Turning My Depression Into My Passion.

Giving birth and becoming a mother is a transformational time in a woman’s life. Becoming a mother is an incredible gift and a huge blessing. Sometimes though, the first few months/years after giving birth are not always the easiest and not at all blissful like you expect (and how social media makes it look). There can be dark days. Waking up at night feeling sleep deprived and sore is not fun and the effects can be quite detrimental if you have unrealistic expectations of how you are supposed to feel and cope as a new mother. I think we don’t talk about this enough and I believe we can do a better job in supporting each other with love and grace.

About one year after I gave birth to my son Josh, I was diagnosed with PND – Post Natal Depression. It took me one full year to admit I needed help and ask for it. You see, at that time, I wasn’t working, we were living in this beautiful house, I had access to a full time domestic worker and a supportive husband. Yet, I was sad a lot. I felt lonely, inadequate and scared. The worst part was, and the part that I felt the most shame and guilt about, was that I couldn’t connect to my beautiful baby boy. He was perfect and so beautiful, yet at times he felt more like a burden than a blessing. Yes, even now as I write these words, I still feel the shame and guilt. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so low and I didn’t have the capacity to express myself properly. Instead, I stayed quiet and tried to pretend like everything was fine. This pretending of course eventually caught up with me and I finally went to go see my doctor. She put me on an anti-depressant and the fog of depression slowly started to lift. I felt relieved and grateful for the medication and embraced the relief from the sad and lonely days. I stayed on medication for a few years until I felt strong enough to taper off them. After the birth of my second child, Luca, I felt that fog rolling in again and this time I had more grace and mercy on myself. I decided to go back on medication. The second time around seemed easier because I had more awareness and acceptance. I stayed on the medication again for a couple of years until I felt like I could do without and stopped.

Fast forward to 2 years ago (8 years later) I started feeling sad again for no reason. I often felt hopeless, lonely and my sleep was terrible. I was gaining weight, mostly around my mid-section. I didn’t have an explanation for why I felt this way and felt shame and guilt again. I felt guilty because I was lacking nothing. I had it all, yet I was still not happy.  Being older and perhaps a little wiser, I felt curiosity as I processed these emotions. Well aware of the symptoms of depression, I was curious as to why, out of the blue, I was feeling like this again.

I asked my doctor to do a few blood tests and everything came back normal. The test results didn’t appease me as my body still felt off. I felt like something was missing. After another visit to my doctor and a psychiatrist, I was advised once again to go on an anti-depressant.  I agreed but also felt like there was something more to it than that. 

This was a turning point for me and this is when I really got curious, took matters in my own hands and started to research the shit out of hormones and depression and the link between the two.

I discovered Dr. Kelly Brogan and her book “A Mind Of Your Own”. (Watch her interview here with Marie Forleo https://youtu.be/-U4Hprs8QPs https). After reading her book and paging through her website, I learned so much about depression and how certain foods and supplements could help. For example, no doctor ever asked to check my Vitamin B12 levels before I was prescribed an anti depressant. I learned from Dr. Brogan that a deficiency in Vitamin B12 is a leading cause of depression!! Such a simple thing could potentially make me feel better. And sure enough, after I started getting regular B12 injections, my energy and my mood improved.   

Feeling frustrated at the lack of discernment in conventional medicine, my frustration led me to more research and boom, I discovered Dr. Sara Gottfried. Dr. Gottfried is a powerhouse of knowledge (I highly recommend you follow her on Instagram @saragottfriedmd), in Functional Medicine and an advocate for women’s health. Through reading her books and following her on social media, I learned so much:

?I learned what tests I needed to take to give me answers.

?I learned that the results of those tests that fell into “normal ranges” didn’t necessarily mean things were optimal in my body.

?I learned about sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) and how the delicate balance between the three plays a huge role in your emotional and physical well-being.

?I learned what estrogen dominance is and what impact continual, low-grade stress has on your body’s ability to lose weight and could potentially lead to an autoimmune disorder known as Adrenal Fatigue.

?I learned about my adrenals and cortisol and how supporting the function of each plays an integral part in weight loss.

?I learned how important it is to have a healthy gut and that the liver is critical in the detoxification process.

Knowledge is power!

And with all this newfound knowledge I had the courage to stand up for myself and find alternative ways to heal my mind body connection.

The positive outcomes from my frustrations and research inspired me to keep learning and led me to my studies at IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition). I turned my problem into my passion! 

The message that I would really like to relay to you is this: I learned to listen to my body, which gave me the courage to listen to my intuition, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Some of these possibilities (sans medication) included:

?healing my gut. Did you know that 90% of your serotonin – your feel good hormone – is made in the gut?  Cleaning up your gut, is the best place to start the healing process

?slowing down. I did more yoga and walks with my dogs in the forest instead of high intensity exercise. As your body heals and recovers, it’s counter productive to push it too hard with the “wrong” kind of exercise. 

?deep breathing and daily meditation. Yes, something so simple makes a huge difference because deep breathing tells your body you are safe. Only then, when your body is in the green zone, will it be able to begin heal.

?working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner. 

?taking natural supplements and herbs to support my body from the inside out. 

One week ahead of my certification, I am more passionate than ever about helping other women struggling with similar complaints, sorting through their symptoms and coming up with practical solutions that work best for them.

 The sad reality is that we as a society are getting sicker and sicker. We are losing touch with our true nature and are losing sight of the fact that our bodies are bloody magnificent. Our bodies are the most complex and intelligent systems on this planet. We get messages from our body all the time that something is not right and unfortunately most of the time, we chose not to listen. These messages are very subtle in the beginning, get a little louder as time passes and then eventually the body has no other choice than to give you a proper wake up call resulting in a heart attack or a life threatening illness.

I believe we are as disconnected as ever from the innate intelligence of the body and we have lost trust in the body’s ability to heal itself through nutrition and lifestyle.

Through my research, I have discovered Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of dis-ease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. This approach is not a quick fix, can be more expensive and is preventative rather than reactive. For a list of practitioners in your area, go to http://www.integrativemedicine.co.za for South Africa and http://www.ifm.org in the US.

Functional Medicine practitioners also work with health coaches to support clients on their road to health. That’s where I come in. Like I said, this is not a quick fix and the journey can be bumpy. Having support along the way in the form of a coach is invaluable.

I am happy to say that currently I am thriving. I am my healthiest and happiest self that I’ve been in a long time. I am ready to share what I’ve learned along the way and am very excited to begin my journey as a Health Coach.

Health and well-being is a personal journey and it’s up to you to decide which route works best for you. If my story resonates with you, and if you are ready to discover more about yourself, send me an email sonja@soulspacebody.com. I would love to hear your story and schedule a free health consultation.

Remember, whichever path you chose, never lose sight of the fact how special you are and always treat yourself with respect, kindness and self-love.

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