“Heather, why are you here today?”
“I can’t hear my heart.”
This was the conversation with my endocrinologist, gynecologist, primary care physician, functional-integrative physician, psychologist, numerous energy healers, massage therapists and anyone that had an opinion on how to make me feel normal again.
“I can’t hear my heart.”
Technically yes, my heart was beating. It just no longer helped guide my thoughts and actions. And as “aural” and “new-age” as this may sound, it was pretty damn dark.
What I should have said is….
I can’t look at myself in the mirror.
I remember one day making eye-contact with myself in the mirror briefly and immediately broke down crying… on my hands and knees on my bathroom floor sobbing.
I can’t make decisions.
And I’m talking about silly little ones like, what toothpaste should I buy?
I can’t be by myself.
There were moments in my car or in my bathroom where I sat scared and confused just being by myself.
I’m anxious to be around other people.
I didn’t know what to say, how to interact, and truthfully how to hide the truth.
I can’t sleep.
My husband had to hold me down some nights to calm my body and after he’d fall asleep I’d stay awake staring at the ceiling, praying for my mind to stop.
I don’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Every morning I would lay in bed and try to find a reason to get up. My daughter would have to push me out of bed– it pains me to even admit this.
I can’t work.
And here’s where I thank my fitness instructor colleagues for saving my ass. I felt like such a hypocrite telling students to physically, mentally, and emotionally move their minds and bodies. Hell, I could barely brush my teeth.
I felt like I was in a shell of a different human, trying to escape and find my original home in my mind and body.
I cannot find joy.
This was most scary because I could typically look at my child or hug my husband and find immediate joy. It was completely gone.
And if things were a little different in our society I probably could have said,
Yet for an entire year, I said, “I can’t hear my heart.” So I’m saying it now: I was in an epic battle with depression. And now I’m winning.
I prefer ACTIONS over WORDS. So I tried what I believed was everything (except meds). I eliminated the obvious culprits: gluten, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy. I added natural supplements, wrote in multiple gratitude journals every morning and evening, exercised, and meditated, (a nearly impossible activity when one cannot focus). I exercised including cardio, strength-training, and yoga. I spent time in nature, drank 12 glasses of water a day, and saw my therapist weekly. I changed my cosmetics and the cleaning supplies in my home to more natural products. I made social plans, went to work, and even volunteered. Still, I couldn’t hear my heart.
I had been depressed before, but it didn’t feel the same; in fact, those episodes were short-lived — situational depression. Yes, I also experience sadness, but this is an emotion that I can move through quickly by talking to someone or meditating. No, this year-long battle was heavy, debilitating, and critical. After trying everything in my power, and after beating myself up for not being able to control these feelings or talk myself out of it, I found a way out.
With the guidance of my doctors I went on meds and within two days I began to feel a difference. After a week, I returned to my therapist and dove right into some serious work that I call “the fire”. A year later I can proudly say that this formula is right for me. Meds + intense weekly therapy (+ supportive family and friends) = a mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy me. This is NOT to say it’s right for you, or it’s what you should recommend to someone you know. I’m sharing my story because I tell it frequently with others and the reactions of widening eyes with, “me too!” are powerful. I am not alone… YOU are not alone. Mental illness is as real as a broken bone; yet, it feels like it’s something to be ashamed of or admitting a huge weakness. And quite frankly, it’s challenging for those on the outside to rally around someone who is so dark.
If you know of someone who may be battling a mental illness, let me tell you from experience that your presence alone is enough. You won’t say the right words and you certainly cannot fix the problem. And if you think you may be experiencing depression, you do not have to continue living your life in the dark. You deserve to live in the light.
Looking back on these two years I pause on a daily basis to give thanks for being alive. I am confident that if I didn’t find this mental health formula, I wouldn’t be writing this today… arms wide open and living in the fire.