IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION & HOW TO HELP (YOURSELF &/OR OTHERS)
TAKE TWO. I’m sorry for any confusion and inconvenience I caused by deleting this article. Someone admonishing me for what I had written and since I was having a bad day I reacted and deleted it. So I offer this with the following disclaimer: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am just beginning to learn about this stuff and the reason I decided to offer this information is because I wish I had been given this information 20 years ago. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW SUFFERS FROM DEPRESSION, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IMMEDIATELY.
Depression is as unpredictable and as changing as the weather, it manifests differently for different people and differently at different times for the same person. At some points depression can be incapacitating and our will is completely lost, at those times it is impossible to do the things that I outline below. However, there are times when the clouds clear a little and we can access some of our will and again at varying degrees. It is at these times when we can and MUST take some action, however small, to ‘fight for our life’, because that is truly what it is. It has come to my attention that quite a few people on Cortes suffer from depression on varying degrees and don’t talk about it or hide it. I know that when I hide my depression it makes it worse. As difficult as it is, it is essential to reach out and connect with others. Just last week I went into my pattern of withdrawing and I became more and more depressed. Luckily a healing circle had been arranged and I dragged myself there. In being in a sacred space where others and I could openly and honestly share I realized I was not alone and I found some refuge and relief from my suffering. I really encourage this community to create and sustain support groups, so that people can feel safe to seek the companionship and support that they need.
The following information is meant to educate and help people who may be suffering from depression or who knows someone with depression. I draw from my own personal experience of living with depression. I have lived with depression for over 20 years and it wasn’t until this last couple of months (after nearly dying from my suicide attempt) that I have started to understand what depression is and have started to get real help. When I finally realized that I had depression and what it really is, I experienced both relief and grief. Relief because I finally understood that I wasn’t broken and that I could get help. Grief for all of those years that I lost trying everything to feel better that didn’t work, now knowing that with the right information and the right help I could have avoided a lot of unneccessary suffering. If you or someone you know is struggling with what may seem like depression, I urge you to get educated and get the help that’s needed.Important things to know if you’re suffering from depression & how to help yourself:
1. Depression is an illness, a life-threatening disease that is usually based on a brain chemistry imbalance that can be treated either naturally or with medication. Seek professional help to determine the best course of treatment for you.
a. “Depression is not simply a temporary change in mood or a sign of weakness. It is a real medical condition with many emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive symptoms. Many people are ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Others shrug off their symptoms and end up suffering in silence. Contrary to some misconceptions, depression is neither inevitable nor is it a character flaw. People with depression often get these ideas because of the feeling of guilt caused by the illness. Depression is a real health problem for which help is available. But you must be aware of it and know how to ask for help.” (goto www.depressionhurts.ca
for more info)
2. Often people don’t know that they have depression or don’t understand what it is and therefore think that something is wrong with them and this results in the shame and the hiding and exacerbates the situation. If you suspect you may have depression or you don’t understand what’s going on with you, you are not alone, seek professional help.
3. The natural and important forms of treatment that I have come to know are –remember that you have to make a choice to fight for your life and call upon your will – however small to take any steps possible toward your well-being:
a. Physical exercise is the most important thing you can do because it releases natural anti-depressant in the brain! (I know that being physical can seem almost impossible when depressed. Just start and do whatever you can, even if it’s 5 minutes and try to increase by a minute each time.) Aerobic/cardiovascular, three to five exercise sessions per week, for 45 to 60 minutes per session is recommended. In terms of intensity, for aerobic exercise, they recommend achieving a heart rate that is 50 to 85 percent of the individual’s maximum heart rate. Goto: http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/05/11/new-guidelines-for-using-exercise-as-an-antidepressant/54728.html
for more info.
b. Therapy – find a counsellor that you connect with and trust to work through the issues that trigger/exacerbate your depression – especially work on the inner critic and wounded child!!
