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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What To Do If You're Depressed

"Everyone has a book in them," says one of my mentors, Marla Cilley. And at this point in my life, the book inside me, if it ever came out, would DEFINITELY be about depression and how to beat the monster. So since I can't write a book, this is a warning that the following post might be a little long!

I feel mentally, like a boxing champion that has just delivered the final blow to the enemy, depression. Yes, I need to keep my boxing gloves beside me, just in case I need to keep teaching it a lesson, but the victory is- I'm not scared of it anymore, I know what it is and I know what to do to keep it at bay or make it go completely away. Bodies and body chemistry are constantly changing, so there's still more to learn, I'm sure, as I go through life, but I'd like to share what I've learned with you, because I hate more than anything the thought that something simple I could share would help someone feel 100% better, but the information never gets shared! There have been times that I've been desperate to make depressed feelings go away and I type into Google, "what to do when you're depressed" and nothing satisfactory comes up. So now that I've done all the trial and error and searching for you, I'm putting something out there for those of you searching.

So there are 5 different angles from which I have approached my depression or another way of thinking about it is 5 different types of ammo to fight it with. The 5 types of ammo are:

(As a short cut, click on any category above, and it will jump to the text below if you don't want to read the whole thing!)

I have researched these things for a long time because it was important to me to get as close as I could to the source of the problem, and not just cover-up symptoms with band-aids and have the problems continue to come back.

So let's talk about #1 SUPPLEMENTS first.

What has made the biggest difference was balancing my hormones. I knew intuitively that this depression was related to hormones because it all started at the end of my pregnancy with Mia and ever since she was born, I just haven't felt the same. I didn't use a doctor to balance my hormones. The only doctors that are even willing to test your sex hormones for balancing are integrative, forward-thinking doctors, and they usually do not take any type of health insurance. After I had decided what to do, did it, and saw it work wonderfully, I actually finally went to this type of doctor, and she just confirmed through lab tests that what I was doing was correct and working.

I'm going to share with you what I take, but please talk to your doctor, before you take any supplements, just to make sure there are not any contra-indications for any health situations you may be experiencing. Or if you're me, your GP says, "supplements? oh there fine. take whatever you want." So I was forced to research on my own what to take and how much and side effects to look for, etc. Also- I'm sure a blog post like this needs a disclaimer, so why don't I get it overwith? ;)

This is not a substitute f
or any recommendations from your doctor. If you are on any medication, please don't stop or start anything new without talking to your doctor. I'm not a doctor, or trying to prescribe anything for you, I'm simply sharing what I'm doing and my own experiences with depression. There you go!

So from researching, I found out I am "Estrogen-dominant" or "Progesterone-deficient." This is very common among women. It's not like I suffer from a rare weird hormone disorder or something. The reason why I chose to share this on the blog is that I think many, many people suffer from this but have no idea it exists. The symptoms listed for those conditions matched up perfectly to what I was experiencing. You can read about them here. So I decided to take bio-identical progesterone from a source I trusted. You can find out about estrogen dominance by searching on google. If you do that, basically a million articles pop up and choose any of them. Similarly, you can get on google and type, "how progesterone fights depression" and find a lot of resources. Part of what I learned when I was researching this was that anti-depressants actually work by trying to mock the effects of progesterone. I'd rather go to the real thing. Progesterone also works wonders with anxiety. I take this type of progesterone every night before I go to bed (all at once instead of throughout the day) because it is so calming. I had to start with an EXTREMELY low dose and work up. Too much made the estrogen even more dominant, and I would feel even more depressed. From this book, I learned to take a supplement to minimize that phenomenon. There are also others listed in the book, it is a great book, worth a read. One of them, co-incidentally is inositol. This is the supplement I mentioned in my post a year ago that was helping so much. Now I understand why! It was giving me a break from the estrogen dominance, but I needed to complete the puzzle by adding progesterone, etc.

One more tip- stay away from soy products!! And here's a hint- it's in everything! I was really sad I had to give up my favorite kind of Clif protein bars because of it. Soy is a phyto-estrogen. I don't feed my kids ANY soy. There are studies about soy causing early puberty in girls, and disrupts testosterone production in boys.

