Table Health co-founder and President, Jill Butryn, MD opens up about her recent struggles and what helped get her through. Perhaps you can relate.
A few days ago, I felt depressed.
- Depressed mood? Check.
- Lack of interest in pleasurable things? Check.
- Weight or appetite change? Check. Burger King and Krispy Kreme, anyone?
- Fatigue and lack of motivation? Check.
- Inability to focus, concentrate, or be decisive or hopeful about the future? Check.
Full disclosure, it was ugly. Everything and everyone bothered me. A small inconvenience felt like a huge, overwhelming disaster. My husband and I couldn’t even have a superficial conversation without arguing. Unfortunately, he was feeling the same way, so neither of us could be the strong one for each other. We normally aren’t like this. We are the logical, thinking couple. What the hell?
This lasted a little over 24 hours, but it felt like an eternity. While laying in a hammock on Sunday afternoon, I decided it had to end. The first step was identifying the emotion. No, it wasn’t that everyone else was a butthead, and it wasn’t because my circumstances were bad. It was me. All me. I felt mentally and emotionally drained, like all my fuel was used up.
The second step was verbalizing it, taking accountability, and discovering the root cause. During a neighborhood walk that Sunday evening, my husband and I discussed our feelings openly, made apologies, and realized we had cause to feel so terrible.
We had just endured 2 of the top 5 stressful events people experience - a move and a job change. For the record, I think there are way more stressful things people experience, like war and abuse, but I think the list is based on more routine experiences that almost everyone has during their lives.
Professionally and personally, I have long known that people tend to feel the effects of stress several weeks, months, or even years after the actual stressor(s). This is “post” in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
An interesting article out of the University of New Orleans looked at regulation of emotions surrounding an impending disaster, examining the coping mechanisms used by survivors of hurricane Isaac as a case study. They found that people use emotional coping mechanisms before, during, and after a disaster to minimize the impact of loss of control and the possibility of extreme stress. These coping mechanisms allow people to stay positive and keep themselves mobilized for problem solving.
Once danger from the disaster has passed, people tend to engage in hedonistic activities, particularly with overconsumption of food in the New Orleans case, rationalizing that they deserve it after their experience. Those Krispy Kremes come to mind. Did I mention I ate 5 donuts in one sitting? This was the morning after I had Burger King for dinner.
Although I personally had not experienced a natural disaster, my husband had retired, we sold businesses, we cleared out our house, and we moved over 2000 miles away to a place with a different language and culture. All in one month. To say that the experience was overwhelming is an understatement. But, like most humans, we coped. We stayed focused on the tasks that had to be done and the reasons for what we were doing.
It was a few weeks after the move, after we were done with the busyness of moving and provisioning a new home, that we felt the impact. We were in the calm after the storm. And contrary to our expectations, it sucked.
It was only after I got past the overwhelming negative feelings (and not a minute before, unfortunately), that I was able to identify my true emotions.
Sure, I missed my home, my friends and family, my old life. Acknowledged. But mostly, I was just emotionally TIRED. I had used up all my mental and emotional reserves on the move and helping my husband through his retirement.
At Table Health, we are all about resilience. I am convinced that the reason my day of depression was only a day is because I have built a life that is characterized by resilience. My friends and family are at the core, always there for support, a laugh, or admonition when needed. I literally could not and would not have made this move without the support of my nearest and dearest.
When the Beatles sang, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends,” I think they were on to something. Resilience. It’s our community, where we get the strength and identity we need as a foundation for resilience.
How about you? Have you built a life characterized by resilience? VeryWellMind published this great reference for building resilience. Additionally, your Table Health peeps are here to help. In pursuing optimal health, we recognized you as a whole person. A person who has emotions, stressors, and who maybe needs more support in your life to achieve your goals.
Above all, we’re here to help. Nobody should have to live a life they don’t love. Health - mind, body, and spirit - is such a necessity. Things come and go. People, jobs, homes, pandemics.
The past year has been hard on everyone. Lack of social engagement, changes in jobs and financial situations, fear and anxiety. Many people are now feeling the effects. But I do believe anyone can thrive through adversity, and those who seek support seem to do better than those who don’t.
Being very intentional about why and how you live, and taking small, achievable steps toward being healthier (living better!) every day is within everyone’s grasp. Let us know how we can help you be resilient, achieve optimal health, and live your best life.