January 12, 2017

A candid post about depression

A couple of days ago, I started writing a post, and I got a lot of it done, but I saved it to finish it up yesterday. Then, I read it yesterday, and realized it sounded really depressing! I didn't mean for it to sound like that; I'd basically just written about the ups and downs of my depression last year.

depression meme

I still haven't been feeling back to normal, so I went to a new doctor yesterday to try and come up with a plan and possibly switch medication. I really liked the doctor, and he added one medication that should hopefully help me get through this. I don't really enjoy writing about depression, because it's so stigmatized, but I know a lot of people have found it helpful to read (if only so that they don't feel alone in the battle). I also hope by explaining it in-depth, it'll help people to understand what a loved one with depression may be going through.

Depression is a scary beast to deal with. I remember feeling depressed when I was as young as about 9 or 10 years old (although I didn't know that it was called depression then), but I don't think I was officially diagnosed until I was 20. It was never triggered by anything; I think I was just born this way. Antidepressants certainly help, and I've done the natural treatments as well--exercise, mainly, but also psychotherapy. Once I started running in 2010, my depression felt very under control for the most part, other than a few mildly bad days or weeks here and there.

(It literally just occurred to me as I was typing this that maybe my current episode has been so bad because I cut way back on my mileage and haven't been nearly as active as I'd been in the past six years. Now that I'm training for Indy, and picking up mileage, it'll be interesting to see how it helps my mood.)

I've always been pretty good at hiding my depression from friends and/or family, because I don't want to "bring people down". Jerry and my friend Andrea are really the only people who know and understand the full extent of it. Here on my blog, I always try to write a positive spin on things when I talk about it, but even that is hard to do (which is one of the reasons I haven't been writing much through the fall and winter).

Depression is very difficult to describe to someone who has never felt it. As hard as I try to be happy when I'm having a depressed episode, I just feel sad, anxious, hopeless, and pessimistic about life in general. Every little problem that arises in "normal" life feels like a catastrophe--where in a non-depressed person, that little problem is no big deal.

depression meme

There are physical symptoms of depression as well; it's not "all in your head", like some people believe. A few common physical symptoms are: digestive issues (feeling nauseous or upset stomach); sleeping problems (either insomnia or sleeping too much); fatigue, even if you're getting enough sleep; dizziness or lightheadedness; excessive hunger or loss of appetite (unfortunately, I experience the excessive hunger!); memory loss; and lack of concentration. Depression can even weaken the immune system! Remember how I got sick twice in the fall, and it lasted a long time? That never happens to me.

Some people think that when you're depressed, you can just force yourself to be happy, but it doesn't work that way. Sure, you can fake being happy, but you can't actually change your feeling. (Try to imagine that you just won a million dollars and how happy you'd be--and then after you found out you won, someone told you that you have to "just be sad". That would be difficult, if not impossible, to do! It's the same way with trying to "just be happy" when you don't feel that way. Hopefully that makes sense.)

It would be awesome if it was that easy to fix depression! Believe me, depression is definitely NOT something that I want to feel, and I will do just about anything in my power to not feel that way. I really don't think that there is a single person on the planet who would choose to have depression.

Being a mom with depression is even more difficult. I don't want my kids to see me feeling sad, so I do my best to hide it, and to not let it affect their lives. There have been many times where all I wanted to do was lie in bed all day, but having kids forces me to get up and do what's best for them. In that way, the kids are very helpful! I have talked a little bit about depression and anxiety with them so that they at least understand what it is--and if they ever feel that way, they know they can come talk to me about it and I will listen and take them seriously.


I think one of the worst symptoms is feeling guilty. I have a really great life, and so many things to be thankful for. And I AM very grateful! So, I have no "reason" to feel depressed, which is where the guilt comes in. The thing about depression is that it doesn't have to be triggered by something--some people just have a lot of things going on in their brains that can cause it, and the antidepressants can help balance it all out.

My point is that depression a real illness with real symptoms, and it should be treated as such. For some people, exercise is enough to help them through it; others use medication; some use supplements; and still others use psychotherapy ("talk" therapy) as another common treatment (or any combination of these, or other treatments). Unfortunately, some people cope in unhealthy ways, like alcohol, overeating, drugs, excessive shopping, etc. Basically, anything that makes them feel better.

