Flashbacks of abuse I had experienced and witnessed increased. My anxiety created chest pain and days of throwing up.
How to beat depression – without drugs
Worthlessness and guilt plagued me constantly. When I did go to work, my ability to function became increasingly limited. Finally, I could no longer even answer my e-mail. Yet, if I met my boss in the hall I would smile and say I was fine because I did not want anyone to know. I did not even understand myself how bad things had gotten. I began seeing a therapist who diagnosed me with MDD. Because my condition required more help than he could give alone, I entered a partial hospital program at a behavioral medicine center.
Moreover, I went on disability. I attended the program for two 3-month sessions.
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These sessions provided me with a solid intellectual awareness of the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy. I also suffered through the unpleasant experience of living under the influence of the several different medications that were tried. Although I improved somewhat from this help, my primary therapist and psychiatrist as well as several other psychiatrists recommended electroconvulsive therapy.
I declined, fearful of the side effects. Frightened for my life, I accepted a monetary gift that allowed me to attend a healthy lifestyle program. In fact, I attended 2 different lifestyle programs during the summer. This lifestyle program began the healing process. The second lifestyle program was a comprehensive depression recovery program DRP , which catapulted me toward health. I arrived for the 3-week program feeling sick, tired, scared, and worthless.
When I got to my room, I curled up in the overstuffed chair and cried and cried.
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I had already had months of therapy. Yet, I still felt like a messed-up failure. I was not able to care for son. I kept obsessing about being a failure as a mother and as a person. I was confident that no one would be able to help me. I thought I might as well just give up. But I could not do that.
My mother had spent a lot to send me to the DRP. I had to stay because I could not waste her money!! An Internet search for "depression recovery programs" indicates programs touting a holistic approach exist. While a few involve an intensive, live-in program with extensive assessment and personalized medical supervision, most are contained in books, audiotapes, or some product available for purchase. The programs requiring attendance all include extensive psychotherapy, as well as attention to physical fitness eg, Feldenkreis, walking , nutrition eg, organic meals , and spirituality eg, meditation, yoga.
Although a PubMed search revealed no empirical study about the effectiveness of these comprehensive approaches to MDD, one nursing study does suggest that a program of vitamin supplementation, exercise, and bright light can improve mood and well-being among women with subthreshold depression. Because of the paucity of evidence regarding holistic treatments for MDD used in concert, my story offers not only a personal description but also anecdotal evidence for its effectiveness.
After an exhaustive review of the depression literature, Nedley identified numerous factors that can contribute to depression. The DRP I attended involved a 3-week live-in stay at a lifestyle center. The daily schedule included private therapy mainly cognitive-behavioral therapy and problem-solving therapy , group therapy, instructional sessions explaining the rationale for treatments, exercise mandatory , physical therapy hydrotherapy, massage , time for spiritual reflection, and special meals and cooking classes given diet is pivotal to depression management.
At the beginning and weekly thereafter, I was medically evaluated by Nedley.
I received a fitness evaluation at the start and end of the DRP. During the subsequent few months, I tapered off my citalopram Celexa and trazodone Desyrel , per a regimen recommended by Nedley. Following Nedley's regimen also naturally meant losing weight.
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I lost 18 lb during the 2-lifestyle programs and eventually over the next year lost a total of 60 lb. Likewise, my scores on anxiety and depression inventories fell from severe to mild and normal. At the conclusion of the DRP, I was healthy enough to self-manage my illness: I had a plan for managing my chronic illness and had a plan for myself were I to relapse.
These outcomes occurred, although I had a significant relapse just before entering the DRP. With good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, I learned we care not only for our bodies but also for our brains. A healthy body contributes to a healthy brain. A healthy brain is more resistant to depression.
When Depression Can't Be Cured
Furthermore, because depression is almost always caused by multiple factors, multiple approaches to its treatment are efficacious. To manage my MDD, I have to follow dietary guidelines, exercise, sleep, and get light. Omitting any one of them for more than 1 week, I start slipping. To make my self-management manageable especially during those first few months of recovery when I had to put 1 foot in front of the other , I placed a checklist of these approaches in my day planner.
Daily, I would check off what I had done or eaten. Of course, pharmacotherapy is often a beneficial treatment. Likewise, having a social network for support is paramount. It is important to remember that diet and lifestyle changes should not be used alone to treat moderate or severe depression. I do not want to mislead by suggesting that if one just eats right and takes walks, he or she will be fine and can stop other treatments. Whereas these other approaches have been effective for me and others, they should be seriously considered as additional components of depression treatment.
Because psychosocial therapies for depression are well described in the literature, I will focus on the other holistic approaches the DRP emphasized which I continue to implement today. Depression has been linked with diets low in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids n-3 PUFAs, or omega-3 fats , tryptophan or diets containing large amounts of amino acids that block tryptophan transport to the brain , folic acid, and vitamin D and several B vitamins including vitamin B Nedley observes that, after implementing diet changes, it takes roughly 7 to 10 days before one notices an improvement in mental function.
Peak improvement occurs after 3 to 6 more months of brain healthy eating. Eat fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Avoid, or at least limit, refined foods. Although the brain needs carbohydrates to function, eating refined carbohydrates and sugars especially by themselves, not in connection with a meal causes the pancreas to secrete extra insulin. Such insulin surges contribute to depression. Craving sweets is common among depressed people because sugar temporarily increases serotonin, which helps the person feel better.
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Unfortunately, indulging in sweets makes depression worse in the long run. A variety of fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are also important for brain performance and overall health. Eat plant sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan is required to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, which combats depression. Animal sources have high amounts of other amino acids that compete with tryptophan in traveling to the brain. Which is why social connectedness forms one-sixth of his "lifestyle based" cure for depression.
The other five elements are meaningful activity to prevent "ruminating" on negative thoughts ; regular exercise; a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids; daily exposure to sunlight; and good quality, restorative sleep. The programme has one glaring omission: anti-depressant medication. Because according to Ilardi, the drugs simply don't work. To make matters worse, the side effects often include emotional numbing, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. As a respected clinical psychologist and university professor, Ilardi's views are hard to dismiss.
A research team at his workplace, the University of Kansas, has been testing his system — known as TLC Therapeutic Lifestyle Change — in clinical trials. The preliminary results show, he says, that every patient who put the full programme into practice got better. Ilardi is convinced that the medical profession's readiness to prescribe anti-depression medication is obscuring an important debate. Where has this depression epidemic come from? The answer, he suggests, lies in our lifestyle.
Human beings were not designed for this poorly nourished, sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially isolated, frenzied pace of life. So depression continues its relentless march. Our environment may have evolved rapidly but our physical evolution hasn't kept up. And when Stone Age body meets modern environment, the health consequences can be disastrous.
To counteract this Ilardi focuses on the aspects of a primitive lifestyle that militate against depression. Read this article to understand what it really feels….
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Create a morning routine worth waking up for. Small enjoyable acts Make a cup of coffee or tea and sit outside for even just 10 minutes. Do some gentle yoga stretches. Use a morning meditation to start your day in a more peaceful and mindful way. Eat your breakfast while listening to music that makes you feel more positive, awake, or calm. Shine a little light on it: Light therapy. Adjust your current treatment plan. Sometimes, just stay in bed. Your Anxiety Loves Sugar.