The Cure for Depression: Get Some Sleep!

Good morning, everyone! I’ve been meaning to talk to you all about ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT topics ever besides food and sex, but I kept sitting down to do so at incriminating times -like, midnight or four a.m.ish.

Yeah, I oughta be asleep then.

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Now that I’ve pushed hypocrisy under the rug by typing at my local time of 10 a.m., let’s get into it!

Sleep is important.

Duh, right? Well, so is eating the right food, but I still ate a Pop Tart for my second breakfast. So is positive self-talk and such with CBT, but I forgot all that when my kids had a meltdown all weekend. So is talking to my counselor and doing what she says and -no, wait! I did go back on my medication because the kids had a meltdown all weekend.

Point is: we know sleep is important. However, if you’re like me, then a good sleep schedule is one of the first things to go right out the window as soon as you have a small sip of it.

So let’s remember why we need sleep:

  1. Better Mental Health
    Isn’t this our goal? My internet reading says that mental illness sufferers almost always do not get enough sleep. I think that’s often because our stupid problems don’t let us sleep; for me, however, I intentionally do not because I’m self-defeating that way.
    Sleep is CRUCIAL to better mental health, resetting emotions and releasing the happier hormones into our systems.
  2. Learning.
    Our brains HAVE TO hit all the key sleep stages in order to retain information. -You know, all that REM/NREM stuff where dreams can happen. There are a ton of articles out there about this, if you want to do a little side research.
  3. Physical Health.
    After a good night’s rest, our muscles are relaxed and ready for a new day. Skin looks better, especially around the eyes. Joints, ligaments, and nerves have time to repair. Without the stress of maintaining activity, the body as a whole can work on healing.
  4. Longer Life
    No joke: consistently cutting back on sleep affects DNA. This bad practice physically shortens one’s life. Don’t get paranoid; decide to get a better schedule.
  5. Creativity
    Despite your tortured artist soul’s ideas to the contrary, good sleep produces more creativity. I am a regular practice-er of late-night muse-calling; I often produce dark poetry detailing horrific, depressive mindsets.
    In terms of consistent artistry, though, I am much more productive when I’m regularly rested.
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  6. Lower Stress
    Yeah, you should know this one. Well-rested is the opposite of high-strung.
  7. Other Crap You May Not Have Known About
    Lack of sleep affects: testosterone (meaning you’re not going to feel like sex so much), weight control, disease immunity, and focus.

Like water and breathable air, humans have to have sleep. The next question, then, is how do we go about sleeping?

  1. Make a sleeping place
    Yep, like a bed. Maybe you’re literally more comfortable in a recliner, though. Wherever you do your business, make it only for sleeping and sexing. Make it comfortable, dark, and free from distractions.
  2. Make a sleeping time
    Ideally (in a fiction novel), you’d get to bed around 9 or 10 p.m. every night of your life. I find that aiming for a reasonable time gets me close to it, plus trains my body to expect that.
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  3. Have a relaxing routine
    Once your time’s set, prepare for it about an hour in advance. We’re talking: showering if you do it before bed, reading a book or your phone on the couch, reconnecting with your loved one(s), getting a drink, bathrooming, etc.
    DO NOT EAT an hour before bed. If you are positively famished, I’d recommend light foods at least two hours before for metabolism and heartburn reasons.
  4. Stay in bed, but don’t stress yourself
    Occasionally when I wake in the middle of the night, I toss about and decide I’d be more productive getting up. Then I’m a zombie all day. Instead, I’ll choose to make myself more comfortable by repeating my relaxing routine and possibly adjusting the house/bed temperature. Then, I’ll go back to bed and just rest.
  5. Sleep aids and medications
    I’m not going to pretend some people don’t need medicine to rest. The elephant’s in the room (and now, in the bed), right? If you’ve tried a bunch of stuff listed above and have serious trouble sleeping, get your doctor on board to prescribe something to help.
  6. Cut out the crappy stuff like smoking, drinking, recreational drugging and caffeinating
    Tricky, of course, but so so so so so so so helpful for your body in so so so so so so many ways -especially sleep.
    If you gotta do it, keep booze and coffee to healthy times: alcohol in small amounts after an earlier dinner and caffeine in the morning after food.

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The other side of excellent sleep habits is your waking ones. Early to bed and early to rise isn’t just a great poem; it’s a blueprint for most people and a healthy lifestyle.

After a good night’s rest, a consistent, early waking time is equally vital.

In my crash-course study on this topic over the past few days, I learned that waking at the same time each morning trains your body. Our smart little brains start increasing key protein levels (PER) just before the anticipated wakeup. Some people don’t even need an alarm clock because their body has been set.

You, too, can be a living alarm clock.

Resolve today to make sleep a higher priority. Make your bedroom cozy, cut out stimulants of all varieties in the evening, wake early, be consistent, but -most of all- RELAX!

