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Drug commercials crack me up in a dark humor sort of way.
Turn on your mental TV for a moment:
(Commercial Announcer) “Xanthia* will clear your face of acne! Tests have shown Xanthia to wipe out acne and scaring in as little as a month. Have the radiant face that matches your heart with Xanthia!”
(Speedy Announcer Voice): side affects may include abdominal cramps, intestinal bleeding, rash, irritability, depression, anxiety, anger, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and, in extreme cases, death.
*Xanthia is a fictional medication. Any resemblance to medication either real or fictional is purely coincidental. No medications were harmed in the writing of this post.
“I won’t get any of those side effects…”
Help! The cure is worse than the disease!
My Aunt Debbie always had a radiance about her that children and adults alike could appreciate. She loved animals and she showered our family with love—and the occasional pet. She was my mom’s best friend in high school and she introduced my mom and dad while he was on leave from the Army.
I always associated Aunt Debbie with warmth, softness and happiness.
Unbeknownst to me, my dear Aunt suffered from depression. When I was 18 and far away from home, my Aunt called me out of the blue one day as I sat pouring over notes in my dorm room. We chatted for an hour or so. I told her all about the ups and downs of campus life, homesickness, college professors and life in general. I was deeply touched by her thoughtful call.
About two weeks later, I was home on spring break following a grueling quarter and intense finals. I was calm and contented. Nothing seemed amiss. My mom got up and left the room for a minute. When she came back, she was weeping. Through tears, she related to me the horrifying news: overcome by depression, my beloved, sunny aunt had committed suicide.
I stared at her, motionless with shock.
Did I hear that correctly?
I mean, hadn’t we just talked on the phone just two weeks ago… How could it be?
I don’t think I shed a tear for several minutes. The very idea of it was so unreal to me. It was a crushing, tragic blow to our family.
I found out that she had been taking medication for depression.
The side effect of her medication resulted in a tragic, senseless death.
The “cure” was far worse than the disease.
To this day, it still possess a nightmarish quality—almost as though I watched it through someone else’s eyes.
As depression became an acute problem for me during my adult years, I made up my mind about two things:
1) No matter how bad I felt, or how desperate life got, I would never commit suicide.
2) I was determined to avoid psychotropic drugs.
The first one seems like a no-brainer for a Christian. No one in their right mind would murder themselves in order to face an eternity without God, would they?
But there’s the rub.
Depression in combination with the wrong psychotropic drugs has the potential to send a person out of their “right mind.” I thought that I might have misunderstood the medication/suicide connection, but my counselor recently confirmed that certain medications can actually give a person just enough courage to carry out the act of suicide. It is imperative that medications are chosen carefully and monitored diligently in order to avert tragedy. Unfortunately, not all practitioners are careful.
Depression has a way of warping reality so much that people lose their moral sensibilities.
The second decision is far more controversial. Edmond Sangayado over at Chronicles of A Kid Next Door had a lively discussion in his comments section about the pros and cons of medication. People have very strong feelings on this issue.
I am truly grateful that my doctor and my counselor respected my desire to abstain from psychotropic drugs and instead encouraged me to pursue alternative therapies, with the understanding that—should my condition fail to improve or worsen—we would need to try the meds.
I was determined to avoid those drugs. I did not want to suffer the side effects and I was (and still am), understandably fearful of the suicide factor.
So, what do you do if you refuse medication?
[Caution!! Each person should be well-informed of their options and make the decision that is appropriate for them. Please consult with a professional before choosing a course of action.]
Five Physical Depression-Fighting Methods I Use Regularly:
1) Dietary Regulation.
What you eat can affect your mood.
A couple years ago, our family started the GAPS diet (GAPS is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome). GAPS is a dietary protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist who developed this diet based on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) for her son who had been suffering from Autism. Dr. Campbell-McBride speaks internationally about the gut-brain connection and how poor gut flora can lead to neurological diseases, including (but not limited to) ADHD, ADD, ODD, PDD, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Depression, etcetera.
