Why Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well With Mental Illness

Hey friends! It’s currently 11:06pm as I begin today’s post. How are you all doing? I hope you’ve been having a rejuvenating weekend filled with the all the things/people you love.

So today’s topic: why drinking alcohol when you have a history of mental illness is a bad idea.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist (yet). So I am not fully aware of the research-based effects of alcohol on those with mental illness. I speak purely from personal experience, so take my ideas with a grain of salt! 

Ahh, alcohol… how much we love this precious juice. It relaxes us; makes us lose our inhibitions; makes everything seem just that much more fun. And it’s oh-so accessible in college, with most people reaching the legal age of drinking before graduation. Go to any frat party, and the alcohol is there, calling out to students of any and every age to drink. Even if you’re underage, you must certainly have at least one friend who’s of age, and can serve as an alcohol plug. Bottom line is, drinking is a part of university culture, all throughout the US.

Now, couple that with the fact that many, many college students suffer from mental illness, like depression and anxiety. Combine alcohol with mental illness, and you have a recipe for disaster.

If you’re depressed, you may use alcohol as a means to feel something… anything. Anything to fill the void within.

If you’re anxious, you may use alcohol as a means to relax. This is especially true for those with social anxiety. Many college students are at that age where they struggle with developing self-confidence. College is rife with situations that really push students beyond their social comfort zone. Class presentations, networking with professors and potential employers, meeting other students– all of these things can definitely be challenging for many people, especially introverts. The dangerous thing that happens is, many people end up using alcohol as a means to relax in these social situations. Alcohol, then, quickly becomes a crutch. It’s a very slippery slope when you start to rely on alcohol to get through day-to-day interactions.

Now, if you struggle with bipolar disorder, like I do, it is easy to use alcohol as a means to recapture the high-flying feelings of mania. There’s nothing else like feeling completely uninhibited and on top of the world, with the belief that you can handle any challenge thrown your way. But more often than not, people with bipolar spend most of their days in the depressive, rather than manic, phase. It’s understandable for them to wish to recapture that feeling of grandeur and invincibility, and many find a way to mimic those feelings, through alcohol. There’s a reason why people call alcohol “liquid courage”. It is a fact that people with bipolar II disorder are at a much higher risk for alcoholism than is the general population, which is why I must be very careful about monitoring my own relationship with alcohol, and drink in moderation, if at all.

Hopefully by now, you can see how dangerous it is for people with mental illness to experiment with alcohol. What may start as innocent fun may very well morph into full-on alcoholism.

I implore you all– especially those struggling with mental illness– to think it through, while clear of mind, before downing that shot of vodka.


Ambition, Happiness, or Both?

My whole life, ambition has been the cornerstone of my identity. Everything I pursue, I want to be my very best… the best, even.

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling… stuck. Devoid of the former passion and drive that heretofore characterized my life. On the one hand, I think this shift in mindset is a signal of personal growth; I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of balance in life. Finally, I have an active social life, and am surrounded by the best of friends. I’ve learned to find happiness in the present, rather than viewing happiness as a reward of the future, when I’d make my mark after years of diligent, hard work.

However, this shift in mindset has also proven unsettling. I had always prided myself in my crazy drive and unusual motivation to be my best– as a student, a gymnast, a dancer. I’d push myself to my very limit, each and every day, in pursuit of my long-term goals. I derived fulfillment in living a life filled with ambition. Losing that ambition was like losing a bit of my core identity.

There is something beautiful about milking the last droplet out of each day, leaving no room for dilly-dallying, constantly at work in pursuit of greatness. When I fail to try my very hardest each day, I am left feeling lazy, guilty, and unfulfilled.

What has happened to me?

Don’t get me wrong– my shift to a life of more balance has given me many gifts. For the first time in my life, I actually have friends whom I can call my second family. Going out to clubs and parties has been a fun experience. But, in spite of all this, I am left feeling strangely… empty. I feel as though I have tried on a pair of shoes that don’t quite fit. I tried the life of fun and games. It clearly doesn’t suit me well.