My most recent post was about the book, The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. This should be your bible if you want to fight depression with natural supplements. Below is a cheat sheet, but I STRONGLY recommend you pick up the book. There are other recommendations she mentions for diet and supplementation, more than is listed here. There are a few sections available on google books, if you want a sneak peek.

So in a nutshell, J ulia Ross says there are 4 different types of depression, and different corresponding supplements can help you. (There are questionnaires in the book to help you see if where you're at.) You can be more than one type, and it turns out, I had all 4 types of depression.

1) For anxiety, negative thinking, you need to take an amino acid called 5HTP. (For more detailed symptoms, see the book.) This is the most common type of depression. It means your brain does not have enough seratonin. 5HTP is a precursor to tryptophan, which is something that helps your brain make more seratonin. In the book, she also recommends eating a lot of animal protein. Animal protein contains protein with the highest content of tryptophan. If you are a vegetarian, and you are depressed, you may be able to fix this simply by adding animal protein to your diet. I am not a vegetarian, but I have added a free-form amino acid supplement to my supplement regimen, and I feel EVEN better. If you are looking for a free-form amino acid supplement, make sure you compare the ingredient list to Julia Ross' list of the 16 amino acids that your brain needs. The most important one you should see on the list is tryptophan.

2) For low motivation, apathy, low-energy type of depression, you need L-Tyrosine. This is also an amino acid. If you have this type of depression, your brain is having trouble making catecholamines. (Note: watch your blood pressure on this supplement.)

3) For feeling overwhelmed, stressed, unable to relax, etc., your brain is probably low in gaba-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This amino acid is wonderful. I take it to be able to sleep. My husband takes it when he is dealing with our kids and about to emotionally snap. You could take it if you are nervous about a situation to get your nerves under control. It is natural remedy that you don't have to worry about getting addicted to, yet you still get the amazing results. Click here for a link to chewable GABA.

4) Julia Ross calls this next type, "Too sensitive for life's pains." You're weepy, sensitive and sad. This means your brain is low in endorphins. The supplement for this is DLPA. This has been fantastic for me. This supplement has stopped my DAILY headaches!!!!!!

Ok, let's talk about the next type of ammo,


This is the first thing I tried in 2008 after my bout with trying 8 different prescription medications, after all 8 of them failed. The thing that caught my eye about this therapy was the study that showed that this type of therapy actually changed brain chemistry! I knew my depression was serious and I had some serious bad brain chemistry. What happens when you have repetitive negative thoughts is that they make a path in your brain, and you get stuck, because that is the ONLY thought-path that there is! But this type of therapy teaches your brain to make brand new paths, through new ways of thinking. With the layman's education I have on brain chemistry, I'm afraid that's the best way I can explain it. I hope that makes sense.

But here is how CBT works. And by the way, you should DEFINITELY buy this book, Feeling Good by David Burns, and keep it on your nightstand, read it again and again, because your brain will get lazy and forget after a while. Your emotions result from illogical thoughts. There are 10 different categories in the errors we make in our thoughts that cause us to be depressed. What you do is identify the thought that is causing a bad emotion. See if there is an error and if it falls into one of these 10 categories. Then you have to write this down, and write down a response to it. Here are the 10 categories, in slightly different language than Burns uses in his book:
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking. "I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure."
  • Disqualifying the Positives. "Life feels like one disappointment after another."
  • Negative Self -Labeling. "I feel like a failure. I'm flawed. If people knew the real me, they wouldn't like me."
  • Catastrophizing. "If something is going to happen, it'll probably be the worst case scenario."
  • Excessive Need for Approval. "I can only be happy if people like me. If someone is upset, it's probably my fault."
  • Mind Reading. "I can tell people don't like me because of the way they behave."
  • Should Statements. "People should be fair. If I'm nice to them, they should be nice back."
  • Disqualifying the Present. "I'll relax later. But first I have to rush to finish this."
  • Dwelling on Pain. “If I dwell on why I’m unhappy and think about what went wrong, maybe I’ll feel better.” Alternately, “If I worry enough about my problem, maybe I will feel better.”
  • Pessimism. “Life is a struggle. I don’t think we are meant to be happy. I don’t trust people who are happy. If something good happens in my life, I usually have to pay for it with something bad.”
Here's an example: I feel a little depressed and angry when someone gives me a compliment. I realize that my thoughts are saying, "They're only saying that to make conversation."And so I would write that down in one column, all the negative upsetting thoughts, being as honest and candid as possible, and you recognize that these thoughts fall under the category, "disqualifying the positive." Then in the next column, you write something that counters the negative thought, like, "My dress IS nice. They don't have to use that for conversation, they could talk about the weather." Continue until you think of as many arguments as you can for the negative thoughts.

