Anxiety and Depression
A new approach to anxiety and depression helped me to write again after an unintended break. Today headphones announced their arrival.
In Dec I planned to send another Radical Self Care Newsletter but as that month progressed I realised that in order to get through what became an intense and busy time, some plans would have to be abandoned. Making amazing Christmas presents fell by the wayside as did blogging and any hope of producing a Newsletter.
The month began by taking my brother to visit my Mum. He has long and enduring mental health issues which necessitates living in a specialist care home, as a result he had not seen our Mum for over 18 months, ever since she moved into a care home herself.
She lived several hours away, a journey we had no idea if he could even manage but something told me we needed to try. As you read on you will come to understand why I am so very glad we did. This trip necessitated a two night stay away, which laid the template for a month where I was barely at home.
Later, after attending a course in London and going on another trip Christmas loomed. Once again I felt compelled to visit Mum, this time taking my two young adult children.
A New Year
I knew I was in overwhelm. I put my to-do list on hold, suspended my studies and accepted everything would have to wait until the New Year.
Well……………2019 did not start at all how I expected. On the 1st Jan I left my New Year retreat early to go and be with my Mum. She had declined rapidly and was by then dying. My sisters and I were all with her on the 5th Jan as she took her last breath; what an incredible privilege it was to be there as she left this earthly life.
Dealing with the aftermath of a close relative dying is a busy time, little else happens and time seems to stand still. My to-do list had just rammed up massively.
I felt like wringing my hands and declaring “enough already” when a further ordeal befell me, I broke my ankle. Oh yes, this really happened! As several friends pointed out, “that will slow you down”. How true! Slowed down I have been, and also brought face to face with the interconnectedness of my Mum dying and my ankle breaking, a challenging time.
How to start writing again
Until this morning I had no idea how to start writing again. What on earth could be my opening gambit out of this space? I don’t want to share the story of Mum’s death and it’s meaning for me just yet, if ever. I can’t explain my ankle story either as it all feels too raw and emotional right now.
Listening to a podcast
Well good old Dr. Chatterjee has given me an in, thank you. While awake early this morning I started listening to the first of two podcasts where he interviews Johann Hari an author and journalist. You can find links to both podcasts at the end of this article.
People need to know this
As I listen my head was screaming “people need to know this.” I feel that these messages about anxiety and depression are crucial for the future of not only each individual who experiences them, but also for our society at large.
Depression and anxiety are rife. Apparently 1 in 4 people in any year will experience them and for some these challenges are intensely debilitating or even fatal.
I have been there myself and also watched my Mum struggle with them throughout her whole life. I now see many of my children’s generation crippled by these ailments, it’s tragic.
It makes me ragingly mad that our approach to treating these chronic societal issues is still largely dealt through the popping of pills. “Mummy’s little helper” or the equivalent are dispensed like sweeties.
While medication may have a place in managing extreme cases I believe it is overused and it is time to radically change our approach. We need to stop treating people like there is something wrong with them. It’s not a chemical imbalance in our brains or some random malfunction that’s happened. It is the world we have collectively constructed, the things we have experienced, the stuff we struggle with, that leads to this distress and disharmony within.
Logical and understandable
As Johann Hari states in these podcasts, they are in fact logical and understandable responses to what has happened in our lives. We need to look at these events, the root causes and dig in there to help each other heal.
From my recent studies and experiences with META Health I believe that mental ill health, like any dis-ease we experience, is a process we are going through for a reason. Our system has activated a mechanism or programme to try and solve a problem.
There appear to be some biological reasons for depression and people like Kelly Brogan MD in her book A Mind of Your Own explain and offer solutions which have helped many people improve and even recover from mental ill health. Her answers are based in re-setting our biology through a programme which includes detoxing and nutrition.
For some it may be as simple as a Vitamin B12 deficiency or a toxic load on our system. However we could still ask:
- How did this happen?
- What underlying decisions or situations have been going on in this person’s life that led to this issue?
- What emotional events or distress led to those decisions or situations?
This is what actually needs addressed.
Resilience and vitality
I still believe a biological approach is a necessary part of healing. Our body and mind need a certain level of physical resilience and vitality to go through a healing process. However more crucial is a truly holistic approach which includes the mind, body, social, environmental and spiritual aspects of our lives.
We need to determine where the imbalances are, in other words:
- What has happened that threw us off course?
- What stresses, intense emotional events or traumas have occurred in our lives which need to be healed?
Once these answers have been established we can create a plan for healing which addresses the root cause and supports the person to make the necessary changes in their lives.
We are not separate
These podcasts offer a great way into learning more about this sort of approach. Instead of seeing ourselves as defective, broken or damaged we understand that we are in fact an extraordinary integrated system of mind, body, and spirit living within a context.
We exist in relation to other humans beings through family, communities, work, school etc, but we also exist within cultures, countries, political and social frameworks.
Ultimately we also live as part of this incredible home of ours, Plant Earth. The damage to her eco-systems, climate changes, mass loss of species and a plethora of other environmental disasters, affects us. Even if we are not consciously aware of it we are influenced because we are not separate.S
If you listen to the podcasts, which I hope you do, you will hear how Johann’s research illustrates exactly that. His book Lost Connections, says it all. In other words depression, anxiety, and arguably dis-ease in general is all about who and what we are or are not connected to. The people, places and circumstances in our lives created the pain which has lead to these challenging experiences of anxiety and depression.
So in a condensed form of Johann’s closing words:
- Remember your pain makes sense, it has causes.
- Connect with groups who can help you solve them.
- You are incredibly powerful.
- Together we can deal with the reasons we have been made to feel so shit.
- We don’t have to live like this
Radical self care
When we understand that our symptoms, be they physical or emotional, are pointing us towards the issues in our lives that need addressed, we become empowered. In other words we realise we have the capacity to heal.
I believe this is the necessary approach to not only heal ourselves but also to heal our planet, this is Radical Self Care.