Part 8: Symptoms First
So, it seems, my journey to Choosing Joy has taken me directly to dealing with depression first. It’s a little bit funny: I decide I want something in my life and then discover that I have exactly the opposite thing in my life. I have to deal with this opposite first before I can have what I want. But perhaps that isn’t so funny. Perhaps that is the way it always is. If the ultimate reality is that there is only oneness and balance, then anything we might wish to create will come from creating a little imbalance: the thing we want and it’s counterbalance. So, if I want to create joy then, I guess I will also create it’s opposite which is… what… sadness? So then I have to deal with that sadness on my way to experiencing the joy. This is, it seems to me, the way it would be in a reality based upon the illusion of separation and the deeper truth of oneness.
So okay. Here I am now and here I find this deep sadness in my soul and, it seems I have normalised this and this normalisation is what is called depression.
So what am I going to do about this?
I am taking a two-prong approach: First deal with the symptoms, then deal with the cause.
I have decided to start tackling the symptoms first for a number of reasons:
1. They are clear present and obvious whereas the cause is less clear to me.
2. I have done some research and I know what to do about the symptoms, what to do about the cause is less obvious.
3. Struggling with the symptoms of depression makes it much more difficult to see the cause.
4. If I can begin to make some early wins on the symptoms that, in and of itself, will make me feel better. Nothing succeeds like success. So I’m going to go for wins where I can.
So how to deal with the symptoms of depression? Please bear in mind that I am not offering you medical advice here. I am just sharing the choices I am taking for myself with you. I will also share my results with these protocols with you. What you choose is up to you. Please take responsibility for your own health and well-being and, of course, when in doubt consult a qualified medical practitioner.
My state of mind affects my body. My body responds in many and varied ways that are way too complex for me to understand completely but, certainly, my brain synapses wire in response to my thoughts. My brain chemicals are also produced and taken up differently depending on my emotional state. These things are known and understood. What it means is that my thoughts and emotions have a HUGE impact on what my brain does. This starts a feedback loop because I then base many of my thoughts and feelings on what my brain is telling me. Round and round we go. Soon enough there is a pattern that becomes a part of the fabric of my life’s experience. I begin to feel that “life just is like that”. In my case, depressed feelings were normalised very early on in my life and have remained so.
So, right off the bat, I am going to be asking my brain to rewire and my brain and endocrine system to release brain chemicals differently. The first thing I need to do then, is to make sure I am giving my body – and especially my brain – every support it needs.
So this is what I will be doing:
1. Diet. Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and water to help my body to detox. Especially as I "let go" of old stuck and negative patterns I want to help my body to be clean and energised. Regular meals (don’t skip!) to avoid sugar crashes will help me to feel consistently good. I'll make sure I eat sufficient great-quality proteins because that is what the brain uses to make chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. The very best protein is the oily fish types as this is not only great protein buy also includes the Omega 3 fatty acids that the brain craves to keep healthy in many different ways.
2. Sunshine. It’s well known that getting a little sunshine helps us to feel better. One of the ways this works is because sunshine on the skin causes the body to produce Vitamin D which we need for emotional well-being.
3. Supplementation. Because I want to make sure I a getting enough Omega 3’s and enough Vit D, I am supplementing with Cod Liver Oil capsules. Conveniently they contain both of these… and a good supply of Vit A as a bonus.
The other thing that one REALLY needs for good support of the brain during stressful, anxious or depressed times is the Vitamin B family. So I am supplementing with a great B-complex.
4. Exercise. Daily exercise is just the thing. Depression usually makes you want to just sit on your ass and do nothing. Exactly the opposite of what is needed. I usually have chores to do around the farm that force me to be physically active but I am going to make sure I get some good aerobic exercise (like a good fast walk or a jog) every day.
5. Healthy routine. When our internal, psychological state is disordered the best thing is to create order outside of ourselves. Routine is therefore very useful. This is giving my life a pattern that I can follow while I repair the patterns in my thinking and feeling. The corner stone of this is sleeping patterns. Depressed people usually have disturbed sleep patterns: struggling to fall asleep, tossing and turning and then struggling to awake and to rise the next morning. I certainly suffer from this! So the first point is to impose some order on my sleep patterns. I have decided to get to be early and, instead of lying there giving energy to my negative thought patterns, to use relaxation techniques to fall asleep. I’ve also set my alarm to awake early in the morning with a commitment to get up and get going. Thus far this is working and sleep patterns are improving.
I have a few other routines for my day and these too are helping me to have a sense of purpose and order.
6. St John’s Wort. There is more that one can do to help the brain to “make happy”. There are numerous wonderful supplements that can really help. I am choosing to take St. John’s Wort. As I understand it, what SJW does is to gently encourage the brain to retain more serotonin. Serotonin is the “happy chemical”. SJW is very gentle so it usually takes a week or two to be felt. Western culture teaches us that we should demand and expect instant results. When we decide we want it, we want it NOW. So we reach for powerful drugs that can bring us quick results. One can do that, but it comes at a cost. Very often these psychiatric drugs result in people being too emotionally anaesthetised to then do anything about their underlying issues. But I am not here to talk medicine. Each must do what is right for them. I’m just telling you about my choices, which include this natural, gentle ancient herbal assistance. I’m starting with a fairly low dose and I’ll pick it up in a week’s time if I find it to be insufficiently helpful.
There are other herbs that can help. But I will begin with SJW and see how it goes.
7. Cut it out. The above is what I AM doing. There are also some things that I have decided to stop doing. I am cutting out caffeine. Apparently this raises dopamine (the get-up-and-go chemical) but lowers serotonin (the happy chemical). So no more coffee for a while. I am not a big boozer at all but I am anyway going to be severely limiting my alcohol consumption over the next while. I don’t smoke but if I did, I’d cut that out round about now too.
And that’s my list of depression-symptom-beating protocols. I am applying these to my life already. While I do expect these to help me to feel better, I don’t expect this to bring me complete healing. Depression, like all diseases of the body and mind, is a symptom (or a description of a collection of symptoms, to be more accurate). And quietening the symptoms is not the same thing as healing the cause. Imagine there is a fire in your house and the fire alarm goes off. The fire alarm is the symptom. The oil on the stove that caught fire is the real problem. Silencing the symptom is like switching the fire-alarm off. That’s a good thing to do if you are on your way into the house with a fire-extinguisher to find and put out the fire. It’s a very, very bad thing to do if you are then just going to walk away pretending the problem is solved! So it is important not to confuse quietening the symptoms with solving the problem. For this reason I will begin seeking inside myself for the true source of my own pain. What is that deepest belief that I am carrying and yet hiding from myself that is at the root of this?
I’ll keep you posted as I go…