After my husband and I split up, I sank pretty low. Listed here are several of the things that aided in my recovery from acute depression. I’ll be adding more periodically.
These are suggestions, not medical or psychiatric/psychological advice, not endorsements, just recommendations based on my subjective experience. I am in no way affiliated with any of the companies or products listed and make no money from any sales.
By no means are these listed in order of importance … that varies depending on the day!
The War of Art By Steven Pressfield
I am not big on the concept of “God” per se but that did not inhibit my ability to garner so much wisdom and inspiration from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. He makes a point of clarifying that, while he does believe in God and esoteric forces, they are really a matter of semantics so that even the agnostic pragmatist can embrace the principles he espouses. One of the most fascinating sections explores the defeatist and sinister nature of fundamentalism. Why is this important? Because this book is expressly inclusive regardless of spiritual beliefs or lack thereof.
This is about being the complex humans we are, having the fears and reticence innate to us and recognizing them as forms of resistance to accomplishing our most meaningful and authentic output.
I don’t mean to portray this as airy fairy. It’s not. As Mr. Pressfield himself says, “…this is war, baby.” When I read that I got jazzed up. No one said this life would be easy nor should it be. No one said I should have the luxury of knowing the outcome of my endeavors before I’ve brought them to fruition. I have to pay the piper if I want to be self-actualized. I have to risk failure. In fact, Mr. Pressfield illustrates the value of failure, with numerous painful anecdotes from his own life.
Whatever it is that calls to you, those impulses, creative, scary, perhaps unrealistic … assuming they don’t involve harming others (which he clearly emphasizes is damaging to oneself anyway), you have the opportunity to get off your ass, stop making excuses and do it. I couldn’t have read this book three years ago and confronted the fear of exposing myself as a creative professional, but this book is filled with the kind of rationalization-proof clarity that one cannot un-know once it is known.
Personally, I have done my time, licked my wounds, regained my equilibrium at least enough to move forward now. For anyone who is ready to move into scary and inspired territory, I highly recommend The War of Art.
Divorce Busting By Michele Weiner-Davis
I kind of wish I had this book before my ex split. I don’t know if our marriage could have been saved. But, it really helped me grasp what was going on. I tried a lot of her techniques and they worked to some extent but never completely. We were too far-gone.
I so appreciate this author’s acknowledgement and appreciation for how destructive divorce can be. I really didn’t need hogwash about how resilient kids are and how if I was happy my kids would be happy. I needed to read something that I could relate to as my life was falling apart. This book was it. I felt she knew what I was going through.
I don’t really believe that busting a divorce is possible most of the time. I’m kind of embarrassed and sad when I think back to the lengths I went to to try and save my marriage. But I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t try and a lot of the things I did were beneficial to me in the process, such as exercising, putting effort into my appearance, going out with friends, pursuing my own interests. Lest I give you the impression this was some sort of renaissance that I experienced, not quite. I was too distraught to eat so I got super skinny. I had a bad reaction to taking prozac once so had to exercise daily to ward off full-blown depression. I would force myself to dress up and go out even if it was to cry over a glass of wine at a friend’s house. But dammit, I stayed in the game and putting the effort into little things helped.
So, get the book, take what works, leave the rest. If you’re in the stunned, just been left phase, it’ll help. If you’re in the fed up and just about to leave phase, it’ll help. Help is a relative term in these situation but every nugget of insight helps when you’re in the no man’s land of separation.
This book is terrific for those who are still committed to staying together but struggling and looking to improve the marriage/relationship.
When Things Fall Apart By Pema Chodron
Over the years I’ve binged on self-help books and Pema Chodron stands out as my favorite author of that genre. Her matter of fact approach doesn’t dismiss or diminish the anguish all humans are apt to experience. She doesn’t coddle and she doesn’t shame us for being “negative” or depressed. Her writing is such a relief, such a breath of fresh acceptance. The moment we stop judging ourselves for our feelings, is the moment we can have the strength to look at our current situations with clear eyes.
