn’t give up, I moved on to the next. Not one medication works for everyone and I had to try many.

I personally will not suffer needlessly the tortures of mental illness, when there is medication that can alleviate my pain and help me function better as a wife, a friend, and a worker.

Talk therapy is another way I’ve gotten help. I’ve spent years talking it out. For me, it started in my teens. This was before the days of medication. Talk therapy was never very helpful to me until it was coupled with medicine and the right therapist. Sometimes you have to go through many therapists to find just the right one. Never give up though. Each therapist has his or her own personality and individual approach.

I did learn of a few therapies to try at home. (Consult with your health-care provider before trying these for yourself.) Light therapy was one of them. Full spectrum lighting has been shown to help people with seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called the winter blues. Special lights create full spectrum light to mimic the sun and in turn boost moods, but are NOT tanning lights.

Leisure therapy is probably my favorite. It is the theory and practice of taking time to do things you like as a hobby. Schedule some leisure time into your calendar as therapy time for yourself. This practice gives you something to look forward to and helps create a sense of well-being. Your time could be spent doing art, listening to music, practicing yoga, collecting things, shopping, traveling, or exploring a city. Whatever you do, it has to be something you like and not an obligation.

Art therapy is taught almost everywhere there is therapy given on a more permanent level. It really engages the mind and senses. It brings out creativity and a sense of accomplishment. It’s also something you can do at home and even involve family members with, if you so desire. Art therapy is simply the creation of something. It can be done with everything from recycled objects to expensive canvases and paints. It also makes it very hard to dwell on things getting you down when you are pulling all of your emotions out and putting them into a piece of art.

Writing is a way I get my emotions out and turn them into a piece of art. Let me close by sharing with you a poem I wrote when my mother died. It is very personal to me, but I’m among friends here:

The Lie
Bits and pieces in a book
A worn-out slice of life
Sticking to the pages
Broken, old and dry.
Petals fall, it cannot bloom
On it’s own again.
“You can’t go home,” they always say,
And so I’ve never been.
Things so vivid I just can’t see,
Way too numb to cry,
Beyond all recognition,
Except in the mind’s eye.
What life was once, it never was.
I swear, I must have lied.
Who will know the difference?
Just hide it from the light.

What do you use to help you with the blues or other emotional issues?

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Worn out slice of life... wow. How I have felt before. Report
Thank You And God Bless You, Beth. Report
Great article Report
I have MDD too. With the right therapy and actions, we can lead happier lives! Report
Very important article, depression can affect all aspects of our life. Report
Depression is in my "genes". It is a proven fact that depression runs deep in my roots, and I have suffered from major depression, and even postpartum as well. I have had moments when I would lay in bed for months, and pay little to no attention to my family. The most recent episode I had was when I was laid off 4 months ago. The first 3 months I did absolutely nothing. Then one day my husband said to me, "Are you done"? I was like what? He again said, "Are you done"? With what, I said. He said with this- pointing to me laying in bed. I just looked at him and shut my eyes, and I asked him to close the bedroom door on his way out. As I laid there, I imagined all of these great things that I wish I was up doing. I started to cry because guilt came over me. Then I just said to myself, I am DONE!! I jumped out of bed and I got dressed, put on my running shoes and started walking. My husband ran out of the house and said, where are you going? I said- TO GET MY LIFE BACK!!....Been on the go since 4/14/11!! I have lost 2.4 pounds along the way, but I have gained so much in return!!
Good Luck to ALL! Report
Thank you for sharing such personal information. Even with all the information about mental health, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to mental health problems. I've been in therapy off an on since I was 16. Therapy helped me deal with many issues and some therapist helped much more than others. The one thing though that really helped me to heal from several childhood traumas was to learn to forgive those that had hurt me. Releasing that anger and hatred was very liberating for me and it no longer allowed them to have control over me.

