Healthline’s Best Depression Blogs of 2016

Just a quick post to mention an honour my humble blog has received. This is a Depression Blog was listed as one of Healthline’s Best Depression Blogs of 2016.

I’ve been blogging here for over 4 years, and I still think it’s pretty wild that people are reading this. But I guess life can be pretty wild, can’t it? 🙂

So hello to my new readers (and, of course, hello to my old readers too). I’m glad to have you all here with me on my journey.

And if you haven’t checked out the other blogs on the list, do! There’s lots of good reading!



Michelle’s very unscientific and inconclusive vitamin D experiment

Spring finally rolled out in my area. It’s warmer (sometimes). It isn’t pitch black outside at 5pm. This is good news for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also sometimes called ‘winter depression’. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but I have noticed that I often feel more depressed in winter. I wanted to try to combat this last winter.

Now, let me try to explain my thinking:

  • Some research suggests there could be a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression (Just check out these Google Scholar results for the search ‘vitamin D depression’).
  • I experience increased symptoms of depression in winter.
  • I am probably vitamin D deficient in winter.
    • I come to this conclusion because the main source of vitamin D is sunlight. I live above the 37th parallel, which makes it more or less impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the winter (I’ll let Harvard Health Publications explain this one.)
  • Therefore, vitamin D deficiency might be linked to my increased symptoms of depression.
  • Therefore, increasing my intake of vitamin D might help combat those increased symptoms of depression.

That makes sense, right?

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, so I decided to take supplements. Eat Right Ontario suggested that 600-4000iu was both safe and good for me, so ignoring some allegations that we might actually need far more vitamin D, I always took between 1000iu and 2000iu.

I’ll jump ahead and give you the “results” right now: taking vitamin D didn’t seem to do a damn thing for me. I tracked my mood throughout the winter, asking myself at the end of the day ‘How did I feel today?‘…the answer was usually ‘Blah!

But here were the problems with my experiment:

  • I did not take the supplements every day.
  • I varied the amount of vitamin D I was taking (and my amounts may have been too low).
  • I did not use a very rigorous mood and symptom tracking questionnaire.

This makes for bad science (not even touching the fact that I’m just one trial!). Any of those problems could skew the results of my very unscientific experiment.

So, unfortunately, I can’t really come to any solid conclusions. I might try this experiment again next winter, but with stricter guidelines. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the sunshine.

Notes: I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on T.V. I did not do this with a doctor’s permission or under a doctor’s supervision. If you are curious about what supplementing vitamin D could do for you, talking to a real doctor is almost certainly a good idea. Stay safe, stay well, friends 🙂


Worthlessness, Depression, and Unemployment

I am almost impressed by how worthless depression and unemployment can make you feel.

If you have depression, chances are you already question your worth. Unemployment can seem like confirmation of your worthlessness. Job searching is like a really un-fun game to see how many times you can be rejected and still get back up after. Every rejection can make you question your own worth. Am I not good enough for that job? Am I not smart enough, skilled enough, nice enough? Am I not worthy of a job?

Since I graduated, I’ve been looking for full-time work. The job search isn’t going that well. I place some of the blame on the poor job market, and some of the blame on myself. Yes, it doesn’t help that I live in a city that was hit hard by the recession and hasn’t really recovered. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m overwhelmed by anxiety every time I send out a resume. There are many reasons things aren’t going well. It’s a complex problem. Yet my brain likes to tell me that it’s a really simple thing – I mean, isn’t it clear? I’m unemployed because I’m worthless!

The truth is, I’m probably not worthless. You’re probably not worthless either. I’m not sure if I’ve met a person without any worth.

So how do you combat the feelings of worthless that come with depression and unemployment?

I really wish I knew the answer to that question!

I’ve been trying to do a few things to keep my mood up. I’ve been doing some exercise. I’ve been taking some vitamins. I try to get out of the house once in a while. I’ve been doing some writing (though not on this blog obviously, oops). It all helps a little, but it’s not a perfect solution. I still have to fight the feelings of worthlessness.

But if I stop fighting the feelings, I know I will just get more depressed, and feel more worthless. If that happens, I don’t think I will have the strength to continue my job search, which would make me even more depressed and worthless-feeling. Vicious circle, no? So even though I’m tired and sad, I keep going. Hopefully that’s enough for now.


Have experience with depression and/or anxiety and unemployment? Have tips? I’d love to hear your stories or advice, and I’m sure other readers would too! Why not leave a comment below? 🙂


Change of Scenery

I fought tooth and nail to avoid spending the holidays with my family and friends this past year. I was in such a bad state of mind that I didn’t feel like being around people (especially when people would be merry-making). I just wanted to be left alone with my misery.

Despite my protests, I ended up ‘going home’ for a visit anyway. In truth, my family and friends didn’t give me much of a choice – they were quite adamant I was going to visit them! And you know what? The change of scenery was good for me.

