Treating Depression with exercise: How I used exercise and physical activity to overcome depression one day at a time
Depression. The one word that still comes back to haunt me every now and then. This uncomfortably sad feeling that can surprise me on any given day, a storm cloud rolling in at any given time. It made me feel like the worst human being on earth. Doubting myself and fearing whatever future I may have had, if any.
My upbringing was tougher than most of my peers in the semi-private high school I attended. Yet it was more privileged than most of the kids in our impoverished country. Working part-time after school humbled me. Taking charge of responsibilities that weren’t supposed to be mine, taught me independence and strength. If only I knew back then what I know now as an adult. It was imperative in the formation of my work ethic and morals.
This challenging time was fuelled by my parents’ messy divorce, my mother’s own depression, my own low self-esteem and chaos that I could not control. Yet I was convinced that I brought it upon myself because I am not good enough and deserved to be punished. Being surrounded and consumed by this level of negativity was a big catalyst to awaken the beast in me, and made me fall from one extreme to another. Fits of rage and anxiety attacks turned into long sullen silences where I would suppress my emotions and not speak to anyone for days. Hurting myself took away the pain & frustration I felt when I couldn’t do anything about the circumstances around me.
The turnaround came when I consciously refused to be a victim of my circumstances. Coached by my now-husband and aunt, as they encouraged me to see a psychologist while attending varsity. This is the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I refused to accept any type of medication. The doctor fortunately respected my views and recommended that I start exercising as a means of treating depression. This changed my life.
I tried to be more active but it really kicked in when my husband proposed. Apart from the obvious wedding goal, I started exercising because I did not want to be a married, insecure woman. I could see how my depression was hurting the person I loved the most and it was about time that I did something about it, especially before I get married.
My goal was to not only be body confident, but to feel good about every aspect of my being.
To be good enough for myself for a change, and to appreciate the things our bodies can do physically and mentally. With exercise, came a whole lot of gratitude, for the smaller things in life. Like waking up with the energy and mind-set to make the most of every day. To take in every single amazing thing this life has to offer, including its challenges. The endorphins health gurus speak about all the time to encourage exercise really isn’t a bullshit story. That exercise high is real and it’s contagious to those around you. It made me realise I am capable of way more than I thought. It helped with my overall confidence and I am finally a woman comfortable in her own skin.
Of course depression isn’t just something that can miraculously be sweated away immediately. This, like any health and fitness journey, isn’t an easy process, it’s a daily challenge. In moments of stress, I still experience anxiety attacks & self-doubt. But now I know that I need to breathe, focus on the facts at hand and take solace in the fact that I can push all the bad feelings away during my next sweat session.
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