I knew I was healing when I stopped hating weekends. I was the only person I knew that hated weekends. I hated that my spouse was home with nothing to occupy his time except me. I was supposed to entertain and if I didn’t do a good enough job there would be consequences. I dreaded that and as a result, I hated weekends.
Being in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship had left me with some side effects, and none of them positive. Living in constant fear of another person left me jumpy at home but also afraid to leave the house (more consequences). Although I starting forcing myself out immediately after leaving the relationship, months later I was still a home body that could now run the occasional errand. After years of being screamed at for talking to anyone I was now learning to talk again, but it was a slow process because I had become so comfortable in my own head that I would go hours without speaking, even in social situations.
After years of control, explosive anger, unpredictable moods and unimaginable verbal abuse, I had escaped and was now trying to put my life and myself back together. A few months in it hit me that I hadn’t dreaded the past weekend. I had actually enjoyed it. This was my first clue that I was healing.
You see, I had been depressed but I didn’t know. While that may sound unbelievable, it is the truth. Apparently others saw it, but I was oblivious. How was this even possible?
I am naturally a happy person. When my life abruptly changed and I found myself in an abusive situation (it happened suddenly and without any warning, almost immediately after getting married), I was still a happy, optimistic person. Years later, I had retreated into my own head, where I still had that same happy optimism. I had also accomplished a great deal in the year before I left, and as far as I knew, depressed people don’t do that.
During the years of living in the situation, I still felt happy and positive inside, but had retreated so far into my own head that I didn’t notice how I had changed outwardly. I didn’t even realize that I no longer left the house. In fact, I didn’t do anything at all, except work – and only work like writing or working on my website. I didn’t see my friends. I didn’t listen to music or watch movies. I didn’t wear any color anymore. Heck, I didn’t even wear actual clothes anymore. I lived in gray sweatshirts and black yoga pants. Dressing up was putting boots and a sweater with the yoga pants. Toward the end I didn’t even exercise out anymore and had put on weight.
I finally escaped and was not living in that toxicity. However, it wasn’t until a few months later when I started to heal that I realized that I had been depressed and had no idea.
How had I been depressed for so long and not even known? I think it is because I biohacked my way out of feeling it. I hacked low energy with Bulletproof Coffee and workouts. I hacked overall pain with workouts and sauna. Most importantly, I hacked my brain. I have covered what I did in both my book and this blog, so I don’t want to bore you by covering it again, but I do want to touch on it.
My brain hacking recipe was this: meditation, sauna, BDNF, brain games and personal development.
Meditation calms an overactive mind. As your breath and mind work together, your brain waves slow down and your breath lengthens. This calms the body and gives you a relaxed feeling – even when surrounded by chaos. It became something I did regularly and almost without thought. I got to a point that I was being screamed at while I was sitting there meditating and calm.
Infrared sauna helps with cellular regeneration. Clearing out the toxins the body created by stress was exactly what I needed. I went twice a week for 30 minutes, and for added bonus, I meditated in the sauna. I would go in a ball of stress and come out relaxed and clear of body and mind.
BDNF is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that controls memory and cognitive function. You can take steps to increase your BDNF, which decreases as we age. I believe that increasing my BDNF allowed me to function under extreme stress. When I would have otherwise been an unfocused mess, I was able to perform at a higher level cognitively because I learned how to increase this.
Brain games (like Lumosity, soduku, etc.) sharpen your focus. Depression and stress decrease your focus. Through brain games I was able to increase my focus, even during this toxic period. I also learned to tune out chaos by playing games in noisy situations, like on a bus or in a crowded coffee-house.
Personal development is different for everyone, but for me, I focused on strengthening my mind, my sense of who I am as a person, and my confidence. I read, listened to podcasts while driving, and surrounded myself online with positive, affirming people. I journaled to keep focused on future goals and what I was grateful for each day. I am now very stable emotionally and have developed an unwavering sense of self. It seems like the toxicity that was my every day was allowing me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. I gained self-control. I now respond rather than react when challenged. When my integrity is questioned, I no longer question myself. I can now look objectively at my own behavior and change behavior I don’t like without feeling like less of a person.
All of these factors led to me living in a chaotic, stressful environment and being in a depressed state without being aware of it. To me, this is testament to what cane be accomplished with biohacking, and a testament to the power of the mind. We have the ability to control our own experience much more than we realize.
Please do not misunderstand me – I am not saying that everyone with depression can biohack it. I am saying I think that is why I didn’t realize I had a problem. However, my depression was caused by the perceived hopelessness of the situation I was in, and not something chemical. I am also not suggesting that anyone in an abusive situation retreat into their own head and biohack how they feel. Safety and sanity are the goals, and getting out of the situation is the way to achieve that. However, or the average person who experiences normal mood swings and minor depressive incidents, maybe biohacking can be part of the solution.
I get better and better as I get farther and farther removed from the situation. I feel very fortunate that depression did not get the best of me. I am hopeful that I can find a way to help others through situations like this at some point. For now, I hope this helps you understand what you can accomplish through biohacking. Regardless of where you are on your journey, keep experimenting and trying new things. You won’t know what works until it works and when it does, it can be amazing.