Friday, May 30, 2008

A Difficult Subject

Yesterday I helped a friend with something I have experienced myself.

Dare I say the word? There is such a huge stigma associated with it. Friendships and marriages end over it. Credibility can be destroyed by it. Families can be scarred by it. And not just by the problem itself--but by the stigma associated with it.

Here it is: Depression.

The bulk of the American medical community will tell you depression is a disease that must be treated with perscription medication.

Millions of Americans believe it's the only solution.

I didn't, and I am grateful EVERY DAY OF MY WONDERFUL LIFE that I did not.

The truth about depression is that it is NOT a disease. It's a symptom.

The truth is that study after study proves that medication has little to no success in treating depression in any kind of profound way.

The truth is that the means are available to conquer this monster, if those who suffer are willing to fight it. I fear most aren't. I fear most are looking for a quick and easy solution, and they will not find it.

So, going back to my friend; she is suffering from mild depression right now, brought on by sleep deprivation. She's the mother of three children--4, 2, and 5 months old. The baby isn't sleeping well at night and this friend is caught in a depressive loop of poor sleep, poor health, and the need to take care of her children. She can't NOT take care of her children, you know? So she was on a down cycle last night and her husband called and asked if I might be willing to, basically, put one of their children in time out while they took the others and went to do something fun.

Odd question. I told him no. I told him that it's not my job to be the ogre to his children. That's his and his wife's job. He then proceeded to explain somewhat what was going on, and I told him that he didn't need to take the kids out to do something fun. He needed to hire a freaking babysitter and take his wife out on a date, which, to his enormous young-inexperienced-husband credit, he did. They hired my daughter.

When they came to pick her up for the sitting job, my friend was sitting out in the car crying. I went out to her and hugged her and talked to her for a while, found out more details, and wrote her a 'perscription' to get her back on her emotional feet.

Most of that perscription involves making some changes in her lifestyle. It usually doesn't take much, and you can generally take it slowly. I'm a firm believer that taking baby steps toward a lifestyle change works more lastingly than trying to affect a complete reversal in your habits.

Anyway, right NOW, she is to begin:
*getting a little exercise EVERY DAY!!! I cannot stress enough how crucial exercise is to conquering depression. Sorry you fatties out there (like me, by the way), but if you don't want to spend the rest of your life in the misery that is your life, you have to get up off the couch and get your heart pumping. My friend's husband will take the kids off her hands when he gets home from work while she goes walking.
*getting rest whenever she can. I taught her the concept of 'power naps.' I've taken a lot of those in the last few years. Fewer as I've recovered from the physical effects of the depression-inducing stress and the depression itself.
*a regimen of supplements designed to heal her brain and invigorate her body. I had to use some caution on that list, as she is a breastfeeding mom. After a LOT of personal research and self-trial, I recommend a good multi-vitamin, a B vitamin that includes ALL the Bs for metabolism support, extra vitamin C, Omega 3 and Gingko Biloba to support and enhance blood circulation to the endorphin-starved brain. In addition to these, I take a low dose of St. John's Wort in the mornings to get me going and feeling good in the mornings, but St. John's is not recommended for nursing moms. She also needs to limit the amount of vitamin C she takes, as mega-doses can actually lead to scurvy in infants after they stop nursing on mom's vitamin C rich milk, even if they are receiving adequate amounts of the vitamin. I take an extra 2000 mg. a day. She'll take 500.
*relying on her support system more, including her husband. I reminded her that our wonderful husbands simply don't know what we need unless we tell them. So we sit around getting annoyed that they can't read our minds, and they sit around feeling helpless because we don't tell them what's on our minds. Just tell him what to do and he'll do it. He wants to do it. He wants to help you feel better and be happier, he just (REALLY, girls) doesn't know how.
*removing as much stress as possible. She'll spend some time in the next week or so looking at every aspect of her life. She'll learn to tell people 'no' when they ask her to do something that will only end up adding to her stress level. She'll learn that there are some things that just don't matter very much in the big picture, and that can wait, that she can set aside for now while she's dealing with this. If that includes switching the baby to a bottle earlier than she would like, that's what it means.
*taking the baby to bed with her to enable her to get as much night sleep as possible. Some will frown on this kind of thing, but if it saves her, it's well worth it.

Depression is a complex and awful thing, but it's not a death sentence. It's not even a LIFE sentence. It's a symptom, usually of stress--from short term acute stress, to long term chronic stress. And stress comes from MANY sources--emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual. Depression is a symptom of myriad diseases, because the physical stress of the disease--even if you don't know you have it--can lead to depressive symptoms. Depression causes other symptoms because the whole body becomes depressed and doesn't function as well as it could. Addressing the whole person, the body, the soul, the intellect, is the key to conquering it.

I recommend:
The Chemistry of Joy by Dr. Henry Emmons. You can find a preview of the book here:,


The Depression Learning Path at Just skip over all the ads and junk at the top of the pages. Scroll down to get to the meat and bones of this really excellent tutorial on depression.

Both sources give a good objective persepective on depression and its complexity, and treats the issue of medicating for depression a fair explanation without touting it as necessary. The Depression Learning Path gives an excellent and simple explanation of the different kinds of available therapy and what works best, as well as how to choose a good therapist. After reading Dr. Emmons' book, I realized that, because of the nature of my depression, medication would not have worked for me.

Here's to healing and to LIFE!!! Smile, everyone!


Creative A said...

I went through a depression, got out of it without medication, and never EVER want to go back. It had gotten to a point where I felt no one could reach me. I had no energy - standing up made my want to lie down. I hated going to sleep at night because I knew the next day would never be any better. All I wanted to do was sleep, forever. Pulling out of it took almost as long as falling in.

And it's true about the whole medication thing. I know some people do have chemical imbalances and such, but depression is often just a loss of hope. You can't treat that with pills.

Anyway, I agree with what you said. I hope things work out for your friend.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I suffered from severe post partum psychosis, I was at the point where I wanted to end my life to end my misery. I was nursing and refused to take medication to help me. I found a chiropractor/natruopath that did muscle testing and used the supplements called "Standard Process" I started to take them and within 45 min I felt so much better it was amazing.

I'm not one to advertize things or support any product without serious trial and approval but these supplements saved my life and my family from a life time of pain. It is worth the look. If your friend needs more than you perscribed, (I totally support your recomendations BTW) Tell her about these supplements.


Suzanne Vincent said...

Thanks, ladies!

I totally agree with 'creative a' about it taking as long to climb out as it did to fall in.

My depression was brought on by four years of profound stress, and while I'm doing very well now I can still see the scars of where I was.

I remember being completely horrified at having to live that way for another 30 or 40 years. I wasn't going to do it. And there were only two ways out of it.

One was the worst of all potential solutions. The other was to do something about it.

Kind of funny about planning your own suicide, though. It's almost therapeutic, having an escape plan in case nothing else works out. It actually takes some of the stress away--at least for me it did.

Suzanne Vincent said...

Michelle, I am definitely going to look up Standard Process.

I have a few natural medicines that I TOTALLY swear by. One is VITEX for regulating womanly irregularities. The other is Lavender Oil for, well, just about everything. We especially like it for coughs and (get this!) menstrual cramps. Just a few drops on your belly and lower back and they're gone in seconds!