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The Physical Side of Depression


Rebecca Difilippo Lifting 200lbsDepression is an illness that is still very misunderstood even though there has been much discussion about it in the media in recent years.

You may be astonished to learn that the great majority of people living with depression are quite functional and active in the workplace. In fact, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, most often, depression affects people in their prime working years, between the ages of 24 to 44 — one in 20 employees can experience depression at work.

Years ago, I suffered a bout of depression myself. It was a time when mental illness was rarely discussed, let alone openly. The professionals I spoke with during that time conferred only about the mental aspects of depression. Many people think of it purely as an illness that affects the mind, that affects your behaviours and emotions, but I found it also affected me in physical ways.

Upon learning that physical activity was imperative to keep depression at bay, I made the decision to join a gym. With the help of a trainer, a program was developed to address my personal needs and physical exercise became an integral part of my lifestyle. I felt great — my mind, body and emotions were eventually all in sync.

I continued working out on my own for a few years and then decided it was time to call in a trainer again to help me meet some new goals. I was determined to not only maintain a strong mind, but I also wanted to increase my muscle mass and build more strength.

I started with some new exercises and became excited about the progress. I went from deadlifting a 45 lb barbell to 135 lbs in just a few months. And that created a desire to do more, I felt challenged and set even higher goals. My self-confidence steadily rose and I was having a lot of fun. I then decided to set a goal of 200 lbs for the deadlift — I weigh only 112 lbs. Each week I felt stronger and with my trainer’s help, I slowly increased the weights until just a few months ago when I reached 175 lbs. This week I finally reached my big goal — I lifted 3 reps of 200 lbs! I was ecstatic.

But there’s something else that happened along the way. One day my trainer, who knew I had once had a bout of depression, asked me, “What does depression feel like?” At that very moment, I was squatting with 115 lbs on my shoulders. I replied, “Imagine carrying this much weight around and never being able to let it down. That’s what depression felt like for me.” I felt this horrendous weight was slowing me down and crushing me, yet I couldn’t stop it — he got that analogy. He seemed to really understand the comparison to something physical. That’s when I got the idea to create an awareness campaign about depression — one that would allow people to relate to the physical side, to better understand depression form another viewpoint. I hope this video will help assist in providing a new perspective towards depression and with better understanding and support I hope it will make a difference for the nearly 20 percent of our population who live with this misunderstood illness.