Depression and my Righteous Mom
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
My Mom sat me down when I was 13 and we had "the talk". That talk consisted of my Mom handing me a book and telling me if I had any questions to go ask my sister. Communication and interpersonal relations were never my Mom's strong suit. At least, that was the story I had spent years telling myself.
As I got older, I started to notice my Mom's absolute dislike of waking up every morning to go to work, and how she spent most weekends sleeping. Getting her out of bed on Christmas morning was even a challenge. My Dad, being the eternal optimist and a light in her life, somehow managed to motivate her, and even make her laugh. That all changed when my Dad passed away, and the reality of my Mother's struggles became obvious.
All of those years, my Mom was suffering from depression. I wasn't able to understand that when I was young. After all, when you are a child, the lens through which you see life is fairly narrow, and NO ONE was talking about depression in the late 70's and early 80's, at least not in the small town where I lived. Beyond people not talking about it, people didn't understand it. The solution for someone like my Mom was to just get up, get moving and stop being lazy. Her friends would tell her she had a great life and she had nothing to be sad about, and should just get in gear. Sadly, all these years later, I think there are still people who believe it is that easy.
I am not sharing all of this with you to make you sad. I am sharing it because I want people to know that depression is not as simple as putting a smile on your face and rolling out of bed. I also want people to know that my Mom was a fighter. Despite her fatigue, her sadness and inability to be motivated, she got out of bed every day, went to work, and came home and showed up for me and my sister. She did that without a therapist and without medication. She had no choice. She was a fighter.
As an acupuncturist, I am trained to treat people for a broad spectrum of health challenges from sore muscles to fertility. But guess what I treat most often? Depression. (If you guessed that already, pat yourself on the back.) I treat people who have had to quit their jobs, give up their apartments and move back in with a family member because their depression is so severe. Many of them are on pain killers because their bodies hurt. That is a common symptom of depression among others. These people are all like my Mom. They are fighters, and they keep showing up.
There is not one cure for depression, and it is not a quick fix. The people that I work with are in it for the long term. They know that it isn't a an easy road. Many of them take Chinese herbs daily as well. If you have ever taken Chinese herbs, then you know they are a dedicated bunch, as herbs are rarely described as tasty. Many of my patients take medication along side of their herbal formulas as well. I may treat the depression and anxiety, and may work with them to treat potential side effects of their medication. It is their choice, and we make a plan that works with them, and for them.
I take great pride and have limitless compassion for all of my patients. However, I hold a special place in my heart for depression. It has been 11 years since my Mom passed away. Every day, and every patient, I think of her, and her hard work to rise up and fight for a happy heart. She eventually got the support she needed, and her depression became an open conversation in our relationship.
If you know someone who suffers from depression, please know it is not as easy as putting a smile on your face and moving forward. I implore you to give them the space to have open conversations about what they are experiencing. Then, validate them. And then validate them again. If you suffer from depression, I wish you your cheerleading squad, and the belief that you are worthy and capable, and you've got this! May you find a path that leads you to happiness. Here are a few suggestions that my patients have found useful when helping them on their journey:
Food Journal - Look at your diet. Are there foods that make you feel more energetic or slow you down. Eliminate, add back, and see where you get to and if food could be a mood culprit.
Gratitude Journal - I keep one, and I love it. There are apps for it, and they take but a few minutes. These can be a great way to guide you with perspective, and lead you to different paths to happiness.
Exercise - I know this can be difficult. You don't need to train for a marathon. Find a friend to walk with you, or walk a friends dog if you prefer quiet. Just get outside, get in touch with nature, and get your qi moving. Be kind to yourself, whatever you chose, even if it is only 5 minutes to start you off.
Community and Connection - Find a hobby or a group of people who have similar interests. Studies are starting to show that people do better when they have a community around them, supporting them from anxiety and depression to addiction of all kinds.
Saying Yes and Saying No - Set boundaries that allow you to feel like you have the space you need to heal, but give you commitments that empower your mental health. They may be small visits, but they count, because you count.
Talk Therapy - Talk to your GP as there are many programs out there through the NHS that are free and provide great therapists.
Learn to Meditate - I know...don't have the time or energy, or it's hard. It is hard. You do need to carve out time for it as well. That said, it is worth the investment. There are so many apps now that will start you off on the right foot. Mindfulness can help you to see things with calm and patience on your journey. I practice what I preach and meditate and teach meditation and mindfulness if needed. So ask me if you need some recommendations of how to get started.
See your acupuncturist - I had to put this one, right? I have been giving and receiving acupuncture for 17 years, and I always feel balanced after a treatment, and believe my patients would say the same.
Whatever you choose to do, don't give up. My Mom never did, and that taught me to never give up either. So find your tribe to support you, and know there are cheerleaders out there cheering you on!
A song for this post, if you care to listen: Rise Up - Andra Day