Sleep feels great; get some and you’ll see.

Thank you for joining me on Consider not Depressing. Tune in next time, when I discuss the next item that cures depression.

 

Maeghan Smulders
rawpixel
Kristina Flour
Kinga Cichewicz

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It’s that time again: time to cure our depression. Way back in January, I proposed that curing isn’t exactly possible -BUT I listed 14 ideas that will help. We’ve talked about 8 or 9 others; like connecting with people, eating right, talking to a doctor or therapist, medicating, and doing happy things.

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Today, I’d like to get into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At least, I thought to get into it. I opened my hand-me-down laptop, typed that big, impressive-sounding word into a search, and then thought, Holy flipping crap! (Yep, I don’t swear often.)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is LEGIT. It has its own, lengthy Wikipedia page.

Aaaaand I’ve just barely heard about it.

Hopefully, that means that all of YOU readers are nearly as clueless as I was, and will be impressed and amazed at the paltry light I’ll be shedding on this topic.

So, first: What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often abbreviated to CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (hereafter referred to as “CBT,” for the laziness of the writer) is simply a bunch of exercises to teach our brains better habits.

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Second: Why do we need it?

Let’s say that you’re a little kid playing with a hose out in the mud. You, sweet little unsupervised thing, have full command of an entire patch of mud and have decided to make trails and paths and mountains and mudpies. It’s a glorious, messy afternoon!

Using only the best sticks you find laying around, you begin digging waterways. The hose water follows. You’re a kid, so are not quite the best at design and such. Some of your water pools at places, overruns its banks at others, and ultimately empties right into the neighbor’s back fence and washes away their freshly-planted flowers.

Oops.

An adult comes over to help. He says he’s Dr. Civil Engineer and is also licensed in psychology. “Let’s turn off the water first,” he says. “Now, my good friend and trusted colleague, CBT, is going to gently help you with mud-forming.”

You aren’t exactly sure what a colleague is, or CBT. You just want to play in the mud, and get the neighbor to stop yelling at you about flowers. Don’t flowers need water? You shrug, and watch what CBT starts doing with your mud. CBT builds up a turn, repairs an overflow area, and (most frequently) digs new paths into less destructive directions.

What’s more, CBT tells you what it is doing and how you can do it, too.

Third: We need this. Professionals say so.

My paid friend keeps telling me that my brain has learned behaviors (almost all negative) and I need to stop and complete them with the more-positive truth when negative thoughts come up. Psychologists refer to these learned behaviors as cognitive distortions. Like the mud and water analogy, our mind forms automatic reactions to situations or thoughts or feelings in order to handle them next time; and, like our first, unguided attempts, they’re not always the best.

These automatic reactions are like cringing when hit in sensitive areas, crying when our nose gets hurt, or kicking our leg when the tendon below our patella is hit.

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CBT is training to get over knee-jerk reactions. It’s still having the jerking, but toward somewhere that doesn’t actually kick someone and, especially, with the result of leaving us feeling happy that we kicked our leg instead of then kicking ourselves for reacting.

Fourth: How does one CBT?

Doesn’t CBT sound fantastic? I think it sounds a bit difficult, myself. How do we get started? Can we actually change how we think? I am not very successful at self-run things, and (yep) I tell myself that I’m not very successful.

I highly recommend getting someone professional to run this for you. CBT is the most common therapy of its kind. However, like many major startups, it has spawned subgroups of more specific subjects, die-hard zealots of original teachings, and side-therapies of similar names run by leaders who couldn’t get credit for starting the first one. Some professional navigation of those twisty roads will help you.

If you’re poor, shy, or just starting out, there are self-help options. A blog I somehow found recently lists online worksheets. Other sites exist, as well as books you can purchase.

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Fifth: No, really: does it actually help?

CBT really does help. My counselor is of the camp that minor mental issues are wholly the result of years of negative thought processes and reactions. Psychiatrists advocate for mostly medical measures, no matter how minor. I think the farmer and the cowman can be friends and meet us halfway.

Most health professionals agree that medicine and therapy, together, are the winning combination for fighting mental health issues.

Our bodies become resistant to medications and substances. Our hormones and brain chemistry change with time and stressful situations. Our motivation becomes dependent on that boost we get from outside stimuli, like prescriptions, drug overuse, and stimulants.

CBT is very nearly the silver bullet of therapies. It empowers YOU. It teaches you how to better handle your own brain -which is great because that’s what you’re stuck with all the time! Even doctors, as empathetic or sympathetic or knowledgeable as they are, cannot EVER understand exactly what you feel and experience. They have their own brains, not yours.

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Sixth: How about a run-through?

