Excerpt from the book:The Path Within
Chapter 24 – Strategies for Effective Depression
Attempting to shed light on the subject of depression, in a way that is radically different from the popular conception that depression is to be seen as an unwanted disease, can be a proverbial “can of worms.” There are so many forces at play, notwithstanding the undeniable profits that are to be made by categorizing depression as a disease. This book will be useful to those who truly want to work with their personal interactions with life and who are willing to work through and understand their depression, anxiety, anger and other negative or self-destructive states and behaviours and see them for what they really are, self-preserving mechanisms that are rooted in our nature . Understanding these parts of ourselves better will allow us to make new choices that serve us rather than harm us in the long run.
Except in extreme rare cases, slowing down the mind’s natural healing response with medication has never been proven to address the actual root causes of the symptoms. This is not to say that we should collectively discard all our medications. There are clear indications that temporary relief from our anxieties and depression symptoms can be beneficial and restorative to our physical health. Unfortunately, it seems that this approach is being adopted as a long term strategy and as a way to address our mental health. Is this for lack of alternatives or lack of foresight? Or is there simply no cure-all for dysphoria other than short-term escape? Maybe it’s too complicated to devise steps that would work in most non life-threatening cases? Or is it simply that these steps would undermine the profitability of prescription medication? Personally, I am still pondering this very question. Which leads me to the next question, how can we effectively assist the healing response of the mind?
The mind has a tendency to start the self-healing process without much assistance from its owner. The very first response that can clearly be noticed is a tendency to segregate oneself from others. Isolation behaviours include an unwillingness to socialize, increased irritability and irrational anger as ways to alienate oneself from others.
To assist the healing response of the mind, starting immediately, schedule times of structured input-scarcity. You don’t have to sit still in a dark room. Less input is certainly better, but physical activities that help free the mind have similar beneficial effects and often assist the subconscious healing process. This includes getting more sleep, taking long baths, going for walks in nature, even taking drives in the country, (though not in traffic or between urban intersections in the city), working out or participating in sports, which provide the added benefits of physical fitness and pleasure, practicing meditation and participating in activities such as yoga, dance, group meditation, prayer, or adult education classes.
We are likely to believe that when our bodies are resting, our minds are resting as well. This is not necessarily the case. There are many ways that we can be physically at rest but still using a lot of mental energy. For example, browsing the internet or watching TV exposes you to many purposely placed messages that constantly compete for your attention and mind-space, leaving you very little energy for processing healing.
Sleeping in and long Sunday morning walks with the dog are really some of the most effective ways of creating structured input-scarcity.
Please understand the difference between a working, sleeping mind and a drugged brain. Both states are categorized as sleep, but only a working, sleeping mind is healing. A drugged brain is escaping, which does nothing to regain psychological homeostasis to effectively work through its depression.
Both the disappointment of a missed appointment and the loss of a loved one require grieving time. Clearly they each require different amounts of time and different people react faster or slower in their healing responses. Having a reasonable understanding of the time each of us personally require for our grieving allows us to allocate realistic time for this process when it becomes our time to heal through depression. Set this time limit. Set it without drama and in all reasonability. Then monitor your healing process and adjust the time you anticipate it will take to complete the process. The idea is to be reasonable and realistic with your own internal processes. It doesn’t take forever to get over the loss of a loved one, but it can be as long as 18 months before you reasonably assume all your previous responsibilities again and plan your future. The disappointment of a missed encounter might take as long as 3 minutes, or up to an hour. In all cases, you can set a time limit and adjust it later. Just set a time limit as soon as possible. You want to avoid putting off your grieving or getting comfortable in a depressed state, but certainly don’t ignore the health of your mind by allocating unreasonably short periods of time. The purpose of setting a reasonable time limit is to learn to understand yourself as a healing-self.
It is helpful to find a therapist, a friend, or an elder to talk to, but understand that person’s role is not to “fix you.” His or her main roles are to interject the conversation with logic, help you identify patterns of repeating old stories, point out attempts to derive secondary gain such as significance, pity and attention from your stories; identify when you use negative language, talking about What Isn’t instead of What Is; and refocus you on what you want to experience. Be honest and avoid using this as an excuse to latch on to a well-meaning soul to suck their energy.
