I could be wrong (it’s been known) but I’m hoping to cover a complicated subject like depression using the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).
This will be an absolute basic guide on the cause of depression, and also some of the cures which people have had success with. Obviously this will be brief, but I’m hoping this can be a good starting point for both people who feel they may be suffering with depression, and also people who may be living with, or helping somebody else with depression to learn from, and then this will point them in their own direction of research.
To start, depression is not a mental illness (YES, I know most people consider it one, but bear with me please), nor a psychological or emotional state. It is an actual physical illness! Unlike most physical illnesses it cannot be seen though! However, real clinical depression comes from the lack of 2 chemicals, which under normal circumstances are found in large quantities in the brain. These are called Serotonin and Noradrenaline, both transmitter chemicals (Dopamine and Melatonin are also involved but this is getting too deep!)
Now we don’t fully understand how these chemicals work or how the nerve system works that carries them, but we do know that the system, just like any other part of the human body, can only take so many beatings and knocks before it malfunctions (hence the physical illness and NOT mental illness).
In the case of these chemicals, and true clinical depression, the biggest knock is long term stress!
Now remember, when we think of stress we normally think of the stress we may feel from the daily routine, work, dealing with family, more bills coming in, constant fall outs with a co-worker etc etc, but stress also comes in the form of illness (for example, a bad case of flu is a huge stress on the body’s resources), hormonal conditions, bad diet, too much alcohol and/or drugs, some prescription medications, lack of proper sleep, too many life changes or constant conflict in or out of the home.
Some of the symptoms of clinical depression can be –
Feeling awful in the morning but getting better as the day goes on
lack of energy
lack of enthusiasm
low confidence and low self esteem
low to zero sex drive
lack of life enjoyment
lack of patience
low mood and lack of feelings
feeling of no hope
feeling of lack of love and loving
So where do start or how do we go about curing this illness?
Im not going to go into the reasons for all of the below because that is far too long for this blog, but the obvious start points are as follows –
Rest – you’ve been going flat out for too long and now is the time to start finding some balance. Now when I say rest I’m not talking lie in bed all day or sit around doing nothing, but if you are currently living a lifestyle of get up at 6am, skip breakfast, dash out the house, sit in rush hour traffic for an hour, spend the day stressed, grabbing at coffee and biscuits, missing lunch, sitting in rush hour traffic for another hour, going to the pub and downing a few pints or glasses of wine (because you think its de-stressing you), then grabbing a take away on the way home, shovelling it down you with maybe another couple of drinks, rotting in front of the TV for an hour before falling into bed late and then repeating the process the next day, then you need to look at your lifestyle!
Nobodys life is going to be perfect and we have to find a way to fit in our down time, this can include really simple things such as just walking around in the fresh air for 10mins daily, 60 second breathing exercises several times a day, removing yourself from conflict where ever possible, reading for 10mins daily etc. All these things take minutes to do, but on a daily basis can help lower stress. You see, you need to keep your brain just ticking along at a constant medium pace, but sometimes the best we can do is after a stressful event, learn to bring the stress back down as soon as possible!!
Diet – A terrible diet is never going to help your cause (and I include alcohol, tobacco and drug use under this heading to keep things simple). At the end of the day a healthy diet helps the body flourish, & an un-healthy diet slowly runs the body down and depletes it of essential nutrients! Even people who haven’t got depression don’t realise how awful they feel on a shitty diet until they eat a good diet for a few days. They suddenly have more energy, better mental clarity, sleep improves, less aches and pains, they aren’t feeling bloated all the time, no more gas, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea. Again, Im not going into this any deeper as its way too in depth for this blog.
Life planning – This includes problem solving, time management, thought stopping exercises such as a very simple exercise I give my clients called The Pause method. Get things written down, write down problems but also add solutions, sort the critical from the non-critical and the real from the bullshit (and discount the bullshit). Make lists of things that MUST be done, make a weekly time management chart that lists exactly when things get done (this takes the thought and stress out of the tasks). In short, take away all the thought of daily life and this will immediately take away some of your life stress.
Sort your sleep schedule out – Have a look into sleep hygiene for more information on this one! Also take a look into the effects of long term poor sleep habits and the effect it has on the brain and body.
Seeing your GP and medication – Straight up, I’m not a fan of prescription medications. I’ve seen too many clients thrown on medications which have either had no effect or have left the patient just kind of flat lined (not depressed but also having no enjoyment in life), BUT, if a GP has taken the time to do a full assessment and also taken a FULL blood profile, (and not just the usual 5 or 6 basic markers), are willing to see you every 2 weeks to get an update and make changes where necessary, then they certainly do have their place. The one thing I will add though is, if you are just taking a prescription medication and not making changes to all other areas of your life, you’re basically just putting a band-aid on it! I wont comment on this any further as I’m obviously not a qualified medical doctor.
Therapy – Outside therapy which can make changes to the way you think and ultimately feel. CBT, NLP, EFT, Hypnotherapy, Counselling etc – research all your options and you can then make an informed decision on which therapy will have the biggest impact and benefit for you personally. I’m a clinical hypnotherapist, but I also use CBT and NLP because of the impact they can have with clients!
Ultimately your recovery will take time, but recovery time can be made shorter if you are willing to make changes to your current lifestyle and put the work in. You wouldn’t expect to run your car at redline everywhere you went every time you drove the damn car, and your brain and body are the same! If your stress levels are at redline constantly due to the way live day to day, then you need to wind it back!
And as a closing note, just a word about family and friends – you may find that it’s the people in your life who are closest to you that treat you the worst when you are down! This is due to you being too strong for too long, covering up whats really going on and just trying to cope and get on with it. These people have come to rely on you because your strength and generosity was constantly extended to them! You were busy trying to help others when you were secretly falling apart. Obviously some partners are supportive and will aid you greatly through the recovery process, these are wonderful souls and don’t neglect them. Also don’t forget to acknowledge this once you are better, and when you start to forge ahead in your recovery, make sure you take them on that journey as well!