I’m getting a bit long here, even with shortening Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to CBT so many times, but can’t leave without some practical advice for all y’all. Here’s one type of CBT method you can run through, from wikihow:

  1. Notice when you’re negative.
    My therapist had me make a list what I know about me. It was about 80% self-critical and even the positive items were less-complimentary.
    Or, meditation is an option. Take at least ten minutes without distraction and pay attention to where your thoughts and feelings go.
    Think about a situation in the past that was negative.
  2. Recognize the connection between your thoughts and your feelings.
    Obviously, if you were dropped from a speeding airplane by members of the mafia into a boiling volcano, you had little control over feeling dead afterwards.
    But most situations, even sucky ones, do not cause our bad feelings at the end. WE cause them. YOU cause them. Your natural, poorly-designed mud paths caused the overflow of emotion.
    See the connection, and tell yourself that you felt bad because you had bad thoughts.
  3. Notice automatic thoughts
    All during the day, stuff happens. Automatically, we have some sort of reaction to the stuff.
    Let’s say I went to the store and realized I forgot my credit card. It’s back home in the freezer or whatever. An automatic negative thought from my brain would be, You’re always forgetting things. Further, I would think, Now you have to put all the groceries back. You should never come back to this store again.
    ALL THOSE are not good.
    I need to stop, drop and roll -er, *ahem* I need to stop that thought, way back when it started. Then, I tell myself it’s negative. Finally, I decide to tell myself something more like, Oops! I’ll look for some cash. I’l ask the cashier to hold these for me while I look, or drive home. Heck, I’m not the first person to forget payment; they’ll work with me.
  4. and 5. Talk about core beliefs. Specifically, about tying the automatic cognitive distortions to faulty internal beliefs.
    I’m not in favor of this step, because it’s self-analyzing. Getting into my terrible self-esteem and my potentially-damaging childhood without assistance sounds like a worse idea than the ones my mind comes up with.

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  1. Identify cognitive distortions. This may help with stopping the negative thoughts. Like, you can tell yourself, “I’m not a terrible person! I’m just overgeneralizing. It’s a typical misconception.” Common distortions listed on wikihow are:
    -Catastrophizing by predicting only negative outcomes in the future
    -Having all-or-nothing thinking
    -Discounting the positive
    -Labeling something or someone without knowing more about it or them
    -Rationalizing based on emotions rather than facts
    -Minimizing or magnifying the situation
    -Having “tunnel vision” by seeing only the negatives
    -Mind reading in which you believe you know what someone is thinking
    -Overgeneralizing by making an overall negative conclusion beyond the current situation
    -Personalizing the situation as something specifically wrong with you

Hopefully, this first method of 6(ish) steps works as a starting place for you. The wikihow article lists two other methods as well.

Seventh: A different initial approach is also helpful.

Besides these suggested steps, I’m a big proponent of creating an initial positive environment. I feel like I’m constantly in a negative haze, self-protected and negatively-pressured to the point of not sticking a toe out into the world.

A suggestion from my counselor was to think back on a time when I felt happy or good. Then, I was to keep asking myself, “Why?” until I traced it to a core emotion. For example: I said I’d felt happy driving to the appointment. Why? It was sunny and warm outside and I was alone. Why did that make you happy? I like feeling warm and comfortable. -Holy crap! I like being comfortable. Comfort was my core emotion.

One may also repeat a mantra each morning and evening. Something like, “I am of worth. I love myself;” or reciting an uplifting poem.

Morning meditation is good as well, or prayer.

Whatever activity you do, the goal is to create a positive atmosphere. We want to start our thoughts in a better direction and keep them going that way. Over time, your brain will form better neural pathways. You won’t flood anyone’s flower beds. You’ll have the practice and skills to handle past habits and fight new triggers.

And don’t get discouraged. You’ve had your entire life to build these habits; you can’t change overnight but you can change.

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Photo Credits:
Artem Bali
Pixabay
Pixabay
Sharon McCutcheon
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons
Tyler Nix

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Help Someone Else

Today on Curing Depression, I’d like to discuss service.

You may wonder why this is its own item. When I initially listed it with 10 other suggestions, I felt fairly confident in the decision. As I went to type this article tonight, however, I had my doubts. Topics like seeing a counselor or psychiatrist and taking medication are real shoe-ins for curing. Service, though? I mean, what the weird?!

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Odd as the topic may be, I actually have some beefy research that serving helps. Many church websites or volunteer organizations like to post evidence (’cause they want unpaid workers). BUT, the less-ulterior-motive types at Harvard Health, The American Psychosomatic Society, and even TIME magazine list benefits as well.

Turns out there’s something real about serving others, something that definitely helps combat a depressive mindset.

Still don’t believe me? Did you even read my links? The legitimate sources want you to pay a subscription to find out about helping people, but they’re referenced on other sites. The coolest thing I learned was that benefits of service are not merely observed. Service causes literal changes in brain activity, in positive areas.

When someone in need receives help, he or she benefits directly from the social support; simultaneously, the giver benefits in specific brain regions associated with stress, reward, and caregiving (Psychology Today).