Since my blog is usually categorized as a weight loss blog, I figured I'd write a little about how depression can affect one's weight loss journey as well:

  • Fatigue, even with a lot of sleep, makes it difficult to stay motivated to exercise. 
  • Lack of motivation (just feeling like you really don't care)
  • Medications (many antidepressants are known to cause weight gain)
  • Increased hunger (some people overeat when depressed simply because they feel hungrier than usual.
  • Unhealthy eating ("comfort" foods are called such because they are comforting--a natural choice for someone with depression. Unfortunately, these foods only make us feel better temporarily, and they usually have a ton of calories.)
  • Alcohol (if someone turns to alcohol to feel better, that can obviously affect weight)
  • Cortisol (when we're depressed, we tend to have increased levels of this "stress hormone", which can make it difficult to lose weight)
I'd like to end this post on a positive note, since depression is kind of a downer of a topic! Here are some things that have helped me in the past to get through a bad episode of depression. I'd love to see more ideas, if anyone would like to share. It's a sensitive topic, so I understand if it's not something you want to post online ;)


  • Exercise. It's cliché, but it's true what they say--exercise really does help with depression. Even if it's something as simple as going for a stroll every afternoon, getting outside and doing something physical changes my mood better than comfort food, that's for sure. 
  • Medication. It's not shameful to take antidepressants if your doctor thinks you would benefit from them. 
  • Distraction. Staying busy, and not having a lot of time to really think about it, has helped me quite a bit. I had a very bad day on Tuesday, because I didn't really have anything going on. But yesterday, I was busy non-stop all day, and I actually felt pretty good. The distraction was nice.
  • No alcohol. As much as I love my wine, I do feel better when I don't have anything to drink. 
  • Having a close friend to talk to. My friend Andrea has been a godsend, truly. I feel comfortable telling her anything at all, and she always seems to know just what to do or say to help. 
  • Talk therapy (psychotherapy). If you don't have a close friend to talk to (or even if you do), talk therapy has been very helpful for me. It's really nice to talk to someone who is unbiased and doesn't have any sort of role in your life other than "therapist". 
  • Say yes to events/invitations even when you want to say no. It's easy to stay at home and not see friends, but I know that I always feel better if I go and do things.
  • Healthy eating. I think this one is probably obvious, but when I'm eating well, and not too much, I feel my best.
  • Pets. Pets are a very real form of therapy! My most therapeutic pet is Phoebe. When I'm having a rough time, she just knows. She wants me to hold her while she purrs loudly in my ear. 


Depression is such a heavy topic, but it affects 15 MILLION American adults in any given year (source). Chances are, you or someone you know is affected by it. It's my hope that it becomes more common to talk openly about depression instead of feeling ashamed of it, which is why I decided to write about this (very vulnerable) topic.

To read more about depression, a good place to start is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website. You can also find help there if you think you may have depression and would like help seeking treatment.


As for myself, I am feeling hopeful that 2017 is going to be a great year! Instead of being so focused on my weight, I want to really work on my mental health and being the happiest ME I can be--exercising, spending quality time with family and friends, and continuing therapy and medication as needed. I'm looking forward to a good year :)

54 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. And for being real and vulnerable.

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  2. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like this. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Thank you for this wonderful post :-) I feel that I understand you completely as I have gone through my own ups and downs this past year. I have found that exercising and medication has helped me a great deal. Having friends and family to turn has also helped, even if at times it does not seem that they truly understand what you are feeling (just have to remind yourself that they want what is best for you :-))

    Thank you again for sharing your story! - Kathryn

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    1. I agree, Kathryn--I think sometimes friends and family WANT to help, but they just don't really know what to do. I'm glad that you found what works for you!

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  4. I appreciate reading about your honest experiences and feelings on depression. I teach at a university, and college age is when a lot of people start getting diagnosed/treated for depression, and it's helpful for me to be more empathetic toward my students.

    I think it's helpful for anyone to realize they're not alone in their experiences. Besides all of your readers who comment here, have you also encountered the blog by The Blogess? She's a writer/artist who writes a lot about her experiences with depression.

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    1. I've heard of The Blogess, but I am actually not familiar with her, so I will check her stuff out! Thanks for suggesting it. And you're right, college is a tough time--that's when I finally sought help.