I totally expected to spend most of my time completely miserable. That’s how I was spending my time, so I figured it would continue. But just being in a different place and around different people helped my state of mind. I wasn’t necessarily all smiles and laughter, but I also wasn’t hobbled by my anxiety and depression. It was okay.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m back in my normal environment, I can feel the miserable state of mind creeping back in. I can’t just pick up and visit my family and friends whenever I want, but I think I can still use a change of scenery as a way of shaking my bad mood.

So, when I’m feeling poorly, I’ll try to switch things up. This might mean going for a walk, or heading to the store, or it might just mean stationing myself in a different room (It’s cold outside, but it’s nice and warm in here! 🙂 ) Hopefully I’ll see some benefit from this.

Anybody have any experience with this? Anybody think this would help them? Drop it in the comments 🙂 I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to all of you!



Web find: Anti-Depression Kit

Just a quick post to share something I saw floating around the web (I believe this is the original Tumblr post). Check out this ‘Anti-Depression Kit):


I just thought this was very sweet.

More posts coming – I’ve just got to pull myself out of my pit of sadness first. I’m getting there!

All the best to all of you 🙂

The Impact of Suicide (on someone with depression)

Warning: This post talks about suicide. If that will be upsetting or triggering for you, I do suggest skipping this post. Please keep yourself well!

Someone I knew killed himself. Read the full post »

Just Breath | Breathing Exercises

Hopefully you know about breathing exercises as relaxation method. There are quite a few techniques – breathing meditation, diaphragmatic/deep breathing, breath counting, etc. I don’t notice much a benefit to using breathing techniques as a way of dealing with my dysthymia/depression (that’s not to say there are no benefits, only that I do not personally notice any). However, I definitely benefit from using breathing techniques as a way to combat anxiety.

I now – finally – use different breathing techniques instinctively. I don’t remember exactly when I first learnt about using breathing, but I estimate that it has taken over 5 years for me to reach the point where I use the techniques without consciously telling myself to beforehand. That seems like quite a while, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy to train your brain, I guess (or at least, it’s not easy to train my brain).

When I feel anxious, my breathing becomes shallow, my chest and muscles all tighten up, and my stomach will get a bit upset. It doesn’t feel great. However, by doing some deep breathing, those sensations go away. They don’t go away immediately (I wish!), but I do think they reduce fairly quickly. Breathing exercises also give my mind something to focus on, rather than ruminating on whatever idea is making my anxious. So, for me, using different breathing techniques is a good way to avoid panic attacks.

I do experiment with different breathing exercises, but I have three go-to ones:

diaphragmatic/deep breathing: literally just taking slow, deep breaths using your diaphragm (rather than your chest)

4-7-8 counting: breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, breath out for a count of 8, then repeat (warning: this one has made me a bit light-headed before; you may wish to slightly modify the count, such as 5-6-7)

4-count breathing: breath in and then count ‘1’ as you exhale; repeat and count ‘2’; repeat again and count ‘3’; repeat again and count ‘4’; keep breathing, starting again at ‘1’ – never count past 4

As a bonus, I find breathing exercises can be a good way to get to sleep. It’s better than staring at the clock, anyhow.

So, if you don’t do breathing exercises, give it a try! If you do, be persistent, because they can be very useful!

P.S. Feel free to share your favourite breathing exercises; I’d love to give them try! 🙂

One step forward, two steps back

Alternative title: “In which Michelle talks about her butt”

Sometimes it’s like any progress is immediately followed by regression (it isn’t, but I still feel that way sometimes). If I have one good day, the next day will be crap. If I make a new friend, I’ll lose an old one. If I find something about myself to like, I’ll find something new to hate.

And that’s today’s story. My self esteem and body image are not good. Some days, I think I’m pretty okay, but most days…not so much. I have made some progression. As a teenager, I had far worse body image. This is fairly ironic, since I was in much better shape then (though perhaps slightly more funny-looking [I had distinct ideas about what makeup looked good on me, and those ideas were not necessarily correct]).

But for a long time, I hated my body shape. I’m not the ‘ideal’ hourglass, but rather, am distinctly pear-shaped. This means I carry much of my weight on my hips, butt, and thighs. This was horrific when I was a teenager; I desperately wanted to be one of those waifishly thin girls whose thighs did not touch (‘thigh gap’). It just wasn’t going to happen for me. I don’t think it will ever happen for me without drastic and unhealthy weight-loss. Drastic weight-loss is fairly unlikely to happen for me, since I really love carbs.

And that’s okay. I’ve come to accept my body type. It probably helps that we live in a time that fawns over being ‘bootylicious’. So, thanks, Hollywood, porn directors, and ‘ass men’ for making my body type desirable. I appreciate it.

Except once I stopped worrying about my body shape, I found other things to worry about! One step forward, two steps back. Even though I’d decided it was okay that my butt is kinda big, I started considering that it wasn’t quite the right shape, and was maybe not quite firm enough, and, god, look at that cellulite!

So, I work on these new things. I remind myself that nearly all women have cellulite. I tell myself to exercise if I’m that concerned about shape and firmness (I should be exercising anyway!). Maybe once I get over one of these things, I’ll find something else to worry myself over. Then, I’ll work on those new things.

