Category Archives for "Uncategorised"

May 04

My Journey With Antidepressants

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Was I Sick?

I remember the experience well; the heavy fogginess in my head, the almost impossibility of making decisions, the sense of overwhelm when I gazed, almost unseeing, around my distressingly messy house,

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The brain-fog of depression.

the tape of negative thoughts about everything running constantly in my mind, bashing my head against the bathroom tiles to dislodge the fuzziness, the inability to sleep, the all-pervading sense of hopelessness when I thought about the future.

I was profoundly unhappy and at a complete loss as to how to help myself.

But was I ill?

I think I might have been emotionally unsteady, out of whack, not thinking straight…but I don’t think I was sick.

Sickness implies a biological basis.

Of course, I had wondered, many times, if there wasn’t actually something very, very wrong with me. I certainly didn’t feel normal. I knew what I was feeling was not normal because it was not always that bad.

For much of my life, from around my teens, I have felt a bit low.

What form did this ‘low feeling’ take?

I cried a fair bit, especially in my teens, a time known for angst. I remember spending a great deal of time on the floor with the dog, bawling into her furry neck and my mother, hands wringing, saying, ‘If I only knew how to help you!’

Self-consciousness and lack of confidence were features that marred university life.

Worry about what other people thought of me, my introverted and rather sensitive nature and thoughtful personality created a broodiness that coloured my experience of life.

None of these characteristics – self-consciousness, introversion, sensitivity or being reflective – meant that I was profoundly unhappy, but they may have created my way of being in the world, a way which made me aware of what I believed were my personal shortcomings, led me to require time alone away from others, heightened sensitivity towards sorrows and miseries and cruelties of the world, and contributed to the underlying sense of melancholy and uncertainty that coloured my young adult life.

But I wasn’t ill.

In fact, I was often filled with a sense of excitement about life and the world. I longed to travel and when I first went overseas in my early 20s, I thought I was coming home to myself. Finally, overseas, I felt alive, confident, adventurous, optimistic, joyful.

During the years when I felt at my lowest were those years with significant levels of stress. A failed romance followed by 5 tough PhD years at the end of my 20s, the loss of a loved, but potentially unlikely career, two job losses in my early 30s, an unsuccessful business in my mid-30s.

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The sense of fear and hopelessness are the most cruel.

These were years typified by heart-felt sorrow, regret, attempts to remake myself again and again, a fear that I would never settle into a normal life, make money, buy a house or apartment and feel strong and optimistic.

These were years typified by frequent weeping, very poor sleep and a tendency to isolate, bursts of energy between periods of being barely able to move, moments of clear-headedness which dissolved into days of inability to think through situations or make decisions, flashes of knowing I was headed in the right direction which disappeared into the fog of deep uncertainty.

I was Profoundly Unhappy

I don’t think I was ill, but I know I was profoundly, overwhelmingly, intensely unhappy and my thinking didn’t help.

I couldn’t apply my logical brain to the situation. This brain, which had got me around Syria alone as a 24 year old, through a PhD, through training in immigration law, and whose analytical abilities had kept me resilient and empowered, suddenly seemed to abandon me.

It seemed obsessed with how terrible my life was, how I’d ‘always been’ weak and useless, how grim the future looked, how it was all hopeless and nothing would ever change.

These thoughts were not a reflection of reality, of course. I was very fortunate in many, many ways, I was a strong, intelligent, sensible woman, the future wasn’t bleak and there were lots of ways it could and would improve.

I just found that hard to believe at the time.

I don’t think I was ill.

But my thinking was definitely disordered.

Is a disordered mind an illness? Or just out of working order? Needing a tune-up?

But aren’t all illnesses symptoms of something that is out of whack?

Illnesses that begin with the infiltration of a foreign body – a germ, say – such as a stomach upset, a bite or sting, an infection, make one physically sick. Something that doesn’t belong in the body gets into the body and wreaks havoc. Physical illnesses or sicknesses are biological in origin.

Such illnesses are treated with antibiotic medication and often clear up. They may clear up even without medication, though they may take longer and be more uncomfortable.

But what about cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, MS, arthritis…what should we call those?

What about blindness, deafness, Down’s Syndrome…what should we call those? Are they disorders? Malfunctions?

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What does it mean to be sick, diseased, defective or disordered?

What about birth defects, like the one I was born with, a hole-in-the-heart or atrial septal defect? How should we label them?

What about developmental or growth disorders like the one I experienced, scoliosis of the spine? What should they be called?

Surely they are not sicknesses because they are not caused by the infiltration of a foreign body or germ. They are not biological and are not treated with medication.

They are caused by the body’s own systems malfunctioning or wearing out. They are not bacterial diseases, but rather changes or even failures in the way the body works. Organs, glands, systems not working as they are expected to or simply breaking down.

They are medical conditions. They are treated in the operating theatre. I had surgery for my heart and back conditions.

They are also treated pharmacologically, with drugs developed to mimic the body’s own processes, like taking thyroxine for an underactive thyroid.

What about the range of problems referred to as mental illnesses? There are many and they have different manifestations.

Are they biological diseases, caused by a foreign body, or bacteria? Are they medical conditions, physical malfunctions of some system in the body?

The short answer is, we just don’t know.

All we have are ‘symptoms’.  I have little knowledge of psychotic conditions, but I do have experience with depression, because this is what the GP called my unrelenting sadness.

A bunch of symptoms.

My depression was diagnosed on the basis of what I told her about what I was feeling emotionally and how this manifest physically.

Most doctors’ appointments go like this. You feel sick. You go to the doctor and explain how you’re feeling. Depending on what you’ve said, the doctor may look at your body, feel around the uncomfortable or painful area, listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, ask for tests to be done, order x-rays or scans. The doctor gathers information and having reviewed the facts before her, makes a diagnosis.

When the doctor diagnosed my sadness as depression, the GP didn’t do any tests; no blood samples were taken, she didn’t listen to my heart, check my pulse, order a scan or x-ray. 

She couldn’t.

There’s no biological basis to depression, not that we know of.

You can’t stick a needle into your head and test whatever comes out. There’s no test for how many neurotransmitters you have in your brain. You can’t scan for or test for an ‘imbalance of chemicals’. Even if there is something ‘malfunctioning’ in the brain of a person with depression, this is not proof that there is a biological basis to the condition.

Yet, chemicals (drugs) are prescribed in ever-increasing numbers to people who present at the GP with overwhelming sadness.

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There’s no scan for dysregulated emotions…

So perhaps it’s a medical condition of the brain, like Alzheimer’s or MS, a malfunction of a brain system. You can scan for that. The brain can be scanned and the cause of the condition can be pinpointed. Some malfunctions of the brain cannot be cured, yet. They can be improved with drugs, the inevitable end delayed, but not, unfortunately, ultimately avoided.

No one has yet come up with a scan for depression.

You can’t take an x-ray of deep, deep sadness. Click To Tweet

But sadness is different to depression. They feel different. They last for different lengths of time. They are different. The experts say so.

I went to the doctor when my profound feelings of sadness were beginning to frighten me.

I was already hurting myself, banging my head against doorframes or the hard white tiles of the shower. I made fists and pummelled my head. I wanted the fuzziness out of there.

People cut themselves to rid themselves of the pain. Teenagers who cut are taken to doctors because clearly hurting yourself in this way is not normal. People who are found semi-conscience or worse and have put themselves in this condition are often hospitalised because damaging yourself in this way is not normal.

So perhaps there is a sliding scale of deep and profound unhappiness. Perhaps it can lead to such a deep malaise that death is the only way out and perhaps this is the moment that deep and profound unhappiness turns into a disease.

But I don’t know that I believe that.

Not really.

Isn’t it just part of being human to have unpleasant and unwanted feelings?

Antidepressants or Placebos?

People who are at the cusp of (or are actually attempting to) hurting themselves may not present at the family doctor. They may present at the emergency room of a hospital, either conscious or unconscious. Something very disordered has caused them to decide to die. Pharmacological assistance (antidepressant drugs) seem to be effective in treating the deep and profound sadness that leads to that decision.

Perhaps people who believe death is the only answer are ill, because their behaviour is not normal. It’s not normal to wish yourself out of the world. The normal prerogative for human beings is preservation of life.

When people present at the GP with a deep and profound sadness, pharmacological assistance is not so effective. But they feel bad so they go to the doctor, just like I did. They are not sure where else to go. They are wondering if they are ill. They are frightened. They want to the doctor to tell them what’s wrong and to put it right. They understand that doctors deal in medication and that medication makes pain go away. They want the pain to go away and expect that medical treatment will be offered.

And sometimes it works. I felt instantly better. Merely a few hours after taking my first antidepressant tablet I felt the fog beginning to lift. I knew it was going to be OK.

But how is this possible? Antidepressants are famed for their long lead time. Effects are often not felt for at least 4 weeks, so the manufacturers say.

I now believe that what I felt was not the antidepressant taking effect, but a placebo effect.

I have been brought up in the western medical system in which doctors treat diseases with drugs and medical conditions with surgery. I have received plenty of both in my lifetime. I fully expected to leave the surgery with a prescription for an antidepressant medication. I wanted it. I felt really, really bad and wanted to feel better. So I had a high expectation that the medication would have a positive effect.

Now I was what Rutherford and Roose describe as a ‘treatment-naïve’ patient.

I had no idea how antidepressants worked nor of side-effects.

I was hungry for help, desperate for the seemingly endless sadness to go away. I had wondered for a long time whether I was actually unwell, but never quite certain as I thought my feelings might be something to do with my personality. I had some kind of defective character.  I don’t think that is true either, but it was part of the reason that it took so long to seek help. I just thought I had to pull up my socks and be more positive. Or something. Rutherford and Roose report that the placebo effect is noticeable even in treatment-naïve individuals.

I think what I was actually feeling was tremendous relief that I was finally getting help. What is relief?  Relief cuts the fight-or-flight response and allows calm to be restored.