Let’s explore some fundamental questions, shall we? Can a person be both ambitious and live a life of balance? Must life be viewed in such black and white colors? Does the pursuit of greatness necessarily entail one to give up immediate happiness, for the promise of future reward? These are questions I’ve grappled with, for the past year or so, ever since I dropped pre-med in favor of a much less demanding major. Without the pressure of medical school driving me to try my best academically, I found myself slipping… in all areas of life. I studied less. Ate more. Stopped dancing. Started partying.

What has happened, Belicia?

At least, now, I can say I’ve lived life on both sides of the grass. For most my life, I was disciplined beyond my years, sacrificing a social life and a carefree childhood in the pursuit of my lofty goals. Coming to college has been a whole different experience. I grew a lot… but I’ve also regressed in many ways. I hate myself for letting myself become the way I am now… struggling with day-to-day motivation; losing my ambition; failing to push myself each day to be my best.

What if this is a reflection of my true character? But, I am not a lazy person. I am passionate. Driven. A fighter. Or, I was, at one point in time.

I know it will be so hard for me to get back to the disciplined life I once lived, having dug myself so deep in the hole of hedonistic culture. I experienced the fun; to give it up will be tough. Must I give it all up, though? Balance. Everyone tells me to live a balanced life. What does that really mean, though? I have high hopes for myself. I know that to achieve my goals and to regain my former ambition, I must make drastic lifestyle changes. I just don’t know if I necessarily wish to go back to my former, pre-college life.

Please, friends, I need help. I can’t do this by myself. I need to be inspired by positive role models. My god, I used to be the role model others looked up to. Now, look at me… I call it rock bottom. That’s it– I’ve gone off the deep end, and I’ve hit rock bottom.

I must have faith that I can get out of this hole. I need to believe in myself, now more than ever. This is one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my life– to get back on track, having lost myself this past year. But, I know that, deep down, there lives a strong warrior. I was a fighter once; I can become that fighter once more. She’s still there. In hibernation, waiting to emerge once more. I need to get back on track. I need to find myself once more.


The Social Anxiety Beast Has Returned

Freshman year of college, I thought I had finally overcome my long-time struggle with social anxiety. I came into UCLA utterly excited for my new life chapter. To my greatest surprise, I was completely social uninhibited, when I first arrived at orientation. Some people I met later told me they were initially “intimidated” by my outgoing nature (I had no intention of making others feel uncomfortable… I guess I was oblivious to the way I came across to others). My social confidence continued to grow during my freshman year of college. People complimented me on my outgoing, bubbly, confident personality (speaks to society’s bias towards extroverts, but that’s a topic for another post). Encouraged by others’ validation, I’d continue to prove to myself and others that I was indeed this self-confident person people thought me to be. I began to partake in extracurricular activities that I’d never dreamt of doing, back in high school. I co-taught the UCLA dancesport club. I took on a job as a barista at Bruin Cafe (and was complimented by my boss for my “excellent” customer service). I gave a mini Latin dance workshop to the UCLA gymnastics team. I wrote for the Daily Bruin and got really good at approaching strangers for interviews. In the debate assignment for my GE class, I was rewarded by a round of applause after presenting my rebuttal statement– my speaking skills were so over the top and lawyer-esque, people were impressed.

My social anxiety, it seemed, was rapidly shedding. By the end of my freshman year at UCLA, I truly believed I could handle any social challenge thrown my way.

Then, came the bipolar diagnosis, the summer going into my sophomore year of college. On the one hand, the label helped me understand the underlying cause behind my constantly fluctuating moods and impulsive behaviors. The diagnosis, however, also threw me into a big state of confusion. I began to wonder how much of my past behavior and achievements were due to my bipolar, and how much of it was really me. I realized that, in the early stages of my illness, I spent most of my time in the hypomanic state. Symptoms of hypomania include: setting unrealistic goals and ambitions, delusions of grandeur, and– you guessed it– drastically decreased social inhibition.

