A Simple Cure for Moderate Depression?

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Photo by Amber McCaig

I haven’t blogged for nine months. I could go on at length about busyness, holidays away, and Christmas commitments, but I suspect the reason for my absence from the blogosphere is more likely to be related to the subject of my last post, Dealing with Stress in my Forever Life.

When I wrote that post, I thought I’d found the solution to my first world problems, but apparently, I hadn’t. The stressful feeling became more consuming as time moved on.

When I moved back to Australia, I lost control over certain areas of my life. As an expat, I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, but back here, I found myself pulled in many directions by  my children, extended family, grandchildren, and old friends.

My routines were out of whack, and making time for writing and those activities I’d filled my expat life with seemed lost.

As the months passed, and I continued to struggle with what wasn’t quite right in my life, I began experiencing sleepless nights, and last November the heart palpitations arrived. Over the next three months, the palpitations became more frequent, and were accompanied by a tight knot of anxiety in my chest that made me feel physically ill.

I realised I was moderately depressed and needed help. I made an appointment with my GP, and requested a referral to a psychologist.

The advice the psychologist gave me worked like magic. At the end of the first session, she asked me to do three things:

  1. Spend ten minutes twice a day breathing to a pattern of ‘in to the count of 7, hold to the count of 5, and exhale to the count of 7’. Ten minutes is a long time to simply focus on counting the air entering and leaving my lungs, so I set a timer to do it. That was the only way I could be sure I would commit to the exercise for the allotted time, and it was important, because ten minutes was long enough to send calming hormones around my body, signalling there was no need for the exhausting flow of adrenaline.
  2. Keep a journal. I’ve kept a journal since 2007. It’s a wonderful way to solve problems, but it hadn’t solved my anxiety. The breathing exercise did that.
  3. Get back to the rewrites of my second book. I’m not ready for that, but I had an urge to return to blogging, which is why I’m here today.

I did the breathing exercises twice a day without fail, and after one week, my improved state of mind astounded me. Over the following two weeks, my palpitations and anxiety vanished. If I felt them threaten again, I didn’t worry, because I had a weapon to stop them.

It’s been three months since my appointment with the psychologist, and I’m ridiculously happy. I sleep well, and have magically gained a sense of control in my beautifully chaotic and fulfilling life.

Writing is still missing, but I’ve given myself permission to take a break from it. I’m hoping that by writing this blog, I’ve recommitted to writing in a small way which will eventually lead me back to the rewrites of book number two.

As I wasn’t seriously depressed, the thought flitted through my mind that I was wasting the psychologist’s time, but that was crazy thinking. It was the best decision I made, and I’d highly recommend the same for everyone struggling with anxiety or depression.

Are you guilty of avoiding getting help for depression? And if you’ve been depressed, did  a simple breathing exercise help you?




10 thoughts on “A Simple Cure for Moderate Depression?

  1. Fantastic, Juli. This should help a lot of people, and your matter-of-fact frankness is so much more convincing than some of the *inspirational* guru-poo that spouts from the net. And your self-permission to let the book rest for a while is something I find very comforting! With more ops for Jean, two holidays and a retreat (for me) to fit in this year, plus family stuff, plus more writing courses, the poor thing is sitting on the sidelines, waiting patiently! Loved the blog, especially as it has such encouraging news in it. So pleased to hear that life is so much more amenable now. xx

    • Thank you for the lovely comment, Suzanne.
      Have you read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? I’d recommend it. She encourages us to accept our creativity as a wonderful diversion, and something to be taken lightly. Like you, I’ve put other things first, but I still think about writing a lot. I just refuse to do it when the time isn’t right for me, which is what you’re doing, too.
      Sorry to hear about Jean’s continued struggles.

  2. Such a wonderful and intimate post that chimes with me so much. I am so glad that the breathing exercises have worked – I meditate regularly and often using a breathing meditation when I am feeling overwhelmed in particular. Like you, knowing I have a weapon I can use when anxiety begins to creep in, makes all the difference. I too gave myself permission not to write and right now that suits me fine (and has done for over 2 years). I still write in my head all the time and think I will return to it, but when I am feeling it, not because I ought to.

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Juliet.
      It’s nice to know a breathing meditation works for you as well.
      Like you, I still write in my head, and I do believe I’ll get back to it, but right now there are other good things that I feel are bigger priorities in my life. Have you read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’d highly recommend it. See above reply.

