So this post is a bit long and about the beginning of my path in fitness. Going through this really made me understand the importance of being active and helping others to be active as well. It can be so important in people that suffer from things such as depression and anxiety. The benefits that I have personally had with these things after becoming physically active are amazing. I urge anyone to try physical activity that is going through a tough time, is clinically depressed, or suffering from anxiety. There are obviously also many other benefits, but this one has been the biggest and most impactful for me!
When I first started really getting into fitness it was because I had just moved to a new city after living in the same area my entire life. I had no friends in the area, I just knew my boyfriend and his family. I was initially working at an outdoor sports store when I moved here, met a few people there, while also getting more interested in being active as well as enjoying being outside. I then started working at the hospital, where I also met some great people but I still had a lot of time to myself. I quickly realized that I needed to get myself involved in something to take up my time. I didn't want to be stuck inside at home all of the time. I loved living in Vermont from the beginning, but did get a little homesick when I would see all of my friends at home hanging out and knowing I couldn't be there. There were also times where I just wanted to go and see my parents, which wasn't the easiest thing to do either. Luckily, I only lived a 6 hour drive away, so it wasn't impossible by any means to go home on the weekends.
I figured one of the best things that I could do for myself was to get in better shape, so I got a Garmin VivoFit. I knew I wanted to swim and I wanted it to track everything that I did, including sleep and at the time, this was the only completely waterproof watch that would track at a reasonable price for beginners. So with this watch I started monitoring how much I was walking. Due to the demand to be on my feet most of the time at both of my jobs I was getting in a lot of steps, well over 10,000 everyday. I knew this still wasn't enough. If I really wanted to get in good shape I needed to exercise. I tried running, which had always been hard for me for various reasons, which I stuck with for a bit, but as it got colder I got less motivated to stay with it. I decided to join the gym and get in the pool. This is where I truly started to find my love for fitness. While swimming was hard I stuck with it because I enjoyed it, it didn't cause me pain and I felt really great after I was done.
Fast forward a few months of swimming 4-5 days a week. I was in good shape I was feeling great and I was actually able to swim for longer periods of time. It was excellent, my mood had improved drastically, I felt better and was eating healthier as a result of my body craving the right foods. Now at this point I had been on an antidepressant for a few years now, which helped while I was feeling down, but made me pretty agitated. I was on a fairly high dose of it, that until this point I had really felt like I needed. Around February 2015 I decided to stop taking my medication, I highly recommend anyone that wants to stop taking any sort of med to go to their doctor and find out how to do it properly! I decided to quit cold turkey (not my brightest moment), while all was good in the beginning things started to go downhill for various reasons. One of my friends was going through a very difficult time with her father passing away. I had known her for over 10 years at this point so it was very sad not only to see that her father was sick but also to see what she was going through and that I couldn't physically be there for her. While her father was sick, I remember multiple times of just needing to go swimming to focus on something else and just to feel better and it did help. I ended up going home for the funeral, which was heart breaking, but at this time I was still doing ok without any medication, which was still very new.
It was late February while I was visiting home, so it was icy and snowy all over. I was visiting another friend while home and while I was walking out of her building, slipped on some ice and fell down the stairs. Now first instinct was to put down my hand to catch my fall, which caused me to fracture my wrist pretty badly. I ended up having to get a cast and even though it was waterproof was a pain when it got wet so I didn't really go swimming with it. The winter that year was also absolutely miserable, single digits most days, so just going outside was painful. Over the next few months I ended up staying at home and not doing much, and I just kept feeling worse and worse. Over a couple of months I had gained about 10-15 lbs, I was bigger than I had ever been in my entire life and I could just feel myself dragging. The feeling was horrible. Although the medication had stopped I truly believe the thing that put me in the bigger tailspin was the lack of activity and fresh air.
Finally I got my cast off! I was so excited, my break has healed well and I was finally able to get back into the pool. I was working 40-50 hours a week at this point and still managing to swim which was incredible. I was also doing yoga every Sunday, which was one of the best things I could have done for myself. The thing that I noticed was while I was swimming and after I went swimming I felt good, but a lot of the other times I was suffering of pretty dark thoughts of sadness and having the most severe anxiety I've ever experienced in my life. That being said I knew how much of a difference the swimming was making in my life as well as eating a much cleaner diet. If I fell to my emotions to not do anything I would have kept feeling worse and worse all of the time and I do not know how I would be today.
As time continued to go on and the lingering effects of the medication had worn off I was still feeling pretty horrible when I wasn't doing anything and just letting my mind wander. When I would get in the pool or go to yoga I would be a whole new person for that hour and a few hours after. The way I was feeling and looking made me feel good about myself in a way that nothing else could. I had lost all of the weight I had gained and then some and gained some serious strength. I began craving and seriously in need of the activity so I worked out as much as I could in order to keep that feeling up. On days that I didn't workout I felt miserable, sad, and anxious.
I went about 7 months without doing anything else. I knew I was doing everything possible on my own to feel better and I knew at this point that I needed some extra help. I ended up seeing a therapist, which definitely helped me more than where I had been. After about a month of this I ended up going to my doctor and getting prescribed half of the dose that I was on previously for the antidepressant which was much better for me. After this things really started to go up. The confidence in myself that I had lost while I was suffering was coming back. I was happier for longer periods of time and the serious anxiety attacks mostly went away. It was no longer a daily struggle, it started to spread out bit by bit.
Even though medication was the right thing for me, it isn't for everybody. My entire life I have suffered from some pretty serious anxiety and starting in middle school I really started to struggle with depression. Now I believe I hid these things pretty well from everybody including my parents so I was never diagnosed with it. However looking back at what it was like and knowing what I do now, I was really struggling for most of my young adult life. When I was first prescribed medication I was over prescribed. I did not need the amount that I took. My doctor did not care and really was just being a pill pusher. My boyfriend urged my to go down in dose when I was on it in the beginning but I was so motivated and finally feeling good that I was scared to change what I was doing so I stayed on that dose for about 2-3 years. That all being said, without physical activity I would not be nearly as good as I am now even with the medication. I think the fitness has a huge impact on my anxiety. I don't take any anti anxiety medications and even though I get it more often than most people I seem to manage it pretty well with my lifestyle. I still wish that I did not need to take an anti depressant and some day I may try to get off of it again, so I urge anyone that is feeling down to try doing anything natural before they start looking to medications to fix themselves. Everyone and every body is different and will respond differently to various treatments, but find something you enjoy, work at it and gain confidence. This will help you feel better all around physically, emotionally, and have better mental clarity!