I felt calmer because I had taken action. Sharing a secret fear, confiding in a sympathetic human being was a therapeutic relationship which made me feel less like it was my fault, and more as though I could actually be unwell and that medication was the answer. It was a relief to put a name to my feelings and a solution I could understand.

Simply deciding to visit the doctor, revealing my deep and profound sadness to her and taking away an antidepressant prescription was enough to raise my mood through the production of neurotransmitters involved in good feelings and gave me a sense of control, and that made me feel better.

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There were still doubts, but my head seemed clearer…

This was not the antidepressant being effective, I don’t think. I had gone to the doctor expecting to be listened to and given a solution. I was. I took the pill and felt better, because that was what I anticipated would happen.

So is a positive response to antidepressants all in the mind?

No, I think it’s in the brain.

My actions had led to my feeling calmer and more in control, which released my brain’s own healing chemicals: opioids, which slow breathing, block pain and have a natural antidepressant effect. 

I had no side-effects. I didn’t know what the side-effects were, with the exception of lower libido, the only side-effect my second (male) GP asked me about. There may have been other side-effects, but if there were, I either didn’t experience them or experienced them as part of the illness which I knew I must have, the illness of depression.

I wonder whether antidepressants work for some people because they believe they will.

Like me.

On/Off

Having been to the doctor and obtained a packet of antidepressants, I took them faithfully for 6 months and then went off them, because I thought they had cured my depression. I felt pretty good, at least much better than I had for years, and I had no negative experiences going cold turkey.

But the horrid feelings came back. Suddenly I was back where I was; weeping, confused, frightened and angry with myself for going off the antidepressants.

Obviously they were working and I had foolishly thought I was cured. Clearly the cure takes a bit longer.

I decided I needed to take control again and returned to the doctor who frowned and said I needed to stick with the antidepressants. She handed over another prescription and relieved and determined I went to the chemist, now convinced they were making me better, fighting this illness.

I went back home, back to my usual life. Nothing changed significantly. Oh yes, my intense, profound sadness became just plain old sadness, and sometimes dipped again into profound sadness, but nothing in my life changed. My business was stressful, I took little exercise, I isolated from my friends, my home was still a mess, I ate and slept poorly.

But at least I didn’t have side-effects. Others take the prescriptions from their doctors and enter the vicious world of antidepressants: doses, side-effects, more drugs to counter the side-effects, deciding that putting up with some side-effects are not as bad as the profound and intense sadness that drove them to the doctor in the first place.

Nothing changes. Work stays boring or stressful, relationships are still battle zones, lives are spent on couches, in cars or cubicles, fast food, convenience food, food devoid of nutrition appears on dinner plates every evening. Life has little meaning; people are buffeted about by its dramas and challenges.

When I took myself off the antidepressants, the depth of my sadness lowered again. Does this mean they were working? Not really. I just didn’t feel particularly empowered to change anything in my life.

Why?

Because I didn’t know that my deep and profound sadness was caused by my reaction to what I was experiencing in life and possibly because the antidepressants were numbing my emotions so that I was bereft of any motivation or desire to change anything about my life.

There was no biological basis to my deep and profound sadness.

I was deeply and profoundly sad because I didn’t know how to be happy or contented or satisfied. Click To Tweet

The second time I went off antidepressants the same thing happened; the symptoms returned in a flood. The GP sighed and made me promise I wouldn’t go off them again without his assistance.

I promised and I kept my promise.

Things improved dramatically after I closed my incredibly stressful business, retrained as an English teacher and went off to live and teach in China. I had new experiences doing something I loved, travel. I joined a gym. I mostly ate home cooked food. I felt my job had purpose and meaning and my students were grateful for my help.

My brain wasn’t out of whack; my life was and nobody, not the GP, nor the psychologist, had the insight to ask me about how my life was going.

Why should they? To the doctor, deep and profound sadness is biological and needs to be treated with chemicals. To the psychologist, it is a disorder of thinking, possibly caused by childhood traumas which need to be analysed and healed with ‘closure’.

Meaningful Change

There is some truth in the psychological basis for deep and profound sadness. But psychoanalysing the past doesn’t necessarily lead to meaningful change in the present.

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Isn’t it time for meaningful change?

And meaningful change in the present is what’s needed to resolve deep and profound sadness. Click To Tweet

Some people call antidepressants ‘life-rings’ you throw to someone while they are drowning. Drowning in the normal deep deep sadness of life. They say that if you want to get back in the water, sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to swim. In other words, take the antidepressants, but if you want a less sad, less dissatisfying life, you’re going to have to create it.

Reduction in stress and a meaningful life will eliminate deep and profound sadness. Exercise, nutrition, good sleep and close friends will eliminate deep and profound sadness.

Some degree of symptomatic reduction may be achieved through the use of antidepressant medication. But studies have shown that symptomatic reduction can also be achieved through exercise, nutrition, good sleep and close friends. Exercise, nutrition, good sleep and a close friends change the brain in the same way that antidepressants are claimed – but not proven – to do.

And without all the side-effects.

A healthy body. Good friends. Meaningful work. Strong relationships:

You don’t get those in a pill.

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Is it time for a new life?

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May 03

Why Am I Depressed?

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Not matter how you look at it, depression is a very, very unpleasant experience.

In this series of five posts I will be outlining my views on the nature of depression or as I prefer to call to it, chronic low mood; what is it, what causes it and how to treat it.

Some of my views may agree with your own; others may trouble you.

Please understand that my intention is not to deny your experience of depression. We all have different experiences, opinions, knowledge and ideas that we bring to our experience of depression.

If you are wondering whether to engage with me or this information on this site, understanding my philosophical viewpoint of depression might help you decide if this is a place where you are comfortable.

Of course, sometimes being uncomfortable is where the journey begins!

If you believe that you will never stop being depressed, it may be hard for you to accept that I was once where you are now and that I am no longer there.

You may believe that that shows I could never have been ‘properly’ depressed.

I can assure you that I met all the DSM criteria for both persistent depression and major depression. My low mood began in my teenage years, and I count until I first sought help in my mid-30s as the total time I was depression; 21 years.

From about 2008 onwards, I have lived without depression and it’s been amazing. My goal for this website is to share how I no longer live under the greyness that is chronic low mood and to offer you the hope that this can also be your experience.

So, I lived the life, I walked the walk, cried the tears, agonised through sleepless nights, struggled with the lack of energy, low motivation, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

I was just where you are now, wondering if that was going to be my forever.

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Depression is not a sickness.

What you will learn in this post is that I believe depression is not a sickness but a disorder of thinking and lifestyle. It is caused by stress and maintained by negative thinking patterns.

You can eliminate depressive symptoms by dealing with stress, changing your thinking and recognising what you want from life.

You can live without depression should you choose to, by getting informed, asking questions, gathering support and taking action.

Still with me?

Let’s keep going…

If Depression is Not a Sickness, is Depression Real?

Emotions are real and depression is caused by being hijacked by your emotions. It is maintained by unhelpful emotional responses.

Yes, depression is real.

People experience emotions every day; it would be weird if you didn’t.

Some emotions make us feel nice – happiness, pride, love, excitement, relief – while others, such as grief, sadness, anger, boredom, frustration and disappointment, regret, guilt and hopelessness, make us feel bad. I know you know this.

Some people experience the normal ups and downs of life, great joys and minor disappointments, profound sorrow and utter delight. They revel in the good times and bounce back from the bad.

Some people (perhaps you?) feel an overwhelming feeling of intense sorrow, tremendous frustration, deep dissatisfaction with life and crushing sense of despair and hopelessness.

They seem relentless, these feelings.

Day after day, you may feel you are carrying your desperation with you; it sits on your shoulders, substantial and weighty like the helmet of an old-fashioned deep-sea diving suit. Dragged behind you like a boulder.

There is no bouncing back from feelings like these.

Oh yes. Depression is real all right.

Is Depression Found in the Brain?

The brain is a very complex organ made up of interconnected regions. The brain can be roughly divided into regions responsible for ‘cognitive’ or thinking activity, and those responsible for ‘emotional’ or feeling activity. It is less effective communication between these regions which sustains depression.

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Scans may tell us something about the effects of chronic low mood, but they don’t show us the cause.

Chemical signals known as neurotransmitters are passed between neurons and form what are known as ‘pathways’. This activity shows up on fMRI scans.

Depressed people’s brains have the same regions and neurotransmitters as other people’s brains. However neuroscience has begun to reveal how the interactions between the brain’s regions are affected by depression. This is a complex issue and it’s not as simple as to say ‘this part of the brain is responsible for this feeling in depression, so we just have to fix that part’; all regions of the brain work in circuits and interact with each other in different ways.

However, we can make some general statements about what’s happening in the brain when we’re depressed. Let’s have a quick look at the most distressing manifestations of depression:

‘I can’t sleep:’

Sleep and depression have both a cause and effect relationship. Let’s say you’re just not getting enough sleep because you’re needing to work late at night. Some people say they can get by on 6 hours sleep each night but for most of us, that’s just not true. Our brain performs important tasks while we are sleeping. Lack of sleep makes us feel less energetic the next day and effects our mood. Continual nights of less-than-adequate or poor quality sleep lead to chronic low mood, particularly if the reason for the lack of sleep is stress.

Working late at night under electrical lighting plays havoc with our natural sleep cycles. We are designed to be awake when it’s light and heading for bed when the sun goes down. Forcing ourselves to remain awake long after dark interferes with the production of sleep inducing chemicals and also chemicals involved in waking us up.

‘I can’t concentrate/make decisions’ and ‘I have no motivation:’

The hardest thing for me when I was chronically distressed was getting out of bed. I’d usually slept poorly and just couldn’t summon up the strength to get myself up. If I was working that day I’d manage to drag myself into the shower, but it was always as if I was pulling a ten tonne weight behind me. I’d make plans and never follow them through. On weekends I’d flop around the house, unable to decide what to do next.