So, a big part of me wondered then, how much of my so-called “social confidence” was real, and how much of it was simply a manifestation of bipolar disorder? My newfound pseudo-confidence was beginning to show cracks. After the diagnosis, I didn’t feel nearly as certain in my social ability.

Sophomore year of college came around the corner. As my illness continued to progress, my mood patterns shifted. Now, I was no longer spending most my days in the manic phase; instead, I felt depressed most of the time. Without the mania “helping” me tackle social challenges with ease, I lost a lot of my confidence. Once again, meeting new people became a source of anxiety. My fear of public speaking came back. Without mania as a crutch, I questioned my own social ability.

Now, I am learning to develop genuine social confidence. I have a long ways to go. But I know that the only way to overcome social anxiety is to tackle it head on. No easy way around it. I’ll be restarting my weekly social anxiety updates to keep y’all posted on my progress. Social anxiety is indeed one of the most common forms of anxiety. A moderate amount of anxiety in social situations is, believe it or not, very normal for everyone! It’s only when the anxiety is so gripping that it poses as a detriment to your daily life, that it can be classified as an anxiety disorder.

Whoever suffers from social anxiety themselves– my best advice is to not judge yourself too harshly during social situations, especially during a social faux pas. You WILL feel nervous and scared when faced with social challenges, especially in the early days of tackling the anxiety. In these situations, you may instinctively beat yourself up for being nervous. You may kick yourself for stuttering while attempting to talk to that cute guy, or turning tomato red and breaking into a visible sweat when speaking in public. In these moments, try your best to be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that you are making strides towards ridding yourself of the anxiety, and exposing yourself to situations that frighten you is a necessary step of the process. Social anxiety is cruel, because it plays into one key emotion– embarrassment. It is this fear of embarrassment that causes many to tremble at the mere thought of being evaluated or judged, in any shape or form. So, instead of fearing embarrassment, make it your friend. Commend yourself each time you face a social challenge head on, regardless of how painful it may have felt. As I always like to say, discomfort begets growth. Think of each painfully awkward moment as one more step forward on the path of overcoming your social anxiety. Because you know what? The more experience with embarrassment you have, the less power this intimidating emotion will hold over you. You will be able to tell yourself that being embarrassed really isn’t the worst thing in the world. And you will soon become better able to handle yourself in situations of discomfort. So yeah. Social anxiety sucks. But I have seen people overcome it, time and time again. And I am looking forward to that grand day when I do so myself.



Thoughts Before Heading Back to School

Hey friends! So it’s currently 1:50am on this Saturday morning. Today is, unfortunately, my last day at home before I go back to LA for summer school! I’ve been feeling… a little bit stressed, to be honest. See, I’ve never taken a summer session before. And from what I’ve heard, it goes by FAST. Think, regular quarter (which is fast enough as is), but on steroids. We gotta cram 10-weeks’ worth of material into 6 weeks. That’s pretty intense. And I’m taking 2 classes, which is full-time for summer session. So yeah. I really want to do well in my classes to keep up my GPA.

I recently watched a TED talk given by Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. She talks about how stress perception affects our physical well-being. There are two different ways to view stress. One is the most common viewpoint– to perceive stress as something negative and detrimental. The other way is the one Kelly advocates– perceiving stress as a conducive mechanism that prepares you for handling whatever challenges life throws your way. If you view stress in the former manner, you are more likely to die young than if you view stress the latter way. Point is, stress doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as something negative, as most people believe.

So, this time around, I choose to view this anticipatory anxiety as a sign that my mind/body are preparing itself for this 6-week battle, so that I can perform to the greatest of my ability. A moderate amount of stress is healthy!

