Why I Now Need Physical Therapy Because of My Depression
When you are depressed, you are mostly consumed by the effects that it has on your mind. After all, it is classified as a mental illness. Common symptoms can range from guilt, hopelessness and suicidal ideation, to increased or decreased sleep and appetite, concentration problems, brain fog and so much more. It’s rare that the physical symptoms of depression are discussed at length. I have experienced some typical physical problems that come with depression like headaches, weight gain, insomnia and digestive issues. But in the past year, I experienced something I had never considered would happen to me in relation to my depression.
I have tried for five or six years to earn a bachelor’s degree, but my mental health has always gotten in the way, causing me to take semesters off here and there. I have spent a couple of weeks at a time in psychiatric units, a few times throughout the years to find balance, which has caused me to miss school as well. About seven to eight months back, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed with trying to maintain my mental health, maintain good grades and pay bills, so I checked myself into a hospital for a final time. This also marked the last time I withdrew from college and still haven’t finished that degree. The feeling of loss, guilt, and shame from moving back home and giving up my dream of getting a degree and a fulfilling career alongside my peers and friends weighed me down and felt like the final straw.
It was from then on that I started my six-month journey of sitting at home doing nothing but sleeping until at least 2 p.m., overeating and sitting in the same chair, in the same position, day after day, binge-watching shows on Netflix. I have been depressed, hopeless and even had fleeting suicidal thoughts before, but nothing as soul-crushing and defeating as this. I let the negativity and pain linger, take over every thought and fester inside of me until it became toxic to me and those around me. Depression is a soul-sucking disease and often it can be a mystery as to how to go about treating it. Unfortunately, sitting for six months straight had more painful effects on my body than my foggy, depressed brain had taken into account.
By the end of these six months, my muscles had become weak and deconditioned (lost muscle tone through lack of exercise), my lower back pain had become excruciating, I had almost no flexibility in my legs and back and my knees were so weak that it was almost impossible to squat down to pet my dog for longer than a few seconds and jump from even a couple of feet off the ground.
When it finally clicked what I had done to myself, I panicked. Of course, my brain was in turmoil, but I never imagined it would result in the destruction of my body. My best option in my mind was to start a weekly regimen of physical therapy. It was unclear to me whether a doctor would approve someone like me for physical therapy. I had depression; I didn’t have a physical injury or disorder. I looked into it, asked some questions and I found out that people who are on bed rest get PT all the time. I was essentially on bed rest, even if it was unofficial. My doctor approved me for PT for my back pain and leg flexibility, and I am now working twice a week with a physical therapist. I am already seeing small improvements. The effects from the movement I am getting from PT are even helping to lift my depression a small amount.
I still have negative thoughts, I still have a daily existential crisis and I still sit in my chair most of the day mainly due to the lack of motivation and energy, but I am making small improvements and that’s more than I could say even a month ago.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo via Liderina