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Making decisions is so hard when you’re depressed…

Difficulty focusing on tasks or making carefully weighed up decisions is a classic manifestation of chronic low mood. I made dreadful financial decisions when depressed; buying very expensive items on my credit card. I was also so taken up in my negative feelings I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. I regularly locked my keys in the car or the house, lost things or forgot to take important papers or other items with me. Reacting emotionally when things go wrong is another debilitating beahviour. For me this meant crying bitterly and occasionally throwing things around.

Scans have shown that people with depressive symptoms have less activity in the prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain which sits behind your forehead, and is responsible for thinking, analysing, making decisions. It’s known as the CEO of the brain. Evolutionarily speaking, it’s the last piece of the brain to appear. Only humans have such a well-developed prefrontal cortex.

Disrupted activity in various regions of the prefrontal cortex can lead to difficulties in making plans, thinking clearly and getting motivated.

‘I feel tense and anxious’:

When I was depressed, I found myself anxious about what the day would bring. I don’t think I felt highly anxious because quite quickly the feelings of worry would dissolve into feelings of numbness, not being able to care. But there was always a great deal of stress and worry around work.

The hypothalamus, a small organ in the feeling part of the brain, controls the body’s stress response or ‘fight or flight’ response in times of stress. In depression, the hypothalamus is constantly on high alert. Stress is both a cause of low mood and can also maintain it if we are not able to find ways to ‘switch off’ the hypothalamus’ response to situations which cause us to feel tense.

Closely connected to the hypothalamus, the amygdala is often also highly reactive in depression. It is responsible for feelings of fear, anxiety and other negative emotions.

‘I feel sad all the time. I can’t even remember a time when I felt happy’:

The hippocampus, a region in the feeling brain located close to the amygdala, is responsible for storing away memories. In depression, it’s harder to remember and relive more joyful moments but easy to recall negative or sad memories.

An article on the Harvard Medical School website notes that “Research shows that the hippocampus is smaller in some depressed people. For example, in one fMRI study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, investigators studied 24 women who had a history of depression. On average, the hippocampus was 9% to 13% smaller in depressed women compared with those who were not depressed. The more bouts of depression a woman had, the smaller the hippocampus. Stress, which plays a role in depression, may be a key factor here, since experts believe stress can suppress the production of new neurons (nerve cells) in the hippocampus”.[1]

“I don’t enjoy anything’ and ‘I just can’t be bothered’:

The worst part of depression is thinking that you’ll always experience it, that there’s no hope. It’s the cruellest part of having chronic low mood. The sense of overwhelming sadness, grief, regret, sorrow and pain is made all the worst by the belief that it’s all hopeless. Feeling paralysed by not knowing what to do to help yourself out of it – either by going to the doctor, talking to a friend, doing some research – just feeds the worry and sense that there is no hope.

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It’s just so hard to get motivated to do anything when you’re depressed.

Depression saps the joy out of life. Often activities which used to fill you with happiness no longer tempt you. I abandoned the dance classes which used to make me feel very good and never went to movies or out for drinks. I literally ‘wasn’t in the mood’. I found it hard to enjoy anything much at all.

The striatum is a region of the brain involved with forming enjoyable habits. Reduced amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine seems to be responsible for feelings of boredom, lack of motivation and not enjoying activities as you might once have.

Scans have not found the cause of depression.

If you’re interested in learning more about the brain and depression, I highly recommend The Upward Spiral Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb[2].

Scans show differences in the brains of people with depression compared to those without depression, but they do not show us that these differences are causes, or effects of depression.

Differences found in the brains of people with chronic low mood are not necessarily causes. They are correlated to the experience of depression.

‘OK’, I hear you say, ‘If my brain is not functioning normally, doesn’t that make depression an illness?’

No, because your brain is functioning normally.

The brain is simply functioning as it is being directed by the experiences of its organism or its body, that is, you!

The brain’s job is to process information. Sounds, sights, smells…all the physical sensations come into the brain and give us information about where we are, who we are with, what’s happening around us and how we feel about those experiences.

The brain processes the information based on what it has already processed.

If you have pleasant memories associated your beloved grandma making homemade strawberry jam, then the smell or taste of strawberry jam, when encountered as an adult, may invoke those good memories again.

You have ‘laid down’ in the very neurons of your brain, a memory that associates strawberry jam with feeling good.

To give another example of how we ‘direct’ our brains, let’s say you grew up bullied at school and with little sympathy or support from your family. Today, as an adult, being in situations which make you feel uncomfortable (work meetings with the boss, unpleasant situations with hostile neighbours, at the doctor with a cold indifferent manner) may bring up those same feelings of fear and not being listened to and being pushed around.

Your brain is associating certain situations with apprehension and worry because they are the messages you heard as a child and they have become part of your response to those uncomfortable situations. Those emotional responses are telling you to be afraid because something ‘dangerous’ is about to happy and that you need to run away.

Your brain is not malfunctioning. Your brain is doing actually what your brain is supposed to be doing.

OK, Maybe my Brain isn’t Malfunctioning, but Depression is Chemical, isn’t it?

That’s what the doctor told you, did she? That’s what he said as he wrote out the prescription for antidepressant medication? That the drugs would rebalance your brain chemicals? That you’re a bit low in serotonin and that’s what causes depression? That the drugs will top up your serotonin?

Well, she wouldn’t be the only one.

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Is depression a chemical imbalance in the brain? Really?

Here’s what Dr Daniel Carlat, psychiatrist, (author of Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry – A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis amazon link)[3] admits to saying to patients:

“If a patient asks me how the medication works, I will respond with, ‘We’re not completely sure, but it has something to do with increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin or norepinephrine—basically, these pills rebalance certain chemicals in the brain.”[4]

The repetition of this message from the doctor is likely to be a reason why so many people believe it. Why wouldn’t you? Doctors have been trained in this kind of thing. They’re the experts, aren’t they?

So, is your serotonin out of balance? Not sure?

Well I understand your confusion because your doctor probably didn’t measure your serotonin. How could she? You can’t stick a needle into a living human brain, draw out brain fluid and peer at its contents. Not yet, anyway.

Did you know that there’s no evidential basis for the chemical imbalance theory of depression? There are lots of good resources online to help you understand where this theory came from and what it means.[5] But it simply isn’t true. There’s no evidence.

None.

No scientific research has found any evidence for the ‘serotonin imbalance’ theory.

It’s all a bit of a guessing game, diagnosing depression and offering chemical treatment.

The doctor (GP or psychiatrist) uses information provided by the American Psychiatric Association in their manual of mental illnesses, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 297 ‘mental disorders’ are contained within this manual, each with a checklist of descriptors which doctors can use against the information provided by their patients.

You see, the diagnosis is made purely on the information you give to the doctor. He doesn’t listen to your heart, order an x-ray or blood scan, measure your blood pressure or tap your knees!

No, there is no physical examination which can be done for depression.

Despite not being able to do a physical examination, most doctors use the ‘medical model’ to think about depression. The medical model views depression as a physical illness with a biological basis (though none can at present be identified), similar to Alzheimer’s Disease or diabetes.

I wonder…when did natural human feelings become sicknesses?

So There’s Nothing Wrong With My brain, But Could I Still Be Sick?

Yes, but physically, not mentally.

Inflammation as a cause of depression

Dr Kelly Brogan, doctor and author of A Mind of Your Own[6]  writes powerfully about how depressive ‘symptoms’ originate in the body and that certain substances, such as sugar, chemicals found in the environment,  as well as stress, cause inflammation in the body which results in mood changes.

She writes: “In the brain, inflammation serves to shunt the use of tryptophan toward production of anxiety-provoking chemicals like quinolinate, instead of toward serotonin and melatonin”. These chemicals produce a series of behaviours sometimes known as ‘sickness behaviours’ – lethargy, loss of appetite, desire to sleep, loss of motivation to participate in activity – which are actions needed to heal the body.

Dealing with the cause of inflammation in the body is likely to reduce the unpleasant ‘symptoms’ of depression. This means changing your diet, eliminating toxins and pathogens from the environment and incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness into your daily routine.

Talk to your doctor about having a range of tests done to eliminate physical causes of your chronic low mood.

Am I Stuck With Depression Forever?

When you read the online discussion forums and Facebook groups for people with chronic low mood, a common view is that depression is a biological illness which needs medication to be treated. There are lengthy discussions between members about experiences with medications, which have been effective and which have unbearable side-effects, dosage, combinations and so on.

Some people see depression as something outside of themselves. Something which ‘descends upon them’ at different times, which they feel ‘coming on’. They feel it’s going to be a ‘bad day’ and hope that tomorrow will be better.

Many people who contribute to online forums seem to believe that depression is something you’ll have forever, all you can do is manage the symptoms – this leads to medication, lots of ideas about keeping your mood up day by day, some hints about lifestyle change (go for a walk, eat more salad).

It’s as if they have no control over their emotions or moods. And if you’ve been struggling with a low mood for years, it might indeed seem as if your moods are something external that has a hold over you.

Nonetheless some forum contributors do suggest daily tips for keeping your mood up, so there must be some belief that the things you choose to do can help. Leaving aside the obvious question (why aren’t the medications doing this?), it is true that doing certain activities each day or regularly through the week will help you feel better.

The next obvious question is, why not do these things more, if you know they make you feel better?

The medical model of depression is widely accepted in both the medical profession and broader community. The idea that depression is a lifelong battle with which the person will be locked in combat forever is well-entrenched.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/english-civil-war-1712677_1920.jpg Depression is not an enemy

Let’s ditch the warlike language around depression.

Mental health advocates believe depression is a sickness and describe people who talk about their depression as brave. They ‘fight the disease’, ‘will not give in’, are ‘not ashamed of their illness’ and that ‘tomorrow will be better if we all just keep battling depression’. They are heroes.

