It’s no secret to those who know me that I have been managing and dealing with depression since I can remember, depression was the reason I began practicing yoga and meditation. My grandfather was the first very serious sign that depression might run in the family, he committed suicide before I was born. I think about his story every time a suicidal thought pops into my head. His struggle and the very real impact his suicide left behind is something I continue to try and figure out. I have meditated on him for hours and I do feel he is constantly trying to tell me to keep moving forward, keep striving for happiness, and keep finding a solution to this problem. With all the mental health stigma currently floating around the ether I even question speaking out about it. However, I don’t feel I came to this earth to be silent about my struggles, people need help and solutions and if I can help even one person that would be worth it.
I began trying to heal my depression after I spent several days in bed in a dark mental fog. I can’t even tell you what triggered it, thats how bad the mental fog was, but thats how depression works, it clouds everything and drowns you in the shadows. I began to read up on medications and found I was too scared of the side effects. I didn’t want to be a walking zombie, I’d heard my friend in college describe it that way and I just didn’t want to replace one problem with another. Instead I began to workout, using the treadmill at the gym. I went another year this way with little difference, and then I went through a break up and I felt lost. Again the depression hit hard and I began to sink down into my black hole. I would eat fast amounts of meat and junk food, I drank soda 3 times a day with every meal, and I was not working out. I felt the lowest I had ever been. With a moment of clarity I decided to look up meditation, and thus my healing journey really began.
“Depression affects millions of people, and it may be a symptom of other health issues. For example, depression can be a symptom of gluten sensitivity, fibromyalgia, deficiency of the amino acid tryptophan, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, ciguatera poisoning, low testosterone, and pork tapeworms. Other foods associated with increased risk of depression include mercury (mostly from fish) and the artificial sweetener aspartame. Depression may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s diseaseand heart disease.”- from NutritionFacts.Org
After some time meditating I began to cut meat and dairy out of my diet. I noticed this not only kept the depression less frequent but it also made me feel better about my own contribution to a cruelty free life. This year I really found my grounding when I began to look into fruits, particularly how they effect the chemical balance in the brain. I researched and found that fruits are not just healthy in the simple sense of the word, but they literally create the fuel for the brain. Fruits supply the glucose the brain needs in order to function at its best, something I never knew before. I found a new diet based on the idea of maximizing the glucose in the body while cutting back on the carcinogens and toxins. I became my own guinea pig and within a few months have had only 1 depressed thought and no mental fog episodes. This is the first time in my whole life that has happened, I have more energy than ever before and have not been triggered by life events. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am actually stronger than my depression.
“Plant-based diets, high in fruit and vegetable intake, may improve mood and decrease depression. This may be becauseplant-based diets supply lower levels of arachidonic acid, and higher levels of antioxidants. Other helpful foods when fighting and preventing depression include turmeric, saffron, probiotics, flaxseeds and walnuts, and a carbohydrate-rich evening meal. Regular physical exercise can help prevent depression, and may work better than antidepressants, which may actually not help much at all. Listening to Mozart can also decrease depression and anxiety.”- from NutritionFacts.Org
This year I noticed that when I am in control of what I eat and when I choose to put my health and wellness first, it has really made the difference between living and surviving. I am of course not condemning those who are and choose to be on medication. What I am saying is that in my experience I have been able suppress my depression symptoms and frequency with some lifestyle changes. Science has been catching up to this idea in the last 40 years or so, entire websites are dedicated to spreading the research and help save peoples lives. Watch this video to see more.
I follow a vegan, plant based, diet with an emphasis on fruit and calorie intake. I loosely follow a particular diet that focuses on High Carb and Low Fat foods based on the research done by Dr Douglas Graham and Dr John McDougall. These days I eat a lot more fruit than I ever thought I would, sometimes up to 10 bananas in one meal! I also eat starch based foods as well, like potatoes. I cut the oil out of my diet significantly, specifically saturated fat. A big important part of my healing was getting sober, I have not had a single drop of alcohol in 4 years and have seen a huge improvement in not just my mental health but my physical health as well.