The group that published for The American Psychosomatic Society used neuroimaging to measure differences in specific neurobiological areas. Translation: research dudes watched parts of the brain respond to giving or receiving. They measured change, and to which areas, and what the heck that actually meant in practice.

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Isn’t that cool? Service was associated with reduced stress-related activity, greater reward-related activity, and greater caregiver-related activity.

Okay -science lesson done. I am now going to convince you that people are worth serving.

Ummmm.

Does anyone want to fence this one? I don’t always get along with people.

Anyone?

Zut.

All right, let’s try a different approach. What would you want a friend or relative to do for you? Do you wish someone would text you? Look at you? Help move a washer/dryer combo to your new apartment?

People are selfish. Their world and everything that is most important revolves around them. They aren’t smart enough to see that others might want help, so we’re going to take the first step.

Let’s hold off on the washer/dryer combo and start simple. Start small -remember? Pick someone on your contacts list and send them a nice message. Don’t just “wave” with the little emoticon or say you like their hair or smile. This isn’t junior high. Write that you were thinking about them and wondered how they’re doing. Keep it light, airy, and small-talkish.

Did you do it? How do you feel? Better? Try another person.

After messaging or texting or talking to a few peeps, you may find approaching humans to be less daunting. You may even find yourself looking forward to interactions. You may simply like the feeling you got when one of them texted back, and even wrote a smiley face. That was your seeing the mental benefit of service.

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Service Idea Two: Give a handmade present away. If you’re still firmly in the not liking people camp, think of this as a way to show off.

Actually, scratch that. You’ll fire up different brain areas with a prideful mindset.

So think of someone you want to do a nice thing for, and then try to figure out if they like anything you could make. Honestly, if making’s too tricky or embarrassing, go for buying him/her food. Make sure the recipient doesn’t have allergies to chocolate chip cookies, then proceed with the merrymaking and present-bestowing.

Service Idea Three: move that washer/dryer. Hopefully, the appliance only stands as an analogy. Real friends usually ask for rides, a last-minute babysitter, a spare power drill, a cup of flour, etc. Avoid moochers, of course, but be the one who’s willing to help a good friend out.

After this point, service tends to fall into more serious categories. I’m talking serving at a soup kitchen, flying out of country to vaccinate native children, offering pro-bono work to homeless fathers seeking custody, or volunteering to build houses for homeless people.

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If you are struggling with mental illness, such large ideas of helping will overwhelm you. You need to start with simple.

Thinking about others and actually doing things for them is a healthy brain-changing exercise. There’s sciency proof, “I feel better” proof, and civic improvement proof. Service also gets you out of yourself. And since the negative thoughts of depression fester when allowed private time in our minds, service redirects our focus to a cause greater than our own perceived limitations.

Service gets us out of our pit and connecting with others.

Our human connections are terribly important. I even listed connection as the first cure for depression. The best connections are forged when groups work together in service, especially in a giver/receiver setups.

In parting; don’t get discouraged. Don’t tell yourself you can’t possibly do one more thing with your busy life. You can, because there are small things (like sending the text) that you can slip in your schedule while eating breakfast, riding the train, or sitting in a bathroom. No matter how small a service you perform, you’ve made the world a better place to live and have helped your depression that much more.

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Photo Credits:
Mike Wilson
Pixabay
rawpixel
Greyson Joralemon
rawpixel

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Simply, Joy

I am not looking forward to today’s topic.

Whoa –what?! Why wouldn’t I want to type about happy things? I’m the expert, dishing out advice. I should be ALL OVER this topic.

I’m not.

I am terrible at happiness. -Aaaannnddd that sentence just proved it.

Instead of the ol’ biblical casting of stones at me, however, I’d like to suggest that we all might struggle with the positive side of things. That’s kind of, sort of why we’re looking at solutions for depression; right?

So, with seeking counseling, improving our diet, getting outside, exercising a tad, and perhaps taking medication, let’s try to Do Something that Brings Us Real Joy.

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First, allow me to give you an analogy: Right now I am sitting at my computer typing advice. I can smell something, and it’s not a pleasant sort of something. I am fairly certain this unpleasant odor is coming from the garbage can.

I live in a fancy house with a fancy pull-out garbage drawer thingie with two entire garbage bins so that I can procrastinate taking the mess outside for a really long time (like a whole day, since I have four children). We’ve been playing an avoidance game of smashing the mess down instead of removing it, because we’re really good at procrastination.

The garbage needs to get taken out. Why the heck don’t I do it?

  1. I enjoy the stink of stinky things. They remind me that life is full of crap and I shouldn’t forget it.
  2. I’ve read about other people smelling garbage. I feel better knowing I’m not alone and find those people and leave comments about how I, too, can smell bad things all day.
  3. Thinking about refuse removal overwhelms me. What if the bags are too heavy? What if they tear when I pull them out? What if, what if, what if?
  4. It’s a really long couple hundred feet out my garage door to the outside cans/bins/etc. I just don’t think I can make it that far.