All this war-like language. All this drama.

Mental health bloggers who have built businesses, selling their story in their memoirs or creating personal glory through their websites and hashtags need to maintain the narrative of depression as an illness because if they recovered, what then?

Who would they be?

  • Has ‘depression’ become part of your identity?
  • Do you believe it is something that you will experience forever, holding you back from your dreams and goals?
  • Preventing you from having a rewarding, enjoyable life with full repertoire of emotions, both sad and happy?

I believe it is a crime that the over-diagnosis of depression as a mental ‘illness’, a biological disease, that there’s something inherently wrong with you and there always will be has left so many without hope.

It has created in people a sense of disempowerment, that living with chronic low mood is a life sentence and that all you can do is ‘manage your symptoms’.

No.

You can do way more than that.

You can learn to control stress and regulate your emotions so that you don’t need to plummet into chronically low mood.

Life is not about hoping to feel a little bit better tomorrow.

Life is about intending to feel much better and know that you can, for every tomorrow for the rest of your life. Life is about experiencing the whole range of human emotions – joy, grief, bliss and distress – without thinking there is something wrong with you.

You are worthy of a rewarding, pleasurable, contented life, full of moments of happiness, satisfying challenge, and delightful memories.

You can live as global as you want, travelling the world, building a career, changing the course of history, or as local as you want, contributing to your community and local environment, living sustainably, leaving a light footprint on the planet.

Or something in between!

There are no limits once you decide that you can learn how to handle stress and regulate your moods, rather than the other way round, rather than letting stress and emotions restrict you!

Come, share yourself with the world, or with your neighbours. We need you.

But do it for yourself first.

Learn more here about why I think antidepressants are not the whole answer.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/girl-1897627_1920.jpg depressio is

 

[1] http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Upward-Spiral-Neuroscience-Reverse-Depression/dp/1626251207

[3] Carlat, D, 2010, Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry – A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis, Free Press.

[4] Hickey, P, Exploiting The Placebo Effect:  Deceiving People For Their Own Good? https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/02/exploiting-the-placebo-effect-deceiving-people-for-their-own-good/ viewed April 2017

[5] If you’d like to read more about the development of the chemical imbalance theory of depression, try these resources… Whittaker, R, 2010 Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, Crown; Lynch, T, 2015, Depression Delusion, Volume One: The Myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance (Volume 1), Mental Health Publishing.

[6] Brogan, K, 2016, A Mind of Your Own, Harper Thorsons.

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May 02

Overcoming Depression

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Reflecting On My Journey to Overcoming Depression

I am not a psychoanalyst. I’m not really interested in dwelling on negative events that happened in the past. I’m not sure this form of therapy is not very much practiced these days anyway.

You know, that clichéd scene with the patient lying on a couch and the therapist in a white coat asking questions about the patient’s relationship with his mother.

I’m not so sure it’s effective in overcoming depression either, because when you’re struggling with negative thinking styles, the idea of going over and over the horrible things that have happened in your life just ‘wires’ them in more and more strongly.

While I’m not suggesting just denying any painful or hurtful memories (that would be unrealistic and unnatural), I just don’t believe thinking about them over and over is such a great idea.

Unfortunately, if we are experiencing chronic low mood, we are likely to have fallen into a habit of dwelling on the past, focusing on all the bad things that have happened to us to get us to where we are now. Rumination is one of the most insidious symptoms of depression. Breaking the habit of focusing our thoughts on our painful pasts is really important for a brighter future.

However, what I do think is helpful is to put on our scientist’s lab coats, and reflect briefly back on our own histories to try to identify periods of time when we were more optimistic, happier, calmer, had more enjoyment out of life.

Think about where you were living, what work you were doing, whether you were involved in sports or physical activity, whether you had a spiritual practice (religious or non-religious), who you were living or working with, what your diet was like, what your physical health was like.

You might begin to see patterns emerging around when you were feeling OK and when you were feeling really bad.

Read on for how I briefly went back over my life. I’ve broken it up into study/work and then thought about the kind of lifestyle I had during each period of time.

Childhood to End of School

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Books are definitely my favourite things.

I was a happy child, though quiet, serious and introverted. My favourite place on a Saturday morning was the local library. I had odd interests; Anglo-Saxon history, where surnames and placenames come from, chimpanzees. I loved learning about other countries and cultures, languages and history. I enjoyed playing with other children but for a short time, when I was very young, I did experience bullying and for a while took my teddy bear to school. I was happiest on my own with a book.

For years through my childhood I was taken regular to doctors who examined me, stuck wires to my chest, scanned, poked and prodded me until I was absolutely sure I was physically defective.

The operations were traumatic and I remember crying after Mum left me after day visits. She was probably crying too! Overall, they were successful and I have lived long after the ages when death was a possibility and am very grateful to all the medical people involved.

But psychologically, being physically examined, being the centre of medical attention and something to be worried about, and then the trauma of the hospitalisations and rehabilitation may have been the start of my self-consciousness which plagued me through my adult life.

I remember being allowed out of bed for the first time after my heart operation. All I wanted to do was run down to the tall oak tree near our house and climb into its leafy branches, away from the worried eyes of the adults around me.

Looking back, I think my teenage years were when my tendency to negative self-talk became more obvious.

I hated exercise and was pretty hopeless at it. In fact, my parents put me through extra physical education classes before school for a while. Humiliating and excruciating. While my friends went to netball or gymnastics after school, I went home to my books.

I did some walking each day, a kilometre to the tram stop and back going to school and I even went swimming occasionally, though I was very bad at it and only managed a few laps.

I also had very low self-esteem. This might have been a ‘growing up’ thing, but I always thought people

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My childhood was full of medical things; doctors, nurses, hospitals, machines, procedures.

were staring and whispering about me, laughing at me behind my back. Not my close friends, but other people at my school or even just strangers in the street.

I lacked confidence and hated my body. I thought I was weak, defective and unattractive. This may stem from the two major operations I went through: my open-heart surgery at seven and a major back operation at fourteen. After the back operation I wore a brace for six months which necessitated large baggy clothes. I had no bust and massive hips. I felt ugly.

The stage was set for depression.

University

After school I went to the University of Melbourne and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree in archaeology and Middle Eastern Studies. I loved uni. I think I was one of those odd people who went to uni to learn stuff.

But I still felt blue and down in the dumps quite a lot of the time. I still lacked confidence around others and when I needed to present in tutorials. I found it very hard to share my opinions and ideas in class.

I thought everyone was so much cleverer than me.

I had friends but no very close ones. I went out with my friends fairly regularly but I often felt lonely. I still didn’t do any regular exercise and had talked to myself in very negative ways. I often compared myself to others and judged myself lacking.

I vividly remember suddenly noticing my reflection in the tram window one morning going to lectures and being shocked at how tired I looked. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was ruminating: thinking and worrying.

After University: My 20s

At the end of my degree, I asked to join a research team which was excavating in Syria. I was keen to pursue a career in archaeology, my major at university. I was accepted and spent the next five years going to Syria and in between, because I had finished my course, working temporarily at a receptionist or admin clerk for businesses around my city.

I had started flamenco dance classes so I was exercising regularly.

But I hated my jobs, still lacked confidence and was very confused about my future. I thought maybe objects conservation might be a way of working with archaeological materials, but after taking first year chemistry and feeling like a fish out of water, I gave up that idea.

I had a few failed relationships, one of which left me particularly devastated.

Rumination, worry about my future and negative self-talk continued to affect my sleep.

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I loved research but it wasn’t a completely healthy lifestyle…

In my late 20s I decided I’d go back to archaeology and began my PhD, but the work in Syria stopped. I was excited to start my research but noticed in June, July and August, the winter months in my home town, my mood plummeted. I felt the loss of the hot Syrian sun. I had stopped taking dance classes but I did walk every day with my dog.

The first years of my doctoral studies went badly with my lack of confidence showing through in supervisory meetings where I tried to support my ideas but was regularly shot down. Finally I did get a good, supportive supervisor, but I think the damage was done. I felt disconnected from the department, unsupported and miserable.

I emerged from the years of research with a doctoral degree and a heavy dose of depression.

Research is a solitary affair and I found all my friends had moved on and were marrying and even starting families. Meeting with my supervisor was the only social activity I had.

I was still walking the dog but sleeping very, very badly.

I was desperately worried about my future and knew I couldn’t handle the academic life. I was miserable about the thought of leaving archaeology but couldn’t see, realistically, how it could give me a living.

After Archaeology: Age 31-34

I left my first love; archaeology.

I retrained in immigration law and got a job at a centre assisting newly arrived migrants and refugees.

The work was challenging and I was busy, but I was reasonably happy. I enjoyed the advocacy work, learning about my client’s stories and experiences. I loved being surrounded by colleagues from so many different countries and hearing a multitude of languages around me.

In the evenings and on weekends I continued walking the dog, my only form of exercise, but my stress of the doctorate was still with me and I didn’t have the energy to do much more than stagger around the park.

Occasionally I went out for Friday night drinks with my work friends, but spent most weekends alone.

Looking back, although I was eating sufficiently, many meals were pasta or rice based, heavy on meat and lighter on vegetables. I also munched my way through Chinese takeaways and fast food fairly regularly.

The work gave me a huge amount of satisfaction, though it was quite stressful and the politics of the centre was getting everyone down.

Job Loss 1

One day, completely out of the blue, I got a call (I was on leave at the time) that the centre was closing down and we’d all be out of a job. I wavered between anger, distress and confusion.

The centre director had made very poor spending decisions and the government body which funded the centre had refused to throw any more good money after bad. We were all angry and I spoke at several public meetings about the closure.

We were all very distressed about where that would leave our vulnerable clients; many of whom had complex needs around housing, employment, mental health and immigration.

And I was confused about what to do next. As the weeks went on I applied for other jobs, sometimes getting an interview, other times not. My anger faded and was replaced with a deeper depression than I had yet known.