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  5. Thank you for sharing. You are definitely not alone! Depression (and anxiety) is something I've been dealing with since my late teens. I feel like I traded depression for anxiety in the past few years, but I gotta tell you – your list of symptoms made me realize that I have been struggling with a bout in the past few months, I think! I'm doing my best to do all the things short of medication right now to help. xoxo

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    1. Amy, it's funny you mentioned that--my depression and anxiety seem to be at odds with each other also. When my depression is at its worst, my anxiety seems to be doing really well; and vice versa. It's always one or the other, haha. One day, maybe I'll get a grip on both at the same time ;)

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  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzvT0vy5cjE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=ChTnwpkCMhg&list=PLhDSzoviOv9E2IE5BXa9dsyswb71xiCBb

    Katie...I'm a big fan and have great respect for you. Please take some time to listen through this video. It helped me on a bad day. I really wish the same for you. Hugs..Indira..

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  7. Thanks for sharing. Two additional things some folks find helpful are meditation and a gratitude jar or journal. Like you said, many times it's a matter of finding the right combination for you!

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    1. Yes! Meditation is a very common one that I overlooked. Although I don't use it, I know it's been very helpful to other people with depression. I like the gratitude journal idea as well!

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  8. I hear you, I understand everything you shared, I get it, I too suffer like you. I have S.A.D. (Seasonal Affects Disorder) aka...Winters just Suck! ;-)

    Like one commenter said I kind of of feel my S.A.D. has maybe lightened a bit but Anxiety during the winter months has increased a ton. (Maybe they are actually one in the same family???) I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hibernate all winter but that is not possible as we all know thus, I push through.

    I have tried many drugs and they just don't do it for me. The best thing that has helped me during the winters is MY SON and when he JOINED THE H.S. SWIM TEAM last winter. Having to get to his meets and pick him up from practices has made the winters "feel" like they go by that much faster.

    Working more hours per week aka...keeping busy....has helped too.

    "Dressing up" sounds weird huh? But, when I actually get dressed and put on make up rather than stay in sweats and such I feel better and push myself more.

    I have tried to talk to others but I always think "Why did I say that" after when the conversation heads towards silence and awkwardness. It really is the one sickness that nobody knows how to handle socially; mainly because its such a mind thing and we appear fine as long as we play the "HIDE my TRUE FEELINGS game". ****been there done that****

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    1. Anxiety and depression almost always go hand-in-hand, so they are closely related. Right now, my depression has taken over, but for a long time, my anxiety was much worse than the depression. I agree that dressing up works very well! I did a little experiment over the summer where I forced myself to get dressed (not in yoga pants!) and do my hair and make-up every day. I got a lot of "ain't nobody got time for that" comments, but I felt MUCH better about myself during that week. It took an extra 10-15 minutes a day, which isn't much, and it was so worth it! I really need to add that to my routine right now.

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  9. I really appreciate your posts on depression. I suffer with it too. Medication has really helped, but is still a struggle. It's hard for people to understand if they haven't experienced it themselves. It's really hard when people who think they understand try to give advice. A friend told me recently that she just doesn't allow herself to think negative thoughts and that fixed it for her. I wish it was that simple! When depression is really bad there is much more to it than that.
    It's wreaked havoc on my weight this last year, but I'm in a better place emotionally than I was so I'm trying not to beat myself up for that.
    You are probably helping many more than you realize with your posts on depression. Thank you!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. People definitely have good intentions, but if depression was cured with simple positive thoughts, nobody would need medication ;) I've gained back the weight I lost last year, and I know it's because of the way I ate over the summer, particularly when I was depressed. Right now, I am not even letting it bother me--I just want to get back to feeling my best mentally, and hopefully the weight loss will follow. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I saw a post on facebook a few weeks ago that gave the best way to describe depression that I'd ever read. I'll try to remember best I can how it went.

    "Imagine you are slipping into a warm bubble bath. Hug your arms across your chest, how comfortable and happy that is. Then imagine without warning, the plug is pulled from the bath tub, and you stay sitting in the tub after the water has drained, you are cold, alone and it feels like all the warmth has drained from the world."

    At least to me, that's how it feels. I appreciate your openness, I wish I could be as open and honest as you are. You have lots of support, you are doing amazing despite that depression.

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    1. That is an excellent description! Thank you for sharing. I hope that you have support in your own life. Please feel free to send me an email if you want to chat!

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  11. Thank you for being so brace and sharing, Katie!

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  12. Thank you for sharing this. You are definitely not alone. I think this time of year is just hard. I have a lot of friends dealing with depression right now. Some have had shitty life events. Some have no "reason" other than genetics. Some never sought help and committed suicide. I have had my own battles with it. It is a many headed beast. How it affects you, isn't how it affects me, and isn't how it affects someone else.

    Thank you for the tips on self-care. I am sharing this post with friends. I'm glad you talked to your doctor too.