I laid out my schedule for the coming month-and-a-half, and I gotta say, it’s a pretty ambitious one. My only concern is that I will burn out. Willpower is indeed a limited resource, and one I must use efficiently and wisely. I only have a one-week break between summer session C and the start of the school year. And my fall quarter schedule is really no joke, with 4 (maybe even 5) classes. I gotta pace myself. Check in daily to see how I’m coping. Take a little time off for myself, if need be. I need to prioritize my mental health, this time around. Gosh, I feel so mentally fragile, these days. I’m still trying to identify the patterns that mark the onset of a mental breakdown or depressive period. I know exhaustion can give way to depression, just as lacking a daily structure can also get me feeling down. I must find that happy medium where I’m doing enough to be productive, but not too much so as to run out of mental energy.

This anxiety, depression and bipolar II is really difficult to manage alone, which is why I also have to see a therapist on a regular basis. The thing with Kaiser is that it is so damn difficult to get an appointment in. You literally have to schedule months in advance before you can see a professional. My next appointment with a new therapist is at the end of August. We’ll see how I’m coping, then.

At this moment, I’m feeling a little manic. Which explains why the heck I’m still up, at this ungodly hour. I was watching a bunch of old videos of myself dancing, and felt inspired to continue choreographing to my favorite songs. I’m actually interviewing to be an assistant choreographer for UCLA’s HOOLIGAN theater’s fall production, “Singin’ in the Rain”. That interview will take place Monday, so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I won’t be too nervous. Well, past experience has shown that, no matter how nervous I may feel inside, I somehow end up keeping my cool and delivering. I just need to find that confidence within myself.

Alrighty folks. Enough chit-chat. Your girl needs to get some rest. Oh, and I’m currently tapping away at my first book! On page 14. Writing a book is seriously not an easy task… but I will persist. Who knows if this book will even see the light of day? Maybe it’ll turn out so bad that I won’t even bother trying to find a publisher, or even self-publishing. But this is a great experience, for I am stretching my bounds as a creative writer and growing tremendously in the process.

Ok. Gotta get some shut-eye (or at least try to, in my current state). Ta-ta, for now!







p.s.– finished this post in a solid 20 minutes. BAM!

Writing My First Book?!

Hi friends! It’s 6:56am on this Wednesday morning. I was feeling a little stuck this morning, reluctant to get out of bed to start my day. My thoughts– how will I fill my time today? I’ll go to the gym. Then study GRE vocab. Then go skating. Then come home and take a break. Then hit the gym again. Then do some writing.

So here I was, planning out my day (I really should have thought this out yesterday, before I went to bed), when I was struck with the inspiration to write my first book!

I know I want to write about important mental health issues. A book recounting my personal experience with depression/identity crisis following an athletic career cut short would be ideal. I could also write about bipolar disorder, giving people an inside glimpse of this mental illness. Either way, my book will be based upon personal experience, as the topic of my own journey is one I am very familiar with.

I don’t know when this book is going to happen. I go back to LA for summer school in 4 days. The next 6 weeks will be busy, filled with studying all day long. I am a bit reluctant to start a new project right before school begins, as I know I’ll get easily consumed by my book-writing, and may become distracted from my studies. Of course, I can always devote about 30 minutes each day to my writing– anyone can spare 30 minutes in their day!

Time management is indeed an art– an art I have yet to fully master. I wish I could effectively separate my mercurial moods with how I go about my day-to-day. When I feel good and inspired, I’ll be up by 5am and go non-stop for the rest of the day. The majority of my days, however, I find myself either neutral, or downright depressed. On these bad days, I’ll be in bed until 11am, and find myself tragically dragging my feet around the rest of the day, with an iron-heavy weight sitting on my chest. I attribute a lot of these up-and-down extremities to bipolar disorder. The thing is, I never can predict when I’ll have a good day, and when I’ll have a down day. One day, I may feel super inspired; the next, my short-lived flame will have fizzled out, and I’ll be left feeling empty once more. Why can’t I just be consistent with my moods, which in turn affect my life path? I hate how my mood state holds such power over my daily functioning. I need to be able to be productive, regardless of how I’m feeling. I guess that’s the tricky thing about bipolar. On your highs, you feel unstoppable. But the glory of the high is always overshadowed by the knowledge that, following a high comes the inevitable crash of depression. Eventually, you lose hope that things will ever be consistently good, or even normal. I used to long for my highs. Now, I dread them, because they signal the onset of depression. I just want to live in a contented normal state– neither sky-high nor rock bottom. I just want to be mentally stable. Live a life of balance.

