If you suffer from depression like me, you can completely relate to this quote above. Depression as well as other mental illnesses affect ones mind, soul, and body, too! The physical affects that take a toll on our bodies is unbelievable and is something that people who don’t suffer from mental illness will ever know.
My body has changed dramatically over the years especially since 2005. That year, I suffered what doctors would call a “mental breakdown”. True, however, it was more of an “awakening” for me. My body was telling me that I needed to start take better care of not just my physical health, but mental health. Ever since, that “awakening” or “wake up call”, my body hasn’t been the same since. The affects that I feel everyday are weight gain, increased/decreased appetite, sleeping patterns, aches and pains, lower back pain, and memory, too.
As I stated in previous posts, I started going to therapy and started in taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications since 2005. I stopped living in denial and (had to!) accept that I have depression and anxiety. Since then, my once slender self is now an overweight (not quiet obese, maybe a little) adult trying to live a healthier life. My depression has caused me to binge eat and sometimes not eat at all. Luckily, I didn’t get anorexia or bulimia. But I don’t rule anything out. Life can always surprise you. But my weight has been like a yo-yo for the last 13 years. (Not good!) I used to be around 120lbs and now I’m 200lbs and I don’t like that about myself. Losing weight is hard! Gaining weight is very easy. It’s a daily struggle to eat healthy especially when your mind prefers unhealthy food, but I always try to change my ways of thinking when it comes to food.
Since I’ve never had a weight problem before, I struggle with diet and exercise just like others. I hate eating healthy (but, oh well!). I still have a lot of things that I still want to do in my life and in order to do that, I need to change up my lifestyle. Shopping for clothes is always something that I truly hate. I do not like walking into stores and seeing stick thin clothes like skinny jeans for skinny women. I do not like that fact that a lot of celebrities promote toned, ripped physiques with no cellulite or fat at all. That’s just not realistic. I don’t have money for a trainer! When I do go shopping, I get so insecure especially looking for slacks. I used to be between a size 8-10, and now I fit into a 14 or 16. I shouldn’t body shame myself, but I don’t like being overweight. I don’t really care what others say about my weight, I’m very insecure when I look at myself in the mirror. I don’t like seeing “spare tires” or “love handles” as they are called, but I’m working on that!
Along with the weight gain came my appetite for food and I mean unhealthy food! As I stated before, depression can increase/decrease your appetite for food. Your weight will fluctuate depending on what’s happening in your life and if you’re on medication. I said a good 75% of my weight gain was attributed to medication and about 25% is my own stupid fault for eating the wrong things. Some days, I have a healthy appetite for food and will eat those 3 meals a day and a snack or two. Other days, I will either eat too much or not much at all. On the harder days, I will binge eat on junk food aka comfort food because it’s my way of coping. Some drink, some smoke, or self harm, I eat. My biggest mistakes are when I skip breakfast (don’t do this!), eat late after 7pm and into the wee hours (again, NOT GOOD!). Some days after work, I’ll be home around 10:00 or as late as 11:30pm and I will head to the fridge or pantry and find my comfort food. This is where a lot of weight has been gained and it’s something that I’ve been trying to work on everyday. Somedays, my mind says “I don’t care! Let’s pig out!” But my body is saying “Stop this habit now, before something serious happens!” Everyday is different and some days I feel like eating a lot and other times I’m too stressed and nauseous to eat all. FYI, medications can screw up your appetite and can make you very queasy.
Sleeping has been a big problem over the years. When I was growing up, I slept like a baby and without a care in the world. I miss those days! Ever since I graduated from high school and entered the “real world”, my sleeping patterns are completely different! My love for sleep became a battle everyday. There were times where I looked like a complete zombie because I had very bad insomnia. Trust me, everyone has a remedy for sleeping soundly through the night and I’ve tried just about everything to cure it. One of the things that I talked about my doctor was insomnia. Anxiety was making me stay up all night long. I couldn’t sleep. Too many things were on my mind and I couldn’t hit the mute button in my head in order to stop my racing mind. So in order to relieve that anxiety, we tried Xanax. We talked about Ambien but remember any medication can be very addictive! I know! My mom keeps her pills locked up in a safe because she will consume the entire bottle. She’s done it many times. When I first started Xanax, it helped clear the clutter in my head and relaxed me, but above all, it knocked me out. For the first time in my life since I was a young girl, I could SLEEP. I slept 8 hours a night, but with a catch. There’s always a catch somewhere. The downside of Xanax for me is oversleeping! So I got rid of my insomnia, now I was sleeping too much. I would sleep for 8 hours and then in the afternoons take a long 3-4 hour nap. Any professional will tell you that sleeping for long periods of the day will keep you up all night long. Been there! Lately, I’ve been trying to going to bed earlier and waking up a little earlier. And if I take a nap, then I set my alarm for 60-90 minutes of nap time in order to recharge and then keep moving throughout the day.
