I’ve not been around for a minute, as you may have noticed… but I’m back… so
I know that I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but I do want to explain my absence. Let’s just say that when you’re depressed, coming up with interesting and witty things to write is really, really hard.
I needed to take a good amount of time off from this project to look after myself and heal, and on top of that, I’ve had SO much to do at work and really needed more hours in the day.
Depression and I have been fighting each other on and off since I was 15, and I’ve had all kinds of therapy and pills to fix myself, and I’m a proud survivor.
I know the symptoms, I know the causes, so, after this break up, I was bracing myself for a big wave the dark clouds of depression to start rolling in. And sure enough, they did. The end of a long term relationship will make anyone sad, but when you’re brain is predisposed to negative thinking, like mine is, it’s a recipe for something more serious, and I know that I have to take action when it hits. Depression can be really crippling to some people, and while I’ve never been bed ridden with it, depression has an incredibly debilitating effect on me… I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t focus -it’s awful.. I saw a Jude Law movie ‘Side Effects’ not too long ago where his character says:
“Depression is the inability to construct a future”
and that, is pretty much how I felt.
I decided to make my life a tiny bit easier by not forcing myself to have to write like this for a while, and with one less thing to do in the week, one less thing to ‘construct’, I found the time to heal, and I’m slowly beginning to feel alive again.
I always heard that exercise is a great cure for depression, and I did some serious milage when I was in my lowest of lows, but I felt like the weight on my shoulders wasn’t budging. I still had a dark fog following me around in all of my thoughts: nothing was fun any more, even running, and much less writing about it. I became sick of all the inspirational stories I read, and how many miles you were all doing in your happily married lives. It seemed for a while, that no matter how hard I pushed myself physically, I still wasn’t able to get out of this funk, and I started wondering what was wrong with me.
I have some great tools to use for when I feel this way, and know when and how to use them, so I got into action and took hold of this before it took hold of me. But as I started coming out it of this funk, I did some digging into the idea that exercise makes you happy. I honestly thought that running would elevate my mood and make me less depressed, so was quite concerned when it had little impact on me. I figure that for some people who dont have the same tools to use as me, not having exercise work for them might seriously impact their recovery and add to that feeling of despair.
It turns out that exercise is not the one-stop cure-all it’s widely believed to be, there are actually some studies that don’t find any evidence that exercise alleviates depression:
James A. Blumenthal, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who is well versed in all things depression and exercise related did a comparative study of 144 published scientific studies where depressed people were exposed to exercise over a given period of time. In carefully looking at all studies, he concluded that there just isn’t enough evidence to support the theory.
And in actual fact, a recent study out of England from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, conducted the first large-scale, randomised controlled trial to establish the effects of exercise on depression. To my slight relief, they found that adding exercise failed to alleviate symptoms of depression more than their usual care alone.
As you know, English people are usually always right, so I’m hugely relieved to find this out. I guess I wanted to write about it, incase someone who is seriously depressed was giving up hope on exercise to help. Back to ‘Side Effects’ for a minute, Jude Law’s character, a psychiatrist, is asked why an Englishman would open a practice in the states. I’m horribly misquoting him but he says something like:
“In my country (UK), seeking professional help is seen as a sign you have a problem, in the US, it’s seen as a sign you’re getting better.”
If you’re in a depression, you can get better, exercise might work, it might not. But know that there are many people out there that will help you fight this and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign you’re getting better.
Today, I just got back from a 7 mile run, and I’m positively buzzing from it so I figure it’s all subjective – and perhaps there’a baseline when running helps and when it doesn’t. What do you think? Does exercise make you happy?