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When I lost my job I was so confused and desperately worried about my future.

Finally I got a job offer with an organisation which had been given some of the funding which would have gone to the first centre. Apparently I made an impression and for the ten months I was there, I led the team of settlement workers helping newly arrived migrants and refugees find the assistance they needed to start their new lives in Melbourne.

Job Loss 2

After that first year, the organisation decided to make some changes to the roles of the team and everyone’s job was put out for application.

Although they invited me to apply for the team leader role, I knew I wouldn’t get it. It was an organisation which was at loggerheads with my own values. They acted like a corporation, with all the structures and rules and regulations that corporations like to act with. I’d come from a community based organisation that aimed to make differences in people’s lives, while this organisation was more concerned about corporate colours and marketing materials and presenting a business face.

I didn’t apply for the leadership job and found myself without work yet again.

A Very Small Business Age 34-38

Looking back, I can hardly believe I decided to set up my own business. I found a small office and put out a shingle hoping for clients to flood through the door.

They didn’t. I didn’t know how to get clients; in fact, I didn’t know the first thing about running a business.

I think I wanted to hide from the world, doing my own thing in my own little space. In reality, I was way out of my depth and sinking fast. 

I continued to get out to the park, but shuffled between park benches where I’d spend time sitting and ruminating. Wearing massive sunglasses that covered half my face I avoided all eye contact with other people and chose other paths if I saw someone coming.

Because I was running out of money my meals become filled with cheap fatty sausages, pasta and tomato sauce, fried rice and eggs, with the occasional piece of fresh fruit.

Nights were excruciating. Sleep came only after hours of thinking, the thoughts churning around in my head. How could I get more clients? How would I make any money? Why did I lose my job? How did I end up here? What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy and get my life working? How would I survive?

I never saw anyone and dreaded the phone ringing. Every few weeks I’d go and visit my parents, forcing myself to dress nicely and slapping on a happy face, all the while crying inside. I felt I was a complete failure and an utter disappointment to them. After all they’d done for me, raising me and educating me, I was this terrible loser.

In fact, my parents loved me dearly and would have helped me out if I had had the presence of mind to ask. But my self-esteem was truly rock bottom.

My house was a pigsty because I couldn’t summon up the energy to tidy it up. I only showered if I had a client coming in (very, very slowly I was getting more appointments, but they often did not turn into further work for a variety of reasons).

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The very worst years.

I could barely get out of bed, wept bitterly every day and beat my head against the hard tiles of the shower cubicle or a door frame to dislodge the fuzziness that seemed to have taken over my brain.

These were the very worst years of my life.

Yet I didn’t slip into suicidal ideation and the only reason I can think of for that was the presence of my dog. I cared way more for her than I did myself and that made me get outside into the sun once, often twice a day. Later, when I eventually sought professional help I remember telling the psychologist that the only time I felt even slightly brighter was in the park with my dog and I think there is a very good reason for that. Sunshine and even just a little movement does much to clear the cobwebs in the head.

I was at my lowest point.

I wanted to live and I wanted to live well. I just had no idea how. Years of telling myself I was no good (after all, what had I achieved? No house, no job, very little savings) and life just brings disappointment after disappointment had led me to the point where I began to wonder what the point of it all was.

I had wondered for a while whether I had a malfunctioning hormone system. My monthly cycle was horrendous; massive dips in mood, weeping, complete loss of motivation, energy and appetite. I started to track my moods, plotting on a graph my overall mood that day, noting whether I had done any extra exercise and what I had eaten. But no patterns emerged. I was up and down like a yoyo. Or rather, down and then very down.

Seeking Professional Help: My Late 30s

Finally, I went to the doctor. I was feeling worse than usual, with dizziness, dry mouth, aches and pains and an inability to do anything but sit and cry.

She diagnosed flu and depression.

I got onto a low dose of citalopram, a SSRI anti-depressant medication and signed up for 12 weeks of psychological counselling.

Things looked up.

I managed to find a few more clients, but these were small local businesses and business migration was an area I knew nothing about, so I spent many long nights reading up on the laws and regulations.

Each client I went to meet filled me with expectation and almost every time I returned to my office filled with dread; there was always something about each case that would make it extra complicated, difficult or impossible and the fees I had imagined flowing into my business account just evaporated.

Business clients I did take on were pushy and rude, or had expectations which were far higher than I could deliver and I dreaded listening to messages on my office phone or reading emails for fear of yet another angry client.

I seemed to feel slightly calmer but I still slept badly, ruminated constantly, took no other exercise than a slow stroll around the park and remained isolated from friends.

But I wasn’t any closer to really overcoming depression.

Losing Frances and Closing the Business

Eventually I realised that I couldn’t continue with the business. I felt an utter failure but looking back, I had many clients who were very happy with my work and whom I’d been able to make a huge difference in their lives, reuniting them with loved ones. But at the time, I just wanted out.

Then my beloved dog died.

For weeks after I was on auto-pilot, finalising applications, moving furniture out of the house and into storage, cleaning the house, dragging myself through the day, pushing my emotions away and just focussing on what needed to be done.

I moved back to my parents and went to bed and didn’t get up for a fortnight.

I cried every day for exactly three months and then decided I had to get on with the rest of my… Click To Tweet

I went back to temping, getting work as a receptionist or admin clerk, living at my parents and thinking about my future. During this period I had more contact with friends and family, though I didn’t exercise as much. I was eating better and starting to ruminate less as my brain was focused on making decisions about what to do next.

Teaching English in China 39-44 years

Finally I decided to retrain as an English language teacher and took a course which was partially online and partially in the classroom.

I had thought about teaching English before, when I was wondering what career option to take after university. I love languages, reading and writing. It seemed like a good fit.

I felt happier and enjoyed getting to know my fellow students at the course, often stopping for a coffee or drink after class. I was getting out and about, had plans for the future and although I was still lying awake for some of the night thinking and worrying, I was getting more sleep than before.

I went to China. I taught in Hohhot, the capital city of the province of Inner Mongolia, in China’s central

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Yurts on grasslands around Hohhot, China

north. A beautiful, small city surrounded by mountains and grasslands, Hohhot was cold, very cold in winter, but had bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine, attractive parks and all the modern conveniences one could need.

My colleagues were wonderful. My students were enthusiastic. I adopted lost dogs and accommodated them in my tiny flat until I could new homes for them. I borrowed a bike and explored the edges of the countryside. I bought fresh fruit and vegetables in the little village next door, exchanging smiles and the same few Chinese phrases I had with the woman who ran her shop out of a tiny dark room.

I began to ruminate less as my brain was taken up with lesson planning and all the exciting new experiences I was having. I felt I had finally found an occupation that suited me. I had friends, had joined a gym in town where I worked out and did Mongolian dance classes, was getting enough sunshine and sleep, preparing healthy meals and had meaning in my life.

I was sleeping well, waking refreshed and eager to go to work. My mood rose steadily. Finally, finally, I was well on my way to overcoming depression.

Towards the end of my second year in Hohhot I made the mistake of deciding to go to another city to teach. I didn’t know that at the time and while I was sad to leave Hohhot, I was excited about moving and getting to know another Chinese city.

I went to the ancient city of Xian, at the Chinese end of the Silk Road, where the terracotta warriors were found.

And life took a dive.

The job I had been promised, teaching students in the department of English vanished and I ended up with unmotivated students from the accounting, engineering and IT departments who are forced to learn English and usually end up cheating or paying their way through. I felt unvalued.

My colleagues were rather aloof and unfriendly, despite my best efforts. Both American, they chose to hang around together and I soon felt excluded.

The promised gym was not yet built and the campus was on the far outskirts of town, which meant joining a gym as I had in Hohhot was impossible.

The atmosphere was full of pollution; a disgusting heavy grey fog that hung low over the land and obscured the sun.

My mood took a battering and I found myself quite unhappy. My only comforts were the stray dogs I found and hid in my apartment, in fear my colleagues would tell the authorities. I had a few very able and keen students who became ‘friends’ and took me to visit their families but I often felt lonely.

Counting the days until the semester was over, I looked forward to going home.

Back in Melbourne: Teaching International Students

I arrived back in Melbourne tired but happy to have left China. I enjoyed my time there but three years was enough. I quickly got a job in one of Melbourne’s universities, teaching in the English language centre. At the same time I started building a house- and dog-sitting business, taking care of people’s homes and pets while they were away.

I enjoyed the teaching but found the administrative processes quite demanding. Meetings, teaching from a set curriculum (rather than creating my own as I had in China), marking to an assessment rubric; I found it rather stifling creatively. But I had wonderful colleagues and felt I was still on my right path.

I was seeing my friends regularly and walking almost daily. I was enjoying the fresh, unpolluted food of Australia and generally sleeping well.

A project that had always been at the back of my mind – publishing my PhD research – resurfaced during that time and I decided to do something about it, finally!

You see, I had pushed archaeology away. It had been my passion but during the PhD years, I had become so unhappy and my confidence so low that I couldn’t see how to create a career out of archaeology. Regret and sadness haunted me but I never allowed myself to think of archaeology because it seemed futile.

Finally, now, I seemed to have the emotional energy to do something with that research. I took a course in self-publishing and reworked the thesis into a readable book for a general audience. The whole process only took a few months, after nearly thirteen years of wondering what if!

Even more exciting, I was chosen to launch the book at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, an internationally acclaimed festival of writing and books.

As the launch day approached I got more and more nervous. I was convinced no one would come. I had some hiccups finding a specialist who would agree to speak at the launch. I got so caught up in details that I barely spent time on my own speech and threw something together last minute. I began to sleep badly and spent more time ruminating than I had in years.

The launch went well in hindsight but even now I blame myself for not selling more books. I had botched it up, I was sure. My negative self-talk really affected how I saw the success of the launch and even today I look back with a sense of regret, even though, in reality, it went quite well.

