People say when you’re depressed, you feel flat. You don’t find enjoyment in what you used to, and you feel like nothing matters.
Something that should get you excited might just raise an eyebrow, and you can’t dredge up the energy to care about much of anything.
A while back, I questioned my mental health status here and there, but honestly? I didn’t have time or energy to deal with it. This summer, I’ve been working hard on my own health. I did a lot of testing and uncovered a number of underlying issues, taking all sorts of supplements and changing my diet to try to remedy them.
Among the discoveries were that I’m deficient in zinc and magnesium, plus iron and calcium for good measure. If you read my foods for depression post, you’ll see that sometimes, zinc or magnesium deficiencies are the sole root cause of depression or anxiety in someone.
I have been taking both for about six months now, and I finally have so much energy. When change happens in a complex system like the human body, we don’t always notice it shift.
But I’m thinking back to last school year…I often didn’t care at all about the state of my house. I would step over toys or papers on the floor with a deep sigh and know in my core that I literally did not have the energy to bend over and pick them up. Meal planning was like a boulder I was pushing up the hill every week, but it was always still at the bottom. We ate a lot of Costco sausages and other “I just need to get them fed” meals.
Is it High Functioning Depression?
I still worked hard. I don’t think you can depress a perfectionist out of herself, but I did not care about my work. I did not care about my church group. I just went through the motions.
I was angry all the time with my family. I can picture myself going down the stairs screaming inside my head, “I hate my life!” It was a common mantra for me, and it made me behave badly as a mom and a wife.
Of course, I did not hate my life! My children are amazing, I have a strong marriage, my business is successful, I’m surrounded by friends who love me, and I know that I am a daughter of God. But in those moments, all I could think of was that I hated my life. That scares me a little, looking back.
Don’t you think if I had gone to a doctor or psychiatrist with this story, that I would have walked away with a prescription? I wasn’t in despair enough to seek professional help, probably because my external life really was great. My husband and I work hard to pull each other up, and my prayer life and practice of gratitude serve as a solid foundation for mood and my approach to the world.
And while those things are important, and they do obviously help depression-proof people’s brains, when there is a mineral deficiency, it’s an uphill battle.
Lifestyle Changes to Reverse Depression
People call depression a chemical imbalance. But perhaps that doesn’t mean that one’s genetics are working against them no matter what, or that their hormones or neurotransmitters are out of whack. Perhaps they just need more zinc and magnesium! I was intentional all summer about getting outside, taking some walks, and finding ways to enjoy life.
However, I’m pretty sure if that’s all I did, it would not have given me the feelings I have today.To be fair, it is still near the start of a new school year, with all the promise and hope of new beginnings. That sort of time does inspire people to have more energy and motivation, but does it usually last 6 to 8 weeks?
It’s impossible to say if my mineral supplementation has fixed my brain in such a way, but I can tell you this: I woke up this morning in a hotel in Arizona, feeling like I could take on the world. I am not a morning person and could easily sleep till noon if allowed, but I woke up before 9 a.m. my time.
I finally let myself really analyze how I’m feeling and seriously think back to last winter and what that felt like. There’s no comparison. I always say that nothing ever seems to quite work for me when we attempt to improve our health. I rarely have that “before and after” situation where I can definitively point to something and say that it made a positive impact in my life.
I’m a skeptic. I’m hesitant to make bold claims about health. But after a weekend that I think would have crippled me a year ago, with myself coming down with a fever Friday, husband out of town the whole time, my three-year-old getting the fever Saturday and interfering with our family plans, and Sunday morning going anything BUT as planned with all that we had on the schedule and his lingering illness, I feel confident in saying that something big has changed.
I have started new routines at our family dinner table. I am working with our oldest to help his calendar habits, and even though that’s a challenge in itself for a 13-year-old boy, I haven’t given up or gotten frustrated or turned to despair. I have been working to clean up the piles in my house, and sometimes I’m even winning. But even when I’m not, I haven’t been giving up as I would have after trying something new last winter.
I’m getting so much done in my work, and even though I still look at my burgeoning to-do list and can’t believe how much I’m not getting done, it doesn’t feel like such a huge weight on my shoulders. And I’m jumping into everything at church with passion and positivity and great expectations.
Perhaps it is just the start of the new school year…That’s definitely what I had been thinking until this morning. Even though I have been low on sleep for the past month, I’m not a total wreck. Imagine how great I’d feel if I actually gave myself the sleep I needed!
The bottom line is that food definitely affects mood. Even though I was eating a really clean diet, lots of vegetables, and taking some supplements, I had no idea I was deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. Testing revealed that, and easy supplementation was able to re-balance my system. It feels amazing to be back on this path to health, to be myself again and be able to give to the world and to my family the way I know I was created to do.
I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of us, especially moms, are dealing with a low level of depression trying to creep up on our shoulders. I’m guessing that many would say they feel flat sometimes, even in the midst of great friends and a good family. There’s just so much going on, that if our bodies aren’t ready to handle the pressure, surely we either need to increase our anxiety or turn it off. I know both are out there.
Natural Remedies for Depression
So it’s great and wonderful and important to set up good routines and habits in our households. We need to be giving gratitude every day. We need to be eating good foods to nourish our bodies and brains. We need to surround ourselves with social communities because we are social beings, created to live with and support one another. We need to get sunshine, movement, and time to rest and relax. We need to try to get enough sleep.
But all of that is only one foundation. You also need to know if your body is missing something. All of that can only help you get to where you need to be, but it can’t get you all the way if your brain is starving for something.I can’t recommend enough that people get testing to see what mineral and nutrient deficiencies they might have and to work with someone to help get those remedied. (Here’s the professional I’m working with one on one right now.)
My health isn’t even great yet and that is a source of massive frustration to me. I’m still struggling with constipation (one of the major issues driving this whole quest with a practitioner), my skin still has some unexplained rashes (the other motivating factor to get professional help – although so far we’ve proven via stool test that it’s NOT candida as I previously thought!!!), my bloated belly is still a part of my life even though I’d hoped I would get to send it off on a long voyage, and I realized my hair is falling out to the point that it’s incredibly thin nowadays. I might have to tackle Hashimoto’s now.
So I’m not even healthy… Yet. But I feel like I can still handle life and that things will work out okay.
If some magnesium and zinc capsules and healthy habits can make that feeling a reality, I’m humbled and grateful for this world of education and information and that I was able to, with help, figure it all out.
See all the posts on depression at Kitchen Stewardship here.
Even if you don’t have mineral deficiencies, there is likely a physiological reason for your depression, your “funk,” or whatever you’re feeling that seems a little beyond your control. I highly recommend checking out psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan before going on (or continuing) anti-depressant medication. There doesn’t seem to be much good in them overall if you read all her research! HERE is a related video interview I was honored to do with her.