So, have you ever wondered why people eat as much as they do even when they probably aren't hungry... or why people eat a gallon of ice cream when they've had a bad day....or even why a scoop of peanut butter can make a piece of dark chocolate taste that much better when someone who strives to keep sweets out of her house has had a bad day? It's about control. Sometimes, the only thing we have control over in our lives is what we eat. And, so, many people (including myself), use it as therapy.
You would think, as adults, we have control over many parts of our lives, right? Well, in some respects, yes. I mean, we have control over whether or not we go to work, how much effort we put into our job on a daily basis, what our demeanor is like around others, etc. But, if you've ever been at a point where you don't feel that way, you'll take control any way you can get it. Often times, that need for control comes from something you may not understand. For me, that was my depression.
As a mental health professional, I thought I understood mental illness better than most people. In retrospect, yeah, I probably do have a better understanding than many people. However, it is so easy to miss those signs in yourself. Or ignore them. After all, I wasn't injuring myself in anyway, right? Wrong. Even though it wasn't visible, I was killing myself on the inside. Food made me feel better. For a few minutes. It made me feel like I had control over something in my life. Then I would get down on myself for giving in to eating crap. A lot of crap. And then I would look in the mirror. All I could see was someone who was so unhealthy, I got to a point where I didn't see the point in trying to overcome what I had done to myself. I figured I would just live the rest of my life in the body I had created on my own. And be miserable.
Imagine my surprise when, once I was willing to admit that I was depressed, how different the idea of control became. Take control over how I feel on a daily basis. Do what the doctor says. Use the resources that have always been right in front of me (namely, my family) as well as the new ones that were presented to me. Understand that it takes time. I didn't get to where I was physically, emotionally, mentally overnight. I'm not going to figure all this out overnight. But, each step I take, gives me just a little bit more of that control that I have longed to have in my life.
So, where did all of these thoughts come from? Well, I went in for a physical with my doctor today for the first time in over ten years. Don't ask me why it took me so long. Probably because I wasn't ready to face the music for so long. He told me I was boring. Which I took as a compliment. A doctor is probably the only person you want to tell you that you're boring. And, when he asked me how my brain was, I understood exactly what he was asking and could honestly say, it's great. I'm happy. I smile. I laugh. I have rough moments and days. But, thankfully, they are few and far between. He said, "isn't it amazing how exercise makes you feel?". And, to sum up my answer in one word, yes. Stress relief. Accomplishments. Physical, Mental and Emotional fitness. Crazy what taking just a little time for myself every day can do on so many levels.
And, as I've gone through all of this, I believe it has made me more keenly aware of what the kids I work with are going through. See, if I look back on it, I'm sure I was depressed as a teenager. People who knew me then can probably attest to that. And, 20 years ago, depression wasn't something that was talked about for teenagers. It's hard for me to remember ever being truly happy before the last two years. I could put on a front of happiness but, deep down, I think I always knew I wasn't whole. I write this, not to make people feel sorry for me because that is the last thing I want. I've had enough of that in my life. I just want people to have a better understanding of what people who struggle with depression go through. It isn't something we can control or just "snap out of" when we want to. I've learned how to control mine. And live with it. I work every day to not make food my comfort drug. Finding my purpose in life is my goal. I know I grow a little each day and I am so unbelievable grateful for that in more ways than I could ever say.
If you struggle, find a healthy way to take control. If you know someone who is struggling, don't give up on them. Often when they push you away the most is when they need you the most.
It's never too late for a new beginning.