With When Things Fall Apart, Chodron gently and lovingly guides us from fear to courage and reminds us that part of the deal here on earth is to take the bad with the good and suffering with joy. It doesn’t prescribe inaction or complacency but when we are feeling traumatized, sometimes the best we can do is step up to engaging in life and recommitting to all that it brings. I can’t do this book justice here. The best I can say, is that at my worst, it made me feel like something of a peaceful warrior that didn’t have to fake positivity or lie to myself in order to feel okay. I was able to start by feeling okay with not feeling okay and then paradoxically, I began to feel okay. 🙂
This may seem crazy, or shallow, or extravagant but if it’s the only thing you buy for yourself (as it is for me) it’s not such a major splurge.
I have no idea if I’m alone here but I am kind of obsessed with skin care. And I’m also a bit of a health nut, so ORGANIC skin care??? Heavenly. This particular brand has the most scrumptious blends of fruit based cleansers, masks, moisturizers and more. No they’re not giving me a kickback and I’m not affiliated. I am telling you sincerely that when I was down and out, an occasional purchase of a new mask or serum brightened my spirits. I would give myself mini-facials and my skin appeared youthful and glowing afterward. Why was something so seemingly shallow so beneficial? It was me putting effort into myself. It was me saying I was worth spending a little money on. It was me taking the time to pamper myself a little. And I felt more attractive too.
Maybe it’s not skin care for you. Maybe it’s something else. I am NOT saying that shopping can make you happy or cure depression. Hell no. But I AM saying that for those living frugally and spending money on other people as we parents (both mothers and fathers) often do, prioritizing your own well-being and shelling out a little dough to do it can give you a little boost.
I buy from skinbotanica.com. They have a huge variety of natural brands but Eminence is my favorite. I am in no way affiliated with the site.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! Exercise has proven to ease symptoms of depression. It causes the release of endorphins and can increase serotonin production (translation: makes you feel better and can sometimes be as or more effective than antidepressants).
This particular DVD set is awesome. Ranging from 39-65 minutes each, it’s doable to fit into a tight schedule. There’s not a whole lot of jumping around so you can do it quietly early in the morning or late a night (for a while I had an “exercise no matter what” rule so I’d find myself doing it after the kids were asleep).
I love the low impact while still but kicking effects of this set.
From the Editorial Review on Amazon (said it better than I could)- “Pop Physique incorporates a ballet barre-inspired exercise system into an efficient one hour class set to excellent music that blends elements of ballet, Pilates and light weight work into a methodical series of strengthening, isometrics, core shaping and luxuriating stretches…”
I am not an affiliate of Amazon or Pop Physique and I get no kick back…just giving you my honest recommendation of this program.
What are your health and well-being worth? Sometimes I feel like shooting myself when I leave Whole Foods with one shopping bag and a receipt for $200. Then I think about how long it’s been since I’ve been to a doctor and how much money I save being healthy and I feel a bit better.
I vacillate between consuming my health shakes and salads vs. having Starbucks and comfort food. I’m not an extremist but I can tell you, I feel completely different physically and emotionally when I’m putting healthy grub in my bod. Also, when I was severely depressed and had trouble eating, any combination of protein and healthy carbs helped. I didn’t have my shakes consistently back then but I think if I had, I might have gotten better sooner.
Here’s what goes in mine-
- Green powder (I like Green Vibrance)
- Omega 3 Fish Oils (any high quality tested for PCBs) or Vegan Omega 3 oils
- Protein powder (I like Nutribiotic organic non-dairy rice formula)
- Probiotics (any high quality brand- NOT drug store cheapo stuff, sorry)
- Frozen organic fruit (cherries, berries, mango, peaches)…this can be a lot of natural sugar so if you’re sensitive to that try some other possibilities (almond or peanut butter etc)
- Water, diluted organic apple juice or herbal tea, almond milk or whatever HEALTHY liquid you like (NOT Diet Coke, whiskey, wine etc)
- Vitamin D3 (I like Vitamin Code Raw and I open capsules and put in my shake)…many people have low Vitamin D levels so it is optimal to get your levels tested to know how much you need. I have not had mine tested but add a safe amount of vitamin D and don’t have it every day; YES, I should get mine tested (add that to my list of shoulds). And please, don’t take my word for it, do some research and ask your doctor about Vitamin D3.