Five years ago I had open heart surgery. The scars have never healed properly and five years later, I'm still dealing with horrible chest wall pain from the scar tissue. That has made it difficult for me sometimes to focus on what I need to do and has lead to a great deal of depression. At first I didn't recognize it for what it was. It took describing the symptoms to my doctor for her to make the diagnosis. At first I was very resistant to adding yet another pill to the regimen of pills I must take for my heart issues. I'm so happy that I finally decided to start taking the medication. It has truly made a difference for me. Report
Thank you for sharing. It's as if the words are my own. I still suffer anxiety but full blown panic attacks are kept at bay with meds. I'd like to be more social but this still a goal. Report
Thank you Beth! You speak from the heart and it unmasks us all, revealing authenticity. Report
Thank you for this. I have been dealing with emotional issues at work and feeling down about it. I am sure it is why I can't stay on track with my diet. The workout makes me feel better so that is never a problem.
I think my emotional issues began to peak after 9/11 with PTSD. Hormonally I get overemotional during different times of the month and doesn't help. I do reach out to others and journal as well as meditate. Remembering what you said will help with overeating THANKS again Report
Thank you for sharing something so personal. I suffer from depression and anxiety, some of it chronic/hereditary but most of it situational and there is NOTHING I can do to fix the reasons - so I don't have the "action" part. I've stopped even trying to eat well and exercise because it's too much to even just "live." I probably shouldn't even be on here anymore. Sigh. Report
Thank you for this blog. I was recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I have difficulties taking meds as I generally suffer greatly from any side effects, but I am on a medication for the anxiety and it does help, although it does not totally alleviate it. I am also in talk therapy. Although my issues are not related to SAD I think I will discuss with my doctors light therapy as I do notice that I feel much better on sunny days when I can get outside more.

It is also comforting that I am not alone and that there is help out there. Report
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It really hits close to home for me. I was just diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. I can't agree with you more on this blog! I am seeing the most amazing counselor and am on medication. It is helpling temendously talking with my counselor. Thanks again for sharing your story :) Report
As someone who suffers from SAD and used to deal with severe anxiety, I can relate! I personally choose not to medicate, since I feel the possible side effects from the medications available are worse than the original condition, so I've been playing with alternatives. I have had some success with St. John's Wort for the SAD, and exercise and light therapy help too. The anxiety is basically gone after working with a therapist; finding out it was all brain related helped greatly. Everyone should find the way that works best for them. Report
Very helpful blog! My hubby has been dealing with depression for the last four years. He sees a therapist for talk therapy once a week and a psychiatrist once a month for medication. He has gone from being on "probation" at work and being suicidal to close to normal and he still has his job! He also listens to relaxation CD's in addition to medication that help him sleep. It took BOTH the talk therapy and the psychiatrist to help him. Don't allow the possible stigma of mental health problems to keep you from seeing professionals. Our family doc tried hard to help but it took moving to a psychiatrist to really make things happen. If the first doc or therapist can't help look further. Help is out there! Report
I suffer from anxiety issues, too. I was on meds, but through regular high-intensity exercise, I've been able to go off them and manage my anxiety.
If it ever got out of control again, though, I'd get back on my meds. I just couldn't function normally for a while there, without them. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't understand mental illness and thinks it's just a mind over matter thing, but I think he's trying to be more understanding. Report
Thank you!!! Report
I suffer from bipolar I which is the kind that causes delusions and hullucinations in the manic phase. I have been hospitalized 3 times and hope never to go back. I am on a good medication from my primary physician. Still it's not a perfect situation. I have difficulties at work regarding relationships at times. I let little things get to me. What helps me is exercise, eating right and getting much needed sleep. Thanks for sharing this. Report
I think Dr. Oz is right with his idea of sex for stress. Report
As usual, you have about the most helpful, thoughful blog on Spark. Thank you! Report
My husband has been suffering from major depression and now that he is on medication, he has been eating everything in sight. Does anyone else have that problem with their medication? Report
This blog really hits home for me. My mother, who has suffered from chronic depression, fed me her antidepressant/antianxiety meds, crushed and put in peanut butter sandwiches, when I was in my pre-teens. A young and poorly educated woman who was a hypochondriac, I can only guess that Drs telling her that her somatic complaints were "nerves" or "all in her head" led her to deal with my somatic complaints similarly. I nearly died from physical health issues twice by the age of 12 as she fed me drug laced sandwiches!! By age 14, I was being treated with Valium for anxiety. At 21, after the birth of my first son, I began having panic attacks that were so severe my husband had to take me (and our son) to work with him. That eventually led to a hospitalization and treatment with large doses of antidepressants and antianxiety meds. I was well for about 10 years, learning to extinguish panic attacks before they could take hold. I have suffered further episodes of acute depression over the years, generally situational and ending after 5 - 6 months. I could go on, and on with my trials and tribulations but that wasn't the point of this comments. I really wanted to let Beth know that she is not alone in the pain that she has experienced. Be strong and know that weight loss is not the only "fight" that some of us share! Report
I use self talk when I feel anxious. I tell myself "it's just anxiety, I'll be OK" If I can, I will take a brisk walk. Taking a few deep breaths helps too. I agree with getting help (meds or counseling) if you need it. Report
I too have a chronic debilitating back problem. Sometimes the pain is just too too. Also I have various reactions to the medications making me sicker and more pain. Depression was like a brother to me at one point, now it is only intermittant.
Now the funny part, when I was seeing the doc every week for either pain or reactions to medications, I had finally had it with no results and more sickness. I was yelling at him quack! He yelled back you are depressed, you need to be medicated, again, more, another pill. He gave me an antidepressent and I took it because I was depressed and knew it. The antidepressent had a side effect, of course, but this was good, it stopped the pain in my back and that is when I started being able to walk again. Oh yeah, I couldn't walk at the time either.
Ironic isn't it, the side effect of a pill for the smallest and most obvious problem actually relieved and help to cure the really big problems. Now that is a side effect I can and have live with. Report
You could have been writing about my life. I too have anxiety and depression issues. I have gone to counseling (which is such a big help), am taking medication (took a while to find the right one), used light therapy in the past, and find that doing something I enjoy helps too.