Okay, my rant on bipolar disorder is over. Do you now see why I wish to write a book about this illness? There’s so much about it that people don’t understand… so many misconceptions… so many things that only the souls who’ve battled this beast can know.

Well, all I know is, I’m glad I started my day off with writing. Perhaps this should be my daily trend. It is, after all, highly therapeutic.

I hope you all have a beautiful day. Keep smiling, don’t take yourself all too seriously, and be happy!






Why College Isn’t The Best Time Of My Life

Hi guys! It’s currently 11:05am on this lovely Monday morning.

A little update before we get into the meat of today’s post– I’m back in the Bay Area! I wasn’t planning on returning home this summer, but I found myself missing my fam bam while in LA, so I spontaneously flew back home last Wednesday night. I’ll be flying back to LA for summer school this Sunday.

On to today’s content: why I miss my gymnastics days. So, I recently picked up figure skating as a new hobby, and have been spending almost every day at the ice rink. There, I see the little girls, no older than 8 years old, hard at work with training. They are at the rink every morning at 5am, practicing and practicing in the pursuit of perfecting their craft. Watching them, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own days as a competitive athlete. Spending hours and hours each day at the gym, working towards a very specific, focused goal. It wasn’t easy. There were many days when I’d wake up, completely exhausted from the previous day’s training, dreading the moment I’d have to get out of bed for practice. I’d stare at the clock, counting down the minutes till my reckoning (ok, it wasn’t THAT bad… but trainings can be pretty brutal, if you’re working at 100%). I couldn’t appreciate it then, but looking back, my days as a gymnast were some of the best of my short 20 years of life. I had a strong passion. Something that drove me to wake up each morning. I had discipline and structure in my life. Everything I did, from gymnastics training to ballet and contortion class to swimming at the local Bay Club after a long day’s practice– it was all geared towards my goal of becoming an elite gymnast who represents her country in a sport she loved. There’s something so fulfilling about going to bed each night, knowing you’ve done all you could that day to get one step closer to your long-term goal, and looking forward to the next day, for more improvement.

Being a competitive athlete is indeed a lifestyle. And it was a lifestyle that served me well, especially as a person who thrives with structure and a strict regimen to carry me through the day. As I later discovered in my post-gymnastics days– a time I deem the “Lost Days”– my life collapses when I don’t have structure, lending way to depression, guilt, and shame. I’ve since struggled long and hard to recreate that kind of structured lifestyle I had as a gymnast. In high school, it was easier– you had your day’s schedule pre-set for you. Wake up at 6am, go to school from 8am-3pm, followed by extracurricular activities, then homework, then sleep. In college, you are tasked with the responsibility of creating your own structure, especially as your schedule changes from day-to-day, quarter-to-quarter. It’s not easy. And when I don’t have structure, I get depressed. And when I get depressed, I can’t do anything productive, let alone get back on track with my discipline. Depression is something I didn’t have to deal with as an athlete, and I suspect a big part of it is because my busy athletic lifestyle didn’t leave room for this mental illness to rear its ugly head.

People often say college is the best four years of your life. While there are indeed many great things associated with time at university– tremendous personal growth and experience of freedom, for instance– it is a misconception that college must be the zenith of your life. Many bright-eyed freshman come into college with sky-high expectations of what their college experience should be like, only to be gravely disappointed with the reality. I think those of us who were very involved in competitive athletics, music, or some other serious extracurricular activity in their youth, are much more prone to find their college experience less-than-fulfilling, when no longer able to pursue their passions as they did in the past.

