16.2 million. That’s how many adults in the United States have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Another 1.7 million people have been diagnosed with dysthymia, or chronic, persistent, low-level depression. And another 5.7 million adults have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression related to changes in seasons. The most disturbing part of these numbers? They’re just the official, formal, clinically-assessed diagnoses. Researchers have estimated that up to 66% of adults in society have undiagnosed depression, and that number continues to rise.
What this means: if you are struggling with feelings of depression – lethargy, apathy, sadness, mood swings, exhaustion, insomnia, weight gain, weight loss, or any of the other laundry lists of symptoms – you’re not alone.
Me? I’ve got anxiety. I exist in a permanent state of crawling-up-the-wall, jumping-off-the-roof nervous energy. I very rarely get depressed. When I do, it’s a doozy. And it’s been a doozy of a December.
I play Words with Friends, and I’m super competitive about it with my friend Lee. We usually have at least three games going at a time, and we’re about 50-50 on wins and losses. I realized I was depressed when, about a month ago, I was staring at my screen, and thought, why am I even looking at this? Why does it matter? What’s the point of games? What’s the point of life? I give zero f***s. In that moment, I realized with sudden clarity that I’ve been feeling that way about everything.
But there’s hope. I’m starting to feel better, and here’s what I’ve done to get through it.
- See a professional.
Can we talk for a second about how much the stigma against mental illness sucks? It sucks a lot. People joke about shrinks and therapists. My public defense clients say they won’t see anyone for their PTSD because they “don’t want to be a p***y.” We use “crazy” as an insult, make fun of ourselves for being “OCD,” and laugh at the guys on the street who hear voices.
But that’s wrong.
There’s no shame in needing help, y’all. This is a common analogy, but I’ll use it anyway. What do you do if you fell down the stairs and snapped your ankle? Would you just ignore that pain because only wusses go to the doctor? No way. You’d get yourself to the clinic ASAP, and get everyone to sign your cool cast.
Having something misfiring in your brain is no different. There is no shame in getting an evaluation and, if necessary, starting medications with a doctor you trust. Hey, maybe you can have your friends sign your prescription bottle.
Plus, when you take ownership of your mental health and refuse to be embarrassed, you give the people around you the permission to do the same.
I mean, this is a CrossFit blog. You knew this was coming.
This is where “do the hard thing” comes in. Sometimes doing the hard thing means pushing yourself to the very edge of your physical capabilities and doing something amazing – rowing a marathon, PR’ing your snatch, putting in hours of strenuous work to get that first ring muscle-up.
And sometimes “do the hard thing” means just. showing. up.
When I was feeling the worst, about ten days ago, I didn’t skip CrossFit. Instead, I showed up to the gym, and did something. One day I simply rolled out my back. But I was there. Another day I did a heavily-scaled version of a workout that I normally could Rx. I didn’t give a damn about pushing myself to lift any heavier. But I was there.
I didn’t walk out of the gym feeling like the world is sunshine and unicorns. But on those darkest days, I pulled the only thread I could grasp, and I knew – even if I didn’t feel it – that I’d done something good for myself and my mental health, and built one more step on the staircase out of the apathy.
- Self-soothe, my dude.
Sometimes life is like a doctor’s clinic. It’s well-organized, repetitive, no crises. But sometimes life is an emergency room and needs to be triaged. You have to fix the heart attack before you can check the sprained ankle.
I’m on a group text thread with two other women, Mags and AJ. We have all faced some form of mental illness, and because there is no shame in talking about it, we are very open with each other. Mags has a mantra: “self-soothe, my dude.”
What this means is that you can give yourself grace to not be perfect. Sometimes life is really, really hard. Sometimes you just don’t have it in you to take care of yourself, and you know that you’re either going to get ragingly drunk on an entire bottle of whiskey, or take a four-hour nap.
Out of those two options, take the nap. Self-soothe, my dude.
Sometimes you have plans with friends, but you are so strung out with anxiety that you know you’ll snap if you try to leave the house. You’re either going to have a terrible evening and feel worse when you come home, or cancel your plans and sit at home and color for two hours.
Out of those two options, take the coloring book. Self-soothe, my dude.
Self-soothing means giving yourself grace in difficult times. It’s finding the least damaging option that will soothe your soul in that particular moment, and taking it. It’s not an excuse to let your life fall apart; if you’re always canceling plans and sleeping through the day, see #1. But sometimes, my dude, you just need to self-soothe.
- Reach out!
If you’re not feeling great, don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to someone. A friend. A family member. Someone you trust. Heck, reach out to me – I don’t bite. Sometimes it’s just really nice to have someone listen to you, and say, hey, I still like you. (To my friend who said this to me at CrossFit Sabertooth last week, thank you – you know who you are!)
This advice is what’s gotten me through several bad weeks. I’m not feeling 100% yet, but going to CrossFit, self-soothing, and being honest with my friends has made all the difference from the last time I felt depressed.
How do I know I’m feeling better? I just found out that Lee is cheating at Word With Friends (using the “word radar” and “letter swap” tools is totally cheating, amirite?!). And I actually care about that again 🙂
At CrossFit Sabertooth, we’re passionate about helping you live your best and healthiest life, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Click here to set up your own free intro session!