Having being in this position from both sides of the fence, i.e. someone who has struggled with depression between 30 and 40 years of age, and YET was an exercise instructor I feel I can talk into this subject from both sides. Firstly lets be really clear that when depression is part of daily life the energy levels are ridculously low as the body and mind are in fight or flight when awake. Sleep, can be minimal if depression's best friend 'anxiety' is also present!.. It's a viscious cycle and one which a lot of people simply don't understand. For those who, with good intention, recommend exercise when we are depressed, may not understand the physical exhaustion that goes with depression. The very thought of choosing to exert oneself when having hardly any energy to crawl through the day is very contraindicative. So how did I manage to do that? I've thought about this a lot and I can only conclude that my deeper beliefs around my sense of responsibility to others exceeded my responsibility to my own needs. Now I understand more about the power of our subconscious beliefs and how those beliefs dictate 95% of our day, it all makes more sense. I feel sad for those I lived with during that time as they were the only ones who had full insight into my state. Also looking back and knowing what I now know about depression, being a high functioning depressive made me quite a high risk. I thank god for my job as an exercise instructor as manufacturing those hormones may well have been part of the catalyst of recognising that I had some small control over my own thinking. I started recognising that the days that I exercised I had a subtle relief from myself.. My thinking turned from black thoughts to grey on my exercise days – and that was no co-incidence.
I have to be honest though if depression is the reason why you are going to turn your hand at exercise? Whilst it's a healthy and fantastic starting place, on it's own it may not be enough for a sustainable change, I guess it all depends on the degree of the depression. Mine was deeply entrenched and for me I found exercise was a great band aid and gave me peace for a day but it wasn't the long term solution that I craved. What gave me the sustainability and moved me away from depression was more coherent work so I could permanently create the hormones I needed. This required a practice which really has gone on to inform the rest of my now private business. I've been sharing my story for many years now in an NGO that supports people who struggle with their mental health, and I would like to think that it's had some impact on people's lives. Although my position has changed in my NGO work, I still am able to support people in my private practise. It's not rocket science how I support people, and it's all over the net now which is fantastic. However some folk still need that face to face support and Im thrilled I'm still able to pass on to other's how I got through my depression and anxiety for those who are ready to take the deep dive in with someone whose been in there but can now support others out. I also continue to take exercise classes on a Tuesday and Thursday @ 5.30 and a Wednesday and Thursday morning for rehabilitation or seated exercise options. The photo is Peter Jamieson – one of my clients who proves that strength training is valuable for any stage of life.