I recent discovered a former figure skater who now attends UC Berkeley. Her name is Michelle Hong, and she has her own website dedicated to “empowering the next generation of figure skaters”. In her personal biography, she describes her all-too-relatable experience of transitioning from a competitive skater to full-time college student. Here’s an excerpt that resonated with me:

“There is an immense amount of emotional distress, physical pain, intense pressure, and thoughts of unworthiness that come with [figure skating], which result in athletes feeling drained and burnt out. Moving on to a brand new chapter in life can be seen as an easy decision. But for me, quitting my career as an elite figure skater was by far the hardest decision of my life as I was letting go of an art that allowed me to express my truest self, passion that provided me with valuable life lessons, and a lifestyle where I committed countless hours of hard work… Narrowing my focus on books, lectures, and even the fun social parts of meeting new friends and attending awesome college parties left me uninspired and unfulfilled… I felt stuck. Without skating in my life, I lost my identity and I fell into a deep depression. I completely lost all of my confidence, I gained weight, and I isolated myself as I drowned in my own self-deprecating thoughts.”

In her own words, Michelle felt “uninspired and unfulfilled” without figure skating in her life. I underwent a very similar experience when I first quit gymnastics due to an injury. I fell into a deep depression and my self confidence plummeted– something I’d never experienced before in my life. Most of high school was dedicated to me overcoming that depression and finding a new identity. One good thing that came of it all– I started this blog as a coping mechanism, and it quickly turned into a creative medium through which I enjoy expressing my inner thoughts and emotions.

Then, I found ballroom dance. This new hobby filled the void that gymnastics had left in me, and I found myself inspired and full of hope once more. Coming to college was difficult for me, as at the time I left for UCLA, I still had many unfulfilled aspirations with my dancing. I had so much potential for improvement, but hadn’t the time to bring my dreams to reality. College cut short the momentum I experienced with dance. And, in turn, I felt lost yet again.

I’ve since grown disillusioned with ballroom. The difficult reality of finding a dance partner and the tremendous amount of politics, exploitation and negativity that comes of this world, opened my eyes to the ugly truth, and made me fall out of love with dance.

Where am I now? I am left feeling lost, again. Though I’ve finally settled on a great-fit career as a sports and performance psychologist, a big part of me is not yet ready to let go of my former life as an athlete. I’m not ready to go behind the scenes, working with athletes. I want to BE the athlete. I think a large part of this stems from having had my athletic career cut short, when I was not yet ready to let it go. First with gymnastics and the injury; then with dance and college. In both cases, it was circumstance that drastically altered the familiar path I was on, leaving me feeling lost without direction.

All hope is not lost, though. Like I said, I recently fell in love with figure skating, and have many hopes and goals for the future. I’m not stupid– I know I won’t be going to the Olympics (in this lifetime). That said, I still wish to compete and perform in the future, at the adult level. I started skating at the beginning of this month, and like with anything I pursue, I tried my very best to improve at a fast rate. I’ve gone to the rink for a couple hours each day since I started, and am already seeing some good results.

Despite whatever adversity I may have endured in the past, I have a great life. The opportunity to get a great education, an incredibly supportive family, and a chance to pursue my many creative hobbies. There’s really nothing to complain about. I only wish… I don’t know. I wish I could go back in time, to relive my past life as an athlete. It was a great one. And I’m sad to say that, in spite of all the new experiences college has presented me, I have yet to recapture my “mojo”. I know it’s dangerous to live in the past. But I simply speak my mind. There are many days– especially the down days– when I yearn for gymnastics, and the kind of lifestyle that came with being a gymnast. I was inspired! I want to feel that all-consuming passion once more. But, as I enter the new chapter of adulthood, I can no longer be driven simply by my heart. I need to start using my head. There are many new responsibilities to take on, and I can no longer wholeheartedly devote myself to the pursuit of my craft. That’s the part that saddens me. It’s that, no matter how hard I try, I will never again experience the former glory of my past. My new goals must center around a career that will put food on the table. I only wish I could feel as passionately about academics as I did gymnastics. I only wish the life of a college student could bring me as much fulfillment as did my life as a gymnast.

