Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 40.
Keep Up the PACE
FIGHTING THE FEAR WITHIN
“Fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment!” Russ Quaglia
To say that I was afraid of what might lie ahead was a great understatement. I came from a long line of family members who suffer from depression. Some have been on medications with complications and some have been content to struggle with the disease on their own. And then there are some that remain in denial and are afraid to admit that something might not be right. I found it necessary to find some sort of middle ground.
At this point, I feel it is very important to address an issue that has a way of clouding one’s judgement. More specifically, one who is not thinking rationally as is. This issue is that of how people who have never suffered from depression, or have not been closely involved with a loved one who has, view depression in general. There is still quite a stigma against people who suffer from mental illness.
Just the other day I happened to mention to a colleague that I was writing a book about my experiences with depression. The comment that I received was one that I have heard on many occasions. I would be willing to bet that most sufferers have as well. “What do you have to be depressed about?” Believe me, I have asked myself that same question almost every day. This is one of the reasons most people find it difficult to seek the help of a professional. What I know now, is that depression is not a respecter of persons. It can and does affect both males and females, rich and poor, young and old.
Depression is not a reflection of one’s life, it is an inward disease without an outward appearance. Although symptoms are not physically seen, does not in any way mean that they do not exist! I was very fortunate to have a therapist who, from the beginning, explained this disease thoroughly and helped me to realize that this was not a reflection on me as a person. She gave me many options and explained each option in great detail.
Upon diagnosis is the best time for you to find a good support system. A loved one, trusted friend or counselor can help immensely. If you are not so fortunate as to have a support system at home, there are many support groups and therapists in every community that can help you.
Never give up hope, there is always a solution. As I spoke of in chapter two, I have always been a highly motivated person. I attribute much of this to the work ethic that my parents taught me. They taught me to take pride in myself and my accomplishments, and to always strive for something better. I believe that having positive role models in our lives is imperative to our success.
I remember on one occasion, I wanted to ride my bike down to the local convenience store with a group of friends. It was a sunny Saturday morning and this was a day when my siblings and I were required to help out with various chores around the yard. I must have been about ten or eleven years old. On that particular Saturday, it was my job to weed one of our many flowerbeds. It happened to be the one that was full of prickly bushes that would fill out the bed about three feet in width and grew low to the ground. The trick was to pull all the weeds that would grow up between the bushes. This was a job that was detested by me and all of my siblings, and I assumed my parents as well. Otherwise, why would they always make sure that one of my brothers or I had this job?!
Other than the scratches and cuts up and down my gloveless arms, what I remember the most was having to go back and finish my job because I had not done it to the best of my ability. This experience taught me a great lesson in taking pride in what I do and learning the importance of doing a job right the first time so I didn’t have to go back and do it over! I have to admit our trip to the convenience store was one that I felt I deserved beyond any shadow of a doubt. That candy never tasted so sweet!
As I began my road to recovery, these early lessons began to come back into my mind. I was able to realize that without risks there can be no achievement. And without working hard and lots of practice, how would I ever get better and stronger?
Starting on the medication was a huge risk for me, but one that I was willing to take in order to achieve a more fulfilling life. A better life! As the medication began to take effect, I was able to start thinking more clearly and rationally. I began to enjoy the simple moments in my life as a young mother. Bathing and feeding my young family became rituals that I relished. Even their mischievous moments became more enjoyable.
For example, the time I was overcome with panic, unable to find my four year old daughter McKayla. I had searched the house three times yelling out her name. I had sent five and half year old Chris, to scour the neighborhood homes. I had looked under the beds, just in case she had fallen asleep in one of her favorite hiding places, all to no avail. I called my husband at work in a panic. He reassured me that she would turn up and urged me to continue searching. We both knew how much she liked playing “hide and go seek”.
I hung up the phone, said a fervent prayer, and continued my hunt. As I was searching our toy room for the third time, I heard a muffled sneeze. I opened the closet door to reveal a “chicken-costume-clad” McKayla crouching ever so quietly in the corner. I scooped her into my arms and sobbed as relief swept over me. “Why wouldn’t you answer me when I called, sweetheart?” I questioned. With her innocent blue eyes, she looked up at me and said, “I thought you would get angry because I am wearing my costume, I’m sorry mommy.”