As we carried out the diet, the changes to our moods and our bodies was amazing. Within the first 8 weeks, I lost 8 pounds and gained a laser-sharp clarity of mind and sustained energy. I had an optimism that I had not possessed in over 5 years. My kids were not as hyper and the food pickiness had nearly vanished. One evening, I indulged in some peanut butter cups and regretted it almost instantly. Within about 30 minutes of consuming the sugar, my head felt fuzzy and foggy. I felt anxious and irritable. Even now, after being on simply a whole-food, traditional diet, if I have too much sugar, I feel like garbage.
Changing your diet can help your mood, but you have to change it appropriately. The diet I chose was focused on healing the gut. Its an intensive protocol and not for the faint of heart.
Here are some books I recommend on traditional diets and their effect on mood:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin (This is similar to GAPS in that it is a gut-healing protocol. I affectionately call it, “GAPS lite” because it isn’t as intense as GAPS)
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
These websites are also wonderful resources:
GNOWFGLINS.com (GNOWFGLINS is an acronym for God’s Natural Organic Whole Foods Grown Locally and In Season) Wardee has some excellent videos and courses to get you started with real food.
undergroundwellness.com Tomorrow, Sean Croxton will be conducting a FREE seminar called How to Fix a Broken Brain: 4 Steps to Boosting Your Mood, Sharpening Your Mind, and Beating Fatigue Naturally. If you are interested, sign up at www.freebrainwebinar.com.
The jury is out as to whether acupuncture is actually effective on depression or whether it’s just a “placebo effect.” An article over at the Scientific American website noted that it is nearly impossible to set up controls to determine the full effects of acupuncture because “acupuncture is associated with a robust placebo effect—simply being seen and touched by a practitioner makes most people feel significantly better, which could make acupuncture seem more effective than it really is.”
According to this same article, there was a study done comparing electroacupuncture to Prozac:
A study published last fall in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinefound that electroacupuncture—in which a mild electric current is transmitted through the needles—was just as effective as fluoxetine (the generic name of Prozac) in reducing symptoms of depression. For six weeks, patients underwent either electroacupuncture five times weekly or a standard daily dose of fluoxetine…
After six weeks, both groups showed a similar improvement in symptoms, and both treatments restored GDNF to a normal concentration. But the acupuncture began to work faster, reducing symptoms more dramatically at weeks two and four than the drug did. Among the patients who got better, a higher percentage of the acupuncture recipients showed “great improvement.”
It’s one of those things you have to try for yourself, unfortunately. There is no definitive “proof.”
What I can share is how it has helped me. The acupuncturist that I visit runs a diffuser in the room with essential oils. She inquires about how I’m feeling and any other pains and then inserts pre-packaged sterile needles in the appropriate spots. Sometimes there will be herbs lit on fire briefly and then placed carefully on the skin. For about 30-45 minutes, I lay in a quiet room with the needles in place. I typically use that quiet time to rest my mind, sleep and/or pray. It’s enforced quiet and meditation time. You aren’t going to be moving around or using your phone. Just enjoy the quiet… besides, I don’t care to move around with those needles in me. After the treatment, I get pods placed in my ears that look like little round band-aids. They contain a barely-visible needle that puts pressure on necessary points until the next appointment. I usually end an appointment feeling completely relaxed and peaceful.
Homeopathy is a new form of treatment to me. I wish I could do it full justice here, but it is one of those areas of alternative treatment that I don’t fully understand. My personal use of homeopathy happened quite by accident. I was consulting with a homeopath for my daughter who has a variety of issues when, in the course of discussion, I just fell to pieces emotionally. The homeopath recommended a remedy for me and I started taking it once it arrived. The affects are not always instant, but it has eradicated a lot of the anxiety I’ve felt. If you are interested in homeopathy, visit Homeopathy Works for more information.