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    1. Exactly! Depression affects everybody differently, so it's best to find the treatments that work best for us as individuals. I'm so sorry that you've lost friends to suicide. As you may know, my husband dealt with that last year, and it hit me about as hard as it hit him. xo

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  13. I am so proud of you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. As you already know I understand what you are going through. This was such a well written and well thought out post and you are going to help so many people with your honesty. Sending love and hugs your way. xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Bonnie! I should have added that having a girls weekend with some goddamn delightful girls does WONDERS for the soul as well ;) Love you!

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  14. Depression is something that I wish more people who DON'T have it would educate themselves about because, chances are, at some point in your life you will deal with (or even love) someone with it. My MIL had depression and I was SO ignorant of this condition when she lived with us. Truly, one of my biggest regrets in caring for her (she lived with us through early to mid-stage Alzheimer's). Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Yes! I think it's easy to not really think of depression as a major illness (or as any illness at all) when one hasn't really experienced it (first- or secondhand). This is off topic, but I think it's great that you cared for your MIL during her early stages of Alzheimer's. I recently wrote a post about Alzheimer's, and how it's my biggest fear. I'm sure you were comforting to have in her life during that time, regardless of what you knew about her depression. xo

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  15. thanks for posting on this topic ! i too have episodes of depression. i was on medication for several years it was hard to go on it ( terrible headaches) and it took almost a year to come off of it. and people told me i seemed like i had no emotions while i was on it. i am going through an episode currently but i really am nervous of going on meds again.

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    1. Medication can be scary if you don't find the correct one. That's why I don't really like to state my medication brand specifically on my blog--it's so individualized! I'm in the process of switching things up now, so I just may get a little nuttier for a while until I figure it all out, haha ;)

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  16. Yes, all of this. I've been suffering depression and anxiety for 15 years now. Exercise, medication, and talk therapy help, as does, oddly, endless games of Yahtzee with my kids. Weird, but it helps.

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    1. Yahtzee sounds like awesome therapy--and I'm sure your kids love it!! :)

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  17. As always, thank you so much for your honesty. I know so many people appreciate that! Me included. While I don't personally suffer from depression (only mild anxiety occasionally) I think it's super beneficial to hear from your point of view so hopefully I can help someone in my life that may be suffering. Thank you once again!

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    1. Thanks for being open-minded, Amanda! Chances are, you already know someone who is dealing with it. It's great that you want to understand it :)

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  18. I struggle with depression/anxiety myself and I can relate to everything you mentioned! I think it is really important that you mentioned the guilt associated with depression! That is one of the most difficult parts of depression for me and I don't think others can understand that. I am so grateful for everything I have and everyone I have in my life and feel so guilty when I get depressed. Hard to explain it but you did a wonderful job. Exercise is HUGE, so beneficial for your mood but so, so hard to make yourself do when your depression is bad. Keeping myself busy and "out of my own head" are critical for me too because like you, I could remain in bed literally all day when I'm feeling that low (then feel terribly guilty again if I do). Volunteering or just helping someone else in some way is probably one of the best things for me to do when I am feeling low. I ALWAYS come away from helping others feeling at least a little bit better. Thanks for the honesty with this post, it's always good to know you're not alone!

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Andrea! The guilt can be completely overwhelming sometimes, I know. My therapist has told me time and again that I haven't done anything wrong, but I still feel guilty for even having depression (which, as I type it, sounds ridiculous). It's amazing how a chemical imbalance in one's brain can cause so many emotions! Helping someone else is a great idea, and I think that's why I had such a hard time after Mark died--I had been so focused on helping him that I didn't even think of myself, and after he passed away, the depression hit hard. Thanks for reminding me I'm not alone!

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  19. I can relate. Mental illness is just that an illness. I wish society would take it more seriously. Depression can also kill. Thanks, Katie for sharing your truth. It is encouraging that we are not alone in this journey.

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    1. Thank you for reading! And I agree, I wish all mental illnesses were taken more seriously. xo

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  20. I'll echo what others have said - it's very brave of you to put yourself out there and show such vulnerability. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  21. I noticed your blog about depression and decided to read. Thanks for sharing your story, I don th no there is enough persona, accounts of it, so I applaud you for your courage to share. I don't have clinical depression but was injured in 2014 and this lead me down a dark path of depression. Luckily I woke I. A health food store and found a good Naturapath that helped tremendously. I refused to take medication since many people that I have spoken to, don't find that it truly helps them to their core. I had fourther testing done to find out other health issues and my body want getting all these good things I was trying to feed it.

