Opening up About My Mental Health
I've wanted to share something with you for a while. But I've been so afraid to open up, of being judged, of being a let down to those who look up to me. As I write this I feel so much resistance and emotion well up. But I've realized that perhaps if I share my story I'd be able to encourage others going through similar hard times to reach out, to speak their truth, to seek help, and to find some comfort.
Being in the fitness & lifestyle profession, my job is to show up every day to motivate, inspire, to teach, and to deliver valuable content in the form of healthy recipes, workouts, and health tips. It's my job to bring the energy and enthusiasm to working out and eating healthy. BUT the last few weeks were anything but that for me. For the first time in 14 years of this lifestyle, I felt like my motivation to workout was nearly zero, I've been experiencing major stress and coping mostly by eating candy, and not wanting to get in front of anyone because all I felt like doing was crying.
Since moving back to Canada in November things have been anything but easy over here. Lack of routines, waiting for our stuff to arrive from Europe and the holidays made working out and eating healthy way more challenging up until the New Year. Then Aiden began his new daycare, I was in the midst of preparing for my new website launch, and trying to figure out how to manage all the tasks of being a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter and an entrepreneur.
And on top of it all, I've been struggling to find any meaningful work here in Montreal to help support my family and my business while it's growing, mostly because I don't speak French (which I'm working on but not fast enough :S). With every job rejection a little piece of my confidence has been chipped away at, and I've found myself slowly becoming more and more sad, anxious, unsure of this move here, and not wanting to face the day. My patience with Aiden has been very short and I know that I haven't been a great partner for Ty. It's been a series of lows and despite knowing how good it feels to work out and eat healthy, I've really struggled with this, and it's felt like I'm just in this survival mode every day. Which has made showing up for my business extremely difficult.
And it was only until a very close friend of mine shared with me that she was dealing with depression that I stopped to examine where I was at. Mental health is not black and white. It's this continuum of feelings and functioning, and for the first time in my life I was starting to realize that I was heading down the continuum towards depression. My coping strategies, which consisted of numbing out with hours of Netflix, consuming waaaay too much candy, ice cream, and wine, and withdrawing from the things and people that brought me joy, were obviously not helping me get better. Even if they were bringing me some transient pleasure in the moment.
There was a bit of denial at first, thinking I was managing it and that this couldn't happen to me. That I'm not that person who becomes depressed. That I could just will my way out of it. But as anyone who has experienced this would tell you, it's doesn't go away just by wanting it and willing it to. You've got to DO something about it, and getting started with this process can be extremely daunting and overwhelming. It has been for me anyways.
But I realized that if anything was going to change, I had to help myself first, and the first step was admitting that there was a problem and that I needed help. When I reflected on what things I was doing to really support myself, to give myself the self-care to be able to cope with my situation and to show up better in my life, I realized that I came up pretty empty-handed. I had no regular self-care routine! How did it get pushed back so far on the back-burner of my life? I'm not really sure, but I suspect that looking after everyone and everything else has something to do with it.
I've been pouring from an empty cup.
No wonder I felt like I had nothing left to give, no energy, and like I needed to fill up with something like candy to temporarily feel better. Have you ever felt like this?
I decided that I had to start doing SOMETHING to help support myself, to start nourishing myself, and to start coping better. And I knew I needed more help than what I could do on my own.
I've reached out to the health services at McGill to start seeing a counselor. While I've reached out to a few close friends and family to share what's been going on, I feel like having a trained professional who is there to listen, who is unbiased, and who can offer structured guidance on how to better cope with things is what I really need. While speaking to a stranger feels difficult right now, I feel like it's unfair to put that sole burden on friends and family. So I'm looking forward to having another person with whom I can share my experiences and create some long-term solutions with.
The other thing I've decided to do is start with some daily and regular self-care routines. Read: DAILY + REGULAR. Not one-off. Or once a month. Or once every 6 months. Some simple things that I could start doing immediately that could start making me feel a bit better.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The following is my personal self-care regimen. Being a former Naturopathic doctor, I'm well versed and knowledgeable in supplements, making this routine very specific to my needs and current health. I'm sharing this with you for educational purposes only. ALWAYS consult your health care provider before beginning any new supplement routine, to make sure it's safe and effective for you.
I knew that there were tons of great supplements and small daily routines that I could be incorporating to help support me during this time. So here's what I've started doing on the daily:
1) FIRST THING IN THE MORNING 6:00AM - Wake up before everyone else. KEY - I want to wake up intentionally and have some quiet ME TIME. I make a bullet proof coffee, light some candles, and do my 5-minute journal. I write down 3 things I am grateful for, 3 things that will make today great, and a an affirmation.
2) Supplements - After my first meal I take:
2 capsules OrthoAdapt by AOR - To help support my adrenals & help cope with stress.
1 teaspoon Omega 3 by Nutrasea - I don't get enough in my diet, and omegas help with mood and brain functioning.
10,000 IU Vitamin D3 by AOR - In serious need as this winter has been brutal, and D3 is known to help with mood.
2 tablets Pure Foods Women's Multi by Natural Factors - My nutrition has not been enough, so this is my insurance policy.
1 capsule HMF Forte by Genestra - Probiotics to help support my gut health, again because my nutrition hasn't been 100% and because my stress is being felt in my gut.
1) 9:30PM - Start winding down for bed. Computer away, phone away, Netflix off.
2) 1 teaspoon Natural Calm + 250ml hot water - Magnesium is known for helping muscles relax, improves sleep and helps me calm down before bed.
3) 10-15 minutes reading - Currently reading Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein and Blue Ocean Shift by W. Chan Kim & Renne Mauborgne.
4) Lavendar lotion - Currenntly loving this cream by J. R. Watkins. It's paraben-free, pthalate-free, artificial fragrance-free, and dye-free. Lavender is great for relaxation. I also picked up the shea butter hand cream and I LOVE it for my super dry hands.
5) Black Mud Mask by Zarqua (1x/week on Sundays) - Another amazing product that I got from Holland. It's also 100% natural and really cleanses my face. Awesome weekly face-love!
6) Home Manicure (1x/week on Sundays) - My hands have been in desperate need for love.
7) 10:30PM - Bed time. Sleep is so essential to good functioning, so this is now a big priority for me.
To keep myself accountable to sticking to this routine, I've started tracking and checking off what I complete throughout the day/week in my journal. That way I can see how consistent I've been and how that has translated into my feelings, functioning, and coping.
I've really just begun this process, so I can't say that I'm all better. BUT in the relatively short amount of time that I've been doing these things, I can say I've started to notice a shift in my mood and optimism. I still have a lot of work ahead, but I'm just trying to take it one day at a time.
And if you've read this far - thank you for reading. It really means a lot that you would take the time out of your day. If you have been going through any thing similar, I want you to know this:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
There are people out there who can help you. There are support teams, there are Facebook groups, there are trained professionals to offer guidance and support. Please reach out to whatever platform resonates with you and get the help that you need. And know that I am listening.
Now, I'd love to hear from YOU:
What's 1 thing that really resonated with you today?
Let us know in the comments below. You never, know: your thoughts, ideas, and stories may really help someone in need.