Didja get the point? Good! You get extra credit. Everyone else (myself included): just insert phrases like negative thoughtsdepressionhiding in the closetfeeling terrible every time I wrote about smelly waste.

For example: “I enjoy negative thoughts.” “I’ve read about other people feeling terrible.” “Thinking about depression overwhelms me.”

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My story sounded silly when I was talking about garbage. I mean, OF COURSE I SHOULD JUST TAKE IT OUTSIDE. But why do we hang onto personal garbage?

Feeling terrible is simply not worth it.

I wrote about why I numb awhile back. Not doing happy things is an activity I participate in because I’m trying to self-protect. I think that not feeling happy will make it so I also don’t feel sad. Instead, I am constantly in a haze of nothingness and still feel sad.

Feeling happy is okay. In fact, it feels good.

Let’s small step out of our stinky, dark corner: First, I want you to think a happy thought. Seriously, Tinkerbell, DO IT. I recommend thinking about a time that you felt happy, even just a little bit. Or, think about an activity you love to do.

Got it firmly in your mind? Now, wave your wand and… Expecto Patronum!

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In the real world, we’re going to take that happy thought and write another one below it. We’re making what’s called a LIST. Yes, I want you to actually put pen or pencil on paper and list them out. Even in today’s technological world, listing helps our primal brains make connections.

My list read:

  1. Snowball fight with friends
  2. Running in the rain
  3. Creating something useful
  4. Eating a really delicious mushroom Swiss burger
  5. Receiving a sincere compliment

Now it’s your turn. Your list may read: eating, reading, me time, skiing, friends, chocolate, gardening, walks, booze, sex, sunlight streaming softly through slatted blinds, and whiskers on kittens. Dude; it’s your list. Make it catered to you and stop worrying that someone will judge you for it.

Now, small step numero dos is to pick one thing on there that you think you can do soon. It is your list, but pick one that gives you REAL JOY (sex and drugs don’t count; sorry). Decide to do it. Today would be ideal, but maybe you’re reading this article at 3 a.m. and water skiing with your friends might be a little lethal in the dark.

I don’t want you to just say you will do it, either. Put it in your phone. Send a text to a responsible person like your mother. Carve out the time that you will do it and then actually do it.

It’s just one thing, I promise.

After completing that thing, recuperate. Then, do something else from your list. Recover. Pick another one and do it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After you do that first thing, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to come back here and comment on this here blog post. Tell me what you did (unless it’s classified). You get extra internet credit if you tell the class how you felt afterwards.

Let’s find real joy, together.

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This has been part of our tips to help cure depression. Tune in next time, to read about service.

 

Photo Credits:
Blaise Vonlanthen
Pixabay
Pexels
Sharon McCutcheon

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get Outside

I can’t believe I plan on spending an entire post on this obvious tip, but …I can count on two fingers the number of times I walked around in Mother Nature last week. Clearly, some of us are not practicing what we preach.

Therefore, I’m totes going to push the advantages of getting outside:

  1. Nature’s pretty. This prettiness helps instill happiness and inspirational thoughts that just might lead to award-winning poetry (though, you may want to only tell those poems to yourself).
  2. It smells nice, if you’re somewhere like a park. I’ve heard you might need air to breathe, too, so bonus!
  3. As a human with skin (unless you have solar urticaria), you need sunlight to soak up UV rays and make Vitamin D.
  4. Happy sun rays combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  5. Time outside has a buttload of benefits for your mind. We’re talking improved short-term memory, mental energy, concentration, sharper thinking and creativity, and overall mental health.
  6. Walking outdoors lowers depression and perceived stress, according to a study at the University of Michigan.

It’s highly possible your backyard doesn’t look like this. Does that mean that you shouldn’t even bother? NO!

Waaay back a full year ago when I started talking to my counselor, she gave me this one direction: “Get outside.”

“But… but, the kids…” (Me, making excuses.)

“No.” (Her, the one paid to help me.) “Tell your husband that I said to drop everything and go outside. Grab some food from McDonald’s or something, go to a park, and just sit out there.”

And she was right.

I don’t care if you slip yourself out the side door at lunchtime, if you sneak out before kids are awake, if you walk home because you missed the bus, or if you decide to go camping and sleep all night where our ancestors did -just grab some time and DO IT.

Since we’re about starting small, just tell yourself you’re going to hang out for a few minutes. Next, try 15. Ideally, we’ll work up to 30 minutes as a minimum daily exposure. Who knows? Maybe you’ll feel so inspired we’ll have to drag you back to cavedom.

If you’re fair-skinned and/or burn easily, put on some sunscreen. Otherwise, go to it with my blessing.