I like the part about taking action when your emotions come in full force. I will need to do this, because often my emotions cause me to eat.

Thanks for being willing to share. Report
Thank You for posting this about Depression / Emotional eating / and dealing with your emotions. I too am clinically depressed and also have had a back injury at work. My back injury was 3 years ago and I gained 67 lbs. during surgery recovery. I became even more depressed during this life changing injury. After these 3 years I am totally disabled and my income is SSD which is under the poverty level and my home is going into forclosure. I am still trying to have a positive outlook on things but find it very hard sometimes. Again, thank you for sharing this blog.

TONI Report
Thank you for this.

Your poem is beautiful. Thank you so much for being brave and sharing that Report
Thank you for this interesting post. I have suffered from depression several times in my life and I find it comforting that other people have gone through the same and came out the other side! The first time I had depression was when I was 17 and I think it was a result of my very low self esteem at the time (I was bullied throughout secondary school). I'm one of those people who doesn't always seek help, even if I really need it. This is not because I don't want to, but because I'm quite independent and like to resolve things myself. It's strange to describe what having depression feels like to other people but for me personally it feels like having a dark cloud above my head, which follows me around and affects my thoughts. Something it creeps up on me, and can just come and go. The first time I had depression, it disappeared on it's own after a few months. I had it very badly but didn't get help at the time. I remember hoping I was one of the third of people who only get depression once in their life but after a few years it came back again. The next time I did get help and was put on anti-depressants for 6 months. Unfortunately, I have had several bouts of depression since and scarily, it has become more frequent (so in the beginning, my depression was about 3 years apart, then 2 years apart, 1 year apart and 6 months apart between each episode). I was starting to think that maybe they would become even more frequent and I would have it all the time! I have noticed though that I tend to only get depression when something really bad happens in my life like a bad event, and that sometimes I felt down in the winter when there is not much sun at all. This has led me to think that although depression does run in my family, it seems to be triggered by stressful / environmental events. My last bout of depression was last year but I think it was due to me being unhappy about my life in general (I was in a bad job, in a new city with not many new friends, etc). I re-evaluated my life and decided that I wanted to work with children so I quitted my job to volunteer in my local primary school. I seem to be doing fine now and at least feel like I am heading somewhere. One point I would like to make is that although I have found anti-depressants useful in the past (particularly when I have been in very bad shape and near suicidal), I would say that it is not good to rely on them too much because when I have been on them, I felt like I was a robot in the sense that although I had less negative emotions, I also had less positive ones. And secondly, I don't know what other people have experienced but I found it quite hard to come off the pills and my body felt like it was suffering withdrawal symptoms.