She had a dance recital coming up and I had asked her not to play in her chicken costume. As I documented this experience later on, I was able to see the improvement in my ability to stay “pulled together” at a time when previously, I would have been unable to cope. At the same time, it helped me to see how much I had missed feeling emotion. It felt so good to “feel” again.
But even though I had experiences like that one from time to time, for the most part my emotions remained on an even keel ninety percent of the time. I knew, that because of this glimpse of how good it felt to “feel”, I wanted more. I wanted something even better! I wanted to enjoy every positive moment. I wanted to feel sad when conditions called for sadness. Happy when things went well. And I started feeling as if the medication kept me from feeling some of these emotions. At times, I felt simply numb to emotion.
That is when I began to seek for something better. I have always been an avid reader. I loved to go to our local library. To this day, I have a stack of books beside my bed waiting to be read. I consider myself a “bookworm” because I rarely finish a book. I simply “worm” my way through looking for things that apply to me and my situation. I am a big fan of self-help and motivational books. So it was at this time that I made a trip to the library and returned with about eight books on depression, more specifically on alternative forms of healing.
As I read and reread I was able to see a common thread amongst most theories. Nutrition and physical exercise play a big part in maintaining our hormonal balance. But what I remember most was reading about serotonin, the brains own natural anti-depressant and tranquilizer. And I was intrigued that physical exercise played such a key role in the release of mood-enhancing substances known as endorphins. When endorphin levels become elevated so does one’s mood and vice versa. “This is it,” I thought “this is the key!”
I decided then and there that I was going to be in control of my own destiny. I had read enough and documented enough of my current patterns, to know that to go off of the medication “cold turkey” was not only dangerous, but could also set me up for an all-time low! Something I definitely did not want to have happen. I had worked so hard to come as far as I had. Instead I formulated a plan and set some goals, working with my physician. Together we devised a plan to wean me slowly off the medication. I had been working hard to exercise on a daily basis for about two years which explains the glimpses of emotion I had experienced.
Another major key in fighting depression is our diet. So I set out to find a nutrition plan that I could live with. Sifting through the wealth of information on nutrition is a job in and of itself! But as you are searching for something that will work for you here are some hints that I have found helpful. Be careful to avoid those that promise a “quick fix”. Avoid the diets that eliminate whole food groups. Make sure that whatever you choose, it is something that you can continue for the long term. If you have a hard time sticking with something for 2 weeks, you will never be able to stay with it for life. And above all, try to find a plan that works with your family as well. There is nothing harder than trying to fix yourself something different than your family. And it is just as important that they learn healthy habits too!
I have found that moderation seems to work the best. Instead of eliminating your favorite foods just try to learn how to enjoy them in moderation. Now, this is really important! Though I personally have learned how to function normally without the help of medication, and what works for me, does not mean that it will work for everyone. And it won’t always work for me, for that matter. I want to reiterate the importance of working with your personal physician and or therapist to find what works for you. There are so many options available today!
Throughout the years there have been times when I have let my priorities get out of line and I have not paid attention to what my body was trying to tell me and have had to return to medication. It’s not the end of the world! It is an option that is available to us and personally, I am so grateful for that! Whether you decide to try medication or not, definitely consider taking on an exercise program. This is where the list of priorities from chapter one begins to play in.
I hear so many people say that they cannot find the time to exercise. I agree that with a family, a husband, a job and all of our household duties, it is difficult. But if you make it a priority, even if it means getting up an hour earlier than everyone else, or giving up on your afternoon nap when your children are sleeping, you do it for one reason; Until you start taking care of yourself you really can not effectively care for anyone else.
Once you realize this you will be on your way to making some very positive changes!
Your assignment: Look back on your list of priorities that you made in chapter one and make sure that you are still working on them. If not, recommit to making this a priority! In your journal or on your calendar start to document your highs and lows and record your emotions. This will, not only help you to see and understand more about yourself and your emotions, but will also help your physician in making a correct diagnosis, should you choose to see one. Also, I highly recommend starting an exercise program. I truly believe that this is probably the key change that I made and have continued to do throughout my life that has kept me from slipping back into those major bouts of depression. Plus it keeps you young and looking great and that alone helps improve our spirits!
Thanks for reading today. I hope you are enjoying the book. Talk to you all again soon.