Of all the expensive, time-consuming, stressful things people consider for helping with mental issues; this is the best because it’s FREE.

Seriously, just look at that. What are you waiting for?

Becca Tapert
Jannis Brandt
Kym

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’

Now onto my favorite (*cough* *cough*) advice for treating Depression: medication.

Whoa –what?! YOU don’t like being dependent on pills? We should hang out. Oh, wait. We kind-of are.

For nearly my entire anxious life I’ve worried about THE Day: that point at which the doctors would finally tie me up in a straight jacket, cart me away, and dose me full of anti-depressants. I knew it would come. As relative after relative succumbed to depressive tendencies, I’d mentally count down to when my turn would be.

I watched a friend balloon in weight on anti-psychotics; saw the not-so-fun of adjusting medications in another. I read and heard and watched people being negatively affected by their cocktail of drugs. Would that happen to me, too?

Frankly, there is a lot to be depressed about in terms of depression medication.

But this sort of thinking is clearly that of someone in a depressive mindset (aka ME). I love to take the easy route of negative self-talk; of assuming the worst.

The truth -no, The Truth is that medications are extremely helpful. They are often vital.

Need an example? A close friend of mine was married for a couple decades to a guy with serious schizophrenic issues. Super nice guy, by the way. He became concerned that apocalyptic situations were nearing and concluded that medication dependency was a bad thing. So, of course, he went off of his pills.

This is not one of those ‘happily ever after’ stories, but it is one in which life had to keep going and did (and, still does). After severe manic/depressive episodes, a necessary divorce, and removal of his ability to get credit cards; he’s back on a higher dose and somewhat back to the person I knew before.

No, not every story is that extreme. Yes, some are more so.

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In my vast experience of talking to a lot of people about mental illness (’cause I’m nosy), most use medication for its intended purpose: a leg up. Prescription drugs are meant to give our poor minds and neural pathways a little help.

They are meant to be taken WITH therapy, because we need to teach ourselves to form automatic pathways to brighter fields of mental flowers.

I found some really great sources of information online (Mayo Clinic, WebMd, MedicineNet) that go into more details about common medications, their types, and side effects. They’re especially good if you want to get worked up about how you have a 5% chance of a limb detaching once on a course of Prozac.

So, this is the part where a psychomedicaldoctordude comes in handy. He or she will help you not panic after reading about arms falling off, and come up with a working plan to fit your symptoms. After talking through what you and s/he think is going on, s/he may prescribe you something to try.

The most common medications to treat Depression are:
-Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil.
-Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor.
-Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Nopramin and Nardil.
-Other classifications, like Wellbutrin (aminoketone class), Trazodone (serotonin modulator), or Remeron (tetracyclic).

You may have a mix of mental illness, in which case anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications are prescribed. Ones like:
-Antipsychotics: Seroquel, and Zyprexa with Prozac.
-Lithium carbonate.
-Some stimulants like Ritalin.
-Anti-anxiety, like Buspar.

For those like me who deal with related issues like thyroid deficiencies, the prescription may simply be:
-Supplements to raise natural levels in the body
-Hormone therapy
-Specific thyroid medications

Whew! That’s quite a list. I swiped it from WebMd, mostly, leaving out the fun side effects notes.

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These all affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in some way. An article by Harvard Health also referenced Glutamate and GABA. Once assisted, those internal hormones and neurotransmitters and such will give us our mental leg-up.

In reading over these sites, I get the idea that Depression is a tricky bugger. The medications tend to improve symptoms in about 70% of sufferers, but doctors are not entirely certain why. Yes, they affect these hormones or connectors -however, simply affecting said things in isolation does not always work. That, and some people are still not helped by the good old anti-depressant classics.

Talk to a doctor continually in order to address the issues you have, and involve therapy along with the medication(s).

But besides boring you all with technical details about prescription drugs, I wanted to repeatedly hit my main point home for you: Pills aren’t all that bad.

During my brief stint on hormones, I experienced something wonderful. The sensation was very much like the gift of sight despite not wearing contacts or eyeglasses. I looked around at the world and saw light, felt hope, and assumed better outcomes instead of the worst possible ones.

Prescription drugs can be the older-brother boost to get into that impossibly high tree. Instead of constantly staring up at all the other people who got to the top branches, you can get help. With The Pill, you will be able to see knotholes or branch stubs or bark indentations. With psychotherapy, you’ll gain the strength to use them.

A low-angle shot of a tree with an impressive trunk

The journey to a brighter place may necessitate medication. Don’t be hatin’. Try what your paid medical friend suggests, pay attention to side effects; try, try again. Train your mind, young padowan, so that you may someday need fewer legs up -or, perhaps, none at all.

These pictures were swiped from JES’ database, which uses Unsplash.

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend

A few weeks back, I wrote about 14ish items that help “cure” Depression. Shortly after, I covered connecting with a human and getting a paid friend.

