Well. After much anticipation over the past few months about doing a bodybuilding competition this spring, I decided not to.
The reason why isn’t very glamorous. I’m not getting married or having a baby. I’m not moving or buying a house. The reason I decided not to compete this year is that I’m struggling with severe depression right now.
I’ve had depression for all of my adult life, and I’ve been on and off (but mostly on) medication for it the whole time. Even while on medication, my depression takes a sharp turn for the worse in the wintertime. It’s cold, it’s gray, and it gets dark before dinner time; the perfect recipe for a mental health disaster.
Throughout November and December, I did four things: work out, try to write, eat, and sleep. And the only one of those four things that came easily to me was sleep.
When I’m depressed, everything seems awful. I can’t get excited about anything, even things I normally enjoy. I can’t see any good in anything, even in myself. I feel lazy, unproductive, tired, and like a failure. Everything feels overwhelming, and the littlest things (sounds, comments, minor setbacks) send me into a tailspin. I feel like a gray, emotionless blob with nothing to live for.
To escape feeling that way, the only thing I can think to do is sleep. There were days this winter that I could barely get out of bed to eat. I’d drag myself to the gym and feel better after I worked out, but only temporarily. Within an hour I’d go back to feeling like a gray emotionless blob again.
Then in January I began contest prep for a bodybuilding competition this April. I had to choke down six meals a day when I’d rather just eat four or five. I had to cut out my favorite heavy weights workouts in favor of not-very-fun plyometric- and HIIT-based ones to help me achieve great conditioning. I couldn’t go out on dinner dates anymore. And all of this was on top of the worse-than-usual depression I’d already been struggling with for the past two months…I felt out of control of my life.
I don’t want to hate bodybuilding, and if I were to go through this prep process in my current state of mind, that’s what would end up happening. So after a few evenings crying about it and asking people I trust for advice, I decided to stop competition prep until I could get my mental health back in order.
There will always be another competition around the corner, but I don’t get a re-do on my twenties. I have to listen to what my mind and body are telling me, and they’re telling me they need a break right now.
What I’m doing to get better
I removed a mental health obstacle: competition prep. With one less stressful situation, I feel more in control.
I saw my doctor and had my depression medication dosage adjusted.
Whenever I think of it, I track my mood and emotions with the free app Pacifica. It charts my feelings with a line graph that helps me notice patterns in my thinking — it’s amazing how much self-awareness can help. I highly, highly recommend this app to anyone who struggles with depression or anxiety.
I started going to a spin class to get me out of the house and around people more. Since I work from home, I have to make an effort to be around other people. If I don’t, I get into a funk.
I also started going to a yoga class at my gym. I used to practice yoga all the time and got away from it over the years. Yoga makes me feel very centered and is a form of meditation for me, so this is a necessary addition to my routine.
I joined Meetup.com as well as a number of “what’s happening in my town” groups on Facebook so I can feel more in touch with my new city. And I’m going to be regularly planning fun activities to participate in so I don’t spend every night at home. Tomorrow I’m going to dinner and to a “wine and design” night!
If you are depressed
Please talk to someone who cares about you. They may not understand what you’re going through, but they can listen and help you think through some next steps.
If you are suicidal, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 now.