Having a guide is quite valuable, as that person can help you in two important ways:
- Once you decide together how long the processing of severance should take in each case, given the severity of the situation, they can then hold you accountable to the agreement about the timeline.
- Keep you focused on speaking about What Isand “what you want” rather than focusing on negatives.
If you cannot find or afford a guide, at least find a monitor. A real person who will remind you to eat, who will walk into your bedroom after three days, open the curtains and drag you into the shower, who will put a plate of your favourite breakfast in front of you (even in the afternoon) and drag you to the park for a walk. At the very least, if you don’t have someone else to do this for you, be honest with yourself and make an honest, if at first mechanical effort on your own behalf to engage in these tasks of self-care; literally set your alarm to periodically remind you to do these things.
Tell this person to do this two times a week for a reasonable period of time. Then, when the “reasonable” period of time has passed, re-evaluate your situation with the clear goal to work towards resuming your life, pick up the pieces and start from reality.
This one is easy. When you feel depressed, you have a tendency to eat. Mostly because your thought processes requires a great deal of energy, but also to fill a sense of emptiness.
If you indulge in your cravings with junk food you’ll gain weight and usually this is not conducive to feeling better about yourself.
Eating the right carbs feeds your brain, without causing you to gain weight. The brain requires readily available glucose. Glucose based foods such as complex carbohydrates (typically starches) and fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of brain food. Avoid oils, proteins and refined foods that contain oils, fructose (including refined sugars), or alcohols. These foods aren’t metabolised well by sedentary bodies.
It is not a good idea to be on a diet while in the process of depression. Diets are mostly based on depriving the body of energy, which it must then obtain by converting its own fat stores. During diets the glucose levels of the body are deliberately low and the brain, which is already low on resources, has difficulty processing the depression.
Escaping can be healthy, but avoid excessive (chronic) escape strategies. Set a limit to your escapes and choose escapes that support your healing.
Do not confuse times of reduced input with escapes. Times of reduced input are typically quiet times for the mind, while escapes usually provide many inputs such as internet browsing. Other escapes involve dulling the mind such as the overuse of alcohol, drugs and sex. While there is no moral message to this advice, in my opinion it is much better to allocate time to quiet activities filled with relaxing input, which allows the mind to do the background work required to get through the depression, than to be entertained by input-rich escapes that prevent the mind from doing its work.
Find patterned-based activities that require some attention but do not require very much learning to take place. Creating a meal (yes, just for yourself,) washing the dishes, knitting, playing a familiar tune on an instrument, taking a dance lesson are excellent examples of patterned, input-scarce activities.
This message is simple. Hope is idle. Hope is waiting. Hope doesn’t participate in its own solution. Hope externalizes the problem.
Even when life is messy, start creating something. Anything! Even if it’s clumsy or unrelated, just start. Working with the reality of a messy life is more rewarding than attempting to apply your “perfect” thought illusions to a universe that won’t budge. What you choose to do need not be big or significant. Just get on with it.
Observing your own behaviours and thoughts without judgment gives you great insight into your stories and helps you see what has shaped you into your unique self. Avoid mimicking or complying with what others consider normal as much as possible. Be curious about your own uniqueness and don’t expend too much energy worrying about what others might think of it. Most people go to great lengths to get you to join them in the belief systems that they themselves have yet to examine; this will not serve you in the end. These people have not yet broken free from their original programming and hope that you will validate their belief systems with your behaviours. Just create your own belief systems.
We feel safe when the world around us is predictable. This is a simple fact of nature. Unpredictability is not a welcome feeling to a person who is allocating their remaining mind-energy to creating a stable foundation of reality. If you want to create a sense of wellness, finding rhythms and patterns in your life can be very supportive.
Following patterns, rhythms and traditions could be as simple as getting up at the same time every day, eating the same foods on Wednesdays, or driving the same route to work every day. When my daughter behaves in a way that indicates she is processing something, we go to the restaurant we “always go to,” sit in the same booth if possible and order the same food. It’s a very simple but highly effective way to bring some predictability and safety into her reality.
Remember, depression is a natural healing response of the mind, let it heal you by supporting yourself as much as possible.
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