4) Essential Oils
This is also a fairly new field for me, but one that I am very enthralled with and not just for depression. Quality essential oils from a reliable source can be very helpful for a variety of issues. I use a couple different blends of essential oils. One blend contains Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Coriander, Tangerine, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile, Palmarosa, and Rose oils. If you are interested in learning about essential oils and purchasing from a good brand, please leave a comment below and I will contact you privately via email about the brand I recommend and currently sell.
Like diet, the right kind of exercise can help, the wrong kind can be ineffective or harmful.
Harvard Health noted that “A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”
After the initial study, there was a follow up study done: “They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression.”
Furthermore, the article explained that exercise boosts the action of endorphins. There is also a theory that exercise triggers norepinephrine, also improving mood. For full text of the article from Harvard Health, click here.
My personal choice is a 45-minute walk four to five times a week. I get fresh air, sunshine (also great for the mood) and time to think about things without too much distraction. I also enjoy yoga, though I don’t often have the time that my particular yoga DVD demands. It is a great way to stretch the muscles and be quiet and peaceful.
Six Mentally Therapeutic Methods I Use Regularly:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4.6-7, NKJV
My prayer is a combination of a sustained period with God (laying out my requests, intercessions and thanksgivings) and what I affectionately call “arrow prayers” throughout the day. If I feel my mood sinking, I know it’s time to pray. Nobody has to see it. I can be driving down the road with my eyes wide open and ask God to strengthen me. Thus, I can confidently say, “My help comes from the Lord!” Can I get an “Amen?”
If you are feeling depressed, pray anytime and every time the depression strikes.
2) Daily scripture reading
Yes, I’m pounding this home again. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this: We need to be in God’s Word every single day.
If you’ll turn to that passage above that I referenced in Philippians (or look it up on your phone) notice that in the context immediately following, Paul tells the Philippian Christians the following:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4.8-9, NASB
We need to pray, but we also need to dwell on good things. Our circumstances aren’t always conducive to this. I love how the NASB uses the word “dwell.” Imagine your mind living in an honorable home, a pure home, a lovely home. Conversely, imagine it dwelling in a perverted, filthy home? Or maybe a dilapidated, broken home? Which would you choose?
This has been an enormous help to me. I can listen to audiobooks when I fold laundry, wash dishes, clean house, work in the garden or drive. (I also listen to audio bibles!) I don’t often have the time to sit and read a book, so this has enabled me to learn about things and enjoy previously unexplored books! It also keeps my mind from dwelling on bad circumstances.
Having a physical person to confide in—one who listens and gives wise counsel—is a gift from God. Sometimes it’s iron sharpening iron, sometimes it’s just plain pillow-like comfort, but it’s always been helpful to me. I often equate it to a detox protocol of the mental kind.
5) Playing music
I began learning to play the clarinet when I was 11 years old. It’s always been a source of happiness for me. I started playing again last fall after a 13-year hiatus. It’s a bit time consuming, but it has been an excellent way to tear my mind away from circumstance. I have to focus all my concentration on the music, the intonation, the conductor, the dynamics and all those little things that go into converting black dots and lines into emotive sound.
This blog is the result of months of scribbling in journals and writing out my thoughts on paper. I finally decided that if I published my thoughts instead of keeping them to myself, not only would it help me organize and categorize them in my mind, but it would help other people too! What better way to heal from depression, anxiety or PTSD than to help somebody else?
I have a dear friend dealing with PTSD who copes by going on jeep runs (and I’m not talking about flat dirt roads…) Jeeping requires intense concentration in order to choose the right lines to successfully take the vehicle over ravines, rocks and waterfalls. I’ve known others to do rock-climbing, hiking, golfing… The list is endless. The idea is to find something that forces you to concentrate 100% of your mental effort on something beyond your feelings and problems.
As I mentioned in my previous post, depression is a complex issue. Its origins may be mental or physical and it’s effects may also be mental and physical.
I hope that some of the thoughts I’ve shared above have given you ideas on how to help yourself or someone else afflicted with depression.
If you think this post could be helpful to others, please share it!
For my readers who have fought and overcome depression, or are still fighting, please share your tips and tricks in the comments section below in order to help others.
I look forward to hearing from you!