The Low Mood Returns

The thing is, I was beginning to experience low mood yet again.

I had gone off the anti-depressants because I had run out while in China and feeling pretty good on return to Australia, had not gone back to the doctor for more. I thought I was overcoming depression by myself.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/depression-1250870_1920.jpg overcoming depressionI began to feel a bit of a failure, both at book selling and at teaching.

Chatting with colleagues at work I realised that most of them had higher degrees in teaching. They always seemed to have great ideas for their lessons and breezed through their classes. I began to feel like an imposter. I wasn’t a real teacher!

I began to struggle with classroom management issues and putting together engaging lesson plans. I got flustered when students asked me questions and struggled with marking.

My negative self-talk grew into rumination and interrupted my sleep. I dragged myself drowsily out of bed, talking myself through each step of preparing for work. I began to dread each day.

Because I had spent so many months preparing the book I had neglected my regular walking and my days went from being indoors at home to indoors at work and back again.

Being a casual teacher I was able to reduce my hours and having enough insight to know that my mental health was beginning to suffer, it was more important to get myself right than to work full-time at that point in my life.

So what have I learned from all this?

For me, what I’m doing in my working life has been a potential stressor and trigger for low mood.

That is, if I’m happy in my study or work, my mood is high. If things are not going well at work, I tend to dip (or plunge) into a low mood.

I’ve also learned that messages learned about my physical self, my body, when in childhood and especially my teenage years were carried through into my adult life in the form of self-consciousness, lack of confidence and self-doubt.

I’ve also learned that having to reinvent myself constantly was a source of stress, but ultimately also of great joy as I realised that not everyone has to have the kind of life that society sets out for us – school, college, the same job or occupation, marriage, children, mortgage, and so on.

This means I don’t need to feel strange or useless or a failure if I choose to follow a different occupation.

Nor do I need to compare myself with others, judge my achievements or my sense of self-worth.

Overcoming depression means I have learned that I need to eat well, exercise regularly, stay connected with friends and family and find meaning in my work to stay well.

I haven’t tumbled back into the full effects of chronic low mood because I am doing things in my life that make me more resilient. Again, I didn’t know exactly what they were but on reflection and with the knowledge I now have, I can see how my lifestyle has supported me to stay strong and not dip down again.

Now that I have that knowledge, I can consciously choose to live in a way that protects me from dipping down into stress and negative self-talk and I can share that with you so that you too can live in hope.

So How About You?

It’s your turn now.

Go on, go back through your past (briefly) the way I have. Don’t dwell on causes of pain or hurt. Remember, you’re a scientist doing an experiment. It’s important not to get emotionally caught up in the events of the past.

If you like, you can use a chart like this one below. Copy it out. Fill it in. What patterns do you notice? When did you feel happier and more positive? When did your mood and emotional life plummet downwards?

Date

How did I feel about my job (or school)?

My friendships

My diet and exercise

My hobbies, volley work etc

Childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teenage years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

College, uni, training, first job, 20s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30s (extend the table up to your present age)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key is not to assign blame, go over painful events or conversations. Think for a short time about each period in your life and make notes on:

  • Your general mood at the time (were you an upbeat person, enjoying life, happy and optimistic?)
  • Your diet at the time (include alcohol consumption)
  • Your physical activity
  • Your relationships with friends and family
  • Your work/study
  • Your sleep patterns
  • Your spiritual life, your sense of contribution to the community, any voluntary work, involvement with social or environmental groups
  • Your hobbies and interests

Try to identify patterns and stressors in your life. The following are just examples…

  • Were you always a bit happier living near the beach?
  • Did you loathe your accounting job and become much more satisfied when you moved into marketing?
  • Was it a blow to move cities for another job, when you had to leave your family behind?
  • Did you feel life became empty when the children left home?
  • Was the loss of your mother early in life a tragedy you never quite came to peace about?
  • Was the diagnosis of cancer something that triggered you to withdraw from the world, or go out and embrace it?
  • Were you always a bit happier when on the road, travelling from place to place?

This is a crucial exercise but it is very important that you stay objective about it.

Pretend you are looking back over the life of another person, someone you don’t know. It is very important to remain as emotionally distanced as you can. Please stop this activity if it brings up very painful memories that threaten to overwhelm you.

Don’t take too long over it. A brief look back and a quick think about your lifestyle is really what we are aiming for here.

Then, do something to relax. A shower or a bubble bath. A cup of tea and a good book. A walk through the park with the dog. You’ve achieved a major step forward in overcoming depression.

Good on you!

What to do next? Read on for the next step.

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You’re on your way!

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Apr 28

How To Cure Depression Naturally

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Would you like to know how to cure depression naturally?

Have you been experiencing an overwhelming sense of sorrow, regret, frustration or dissatisfaction with life? Do you believe there is nothing much you can do about it; that life is tough and you have to struggle to get through every day? Can’t remember the last time you felt truly joyful?

It sounds like you might be experiencing chronic low mood. Some people refer to this as depression and believe they are mentally ill.

The feelings of depression are very real and horribly cruel. They steal the colour, enjoyment and pleasure out of life, replacing them with misery and despair.

But I don’t believe you are sick. Not mentally ill.

Even in your endless sorrow you are doing the best you can. Yes, you are. You have put coping strategies in place to help you get through. Things like sleeping more, thinking more and retreating from the world. These behaviours make you feel safe and when you feel safe, you feel better.

But now you want to know how to cure depression naturally.

First though, let’s ask, ‘How did you get here’?

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Too much stress can make life seem like a balancing act…

My guess is that there has been some kind of stress in your life – major or minor – which has led to changes in your sleep and appetite, perhaps brought on mysterious aches and pains, left you weepy and dazed, affected your thinking, memory and decision-making, and worst of all, made you believe there is no hope.

Our thinking patterns – how we respond to life’s experiences – are learned from a very young age. They are not always helpful, though we do the best we can. As adults, stress triggers these thinking patterns and if we are not resilient and able to respond in a way that reduces the stress, we can descend into depression.

But there is hope.

Are You To Blame For Being Depressed?

No.

I believe that everyone, including you, does the very best they can with the resources, information and coping strategies they have.

Read through these scenarios:

  • You feel bad today, depressed and lacking energy. You just want to be alone and sit on the couch all evening watching television. Perhaps you have some ice cream or chocolate. You feel slightly better.

You have used strategies which get you through that patch of low mood.

  • Something unpleasant happens at work. Your colleague tells the manager that you didn’t complete some task which affected his work. The manager calls you into her office and you gave your side to the story. In the end, it turns out to be your colleague’s fault; he failed to look for the information where you always keep it. He apologises but when you get home you can’t get the incident out of your mind. Why would your colleague report you to the manager? The words he said were really hurtful. It doesn’t matter that he said sorry; he probably didn’t mean the apology anyway. He must think you’re really slack at work. He probably wants your job. He’s looking for ways to make you feel bad. The manager will probably believe him and sack you.

You spend the evening and the whole of the next two days thinking this situation over and over. You are using a thinking strategy to try and find a solution to the problem.

  • You wake up feeling rotten one sunny Saturday morning. You’ve slept poorly (again) and can barely push the covers away. You start to doze again. Then the phone rings. It’s your friend inviting you out for a coffee. You don’t want to offend her so you tell her you have a terrible migraine and just need to spend the day in bed. She offers to bring you something to eat but you tell her you need to be alone.

You feel physically unwell (even if there is no actual migraine) and so you respond to your body’s need to rest, roll over and sleep heavily for the next three hours.

Each of these situations is common in when we’ve been experiencing a low mood for a long time. Low

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Too much stress leads to worry and racing thoughts which makes it hard to sleep well.

mood results in inertia (unwillingness or inability to move) and eating foods to comfort us. Everyday conversations or events take on mammoth, even catastrophic proportions, and we mull over them in our mind searching for the solutions. Sleep eludes us and we wake up feeling exhausted and so we stay in bed for a few more hours.

What we are doing in each situation is what we feel is best for ourselves and our bodies.

However, the opposite is actually what need to do, but we can only do what our current level of information allows us to do. This is what I mean when I say that you are doing the best you can to look after yourself given your current knowledge and resources at your disposal.

But now, you want more out of life. Your current coping strategies are not working for you.

Would you like to know how to cure depression naturally?

There are seven steps to getting your life back on track:

  1. Self-compassion
  2. Accept depression
  3. Understand the different ways an ongoing low mood can affect you
  4. Make the decision to live a depression-free life
  5. Gather your allies
  6. Implement lifestyle changes to create your depression-free future
  7. Build resilience

Self-Compassion

So the first step in how to cure depression naturally is to be kind to yourself.

Even if you know that sitting on the couch for hours does actually make you feel worse in the long-term, it’s all you can find the energy for right now. And that’s OK. For now.

Even though you may force yourself to lie awake going over and over that unpleasant situation, you may really believe that somewhere in all that thinking lies the solution to the problem. So thinking it through makes sense to you. Actually, what you are doing is ruminating, one of the most debilitating symptoms of depression and it never gets you any closer to the answer. But it’s all you can do, right now. And that’s OK. For now.

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Be kind to yourself as you would a friend who is experiencing depression…

Even though somewhere in your heart you know that getting up and having coffee with a friend is probably what you need right now; the chance to get out, have a laugh, perhaps share what’s on your mind, your body is saying ‘No way’ and because you don’t have any other strategies for getting up and about, you listen and obey and go back to sleep. That’s all you can do right now. And that’s OK. For now.

Low moods encourage us to tell ourselves lies about what a slob you are, how stupid you are to let things grow out of proportion or how you’ll never sleep well or get out of depression because you’re a loser and nothing is going to change, you are probably listening to these lies.

Listening to the lies of depression makes it so hard to change, to do what you have to do.

Stop saying unkind things to yourself and stop saying unkind things about yourself to other… Click To Tweet

Understand that you are doing the best you can under very difficult and challenging circumstances.

