What Do You Mean You're Still Depressed?
I wish people knew that depression is complex, that it is a physiological condition with psychological and spiritual components, and therefore can’t be forced into any neat and tidy box, that healing needs to come from lots of kinds of sources and that every person’s recovery is different.
I wish people knew that depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum and is part of an intricate web of biological systems (nervous, digestive, endocrine, respiratory), that depression is about the gut as well as the brain, the thyroid and the nerves, that we would have better health in this country if we approached depression with a holistic view.
So begins a lengthy wish-list posted on Everyday Health by my good friend and favorite writer on depression, Therese Borchard.
It’s not that people don’t know anything about depression, it’s what they assume about depression - that’s the the drift I’m getting from Therese. The general public, after all, is not necessarily evil or ignorant. To the contrary, they are often very well-intentioned and want to help us.
And that is what makes us want to scream.
We’ve all encountered them: Someone who has just seen Deepak Chopra talking about mindfulness on Oprah or had lunch with a friend who swears by drinking green smoothies or heard from a fifth cousin who raves about her gluten-free diet.
Or maybe it’s breaking news from your Aunt Matilda, you know: Yoga and meditation and exercise are good for you. Or maybe your cerebral brother Bill, who still has not paid back the money you loaned him ten years ago, has just watched a TED Talk on neuroplasticity. You know, just think happy thoughts and watch those magic neurons build you a happy brain with a five-year warranty.
It seems that everyone out there knows what’s best for us. It stands to reason, right? After all, they’re the ones not depressed, so they must know more about life than we do.
So all we have to do is follow their advice - you know, like get some exercise. Why don’t you swim a few laps?
It just so happens that Therese is a serious long-distance swimmer. "I wish people knew," she writes, “” that it’s possible to swim 5,000 yards a day or run seven miles a day and still be suicidal, that a sad swimmer can fill up her goggles with tears."
Of course it’s a good idea to exercise, or, for that matter, do yoga or practice mindfulness or engage in whatever else is good for the public-at-large. And, of course, miracles do happen to some people when they switch their diets. And yes, we all need to know how we can incorporate the idea of neuroplasticity into our long-term recovery.
On and on and on.
But the point that Aunt Matilda and brother Bill seem to miss is these are not universal instant fixes. Says Therese: "A person can walk out of the studio just as depressed as she was before Namaste."
It’s not that we aren’t trying. "I wish people knew," Therese writes, "that persons who struggle with depression aren’t lazy, uncommitted, and weak, that they are not trying to get attention."
Does your Aunt Matilda and your brother Bill understand that? Probably not.
I encourage you to Google the name Therese Borchard. Also, check out her books on Amazon. Happy reading …
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.