“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller
As the spotlight continues to shine on the importance of mental health, it has also resulted in a certain level of ‘normalcy’ while using terminology like depression, anxiety, etc. For every person who fails to understand the severity of this disorder, the word ‘depression’ has become a run-of-the-mill term used to describe anything from them having a bad day to a minor episode of sadness. It is a common reaction to feel like ‘you have nothing to be depressed about’ and that ‘you’ll get over it. These things keep happening.’ However, it is often much more than this.
Being a psychology student in high school, we have studied various mental disorders, the symptoms, and the long-term repercussions of the same. Despite this, my friends regularly made casual statements such as “I think I am depressed because I am always sad,” or “I couldn’t study because I was depressed as I didn’t score well in my last exam.” All while being out and about, enjoying extra-curricular activities and occasional get-togethers.
But one day everything changed for me.
My first encounter with depression: Summer of 2015
Everyone has a hero or role model they look up to. Someone who inspires you, who gives you the valor to strive for your dreams and goals, someone who never gives up on you, who always gives you the strength to get through a bad day. A hero who acts selflessly and puts others first. This role model inspires you and has a major role in shaping your personality and your morals and values. The one who teaches you the difference between right and wrong. And that someone in my life was my grandmother.
For as long as I can remember, I was attached to my maternal grandmother. Being an army brat, my grandmother and my mother took care of me during the majority of my early childhood years (my father had been stationed at a field location). From my first baby steps to helping me pick out my first school bag, from having my meals as a kid with her to helping her cook, she always remained constant. I remember holding her hand as a kid, how delicate and soft they seemed and yet they had the firmest hold. She narrated tales of a different time, a world away from me, in a different era. A soul so kind and sweet, there was no one who didn’t love her and respect her. Her demeanor indeed was very likable and endearing.
In an era where it’s easier for children to send their parents off to an old age home, she was the backbone of our entire family. She was the one who kept everyone afloat on a rainy day.
But, however, on the eve of June 3rd, 2015, my family lost our hero. And that’s when my world became so dark that I thought I’d never see the light.
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” – Aristotle
I’d lost loved ones before, but this one was different. This loss took a heavy toll on my life and I didn’t know what to do.
This incident occurred while I was in school. Despite experiencing a situation like this before, for some reason, my brain or heart couldn’t comprehend this one.
My grandmother passed away, peacefully, during my summer break. Summer vacations, a time defined by families taking their children for vacations, kids enjoying the cool splatter of water while swimming, group study sessions, etc. Meanwhile, my life was in a downward spiral. Because I lost my backbone. My inspiration. My hero.
Initially, it seemed natural for me to have such tendencies considering I lost a huge part of my life. But as time passed, it started affecting my regime, activities, and my eating patterns – my entire lifestyle.
From the beginning, I was a very active student in my school. From sports to studies as well as, any competition really – I loved being involved. So much so that I was even a part of the student council of my school. But after this incident, nothing caught my attention. I just didn’t feel like participating anymore, developed a short span of attention and focus, lost my motivation, distanced myself from my clique and struggled to keep up my grades. At first, my dissociation seemed justified. But eventually, this state of mind started affecting every aspect of my life.
For me, going through this phase became debilitating as I couldn’t relish in the little things I used to love doing. More often than not, my state of mind would cause me to sit in my room and cry. Go on without food for days – because nothing made me feel hungry. It is then that it dawned upon me that I may be in a state of depression.
Food for Mental Health
I realized that depression is something that cannot be healed simply. It takes great courage and strength to avoid and resist to fall back into a spiral of severe isolation and anxiety.
A lot of people suggested a medicated treatment, counseling sessions with a therapist, but I felt like none it would work out. Amongst all these efforts, one thing got through to my head. My grandmother didn’t just give me memories, but she left me with a lifestyle. A lifestyle that I had espoused without fathoming. And at that moment I realized that I had to make her proud regardless. And the first step I could take was to fix my lifestyle and my eating habits.
Oh! She loved to eat and she made sure that every member of the family ended their day with a satisfying meal.
That is when I decided to take baby steps towards eating healthy – the best way to commemorate her. She was always very fond of mangoes. And it was later that my family told me that she shared her last mango with me. So the most important element in my diet during those summers was – mango! But yes, apart from this juicy fruit, I carefully researched and made a meticulously planned dietary plan to treat my depression.
This diet consisted majorly of fresh fruits and vegetables as according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consume fresh fruits and vegetables were likely to be less depressed!
5 Amazing Foods To Help You Fight Depression
1. Mango: The king of fruits – it isn’t the king just in terms of the taste, but also in terms of the nutrients. The benefits can help you in fighting depression, regulating blood sugar, helping you reduce body fat/obesity, poor digestions, and more. Lastly, it is rich in fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Researchers also believe that the fruit may be a healthier alternative to drugs when it comes to treating type 2 diabetes.
2. Strawberry: Strawberries also help your body produce happy hormones! Depression can often be tackled using natural foods and ingredients. So another food that I added to my diet was strawberries! Strawberries’ contents prevent homocysteine from forming in large and injurious amounts enabling the blood to deliver nutrients to our brain.
3. Green Tea: How can I forget to add tea to my diet plan? So, after some research, I found out that green tea contains an element called the L-Theanine. L-Theanine helps combat the symptoms of depression. It is an amino acid found in green tea that has a soothing, calming effect on people. It stimulates alpha waves, that are observed when a person is in a relaxed state. Alongside this, it also alters the levels of serotonin and dopamine, both of which can affect our mood!
4. Tomatoes: I try to eat at least six baby tomatoes in my salad each day as it contains folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid. Both of which are good for fighting depression. According to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, deficiency of folate was observed in people fighting depression.
Just like strawberries, tomatoes also can prevent excess storage of homocysteine in our bodies — which restricts the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — from forming in the body. Ultimately stabilizing your mood and assisting you in fighting depression.
5. Hemp Seed Oil: Something surprising was also revealed while researching about a plan. I found out that hemp oils which contain supportive amounts of phytocannabinoids and terpenes can also have additional positive effects on the neurological system.
Phytocannabinoids play an important role in the body’s system of natural biochemicals and their responding receptors which are responsible for proper brain and body function known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS can be considered as a regulatory buffer system for emotional responses. Thus, maintaining its health is critical to maintaining healthy levels of anxiety.
6. Dark Chocolate: Good news for all the chocolate lovers (including me, of course!) The treat of dark chocolate does more than just satiating your taste-buds! Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, hence helping you boost your mood. But, make sure you’re reaching for dark chocolate with a high cacao content.
Making these minor yet essential changes helped me when fighting depression. What I did realize on this path is that I am alone (and neither are you), and mental illness is far more prevalent than we’re led to believe. But yes, it isn’t a trend, however, it shouldn’t be a taboo either. And till then, let’s strive to find a middle ground!