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    1. I'm so sorry for what you went through. It definitely takes time to figure out what works for us as individuals!

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  22. I ran out of room from my last comments and couldn't correct the last ones. Just be open to other form of treatments, cause what works for one person may not wrk for the next one. Their is one supplement I'm taking that helps the adrenals, without it I would be curled up in a ball in the corner of then room. I wish you well and keep exploring your body's needs. Just keep chugging along!!!

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  23. Sorry I'm a couple days late Katie, but thank you so much for your post and as always, your honesty. When you say you got a new doctor, are you talking new psychotherapist or new primary physician? I am just wondering because I am considering starting psychotherapy vs. a new primary MD. I have been seeing a new primary for about a year now, she started me on a new med and I don't know if it is really any better than what I was taking before. She always comments that I would feel better if I lost weight and exercised more. While I do agree with that, it makes me feel like she doesn't see my depression as "real". I don't want to keep blaming the medications so I wonder if I should try some psychotherapy.

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    1. I got a new primary physician. I wanted to make an appointment with a psychiatrist, but there is a NINE MONTH wait! So, for now, my primary physician is helping me figure out a medication plan. And I'm continuing to see my psychotherapist (she's a social worker) for "talk" therapy.
      I'm so sorry that your doctor isn't taking depression seriously. Honestly, I would find a doctor that treats depression as the very real illness that it is! I agree that weight loss and exercise make me feel better, but there is much more to it than that. I need help feeling good enough to WANT to eat well and exercise. Maybe you need a different medication, so you'll need a doctor who is willing to change things up if needed. Psychotherapy is a big help, too. I've learned a lot since I started going!

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  24. Thank you for being so open and honest. My husband struggles with depression and for awhile I just didn't understand. He has a therapist who has done wonders for him and is on medicine now. He volunteers with different organizations in our area hoping to break the stigma about mental illness.

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    1. I'm so sorry that your husband struggles with depression as well. I think it's great that you are willing to learn about it and support him through it. I can't imagine how alone I would feel if Jerry wasn't supportive!

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  25. I requested a vitamin D blood test after learning about a common correlation with depression symptoms and low D. My doc felt it was "only a little low" but recent winters, especially Januaries, have been nightmarish, and not too long ago I realized that (having been on a 2,000 IU supplement for several months) I am doing relatively ok. Much, much better than the last several winters. There's no way to know for sure if it's the D, it for as affordable as it is I plan to continue.

    Have you seen Allie Brosch's posts on depression? I'm on my phone so don't have the exact link, but she's at hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com. Brilliantly insightful, laugh-out-loud posts.

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  26. Shout out to another runner-sister in the trenches of battling the depression demons. Keep fighting the fight, asking the questions, and looking for little improvements. One book that has really helped me is:
    https://smile.amazon.com/Unstuck-Guide-Seven-Stage-Journey-Depression/dp/0143115510/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486661357&sr=8-1&keywords=unstuck+your+guide+to+the+seven-stage+journey+out+of+depression

    I would hand that out on street corners if my hubby would let me. A compassionate book, and has a lot of ideas of how to take care of yourself. It doesn't discount Rx's, but it does show there's a lot to the picture to look at: which means, there's a lot of options that may help. I found it encouraging, and I reccomend it to SAD-affected friends who aren't necessarily MDD as it is so helpful.

    Keep an eye out on the Rx you may be taking, my generic changed labs (the stamp on the med changed) and it changed everything. On paper they were equivalent, in real life not so much. Just be aware in this age of companies reducing costs.

    Best wished for you! It can be hard to get the ground work laid (right doctors, right treatment plan) but life is good and worth it. Keep going.

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  27. I know I will be jumped on for this, but I feel the medical profession has brought about this depression explosion. The drugs sold is in the billions. Can you imagine my grandma not being depressed when she lost three kids to sickness ,never had any money to speak of,never went on vacation and so much more? Now people admit to having good lives and yet they say they are depressed. Years ago we had that same feeling but we did not have the drugs and there was no such thing as saying I feel depressed. They were periods of feeling downhearted, low, in a dark place, but you came out of it and functioned and that was that. I think people knew how to do that and how to be happy with whatever their lot in life was. I know there is real mental illness, but I put that in a different category than those who have so much and they admit a happy life, yet are called depressed. I think medication is a mistake unless there is real mental instability. Not a popular opinion, but it is the way I feel. I had many periods of sadness, and anxiety, but I fought my way out of it without doctors and pills. I will never understand why people are so needy.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)