I’m sure many former athletes transitioning to college face similar struggles. For many, their college experience is tainted by the bitterness of not being able to pursue their sport and passion as they did in their past life. College is indeed a new life chapter. What many don’t understand is, some people are just not ready to take that next step. And when you rush into college with your heart lying elsewhere, as I did, that may be a mistake. Because if your heart isn’t in it, your degree ends up being nothing but a piece of paper.

I shouldn’t fall into the trap of self-pity and regret, though. For doing so will make life painful and regretful. Everything post-gymnastics will be but a downward slope, and I don’t know about you, but peaking at age 14 is a little bit sad, don’t you think? I must keep moving forward with my journey, and continue to search for something that will bring me as much joy as my former life as a gymnast once did. And I will have faith that one day, I will find that something that will make me click. There’s no timeline for finding passion. It doesn’t have to happen in college. All I want is to feel inspired once more… and I don’t know if figure skating is my answer. Maybe there isn’t just ONE answer. All I know is, I WILL keep searching. Relentlessly.

3 Things I Do When Feeling Down or Depressed

Do you ever have those days when it seems that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get yourself out of bed and start your day? Or, if you do manage to drag yourself out of bed, you find yourself struggling deeply with motivation and productivity?

Trust me, as a person who struggles with depression, I FEEL you. Over the years, I’ve worked on developing coping skills that have gradually lessened the power depression holds over me; things that, while not completely eradicating the depression, help me maintain a decent level of day-to-day productivity, even when I’m feeling the lowest of lows. Here are some tried-and-true weapons I keep in my arsenal to fight the crippling effects of depression. Take them with a grain of salt– what works for me main not work for another!


Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit, on down days (and even on up days) I haven’t been the greatest at sticking to my exercise regimen. There’s nothing easy about exercising, period, let alone exercising when depressed. Dragging myself to the gym and exerting mental willpower is the LAST thing on Earth I want to do, when I’m feeling so beaten down psychologically. Ironically, exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost your mood and, if not eliminate depression, at the very least mitigate its effects. Sometimes, I think back to my competitive gymnastics days, and wonder why, in spite of all the difficulties of being a high-level athlete, I never struggled with depression. Now, there could be a whole host of reasons– for one, the onset of depression and other mental illnesses usually manifests during puberty, and most of my gymnastics career was spent in the innocent pre-pubescent realm. At that time, I was also constantly working towards my long term goal of making the US national team, which was reason enough to wake up each morning, inspired. Regardless, I think a big part of why I was able to keep the depression at bay while a gymnast was because I exercised regularly. Not simple exercise where you barely break a sweat. I’m talking intense, hardcore training– training that left you dripping in your own sweat shower, muscles trembling from overexertion, head spinning, ears ringing, eyes seeing stars. Of course, I’m not saying everyone needs to exercise with the intensity of a competitive athlete in order to stop depression in its tracks, nor am I arguing that exercise is the sole solution to combating depression. All I’m saying is, at the end of those grueling days at the gym, even though my body was battered, my mind was as clear and strong as ever. My veins filled with endorphins. As I’d stand in the shower, letting the hot water heal and rejuvenate my torn muscles, I’d always feel one thing– pride. I’d be proud of myself for pushing myself to my physical limit. Good, focused training always left me feeling proud and happy of what I had accomplished, which gave rise to other positive thoughts and emotions. Depression, I DARE you to take one step near me, when I’m on that post-training emotional high. So, long story short, exercise is your number one not-so-secret weapon when combating depression. Biologically, you WILL feel in greater spirits after physical exertion of any kind– doesn’t need to be like the kind of training I described earlier. How do you get yourself to go to the gym, when depressed, though? Like I said, I haven’t quite mastered the trick just yet. There were times in the past when, during a bad bout of depression, I’d lug myself to the gym, and, in the middle of a very mentally-taxing yet non-productive workout, break down crying. I know how hard it can be to try and push yourself, mentally and physically, when your willpower has been completely drained by the depression, and you have no fight left within. It might not be a bad idea, in these cases, to get a personal trainer, or join a fitness group. It’ll be MUCH easier to get yourself to exercise, if have a coach helping you push through those mental walls. I had many down days as a gymnast– days in which the last place I wanted to be was at the gym. In those moments, having a coach to push you when you couldn’t push yourself helped. tremendously. Thus, I plan on getting a GroupX fitness pass starting in August; I have a good feeling that, in going to these weekly group fitness classes led by professional trainers, both my physical and mental health will improve, and it’ll become a positive cycle—hit the gym, feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally, be more motivated to keep up the progress and stay in this positive, inspired state of being, and continue to go to the gym. Regular exercise will quiet the depression.