I realized, however, that I did not have information regarding a medical friend (AKA a psychiatrist). Therefore, the post you’re reading RIGHT NOW is Item 2a on that 14 item list, as an amendment to the one before it.

A moving freight train on railroad tracks on a cloudy day

Let’s back the runaway train of thought up just a tad so you can get on:
Do you or a loved one experience some reactions to life situations that interfere with normal behavior?

We’re talking inability to leave the house, extreme anxiety to the point of a raised heart rate and panic, thoughts of suicide, and/or manic and depressive episodes.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I could name ev’ry depressive phenomenon… but there are many, many possible symptoms to consider. I highly suggest you follow my second advice to get a paid friend.

But… should you consider a psychologist or a psychiatrist? They are more than a few letters’ difference.

All of my personal experience has been with the former; of the familiae Counselor or the subclass Therapist. That’s not to say I don’t have any knowledge of psychiatrists. I have several family members and friends who have talked to me about them, plus my flash internet education just a few minutes ago (don’t worry; I read fast).

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt (cropped).jpg

One website I read over said that psychiatrists are a good choice because they attend medical school first. After all that work, their residency is specifically in psychiatry. They’re a doctor who understands your brain better than a zombie would, and can use a medical foundation with any treatment plans.

One family member I read over, however, says the psychiatrist is only there to write her prescriptions.

I know some psychiatrists who fit a little of both, and I think you can find a really great one. How? Even if you go more with the psychologist route; consider these tips:

  1. Get your regular doctor or counselor to give you a referral. Heck, maybe they go to a psychiatrist.
  2. Check if your insurance covers anyone and who that person might be.
  3. Internet stalk the recommended psychoperson to learn their credentials.
  4. Read about their work experience. If you suspect your cocktail of symptoms are Bipolar related, you may not want to visit a guy who says he’s good with eating disorders.
  5. Think about whether you want a dude or a chick. I prefer females, myself, as they empathize with my goings-on.
  6. Read through their internet ratings. You simply don’t want to go with the 1 star blender.

(By the by, I lifted these ideas from Health Grades.)

Psychiatrists have the legal ability to write prescriptions. Whether that’s mainly what they do or no, you’ll need them (or a regular medical doctor) if your symptoms could really use the help of medication.

If you’re unsure, feel intimidated, or don’t want to even think about medication; that’s totally cool. We’re about small steps, remember? Talk to someone you trust first. That may lead to feeling comfortable enough to ask your medical doctor about a psychologist. Said doctor or counselor might know a psychiatrist they play golf with on Saturdays.

Start small. Ask for what you need. You are worth it.

 

Photo credits:
Ankush Minda

Image Two from wikimedia commons
Amazon sells blenders

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid Friend

Sup, yo? I’m here to talk about my second suggestion from The Cure for Depression: the most amazing elixir to not actually exist and is therefore really a list of 14ish items that seriously help.

I need to work on my advertising taglines. Let’s try again:

Are you suffering from Depression? Do you think you might be? If yes or no; you’re reading this article, so there’s a good chance you don’t want to stay down in your hole.

You could use professional help.

“But… but, I don’t know who to talk to!”
I don’t either. I’m not you, sitting on your floor, living in your town, with or without your health benefits. That’s Google’s responsibility. -Google, or your old enemy Facebook.
Open up ye olde FB, and type something like “Hey guys, do you know a good counselor? Asking for a friend.” You’re not really lying because you should be your own best friend, right?
If that’s too intense, text a close friend. I literally did this to my neighbor, out of the blue, and got one of the best therapists I’ve ever been to (and, believe me, I’ve been to two in my life).

I have no way to pay for services.”
-I don’t, either. I’m a moocher off my husband. It’s not even covered by our health insurance, so there goes this year’s family trip and a few months of groceries. As he says, “It’s cheaper than divorce.” He’s sweet like that.
Do not get me started, rambling, and still cursing about health insurance. Even in America where I live, it has issues. I do happen to know that options exist out there. Use your friend, the internet, to look into what you can get.
If you’re religious, many ecclesiastical leaders are willing to help with what they can.
If you have parents, try asking them. Maybe they can at least let you live downstairs for another decade while you get to a better place.
If you have a rich great aunt, hope that she knocks off sooner than later. Okay; just kidding about that one.

“What if the person I get sucks?”
-Find a new person. It’s your hard-earned money (or, your great aunt’s). If you’re stuck picking from a certain office or a specific list, try asking the nurses who they think is good for what you’re experiencing.

“I can’t open up to a therapist or counselor. What if s/he judges me?”
-I may have this exact problem. Still. I am the slowest person ever, I’m sure; because I finally start opening up at the END of the session. Sometimes, I close off at the end. I’m a mixed bag of self-protective measures, really.
I keep going back to my paid friend because THIS IS HER JOB. She is supposed to “judge me,” because she’s trying to help me. She’s super nice so would probably want to help anyway, but she is also there because I’m paying her.