So one of the most important steps in how to cure depression naturally is to do watch your racing thoughts and negative self-talk.

Acceptance of How You Are Feeling

This is a tricky concept because it sounds like you have to enjoy or like having the pain of depressive low moods. Or that you have to give up.

Just because we accept something it doesn’t mean we have to like it, or that the situation will stay the same forever.

At school, you may have had to study subjects you didn’t enjoy – for me it was maths – but there really wasn’t any point struggling against it. I accepted that I would have to endure maths for at least another year and knew that I had to do the homework and take the exams.

But I also knew that eventually I would only study the subjects I really enjoyed.

Or, maybe you have to work back later than usual because there is a big project on. You may not enjoy having to spend so much time at work away from your family, but you choose to do it because it won’t be forever (and hopefully you are getting some financial benefit too)!

Or maybe your teenage daughter is going out more on the weekends or in the evening and you’re not sure exactly where she is or if you like the idea of her growing up. But you let her know that you’ll be there to pick her up if she needs it and you understand that she’s not going to do anything silly and she’s able to look after herself. You may not like it, but soon she’ll be a young adult and responsible for herself and developing more independence is just part of that process.

Or perhaps your father is aging and his ability to live independently is reducing. You find you’re doing his chores around the house, buying his groceries and preparing meals. While you are happy to do this because you love your Dad and are worried about him, it puts additional stress on you and takes your attention from your own life or family. You don’t exactly like it, but you choose to do it for now.

So, there are many times as we go through life in which we find ourselves doing things we don’t really like or enjoy, but we accept that we need to.

I can’t imagine ever liking or enjoying profoundly low moods, negative thinking patterns or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (that would just be weird) but accepting our mood is far more constructive than fighting it.

This warlike language – battling, struggling, fighting the demons of depression – is the language of not accepting.

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Stop struggling against your emotions. Don’t ‘should’ yourself. Just let your emotions be, just as they are.

Fighting and resisting, keeping going and hanging in there…these are words and thoughts that keep you resisting or pushing away the depression. When we inevitably fail, that’s when we may feel like giving in.

Because you can’t ‘win the war’ against depression. Not because it’s too strong for you, but because it’s just not the right strategy.

Constantly fighting and struggling against depression takes too much energy. It makes you feel that you have to defeat the depression completely each and every day. It depletes you physically and emotionally.

It makes you think, ‘Why can’t I do this? Why do I let the depression get the better of me? I should be stronger than this!’

Telling yourself every day, ‘I have to beat the depression. I must fight it, control it, conquer… Click To Tweet

When we have thoughts like this, our amygdala, a tiny region of the brain which is responsible for emotional reactions, triggers the production cortisol and adrenaline. In other words, overly negative emotions trigger the stress response system in our body: the fight or flight response.

In fight or flight, our prefrontal cortex – the thinking part of the brain – shuts down so that the body is focussed on physical survival. The heart beats faster, sending oxygen to our limbs to get ready for action. Our muscles tense up, ready to flee. We stop feeling hungry, because obviously you don’t want to be needing to eat when you’re facing a life-or-death situation.

When you are in fight-or-flight mode, you simply cannot take the actions you need to reduce your symptoms because to do that you need to be thinking clearly and calmly.

You set yourself up for failure. Then comes another round of self-recriminations, ‘I’m hopeless, weak, pathetic. I deserve to have this depression’.

Stop fighting. Don’t get into fight or flight.

How to cure depression naturally means accepting the depression. Don’t have any strong emotional reaction to it. Think of it as a chair or a fridge or a pen. Look at it objectively, from the outside. We don’t normally have emotional reactions to chairs or fridges. And yes, OK, depression is not a chair.

But if we can start to relate to it as just a thing, you will be in a much better place to begin to make decisions about reducing the symptoms.

Understand the Effects of Depression

Many people with depression, including you, know what makes them feel better. In fact, you already know how to cure depression naturally. You know that chatting with a good friend who understands you or taking a walk in the park lifts your mood. You know that when you go to the shops, or the library, or see a movie or do something nice for a neighbour that you feel better after.

But you don’t do these mood-lifting activities often enough for them to become habits.

And this is not your fault.

This is due to the energy-sucking, motivation-killing, pleasure-destroying monster that depression is.

Chronically low moods affect us in three ways: in our lifestyle (behaviour), in our brain function (cognitive) and in our thinking patterns (use of our mind).

  1. Typical lifestyle effects include:
  • Not getting enough sleep, or enough good quality sleep
  • Not eating enough, eating too much, or not eating a nutritious diet
  • Not doing exercise or physical activity of any kind
  • Not socialising with friends or loved ones
  1. Typical cognitive (brain-function) effects:
  • Not being able to focus or concentrate
  • Not being able to remember information
  • Not being able to think clearly
  • Not being able to make good decisions
  1. Typical thought-based effects are:
  • Feeling very negative towards oneself, one’s quality and character
  • Feeling very pessimistic about the future
  • Other unhelpful thought patterns such as perfectionism, mind-reading, catastrophizing, black and white thinking, labelling and using should or must in relation to oneself or others and what if in relation to events and circumstances.

Lifestyle Effects:

When I was depressed I couldn’t sleep well at all. I found it difficult to drop off to sleep, despite feeling fatigued, and when I finally did fall asleep I found it difficult to stay asleep through the night. I would wake around 2am and lie there, thinking, until about 4 or 5am when I’d drop into a very deep sleep from which I would be awakened by the alarm clock, groggy and exhausted.

Can you relate?

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There is a strong connection between mood and food.

I ate poorly: cheap, high fat foods such as hamburgers, sausages and takeaway Chinese. I ate a lot of rice, pasta and bread. I craved sugar, consuming cakes, doughnuts and chocolate almost daily.

Are you finding you’re craving sugary foods and can’t find the energy to make your own meals? Do you stop of for fast food on the way home from work or order in pizza over the weekend?

With very low levels of energy, I never exercised. But I did have a dog and because I cared about her, I took her out to the park or the beach every day, sometimes twice or even three times each day. I would shuffle along, often stopping to sit on the bench or grass. It was not exercise, but at least I was moving.

How are you going getting physical activity into your day? Not easy, is it?

I was working for myself during my most depressed period (ha! I was trying to build a bricks-and-mortar business, an incredibly difficult thing to do with chronic and overwhelming low mood) and this meant I was alone almost every day.

My house was in a terrible mess and I hated it, but I didn’t care because no one ever visited. I dreaded the phone ringing and would rarely answer it if it did. I usually refused invitations or cancelled at the last minute, with a ‘head ache’. I was getting more and more isolated but I just didn’t have the energy to see anyone.

What about you? Do you find yourself alone most days? If you’re working or otherwise needing to be out among people, do you dread it and long to be able to escape back home?

Cognitive Effects

Do you ever think your brain is just not working properly?

I did. Constantly.

I locked my keys into the car or locked myself out of the house on a regular basis. I continually forgot to take things I needed with me and with my house in a perpetual state of clutter, I constantly lost things and spent hours searching for things and ending up in tears.

My business was in a legal field which meant I had to keep up with changes to the law and regulations and I found this nearly impossible in depression. I just couldn’t remember what needed to be done.

I made endless to-do lists, set goals and made action plans and then fell in a heap because it all seemed so overwhelming. I simply didn’t know where to begin. I couldn’t think straight. My brain was a mush and I felt weighed down as if I was wearing a helmet of lead.

Cognitive symptoms are some of the most distressing and frightening symptoms of depression because they affect our ability to function in the world.

Emotional Effects

The way we think and the emotions we attach to our thoughts has a two-fold role in depression. The way we think and feel can lower our mood and it can make us stay there.

Feeling overwhelmed with sadness, regret, shame, helplessness, hopelessness and frustration is often caused by life stress whether in our distant childhood, or in our more recent adulthood. The way we think affects how we deal with stressors that arise.

If we are a ‘glass-half full’ person, always focussing on the negative and unable to see any positives, will promote depressive thinking. Even if we have normally been a reasonably happy, upbeat person, the

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How has your chronic low mood changed you? Do you feel you are now pessimistic where once you were cheerful and upbeat?

stressor may lead to lack of sleep, anxiety, changes in physical activity and diet which may lead to depressive symptoms, which in turn make us habitually less cheerful and positive.

For example, I’m thinking of an old friend who was always very confident, outgoing and cheerful. He went through a difficult period at work and simultaneously, a relationship breakdown. He slept poorly, stressed over work, stopped seeing his friends and consequently his mood dropped significantly. When I spoke with him, he had a very negative view of himself and the future. The more he expressed how unhappy he was, how life was unfair and how nothing would ever change, the more depressed he became.

Today, he is much better, having slowly re-engaged with the world; going to the gym, playing basketball with friends. He’s found another job he enjoys and has taken up photography.

He did this by noticing what was missing in his life (lifestyle symptoms) and changing his thought patterns (‘thinking’ symptoms). He found he could plan and make decisions much more easily as the depression eased. He’s doing well today.

Dealing with the ‘thinking’ symptoms of depression can also be very distressing. Our low mood thinking lies to us and tells us that not only is the world a terrible place, but that we are terrible people and don’t deserve a rewarding, contented life.

Worst of all, we begin to believe those lies so that they become truths for us.

But they are not universal truths.

The world is a wonderful place. You are a wonderful person. You richly deserve a rewarding life.

It’s hard to believe when you’re down in the trenches with depression.

You need strategies to turn those unhelpful thinking patterns around. But understand, within you there is already the answer to how to cure depression naturally.

But how? Where to begin?

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Read on to find out!

Please consider sharing this post if you have found it helpful. Thank you for spreading the word about healing from depression naturally.

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Apr 27

Why Am I Depressed?

By Vickie | Uncategorised

When you’re in deep in the trenches with depression, it’s very hard to know what to do to get out. Your thoughts and feelings seem to prevent you from doing what needs to be done to feel better.