Create Life Structure

The worst thing to pair with depression is a lack of day-to-day life structure. It’s not easy, but trying to keep busy with a set routine will, at the very least, help you maintain productivity when you’re feeling absolutely down. That way, when the depression does strike, you won’t be faced with the mountainous task of deciding what the heck to do with your time… because, if it were up to you, you would most likely choose to spend the day cooped up in your room, underneath your covers, locked out from the outside world. And that is the last state you want to be in when depressed, for being in such a vegetative state will only feed into the depressive cycle. If you have a daily structure, the effects of depression on your life will be less profound. You’ll have a concrete idea of what needs to get done each day, and clear instructions on how to go about achieving these daily goals. When depression strikes, many people report feeling “lost” without direction. Sticking by a routine, no matter how difficult it may be, is sure to take away that “lost” feeling, and in turn may mitigate some of the depression. So, weapon #2 for fighting that depression: set a daily structure to stick by, in the best of times and the worst of times.


Quiet the inner critic.

When you’re depressed, your whole life basically feels like a big dark cloud of negativity. Our inner critic THRIVES off such environments. It’s easy to fall into the toxic cycle of self-blame, and call ourselves “weak” or “worthless” because of way depression makes us act and feel. One thing I’ve been working on lately is quieting that self-blaming voice of negativity and treating myself kindly when I know I’m in such a psychologically vulnerable state. If, despite my best efforts, I really can’t get myself to finish my one hour at the gym, I won’t see myself as a “weakling” or a “failure”. I’ll tell myself that this is my illness talking. Don’t get me wrong—it’s dangerous to start using depression as a crutch, and to blame everything you do or can’t do on your depression. If you start doing this, you are letting the depression run your narrative and slowly take over your life. It’s important to distinguish between who’s talking—healthy you, or the you struggling with depression. I refuse to let myself stop trying to achieve my daily goals, when depressed. I will ALWAYS try my hardest to function productively, depressed or not. However, I know that achieving goals when depressed is about a hundred times harder to do than when healthy. So if it so happens that, in my depressed state, I fall short of my goals, I won’t beat myself up over it. I won’t call myself names or internalize what’s happened as a huge failure or negative reflection of character. I will accept it as largely the depression talking and promise myself that things will get better, once the cloud of depression lifts.

Clearly, I don’t have a black belt in combating depression. I still have a lot to learn for myself. And a lot of the advice I’ve given to y’all in this post, I still struggle to incorporate in my day-to-day. It’s a process. The whole thing is a process. I just want you to know that, if you are out there struggling with mental illness, be it depression or something else, I AM WITH YOU. You are not alone. And it’s so important for you reach out for the help you need… few can rarely overcome mental illness alone. The advice I’ve offered in this post may act as a temporary bandage to depression, but certainly does not constitute an effective cure for this debilitating illness.

Anyway, it’s 8:50pm right now. I should wrap up soon, so I can engage in my own self-care night routine.







Take care everyone,