“Insert your excuse here.”
-Nope, not going to buy it. Do what I said. Try, try again.

Think of it this way: A counselor, therapist, or psychologist is like a tightrope instructor. Instead of tightrope walking the way you have for (possibly) YEARS now, why not pay a person who knows? After a few sessions, you may think, So I wasn’t supposed to be doing it UPSIDE-DOWN this whole time! Who knew?!

You’ve tried it your way. A paid friend can show you a better way.

In terms of a more advanced paid friend, aka a psychiatrist, I’m afraid I have no experience in this regard. I’ll do some more research, and get back with you next week.

Go get a counselor if you don’t have one. A good one is worth it because YOU ARE worth it.

 

Photo Credits
rawpixel
Casey Horner

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Connect with a Human

Looking at tips for curing Depression? If not, stick around anyway and you might make a friend.

Which leads us into the first tip: Connect with a human.

I don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but the last thing I want to do when I’m down in my cozy depression pit is seek out other people. They are often the reason I crawled into my closet in the first place. They should seek me out, preferably with a bribe.

Unfortunately, people are rather self-centered. Usually, a person is most concerned with his own thoughts and feelings because that is who he is literally inside of. So, your (and my) dummy friends and family need at least a little tiny clue that we could use a helping hand. And a bribe.

Another failing of mine is a tendency to look at the great big huge picture of a problem and find (somehow) that I cannot even take one step toward progress. This is even worse when I am inside my depressive mind, trapped in a swirling vortex of apathy and negative self-talk.

What do we do? I will beat this tip over your head about 14 times: Start with small.

I happen to know that you can still get cell phone reception inside your mind/mud pit/closet/bathroom. So, the way to start small is by:

  1. Texting a friend
  2. Reading and commenting on safe and open blog posts. Most of us are nice, and know what you go through.
  3. Talking to your friend, partner, spouse, or roommate from behind the door.

I am also a big fan of pets as comforters. Go ahead and hide from the world for some recharge time, but bring your cat or dog or chinchilla with you. You can pet them all Dr. Evil style, tell them everything that sucks about humans, then connect with a person.

As amazing as animal companions are, however, you will gain the most benefit from other humans.

Yes, I know that is a scary idea. I spent nearly an entire counseling session arguing with my paid friend about NOT TRUSTING ANYONE because people hurt you. However, I also know that I need a few good people.

Connections with peers was found to be the #1 determinant of happiness by some dude at Pennsylvania University, even more so than sugary dessert consumption. Knowing that, give it a chance. Start small, and you’ll eventually have some peeps you can send anything from concerns to dirty jokes to.

It’s worth it. You’re worth it. I know.

 

Photo Credit:
Sandrachile .
Namcha ph

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression

Step right up, folks! Step right up!

Come feast your eyes on this marvelous tonic; right here, right now. What you may think is a simple bottle is actually the most secret of formulas from the Jungles of the East; from the hand of Marvelodijiling, the famed Healer and only man to live past 200 years of age without a health problem of any sort.

This is The Cure for Depression.

It is, indeed. You may shake your head at me, madame. You may wonder at the authenticity, young sir. I assure ALL that this product is exactly as it says. One simple dose each day will GUA-RAN-TEE to rid you of the woes of Depression.

Labelled glass bottles with various powders and liquids

…And if that sales pitch convinced you, then you and I need to have a long talk.

Actually, we can have a really short talk: Depression doesn’t work like that. For one, it isn’t “cured.” It is, however, a condition that CAN be managed once you learn the skills. This depends on the severity of symptoms and genetics and a whole crapload of stuff that would best be handled by a professional.

I am not a professional; at least, not that kind. I am merely a fellow sufferer with access to Google. I have, therefore, come up with a list:

1. Connect with a human.

2. Connect with a paid human; also known as a counselor, psychologist, therapist, and perhaps a psychiatrist.

3. Swallow that pill, if necessary.

4. Get up, then move.

5. Get outside.

6. Eat something healthy.

7. Do something that brings you real joy.

8. If it doesn’t fit in with #7, do something for someone.

9. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

10. Sleep, at sleeping times. Wake at morning times.

11. Follow a routine.

12. Meditate, pray, journal, etc.

13. Don’t get sloppy and skip what works.

14. Never give up. (Never surrender.)

Whenever you’re in your cave, I’d like you to pull out this list. Grab one; do it. Maybe steal another after an hour of trying the first one.

Furthermore, I’m gonna help a brother/sister/broster/sisther out by writing individual articles about each of these ideas. It’ll be a tetradecalogy. Stick around; eat some chocolate.

Come for the treats, stay for the community, and live life for the future you.

 

Originally posted at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog on May 28, 2018. I intend to publish one of these articles each week.

 

Photo Credit:
Matt Briney

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.