Every single morning I eat fruit for Breakfast. I always have bananas, they are rich in calories, potassium, and vitamins. If I don’t eat them whole I have them in a smoothie with water and a combo of other fruit. Lately I have been going for banana and mango smoothies! I also go for Acai bowls adding the antioxidants that suppress my symptoms significantly. I have to eat enough fruit to fulfill the calories I need to begin the day, meaning I am eating a gigantic bowl of fruit or a 32oz smoothie as one meal. Fruit are naturally lower in calories which is why you have to eat more in one sitting. For lunch I try to stick with the fruit meal if I can or I eat a cooked meal high in carbs, preferably macrobiotic, or veggies. For dinner I eat a cooked meal low in fat and really filling. I never skimp on flavor or desire, if I want a pizza I will eat it, and I almost always do! I also love to eat pasta and rice, tofu scrambles with veggies, large salads with plenty of yummy dressing, and soups. I almost always buy organic and keep the processed meals to a minimum.
Watch this video.
I absolutely attest that yoga helped me transform and have the tools to heal my depression. It began through the physical practice and evolved into spiritual engagement. Personally I believe I would be a very different person today if I had not allowed the yoga practice to practice me! On a weekly basis I practice about 5-10hrs depending on life circumstances. Anything less than that really brings me off balance. Meditation has become a huge part of my life as well, I practice between 10-45min a day. Meditation during my yoga practice is also a big aspect of why continue to do it, otherwise I would no longer be drawn to it. Depression shows up in many different forms for me, mostly as tension and loss of energy. After practicing yoga and meditation for a while I began to really notice when the depressive episodes would begin to appear. Before meditation I would not know how long an episode would last, after finding meditation I can get through the episodes with more ease and less suffering. I use pranayama and mantra techniques to get me through the depression as well as anxiety.
In Yoga there are 8 different avenues to the practice, the Ashtanga 8 limbs, and through studying these practices I found more and more wisdom in managing my depression. Particularly the practice of Ahimsa which translates to non-harming. Ahimsa is a deep lesson in learning to care deeply about yourself and others so that you can create more peace and balance in your life and the planet. Ahimsa has been my saving grace because it really gets me to look at the big picture, depression has a great way of making you feel really small and insignificant but the big picture goes beyond that. I believe that I, and everyone else, is here to be in harmony with this planet. When I limit myself to nothingness there is no where for me to go but 6 feet under, at least thats what depression tells me. I have learned to allow the light in and be brighter and louder than the low frequency voices in my head. I remind myself that I cannot help others if I am not around, suicidal thoughts are only temporary and they do not rule my life. I must let the light in to transcend, yoga is about transcendence and evolving past the crap we believe about ourselves, and I am of more service to my human community when I live in a higher frequency.
Seane Corn speaks beautifully on transformational work through yoga in this video.
I am not cured, I am healing and transforming. I am constantly learning about myself so that I can continue to grow and become empowered. My story is not finished and its by no means a streamlined beautiful beach of an episode! It is often confusing, dark, and chaotic but I am in constant search of how to let go and release the demons that seem to keep me heavy. Depression used to be the friend that followed me to every place I went, speaking only of the negativity around me and criticizing everything I did. These days I let my friend speak her peace and as soon as she is done I thank her for being my teacher and move on as gracefully as I can, holding peace and compassion near by.
My entire lifestyle is my tonic for depression, it is a dose I take daily and sometimes extra during the challenging days! I don’t have all the answers, I live every day as best I can and move forward. I share my story as a means of encouragement that it is possible to live a fulfilling life even when depression hits. Will I ever be depression-free just through eating clean, practicing headstand, and sitting quietly for a while? Who knows, anything is possible, right?! Only time will tell how this story unfolds, its worth a shot though I think!