- Vitamin C powder (I like Truly Natural)…During cold/flu season or if I have a sick kid in my house, I add the Vitamin C. I started it this winter and it has worked well.
It’s common knowledge these days that yoga is good for you. What can I say? It’s one of the few fads that I think is a positive one. Breathing=Good. Meditating=Good. Stretching=Good. Exercising=Good. It’s all good.
I think going to classes is best because you get out of your house, can meet cool people and feel less isolated. But, if you have to do it at home to do it at all, do it!! I recommend Rodney Yee because his DVDs are challenging but not over the top. They’re very calming while still providing a work out. There are so many sets on the page I linked to but my favorite set is the Power Yoga-Strength DVD because it’s only 25 minutes!!! That I can do.
Kind of a no brainer. Nature. Fresh Air. Exercise. Good. Good. Good. And freeeeeeee!!!! So no excuses. Even 30 minutes on an easy path will invite new perspective and lift your spirits.
A Few Good Books
I’m talking non-fiction or fiction but NOT self-help. Read about something else and get your mind off of yourself … fantasy, biographies, historical novels, classics, adventure … anything that takes your attention away from your immediate life and problems. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, was a quick, easy read that transported me into another world. I thought it would be silly or simplistic but it was gently profound and brought me to tears in the best way.
Reading is so different from watching movies or being online which are such passive mediums. Your mind fully engages and creates the images and memorable moments. You can be so much more invested in the story when you read. It’s such a relief to escape for a while into a great book. And, I also specifically recommend old school reading, yes tangible books rather than digital. I just feel more connected when I’ve got the book in my hand and have to turn the pages. I don’t read enough, been over a year since I delved into a good non-self-improvement book. But, I’m going to follow my own advice here and get back to reading. There’s so much potential for inspiration and revitalization in following the catharses of well crafted characters. Feel free to share your recommendations here!
Everyone is a writer. Just write. Write non-fiction or write fiction. Write about yourself or about others. Write the things you would never dare to say out loud. Tear out those pages and shred them if you need to but getting out the truth of what you feel is so cathartic.
I love writing so I write everywhere. On my phone when I have five minutes. On my computer. In multiple journals. On napkins if that’s what’s available.
Everyone has a story. Everyone’s story is interesting, at least interesting enough to write down for oneself.
Write on your blog or write on mine … I’d love to read what you have to say. 😉
And this one is freeeeeee too.
I’m spread really thin so I definitely don’t volunteer as much as I’d like to; I figure when my kids are grown I’ll give more of my time.
After my husband left and as overwhelmed with my lot as I was, I carved out a little time to volunteer with an organization that served one of my favorite causes (cleaner air quality). I can’t say that I stuck with it long but I knew that in this case, it was more for me than the cause. Just getting out of my little bubble and focusing on a broader issue was one of the first steps to me feeling somewhat grounded and a participant in life.
I think for most who are struggling to juggle families and careers and emotional/physical turmoil, expectations should be low on this front. Just getting out even once or twice for a trash cleanup day or feeding the homeless can help you and a greater cause.
With the amazing power of the internet, you can find the local organizations that tackle issues dearest to your heart. Reach out and don’t overcommit (I did that and ended up feeling really bad about not delivering). Just do what you can. You’ll also meet really wonderful self-less people that might renew your hope in humanity. That was certainly my greatest take-away from volunteering…there are truly good people out there.
Unfortunately, I can’t post a link here to good friends. In tough times you’re lucky if you have one. And sometimes the only one good friend you have is yourself. Hopefully, you’ve got one or many friends you can count on. Go out with a friend. Have a laugh with a friend. Cry with a friend. Help a friend. Be grateful for your friend (s).
I am lucky to have a handful of really good friends. But, I gotta tell ya, when I was at my worst, I felt like I had nobody. I felt like I could fall off the planet and no one would notice (except my kids of course). I don’t even know how I could have become so isolated and so lonely. I can testify that even if you don’t know how it will get better, if you stay in the game and take care of yourself, it gets better.
Disclaimer- None of my suggestions are intended to be endorsements nor are they meant to be taken as medical advice. I am NOT a doctor or psychologist (though even if I was I’d probably have to write this). Please seek medical advice and/or professional counseling for any physical or psychological conditions.