I could not have uncovered many of the other bad habits of thought that I've had almost my whole life without counseling. One of the most difficult that I'm still working on is toxic shame. Toxic Shame is basically the "cover-up" that almost everyone uses from time to time to show the world that they are a good person. Toxic Shame is the tiny voice deep, deep inside you that says you are not a good or worthy person, that you aren't loved, or shouldn't be loved. This is a lie! What a discovery for me that your THOUGHTS CAN LIE TO YOU. Some people use drugs, alcohol, food addictions or shopping addictions to escape from feelings of toxic shame. Some people use accomplishments or busy-ness to escape or cover-up. Some people cover-up their feelings of shame by trying to appear perfect and flawless to others, never admitting they have struggles or trials. All of this cover-up is not going to make you happy. Working through these deep, deep foundational belief systems and attitudes is tough stuff. For my depression, it is the difference between getting my car simply vacuumed, and getting it detail cleaned- finding the dirt in the crevices and scrubbing the melted crayons out of the carpet, and finding the smashed raisins in surprise places. A book that has helped me with this is Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw.


1) Exercise- One counselor I went to see doesn't even see clients unless they are exercising regularly. At the time, that helped me so much, I canceled all my appointments with her! It makes me feel so much better. It's well known that exercise gives you endorphins. Find the type of exercise that works well for you, and as long as you're doing SOMETHING, a little bit is ok! Infinitely better than nothing!

2) Diet- First, stay away from aspartame, sucralose, and other "fake sugars" (Nutrisweet, Splenda, etc.)- they are neuro-toxins. They are not going to help the depression situation at all. Second, Julia Ross is a wonderful persuasive advocate for staying away from sugar. Get the book and read it! Third, stay away from junk food. In this day in age, I'm sure you have to know what to stay away from! If not, read You! The Owner's Manual and You! On A Diet. There are so many books out there, but these are so reader-friendly, and a great place to start for people just learning about nutrition. My main mentor on what to eat and what not to eat is Leanne Ely. I listen to her internet radio show, subscribe to her menu-mailers, and we eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fiber, nuts, legumes, healthy hormone-free dairy.

3) Sleep-the same thing that happened to me with prescription anti-depressants, happened to me with prescription sleeping medication. I would take something, it would work for a while, then my body would become tolerant and I would have to try something else. Finally, the doctor that was prescribing things was about to throw his hands up and give up. He had tried everything and I was running out of options. So about the same time I gave up on prescription anti-depressants, I also switched from prescription sleep medicine to natural remedies. This is what I currently take to get to sleep: inositol, progesterone, magnesium, and melatonin. If these don't work, I rotate between a few different herbs. Some that are helpful are valerian root, passion flower, and hops. This is a great product that contains a mixture of herbs. None of the herbs are addictive. I have heard that your body can occasionally get tolerant to valerian root, which is the reason I rotate. I am working through some other health problems, and I'm hoping that when I figure THAT all out, the sleep thing will get worked out, too. But the main point is that your brain will have a hard time functioning properly and overcoming depression if you are not getting any (or enough) sleep!!

I also recommend relaxing mp3's from this website. I listen to the one called "ZZZZZZZZ" every single night to get to sleep.

4) Environment, meaning how clean is your home and are you living in clutter? My favorite answer to this is the Flylady system. The Flylady talks about forming routines, like how you brush your teeth every night, so that when you apply that to your house cleaning, it all gets on auto-pilot. If you've been depressed for a while, you might have forgotten how to keep your home running smoothly while you've been in a fog. So when you finally start feeling better, it's nice to have a game plan. Flylady also talks about beating perfection, not being mean to ourselves, and making chores fun. Some perfect answers to overcoming low moods, if you ask me!

