Friday, 14 December 2012

A Great Natural Anti-Depressant

One very good thing I continued to do during the slow and painful transition from badly married to church-approved (with papers!) Single again was go to the gym. For a while there, that meant both gyms: the YMCA and the boxing club. Boxing and I parted ways, eventually, but I kept on going to the Y. And great was my joy when I went back to university and discovered that the use of both of the two big gyms was covered by my tuition. I went with the bigger one, the one Olympic athletes train in. Then I worked out an hour a day, every second day: half an hour on the treadmill or the step machine, and half an hour with the weights and weight machine. When I tired of the shenanigans of immature undergrads, I took advantage of the Women-Only hours. Generally it was me and the Muslim girls. Peace at last.

Sadly, when I went to Boston to do my PhD, I discovered that graduate students had to pay hefty fees to use the college gym. So I joined a commercial gym relatively nearby, but somehow--what with the weather being as cold as it was, and it not really fitting into my schedule, and not being able to make ends meet--I stopped going. I also gave up on ten (goodness!) years of low-fat habits and used Ben & Jerry's ice-cream as an anti-depressant until I dropped out of the PhD and my doctor put me on the real thing

Oh, my pills! I loved them. I got so much done. Listen, I love anti-depressants. Before I went on them, I was like, "Oh, I don't want to lose my personality, weep, weep" but afterwards, I was like "I love you, little pills!"

When I got engaged to B.A. the first thing the various doctors in my life said was to get off the little pills because there are few things worse for little baby brains--should you get pregnant--than my friends the pills. You have to give them up as soon as you get engaged, so that they can gradually leave your system. And at the time I gave them up without a care because B.A. is an anti-depressant in himself.

However, melancholy is the writer's lot, and I also have Nerves on top of it, and the practically pharmaceutical nature of falling in love wears off after three years, so B.A. and I decided that this time I really should go back to a gym and stick to an exercise regimen. So I have.

From failed experiments in this direction, we have learned that the most important aspect of a gym is that it be within a twenty minute walk of our house. After that it is important that the gym has everything I like--treadmill, row-machine, standing weights, free weights and stoical men who are serious about working out and so barely notice if women are around. Then it has to be affordable, which was a bit of a poser re: nearest gym until I discovered that it has a special, lower fee for those who come in only between 9 and 4. Yay!

One thing I noticed the first time I worked out in this gym is how mad my upper back was when I did chest flies. It shrieked a bit. I wondered why the heck that was, and I suspect it was from being at the computer for hours and hours a day. Fortunately, it is better now, or at least beaten into submission by the new exercise regimen formulated for me by an immensely wiry Scottish trainer.

Since I was Single for most of my serious gym-rat days, I was reminded of those days today, and it occurred to me that I would have been a lot worse off mentally, not to mention physically, if I had not worked out so much.

So today's Auntie Seraphic advice, keeping in mind that Auntie Seraphic is not a doctor, is to think about joining a gym, if you do not belong to one already. If money is an issue, see how much it costs to use your college gym or if the local YMCA has a sliding scale. Not to get all socialist here, but if governments were serious about universal health care, they would subsidize gym memberships and slap warning labels on chip shops, pie shops and burger joints. As a friend of mine with the Ministry of Health used to say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


Andrea said...

I'm not sure I do anything at all for my physical health by being addicted to working out/physical activity. I do it PRIMARILY for my mental health. It is SUCH A GIFT to be able to go for even a quick run.

Good luck, Seraphic!!! I'm sure you'll do well with this, as you were once into it so much.

thanks again for all your blogging, keeping up the flagging spirits of so many single women across the globe!

Sarah said...

I have depressive tendencies, and fell into a kind of spiritual and emotional rut over the summer which I treated by going running through the two neighboring villages. It really helped. Exercise releases feel-good hormones, and besides that, is a good self esteem boost. Even if you got nothing else productive done that day, you ran 5k more than most people you know.

As the bitter cold Central European weather hit, I stopped doing it, and lo, I started feeling worse. I think I'm out of the rut, but I want to see if my village has a gym anywhere. I don't know of one, but I do know there's a pool, so maybe? *shrug* But on my 200 euro allowance per month, I don't know if it's possible for me to shell out money for it. :/

Anonymous for this post said...

What would you say to a woman who would like to be married someday but whose depression is so chronic and severe that she will probably never be able to function without medication (family history, personal experience, and her doctor all point to this possibility)? Someone for whom the "natural" anti-depressants are not nearly effective enough? Should such a woman not even get engaged? Obviously in this case the Church would approve the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy (a serious health condition seems to me to count as a valid reason to avoid pregnancy), but even NFP isn't 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Seraphic said...

Well, you'd need to talk to a doctor about that. Just because my pills (SSRIs) would have been bad for baby brains, doesn't mean that all medication would be. I keep meaning to talk to a doctor about that myself, but nothing reminds me that I'm in a foreign country more than talking to local doctors.

The important thing, in my case, was to rid my system of my pills before getting married. And I myself did not suffer any ill effects.

This conversation is probably completely incomprehensible to readers on artificial birth control.

Eliz... said...

The gym I use is connected to the physical therapy department at the local medical center. And because I began using it as part of my physical therapy I was given a discount so I pay $10 a month to use it. The discount is given as incentive to continue use and as long as I maintain my membership I'm elligble.

There aren't any classes except for seniors but personal training is free. And it's open 24/7.

The affordability is probably the main reason I work out. I wish everyone had this.

Eva said...

Anonymous, I'm a long time reader of the blog--not much of a commenter, though. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since puberty, at times very acutely. I have two sweet little girls and took SSRIs while carrying them, with a lot of dose tweaking and strategic weaning. Some drugs are better than others, for pregnancy and for the nursing period. Both psychiatrists and midwives encouraged me to include medication in the treatment of my depression (I also tried exercise, omega-3s, spiritual disciplines, counseling, and an intentional social life). Medications are not consequence free, of course, but apparently many recent studies show that *untreated* depression in pregnant mothers has harmful effects for their children, especially behavioral issues. After all, having a brain bathed in stress hormones, and being gestated inside a mom who is making, um, depressed lifestyle choices isn't good either. So consult with everybody about your options if you were to become pregnant. My girls were born healthy, their brains are fine, and I am much stronger in so many ways!