It’s a long journey. I’m getting somewhere, just not very quickly. But that’s okay…all these steps should help tone my butt, right? 😀

The physicality of depression and anxiety

I think that some people don’t fully understand how mind can affect body, especially in the case of mental illness. Even I underestimate how the effects of mental illness manifest in my body. I’m good at ignoring and neglecting my body. Which isn’t good! There are many symptoms you might notice in yourself or others. I’m going to talk about some common ones.

Changes in sleep patterns

You might find yourself sleeping more, less, or lighter/heavier than you normally do. I think this often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of fatigue. I know it’s hard for me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m very stressed or depressed. I could easily stay awake all night ruminating. I’ve always been a night owl and had troubles falling asleep. It’s really hard to maintain sleep patterns when you have depression and anxiety, but it’s still good to try. It’s easier to face the world when you’re well-rested.

Changes in appetite or diet

You might find yourself more or less hungry when you’re depressed or anxious. Personally, I’m an emotional eater; I try to distract myself from bad feelings with good-tasting food. Spoiler alert: this method doesn’t actually work. I find I have to keep in mind what my body needs rather than what my mind wants. Staying hydrated is really important too (and it keeps me from feeling hungry when it’s not time to eat).

Pain and tension

This one covers a lot – you could experience back pain, chest pain, joint pain, muscle pain, tension, pressure, etc. I’m lucky in that I don’t experience too much pain in relation to my depression and anxiety, but I do experience a lot of muscle tension. I’m incredibly tense all the time. I clench my jaw. My shoulders are often drawn up. My back and neck are held stiff. My brow furrowed and lips pursed in an unhappy expression. I’ve been trying to correct this. I do a little self-massage, and I practice muscle relaxation. These are both useful, but as soon as I stop thinking about being relaxed, I tense right back up again. I joke that tense is my natural state. I’ve unknowingly trained my body to always be tense, and now I have to train it to relax. It’s not an easy task, but I’ll keep working on it.


I think headaches, especially tension headaches, are a really common symptom. I get quite a few headaches. I don’t know if this is entirely connected to my mental health, as headaches and migraines are common in my family, but the depression and anxiety certainly don’t help. I haven’t found a good way to prevent stress-related headaches. When I get a headache, I generally just take some aspirin or acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetemol) and hope for the best. I know several people who don’t like to take any medication when they have headaches. I couldn’t do that! Kudos to them, I suppose.

Stomach aches

I don’t know exactly how common this symptom is, but it was my first and most noticeable bodily symptom. As a teenager, I had chronic stomach aches, often to the point that I felt quite nauseated. I would get so anxious and stressed out my body was producing excess acid (which I feel is a really weird ‘defense mechanism’). Turns out this hurts! My doctor prescribed me ranitidine (which you might know as over the counter Zantac) to reduce acid production. This worked fairly well for me; I used ranitidine for a long time just to able able to get through the day without an aching belly. My stomach is still sensitive, and I take ranitidine from time to time, but I’ve become more attuned to when my stomach is getting achey, and I’ll try to nip the problem in the bud by altering my diet and doing some stress and anxiety-relieving practices.

I’m of the opinion that recognizing these physical symptoms is important. Recognizing them can help you be more aware of your mental state (e.g. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well…possibly because I’ve been anxious about x‘). Plus, you can treat the symptoms if you notice them; this might not be as effective as treating the overall cause, but I think it could still give you a little relief and improve your quality of life.

If you have any experience with or tips for dealing with stuff like this, please do share! 🙂

“Congrats…I guess”

I have a hard time being happy for others. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise – I have a hard time being happy for myself, too. But there is a chance that when somebody shares their good news, I won’t be pleased.

I have this idea in my head – one I have a hard time combating – that some people deserve to have good things happen to them and some don’t.

If I think a person deserves good things, I will probably be pleased to hear their good news. As an example, when somebody with depression shares good news, I’m usually pleased. I know that good news can be a bit sparse when you have depression, and that if you are struggling with depression every day, you likely deserve to have something nice happen to you at least once in a while!

On the other hand, if I don’t feel a person deserves good things, I’m likely to meet their joy and good news with feelings of envy and disdain, or, sometimes, without any feeling at all. An example here would be a person who’s ‘got everything’ sharing news of yet another success. At best, I won’t care; at worst, I’ll become upset over their good news.

I wish I wasn’t like that. I sometimes think I’m not a very good person for being this way, even though I know I’m not the only person with these feelings. I know it’s not my place to judge whether or not somebody deserves happiness, and that ‘deserving’ good things really has little to do with receiving them. And I know that my envy or anger it isn’t truly a representation of how I feel about these ‘undeserving’ people, but a reflection of the impotent rage I feel over the state of my own life. It’s not something I can fix overnight.

So I fake it. I tell them “congratulations”, or ‘like’ their post, or go to their party (if I have to!), and I act like I’m happy for them. Maybe, eventually, I will be happy for them. Maybe, eventually, I’ll be happy, too.

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