5) Simplify- I had to overcome my pride and start saying no to things to force me to stop focusing on others and start healing myself. If I didn't, I couldn't be there for my kids and my husband, the most important people in my life. You might have to say no to things in order to exercise or get your house clean! You might have to say no to things so you can eat healthily or get to bed at a decent hour! You might have to reduce your church, PTA commitments or community service if they overwhelm you or cause anxiety. If you are doing this so you can actively work on your healing, I'm SURE that God and the community understand and fully support you! If you can't reduce your stress, think about other ways you could give yourself a break. Could you ease up on your perfectionism? My husband's work will be asking him to work extra hours all of August. This is a perfect opportunity to practice this principle for myself and think how I could make things simpler and easier in my life, so that the lack of help I'm used to having from him won't become too overwhelming.

6) Positive Brain Washing- there are many forms of this. I try to regularly watch and read things that make me LAUG H!! I also listen to guided relaxations, guided affirmations, and guided visualizations. My problem has been that when I try to fight negative thinking, I will write down a response, but I have a hard time getting my brain to accept it, believe it, and stick to it. My therapist recommended I write down some affirmations and read them to myself 3 times a day. For some reason, I just don't like them to be in my voice or my writing. Maybe that will come later. But for now, my favorite website is These mp3's along with ones at have gotten me through some very rough times. My ipod is like my best friend! :)

I would say the top 2 action items I would tell you to do if you are having a VERY TOUGH TIME, would be to take 5HTP and/or go to and listen to the mp3 that seems to fit your problem.

If, heaven forbid, you are having a true mental health emergency, call 911, or a suicide hotline.


As I have been struggling, for the past 6 years, and slowly getting better, I can't omit in my story, the dependence I've had on God. I've had so many blessings I don't know how to count them. I've prayed for help and healing. When you're depressed, it's hard to feel anything positive, and that includes spiritual feelings, the feeling and comfort and security of God's love. I had to trust and know that even though I couldn't feel it, it was still there. I feel like God has guided me to find the counselor I needed, the supplements I needed, and the self-help books I needed. Without God, I'm nothing. I feel like my religion teaches the true way of life that leads to happiness. Having these values is the literal, basic recipe for happiness.

Don't give up! You deserve to feel well and you'll find something that works for you, too, as you search and work and experiment with the tips I've mentioned. If you have any questions about my experiences, as I mentioned, I'm not an expert, but I'd be happy to share more with you. You can email me at natalia_sp [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.


Mary said...

You are a brave lady. Awesome post. Just sent it to a friend. Thanks for taking the time!

Eh said...

Natalie! You could have your own talk show. I am in awe at the depth which you persued knowledge to conquer depression. I am smiling at your success, and at your kindness in sharing. AMAZINGLY WELL DONE!
-Jenny Hatch

Anonymous said...

Natalie. Thank you so much for sending Moriah and I this link. You have a wealth of information and I am so sorry that you have had to endure this hardship but getting to know you, that is what makes you the great lady you are today. I have taken my time getting through your post and trying new things for Moriah and I. She has a long road to go but she is doing much better. She just received great news that she will be changing schools this year so we are looking forward to positive things.

Thank you again for your sharing and insigths. I have been strengthened by you.
With Love,
Wendy Bender

Teresa said...

This was a great blog. I am in need of these supplements...

Pam said...

I've suffered from depression for years. I've been to therapy, taken anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, changed my diet and you know what? Nothing worked. When i felt suicidal earlier this spring, I knew there was a real problem.

I hired a personal trainer and set serious goals for myself. I completed a triathlon in July and am training for a 1/2 marathon in November.

I no longer see a therapist nor do I take medications. I vacillate on my eating habits. I still cry almost everyday. But it's good to know I'm not the only one who suffers from depression.

Patti said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! And you are on the temple prayer roll...keep going. Thank you for sharing, Natalie!