c. Natural Supplements to help with brain chemistry and brain health– I have done a lot of research on the internet about this, there are mixed opinions. Personally I want to try everything I can before resorting to medication and my psychiatrists are both in support of this, but for some people medication is the better route to go. (DO NOT TAKE THE FOLLOWING SUPPLEMENTS IF YOU ARE ON MEDICATION – SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE TO DECIDE THE BEST TREATMENT PLAN FOR YOU)
i. St. John’s Wort (300mg, 3x a day min.) – cannot be taken while on medication
ii. 5HTP – (50-300 mg/day –it’s important to start low and build up over time) - cannot be taken while on medication http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5-Hydroxytryptophan
- google 5HTP & depression for more info
iii. Omega 3’s- 3000+mg/day
iv. Empower Plus Q96 http://www.healthybrainq96.com/
d. Light box (20-30 mins/day)
e. Mindfulness meditation
f. Creative expression (painting, dance, music, writing, singing, etc. – find your own unique way to express yourself in a way that is fulfulling and healing)
g. Bodywork/massage/energy work
4. Treatment often takes at least 4 weeks to take affect. Being patient and gentle with yourself is important.
5. I know it can be difficult but it’s really important and helpful to be open and honest with your family and closest friends about what’s going on for you. This helps to break down those walls of isolation and separateness. It helps to feel like there’s a team of people that know what’s going on, who are looking out for you and available to support you when needed.
6. Don’t give up! I know how painful and difficult it can get sometimes but with real help and time things will shift and get better. No matter what your mind tries to tell you, people are not better off without you. Suicide may end your pain but it results in way worse pain for everyone else.Important things to know if you know someone suffering from depression & how to help them:
1. Get educated. Read books, research online, take courses, goto support groups. The more you can understand what’s going on for someone who is depressed the more empathy you will have and tools to be able to support them. (there are some great books at the Health Centre –as soon as I return them ;-) – Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor, Talking to Depression by Claudia J. Strauss)
2. When people are depressed it’s very difficult or nearly impossible to reach out because of the shame, the heaviness of the feelings, the physical, mental and emotional pain and because they don’t want to burden others or be a downer.
3. Depressed people are not always helped by words of encouragement or pep talks, in fact this often makes things worse because it feeds the feeling of ‘failure’ because they can’t ‘snap out of it’. There’s often a feeling of powerlessness around depression. Be sensitive and really check to see how your words are landing.
4. What is really helpful for someone who is depressed is spending real quality time with them. One on one or in small groups. Giving them time and space to just be and feel in a loving compassionate space of acceptance. A compassionate listening ear, sharing a meal, going for a walk/bike ride, watching a movie together, giving them a massage or even just sitting or standing with them and offering to hold their hand are all quality ways to spend time with someone who is depressed. You don’t even have to plan anything, just being with them (without expectation or an agenda) is meaningful and helpful.
5. Don’t leave the ball in their court. Telling someone who’s depressed that “we should get together sometime” or “I’m here if you need me” or “call me sometime”, is not helpful in the least, in fact it is even more depressing at times because it means they have to take the initiative and that can be super hard and scary. If you genuinely care and want to spend time with them, be proactive and specific. Reach out to them, call them (email isn’t the best-being on the computer is often depressing and it’s easy to make excuses not to respond to emails). Make very specific plans, by scheduling the event, day, place and time to get together. This gives them something to look forward to and takes the pressure off to reach out (which as I already said is super challenging).
I hope that this is helpful. If you would like to discuss any of this with me or ask any questions please feel free to give me a call 250-739-2575 (not email ;-).
I will be on Cortes until October 3, in case you’d like to get together with me. I am alone for the next couple of weeks and would love to connect with people before I go. I already notice my pattern of hiding out and not reaching out so any and all contact is appreciated. Feel free to stay in touch with me by email: connectshaeahlove.com and come and visit me in Nanaimo! ;-)
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me during this challenging time. I especially appreciate those of you who really took the time to reach out and be with me in a meaningful way. Your touch, your words, your listening, your generosity have definitely been a huge support and help in getting me through. I wish you all the best in your journey. May we all abide in well-being, happiness, harmony and peace.
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