  3. Hi Juli,

    That was a very personal blog and I can understand why I haven’t heard much from you recently. I’m particularly glad that you found the breathing exercises helpful and that you have a tool for lifting your spirits when you start to feel down. I expect that with a bit of time the writing will get moving again as well.

    Our lives have been chaotic as usual. We still haven’t gotten the house in Ohio sold yet, but I think we are getting close with the 2nd prospective buyer. We have been doing quite a lot of traveling and it has been good but tiring. Progress on my mother’s house addition has been at a standstill although she has finally decided to go with the first bid with little response from the contractor. After our Norway stint, we have an overnight in Durham (Robert will work a short day) and we will celebrate Robert’s birthday and have a Saturday adventure exploring Durham. Then I think I will be around until the end of June when Brendan & family arrive for about a week and a half. We are planning a 4 day weekend in Inverness and the surrounding area and some day trips around the Glasgow area. We have offered to let Brendan & Mayumi take an overnight trip to Edinburgh and leave the kids with us. We’ll see if that works.

    Do continue to take good care of yourself and enjoy your family and the homey feel of your native country!

    Love, Diane

    On Sat, May 28, 2016 at 3:05 PM, Juli Townsends Transition to Home wrote:

    > julitownsend posted: ” I haven’t blogged for nine months. I could go on at > length about busyness, holidays away, and Christmas commitments, but I > suspect the reason for my absence from the blogosphere is more likely to be > related to the subject of my last post, Dealing with St” >

    • Thanks for commenting, Diane. I’m looking forward to hearing how you cope with your move back home, although it will be less final than ours was. Somehow, I think you’ll cope much better.
      Have fun with Brendan and family. I’m sure you’ll enjoy and cope well with the children.

  4. Hi Juli
    I have only just come across this post. I know the feeling your talking about and the guilt that goes with it. After all there are plenty of people who have far worse “real problems”. As I’ve got older I have questioned my purpose too,but then I think I always have to some degree. I work very little these days and have odd days when nothing is required of me.My answer has always been excercise and some form of meditation or yoga-so similar to the breathing excercise that’s been helping you. This clears my head and helps me to be grateful for my life. However my purpose is still unclear to me.
    I appreciate your openness and honesty.
    Good luck, Juli

  5. Thanks for commenting, Jill.
    I’m wondering how many of us know our purpose, and how important it really is. Perhaps it’s a first world problem thing and all that is really important is that we make the best of our lives, and treat others well,

  6. Hi Juli, so lovely to hear the how the breathing exercise helped you. That same exact breathing exercise has helped me in the past. I found it online and decided to try it and like you, it helped immensely! It was about seven years ago that I found myself a bit burned out. It was probably a moderate case. I also had the heart palpitations and some anxiety which I found to be very uncomfortable. Since then I have learned to set boundaries for myself and occasionally say no. I have the tendency to always take everything on as there are so many interesting things in life. I’m hoping to get back to blogging regularly as it is something that I just love…I have discovered my love for writing through blogging. These past few months have been just so hectic that I gave myself permission to lighten the load and blog a bit less (although I have been missing it and my fingers have been literally itching). We humans are holistic beings. Glad to hear you are doing better and looking forward to reading more posts once you feel the time is right…but no pressure! Lots of hugs to you!

  7. Wow, Laila – I’m amazed to hear my problem and cure is not that uncommon.
    I’ve been doing so well, that after returning from our Arctic holiday, I decided to commit to writing one hour a day. Some days it simply doesn’t happen, so I try to add that hour to another day, and so far, it’s working fairly well.
    I totally understand why your life is hectic. I’m amazed that you even began blogging when I see the incredible experiences you’re creating for your wonderful family.
    You sound like you suffer from elements of my problem as well – an interest in many of the various facets of life. Not at all a problem in reality, as long as we limit how many we enjoy at any one time. My mother found a fulfilling and rewarding career late in her life, despite living in an era when many women were often not considered important enough to educate. I like to remind myself of her, and what she achieved in her final years, and I tell myself that I have time for all the things I want to do.
    Now may be your time to focus on your baby and cafe, and you will know when the time for blogging comes again.
    I look forward to it, but I can wait – I have time for that. 🙂

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