I have not had therapy before but do find that exercise and going ouside in the sun can help, so I really should get one of those light boxes before this winter! Too often when you have depression, you don't want to go outside or see people but this can help continue the cycle of depression because you see less sunlight, spend less time with people and become too acquainted with your (negative) thoughts. Who knows whether I may suffer from depression again (I sincerely hope not!) but at least I know that I can feel better when the depression has gone. It's just remembering that when you have depression and it seems all gloom + doom which is difficult! If you suffer from depression, please do get help (or at least talk to someone) and remember that it can't rain all the time!
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I too had dealth with panic attacks. I use behaviour therapy. I told myself that I was in control not my panic attacks in control of me and I keep on telling myself each day until they were gone. I also dealth with depression but with therapy it is gone. Now I am working on my multiple personality disorder and it too is better. Report
My sister and I suffer from herditary depression. We discovered EFT a few years ago and now we are both off the medicaiton and doing great. It is an energy therapy practiced by many professionals and safe to do on yourself as well. We practice it daily and it has made a huge change in our lives. I also have an EFT health care professional for those issues and times I need a therapist, but those are not very often. For instance, when my mother passed. If you would like more information feel free to e-mail me. Report
Thanks for sharing a personal journey. I am a board certified art therapist and I am happy you mentioned art therapy, although I caution you and others to recognize the difference between the self-satisfaction that can come from creating something by yourself and working with a qualified art therapist to help you use the art process for specific goals related to mental health issues. Both are great for your well-being, but are very different.

To find a qualified art therapist, the American Art Therapy Association ( ) is a great place to start. Report
I want to know exactly what the poem means. I read the words, and can feel feelings that I am not sure are meant. Please let us know what you were feeling and what the poem means to you. I want to experience that. Thank you for sharing Report
Indygirl...thank you for opening up about your struggles! I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my teens, and with anxiety disorder in my early 20's. At the time, I was very resistant to taking medication, but my doctor finally got through to me. She told me "right now, you don't know what NORMAL feels like, you're too accustomed to suffering with this! The medication will get you to the point where you know what normal feels like again, and then you can start to find your triggers and ways to deal with them."

That made sense to me, and I was one of the lucky ones...I've been off medication for years, and as long as I watch my diet, exercise and meditate regularly, and watch out for my triggers, I can keep myself on an even keel. Even so, I still have moments of panic and depression, but so far I haven't needed to go back on medication.

Thank you for telling us about your struggles! Talking is the best way to deal with deep emotional pain, but I know that I was taught not to talk about can be hard to break out of that cycle, but it's truly therapeutic! Report
Beautiful poem, thank you for sharing. I know how difficult it is to share poetry! Report
Thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom.
I'm sure many readers learned from your story.
The poem is beautiful.
xoxo Report
As always your insight and thoughtfulness is valued greatly!! Report
I appreciate you sharing! I was (finally) diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorder last year. After starting medication my life went from unmanageable to manageable. I was able to go from feeling out of control of my emotions to in control.

I do still struggle with a panic attacks rarely. I find one of the harder things to do (especially when medication like Xanax is at your disposal) is figuring out when you are unnecessarily overly-depressed/anxious versus when it is normal to feel upset. For example, in breaking up with my ex-boyfriend, I knew that it was normal and healthy to feel some stress and sadness, but I had to identify that point of downward spiral that ~INDYGIRL mentions.

It has been a humbling experience, but I'm so grateful I sought help from my doctor and my closest friends. Truly, if you are suffering in silence with mental health problems, please seek help. Report
Beth, I love reading your blogs and i am so happy for you and all of your growth i have seen here on SP You ROCK! (((HUGS))) Report
ooh... I wish I weren't so close to the first commenter. However, I do want to put some of my own emphasis on everything that was said above. I, too, have my mental health issues. I'm going to be monitoring my emotional state for the rest of my life to avoid relapse or deal with it when it occurs. One thing I have noticed is that once you are on medication, most doctors will have you stay there. This is not the answer for everybody. I was on medication for 11 years. Basically my entire adult life. The decision to go on medication was probably right for me. But the biggest improvement I've seen in my physical and emotional health since then is about two months ago when I went off the medication. No, the doctor didn't recommend it. But I went to see my PCP yesterday and she said this is the happiest she's seen me, so I really think no more medication was the right decision for me at this time.
Adding to that, if you can't afford a doctor or medication or therapy, the best medicine is the natural medicine: endorphins. Yes, this is another reason to get out there and exercise. It's hard (especially for someone in a deep depression) but it will help. I'm almost positive. Report
Indygirl...this is a blog I can closely relate too...I have been diagnosed with panic disorder and depression and was in therapy for the first when I was 19...after a few months I was fine and went on with my life for about 6 years with only occaisonal anxiety attacks but I continued to suffer from bouts of debilitating depression which I am sure led to a lot of emotional eating...I then spent the last 4 years in therapy and taking medications finally working through many of my deep grained issues...last year I was taken off my medications and done with therapy...things have been dgoing great since then so there is a light at the end of the tunnel...keep your head up and your heart light! Report