The way I see it, depression–at least, my depression–lives in three places: thoughts, feelings, and chemicals. These three both cause and are caused by each other, so depression has this tendency to feed back on itself. If you are or have been depressed, or have watched someone be depressed, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s worth pointing out that this is one interpretation of my experience, among many valid, understandable, logical interpretations.
I make no apologies for the length of this post: it is intended to be comprehensive.
It’s tempting to think, based on this observation, you can cure depression by thinking your way out of it. It’s an understandable hypothesis, and also completely wrong. Defending it is pure arrogance. Try draining a lake with a teacup; it’s about as effective.
On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into the trap of relying completely on medications to fix depression. Maybe that works for some people, but it hasn’t worked for me. Actually, I’m not aware of this ever having worked for anyone. I haven’t looked, though.
I want to take a comprehensive approach–leaving no part unaddressed. Basically, this means putting three things into place in my life. These are things I’ve played with or done with partial seriousness. The game will be stepped up here shortly.
The first part is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This has been shown most recently to improve outcomes for depression, anxiety, and stress. It’s not a panacea, but since it has no negative side effects, it’s a shoo-in for any larger plan for dealing with depression. Given what research has been done, and my own experiences with it, I think it’s a fair prediction that the daily practice of MBSR will improve my brain chemistry and emotional state.
I’m also getting a proper psychiatrist.
The second part is, to oversimplify, “Empowerment” practices. This is mostly what I’ve learned from Landmark Education (now Landmark Worldwide) but with a number of useful changes I’ve found and developed on my own. (Landmark and I parted ways, at least temporarily, a couple of years ago. I want to emphasize that my opinion of Landmark is still extremely positive and our separation is unfortunate at best. However, since then, I have come to see some problems in their approach that I couldn’t see before, which has freed me up to develop things for myself that work “better” than what they could offer me.)
For example, I’ve started organizing my life into weekly “sprints”, wherein I set goals and then accomplish them. (These may later become part of my blog. Right now they are on a private page in my wiki.) Part of these sprints is blogging about empowering thoughts and “contexts” that I create for myself. Some will be “enrollment conversations” (I don’t have a better, less-jargony term for this yet), in which I come clean about something and invent a new, more useful view about it. This is a big area, so a complete description is elusive. This should positively and consistently improve my mood and “self-talk” or “self-image”.
Lastly, another area I don’t have a great term for, but “lifestyle changes”. This is basic, common-sense stuff that’s going to improve my self-image and, biologically speaking, make things work better. I’m talking about things like going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning; exercising regularly and meaningfully; eating well. Improving my personal hygiene. Looking at myself in the mirror more often. Making sure my sex life is healthy, or at least has a pulse. Et cetera.
Eventually I want to stop taking at least one of my medications. The one I’ve got in mind makes it very difficult for me to have an orgasm, and reduces my sex drive to almost zero. When I first started it, I didn’t mind. I was just thrilled at feeling normal for once. Over time, though, the feeling normal tapered off, but the anorgasmia stuck around. Plus, there’s this new hole for me to fall into; if I miss a dose, I feel worse than I ever did before. The withdrawl is also no fun.
This blog post has been a long time (months) coming. Lots has gotten in my way. It’s time to post it; it’s time to live it; it’s time to happen to depression instead of letting depression happen to me.
I could not have gotten this far without the support of my friends and family. Since this blog is still kind-of private, I won’t name names, but you know who you are. I love you all and I do not say often enough how much I appreciate your love and support for me.