Nobody wants to live with the cruel and sometimes debilitating symptoms of a deeply depressed mood.

Who wants to feel foggy-headed, exhausted, worried and hopeless all the time?

Who wants to drag that boulder around every day?

No one I know.

You might have been told that you need to get out more, phone a friend or take up a hobby. Perhaps you’ve read that exercise is helpful. Then there’s that new study on the connection between mood and food…

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Have you always felt low in mood?

You’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why am I depressed?’

And you probably have some idea of what improves depression…

But it’s just so hard to get going. And anyway, how can you be certain that those strategies, doing those things, will actually work for you?

In this series of articles, I want to show you how I freed myself from the debilitating effects of living with persistent low mood, profound sadness, guilt or regret, dissatisfaction or frustration with life.

If you too want to live more fully and more contentedly, experience more moments of joy and have more meaning in your life, these articles will show you how you can.

This information was not something I knew when I was in the throes of depression, not in an intellectual sense.

Now that I am living without depression, and with hindsight, I can see how some periods of my life were better and more productive and contented than others and I can now reflect on what was going on at those times and how they affected my mood.

In eliminating depression from my life, I did what I needed to do without realising my actions were just the right ones.

If I’d been more aware of the choices I was making in different periods of my life, I would have… Click To Tweet

I’ve learned how to live without depression through a long process of trial and error.

I’ve read scientific research papers, books and survivor stories.  I’ve experimented with different strategies in my own life.

I’ve learned about lifestyle choices and thinking patterns.

Now I know what works.

And I want to share that with you because no one should have to suffer the pain of living with deep and profound sadness, stress, frustration, helplessness or hopelessness.

Through this series of articles I’m going to share with you exactly how I left my depression behind. I’m going to show you exactly what worked for me and how I implemented those strategies in my life.

Am I Depressed Because My Brain Doesn’t Work?

You might have often asked yourself, ‘Why am I depressed? What have I got to be depressed about?’

You might even have begun to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Or wrong with your brain.

No, living without depression is all about learning to live like a non-depressed person. Click To Tweet

Think about your friends. Your happy, productive, optimistic friends. Do they have a different kind of brain than you do? Are they somehow more complete, better constructed, have more or different brain cells than you?

No, of course not.

You don’t have a different kind of brain than your friends, though your brain might have changed as a

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There is no ‘chemical imbalance’ in your brain. Your brain is perfectly normal.

result of experiencing negative thoughts and habits. But the wonderful thing is, your brain can be changed again – it’s a marvellously plastic, changeable organ and it responds to what you do and think.

Simple, hey?

Changing your brain to lose the low mood is actually, really, quite simple. No brain surgeons required!

You just need a different way of thinking and a different way of being.

But adopting these changes into your life presents more challenges, especially when you’re feeling down and unmotivated and not very interested in change.

When you have a migraine, a bad cold or bacterial infection, the brain tells the body to slow down, rest, sleep, stay quiet and don’t be in exciting, stimulating environments. When you have a low mood, you may find you are behaving like someone who is physically sick; wanting to rest, be alone, perhaps not eat as much.

Pushing yourself outwards, out of your room and into the world, out of solitary confinement and into the world of other people, out of your head feels very, very scary.

And therein lies the rub.

Even making the decision to recover from depression can put your brain into a spin!

Think again about your friends or family members, the ones without depression.

How do they live that’s different to you? What do they do every day? How do they think? Do you believe there is something special or lucky about them? Do you feel you’ve missed out on something, suffered in some way, not got the breaks they’ve had?

It’s not about their brain. It’s about their lifestyle. And it’s about the way they think.

Our moods, thoughts and emotions originate in our mind and impact the brain.

We live our lives through our experiences of the world. We take in information through our senses – sounds, sights, tastes, smells, physical sensations from our body and our environment – and we use our brain to process that information.

How we process that information, how we make meaning of our experiences, effects the brain in a very real, physical sense.

If you’re asking yourself, ‘why am I depressed?’ that’s a really good thing and great first step towards eliminating depression from your life.

What you think leads to what you do. You have a thought, then you act according to that thought. If you usually think in negative ways, your actions change accordingly. If your actions are not supporting you, your thoughts become increasingly negative.

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Do you feel alone in an unfriendly world?

For example, you’re feeling a bit down. You’ve had a rough week at work, customers have been rude and your boss very demanding. You just want to stay on the couch all weekend watching movies. It’s a nasty world out there. A friend calls and invites you out for coffee. Your heart sinks. You’re just ‘not in the mood’. You want to be left alone even though catching up with a friend will probably show you that the world is not so unpleasant after all.

The brain forms pathways that become automatic or habitual. Suddenly you’ve taken off your rose-coloured glasses and the world seems grey and unpleasant. You think the world is a horrible place to be and suddenly you’re seeing the evidence everywhere; disappointments in friendships and relationships, you hate your work, you don’t have enough money, your physical health is poor…or so you think…

Your thinking is off and your actions are consequently off.

Low mood generally creeps up on you until one day you realised you’re feeling crap and are not sure what to do about it.

So If My Brain Isn’t Malfunctioning, Why Am I Depressed?

At this point I want to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to why some people experience debilitating low moods and other may not.

First of all, this is a complex issue and even the experts don’t really know.

What is known is that depression, or what I like to refer to as chronic low mood has a number of causes:

  1. It may be a ‘side-effect’ of some other illness. Depressive symptoms can emerge as part of another physical disorder. Once that illness is treated, the symptoms should disperse.

 

  1. It may be caused by inflammation in the body, a lack of certain vitamins or minerals, underactive typhoid function and a host of other physical problems. You need to speak to your doctor and have a series of tests run to see whether your depressive symptoms may be caused by a lack of some essential substance in the body.

 

  1. Lack of sunlight. In some people, low mood is more likely in the winter months when there are fewer hours of sunlight each day.

 

  1. After giving birth, some new mothers may experience low mood which affects their ability to bond with their new baby.

 

  1. Challenging events in life – both negative and sometimes positive – can fill us with stress, whether these events are wished for or forced upon us. Moving house, having a baby, starting or losing a job, getting married, losing a loved one through death or relationship breakdown, increasing work demands, money worries…all these life events can stress us greatly. A period of depression may result. Often this depression is built up over months or even years. Once the stressor has been dealt with, the symptoms of depression should recede.

 

  1. Childhood trauma or abuse. If you grew up in a family where anger and arguments were common, or you suffered a major medical challenge, or lost a parent or other close relative early in life…these distressing events may leave us more resilient, but they may not if we create an unhelpful meaning out of these events, particularly meaning about us. For example, ‘My father drinks because I’m hopeless at school. I know this is true because he tells me’ or ‘Teachers think I’ll never get anywhere in life, so why bother trying. I’ll always be a no-hoper’. These kinds of messages that may originate with other people are taken on by us and stay with us through our adult life. Such low self-esteem may mean that we don’t cope with stress in our adult life well and depression may be the result.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the possible causes of low mood and each person’s case is unique because our experiences and our brains are unique. Why one person falls into depression and another doesn’t even though they both experience the same traumatic life event may be due to how their different coping mechanisms and patterns of thinking.

Many people with chronic, but mild low mood, claim ‘they’ve always been depressed’ or that they  ‘cannot remember a time when they felt happy’ or that ‘life was good’ and this is how I felt.

People with chronic low mood are able to function reasonably ‘normally’; that is, they may hold down a job, undertake studies, raise families and so on.

However, doing all these ‘normal’ things feels like a huge challenge all the time.

Living with chronic low mood is like trying to get through the day wearing an old-fashioned deep… Click To Tweet

Sure, it’s possible to function, but there is very little joy or feeling of accomplishment. It’s struggle, struggle, struggle, each and every day. It’s an exhausting, horrible way to live.

What’s the difference between your life and the life of your non-depressed friends?

Nobody has days which are filled with fun and laughter from morning till night.

We all experience low mood and sadness, anger, irritation or boredom. It would be weird if we didn’t.

Some of us feel mildly down-in-the-dumps sometimes; some of us may become quite disabled through the severity of our negative mood, unable to think, remember, communicate or even move easily due to their depression.

Negative experiences and therefore negative emotions are simply part and parcel of life, of being… Click To Tweet

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Do you really know how other people feel?

All the friends we think of as living a ‘happy, lucky, charmed-life’ have experienced negative emotions some time in their lives.

If you’ve been asking yourself, ‘why am I depressed’, you can be fairly certain that at some point in their lives, your friends probably have too!

Some people may experience a period of stress which may be accompanied by an inability to sleep, changes in appetite, anxious thoughts and a pessimistic outlook, but these feelings fade as the stressor disappears from their life.

But on the whole, our non-depressed friends function well and life seems to be working out for them.

This is because their lives are in balance.

There are certain needs that we all have, as humans. The need for good food, clean water and adequate sleep to keep our bodies functioning. The need to move our bodies so that our systems get a good workout and stay flexible and fluid. The need for social connection, the sense that we belong. The need for meaningful contribution, that we have a place in the world.

If any one of these needs is absent, we feel our life is ‘out of whack’, missing something, and negativity and stress takes its place.

Are your friends happy in their jobs? Play sport on the weekend? Hang out with others or are in harmonious family relationships? Have interesting hobbies or volunteer their time and efforts to something they value? Eat well and sleep well? Take time to relax and unwind?

It is likely they do or have most of these things most of the time.

Do you?

What do they do or have that you don’t?

So if you’re asking yourself, ‘Why am I depressed’ why not try, ‘Is my lifestyle contributing to my low mood?’ ‘Are my thinking patterns letting me down?’ it might be time to have a look at the way you live and the way you think.

How can you get yourself back on track so that you can enjoy a better kind of life?

Read on to find out!

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/freedom-2237661_1920.jpg Am I Depressed

 

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