The Coming Out of the Dark post about my battle with anxiety and depression was better accepted than I anticipated. Originally, I wasn’t sure what to expect but the feedback experienced was overwhelmingly positive. Acknowledgements to all the folks that reached out via email, calls, and text with words of reassurance. In this blog post, I wanted to elaborate on the treatment plan that put me on the path to come out of the dark. The treatment program was a three – or 🌲 as they would say in Trini – pronged strategy which focused on Talk Therapy, Medicine, and Diet and Exercise.
No one desires to go to talk therapy! Notably men.
Real men don’t need to meet and confer with some shrink and reveal his emotions. Only pussies prattle to a psychologist!
The societal shaming and language used for men who seek therapy can be made into a Netflix short, with no chill. Men face multiple barriers to finding care while the suicide rates in the USA continues climbing, especially amongst men. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
Suicide rates went up more than 30% in half of the states since 1999.
More than half of people – 54% – who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
Source: Suicide Rising across the US.
Eighty-Four (84%) of males that commit suicide have no known prior mental health malady, and 55% kill themselves with a firearm! In 2016, FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND people committed suicide in the United States.
Dr Knows Best
Simply put, us guys need to talk to somebody. My talk therapist Dr Pearce “is a clinical psychologist who specialises in behavioural medicine and spirituality, health, and healthcare” at the Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), University of Maryland School of Medicine and treats anxiety and d Dr Pearce is also the author of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians with Depression: A Practical Tool-Based Primer (Spirituality and Mental Health). CIM’s approach to healing is holistic, and I was surprised on my first visit with Dr Pearce; she asked: “what did I have for breakfast?”. I found this question unusual, but I would later come to appreciate my health and wellbeing is directly connected to the food I ate.
For two years, I visited Dr Pearce twice a week to chat. In the beginning, these conversations were awkward and laboured but were an essential step towards my journey of coming out of the dark and seeing the light of life. From these appointments, I learnt two important things: be your authentic self and ask for what I need. For as long as I could remember I was more concerned with avoiding confrontation rather than articulating my truth. I also discovered that it was ok to be an introvert.
Currently, therapy is once every couple of weeks and is more focused on tactics for sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
Diet & Exercise
You must have a diet and exercise plan to maintain a wholesome lifestyle. My approach was to eat a hearty breakfast that was low in processed sugars. Initially, this was challenging because my first instinct was to reach for the cereal box because I wasn’t giving myself ample time in the mornings before work to prepare and eat a healthy meal. Waking up earlier and having a meal plan for breakfast helped. Egg whites, fruit and veggies became a staple part of my rotation. I also switched to using animal fats such as organic ghee instead of butter for cooking.
For sixty days I also tried – Whole 30 – eating only whole foods instead of processed foods and eliminated bread! Eating is a regular pastime of mine, and I consumed copious amounts of lean protein – chicken breast, fish, pork- while increasing my consumption of vegetables.
Exercising was also imperative in battling my anxiety and depression, and I became an active runner and played indoor football -soccer – before my ankle injury. Running and soccer saved my life and was a needed distraction during my journey. I completed the Baltimore 3 races sponsored by Under Armour – 5K, 10K and 12 miler – about two years ago and my goal is to start running again.
The medicine for anxiety and depression my least favourite part of this journey. I am not a huge champion of the use of drugs because I think drugs treat the symptoms instead of the source of our ailments.
The side effects that accompany most antidepressants are lengthier than the symptoms they intend to cure: Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, Anxiety, restlessness, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, seeing or hearing things that are not there. Blistering, peeling, red skin rash. Chest pain, cough, trouble breathing. Confusion, weakness, and muscle twitching. Eye pain, vision changes, seeing halos around lights. Fast or pounding heartbeat. Feeling more excited or energetic than usual. Headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, unsteadiness. Seizures. Unusual behaviour, thoughts of hurting yourself or others, trouble sleeping, nervousness, unusual dreams. Unusual bleeding or bruising. Hopefully, you get the gist.
There is no magic tablet, and I worked with my primary care physician (PCP) over many months to find the right medicine and the accurate dosage. Trials with Wellbutrin, Effexor took approximately two years to find the correct dosage and several more months to taper off the meds. It’s probably easier jus to take ah bush bath and call it a day.
My journey continues towards the light, and the trail has been paved by the plethora of helping hands along the way.
Nikki M. for a de shelter during the rebuilding years.
Stephanie T. for my original OK Cupid profile. Third wheel syndrome, matta fixed.
Uncle E, E, E in ah de party for the weekly doubles run and the shit talk. Pastor Stewart!
Dion C. for listening and providing unbiased advice all hours of the night. I got you!
Nikki W. for your calm, grace and patience and the light that leads the way.
If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or depression, there are resources available to you, no need to suffer in silence.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
The National Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Nancy Lublin, founder of Crisis Text Line, on how text-based counselling is saving lives.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Workplace
Each Mind Matters: Strategies for Workplace Suicide Prevention