Did I mention that depression causes aches and pains? Oh yes! I used to work for a retail company a few years ago, where I did a lot of physical lifting as part of my job. I would set up new promotions on a monthly basis, move shelves and lift products up to 15 or more pounds. I also did a lot of freight as well. I would unload pallets of products and have to unpackage them, count them and put them out on the floor. Sometimes those products were more than 25lbs. It was like I had joined a health club. I did gain muscle strength, but didn’t lose weight. Darn! So the aches and pains that I would get, I just assumed that they were from work. Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. I’ve had muscles aches, and tight muscles all over my body. When you’re stressed the muscles tend to tighten up like a knot and here comes the pain. OUCH. I had to invest in some Aleve and Ibuprofen (not at the same time!) because muscle aches hurt. I can’t tell you how many times where I’ve been in bed and my whole body hurts. When my whole body hurts, then I can’t sleep and it drives me nuts. Headaches are something that I get quite frequently. Migraines, only once in a blue moon. Thank God! Migraines are like someone pounding your head with a sledgehammer over and over. I will get sinus headaches (when I have allergies), but will get those stress or tension headaches. And those are like someone taking a giant band and wrapping it tightly around your head. I’ve had pain on the sides of my temple, in the back of my head or all over; and it really sucks. Sometimes at work, I have to take a step back and take care of myself. Somedays, I feel like I’m an ad for AMEX “Don’t leave home without it.” I don’t leave my house without my trusty pain relievers, and Pepto.
Now because of my up and down appetite with food, I will be the first to say that depression and anxiety will screw with your digestive system particularly your stomach and colon. I can’t tell you how many times where anxiety causes me to become nauseous and/or sick and really cleanses your colon. This is why I keep Pepto with me wherever I go. Typically at work, when I experience anxiety either caused by co-workers or customers, it will affect my stomach. There have been many times when I’ve had to run to the nearest restroom because I would get sick. This is no joke at all and people who don’t suffer from mental illness will never understand this until it happens to them. A lot of co-workers including my boss have seen me go back and forth to the bathroom and quickly assume that it’s a bug or something. One day, I was talking to my boss and I had to make a few trips to the bathroom because I didn’t feel well. My boss asked if I was ok. I said yes! And if you ever have depression, then you know how it feels.
Last year, I was working at my old store and thankfully, this was before my shift was up; I started experiencing this weird back pain. I started getting intense shooting pain radiating from my lower back all the way down to my foot. At one point, I couldn’t sit down. My butt was sore. I couldn’t walk because my muscles in that leg were weak and assumed the worst. It went away after I got home. But it started recurring, and finally made an appointment my with doctor. He was able to identify that my lower left 4 lumbar in my spine was being aggravated by something called sciatica and that was causing my problems. I was like: “GREAT!” Anything other part of my body going to fall apart now???? So I was prescribed some muscle relaxers and used my NSAID reliever Aleve to help my sciatica. Exercise is another good thing to do when you have this! Let me tell you those muscle relaxers are like “miracle happy” pills. The pharmacist gave me the usual “These are very habit forming and addictive” speech and I said that I’m fully aware of that and just need some relief. I can see why they are. My entire body was relaxed. My overall mood was relaxed. I had probably one of the best nights sleep, ever. Luckily, I’m not on those anymore because I probably would be seeking rehab for addiction of muscle relaxers.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that depression really affects your memory! I’ve noticed this in recent years and I got a little concerned by this since my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. My mother has memory issues partly because of her depression, but also because she does ECT treatments. ECTs cause short term memory loss and sometimes confusion. That sucks, doesn’t it. Sometimes, I’ll get a little confused or forgetful because stress and anxiety will do that because cortisol acts like a toxin in your brain and causes this. So my favorite forgetful moment or “blonde moment” as I call it is: “Where did I put this? Or why did I come back here for?” This usually happens at least once a day. More when I’m under stress. So in short, depression does affect your body! And how it affects others is different for other people.