Friday, April 11, 2014

Understanding the Science of Depression

I've been researching a lot of information on depression and depression treatment.

I've been struggling with this condition to greater or lesser degrees my entire adult life.

The trench that I have been in recently however has depleted me and drained me and wrapped so much tighter around me than ever before though. And I recognized that this time I need more assistance to climb back up out of the void.

I have begun a treatment plan that is constructed of several parts.

The first is re-strengthening my spiritual routine. Regular study, prayer, Family Worship, and reading God's Word together as a family are our priorities. So is being at as many weekly Congregation Meetings as we can.

Another part involves working with a therapist. This is the first time that I am working with one. I am ambivalent, but my family needs me to be able and present and vital, and I want to be those things for them and for myself, so I'm willing.

The other major part involves implementing the six steps highlighted in the video below.

This is another video that has some really interesting insights into the science of depression, many of the conclusions by both researchers are the same. Ed: While I do not endorse the idea of evolution, because I believe our brains and body and our beautiful home of the earth were master creations by the most intelligent being that will ever exist (though not in six literal 24-hour days like much of Christendom claims), the argument still holds true that our brains were not designed to function under the unnatural pressures that are the result of imperfection and industrialization. The lifestyle humans live and the damage that they have done to this planet are not in harmony with the way our bodies, brains and planet were designed to operate in harmony together.

Please understand, I am not anti-medication. I have a great respect for many medications and I appreciate the role they play in my life and health and other's. My personal research over the years has led me to feel that anti-depressant medication currently is not the best option for me, right now. That doesn't mean I don't think it's beneficial or even essential in some individual's treatments, or even for myself possibly in the future. I strongly encourage anyone seeking treatment for depression to carefully research all your options, and find the course of treatment that best works for you.

Here is my six steps and my goals to make these happen. I view these activities as a prescription for my overall health, but especially for my mental health. And so these are non-negotiable, even though I'm adding them in gradually:

1. Exercise - my aim is for 20-30 minutes of brisk walking, or other physical activity 3-4 times a week

2. Bright light therapy. 30 min of exposure to bright outdoor light or lightbox, within an hour of waking every day if possible. ( My plan is to drink my morning coffee outside. For the time being, this is my time, not kid time.)

3. Take a daily supplement that includes a min. 1000 mg of EPA, an essential Omega-3 fatty acid. As well as a Vitamin D3 supplement, since I tend to sunburn easily and quickly here in the very intense sun of the South. It was suggested to keep them in the freezer to reduce the fishy taste, I'm doing that and it really does help.

4. Healthy sleep.  This has been a huge problem for me. I have suspected that my habit of sipping coffee well into the afternoon may be partly contributing to my sleep difficulties. So I am cutting myself off at noon. This is approximately eleven hours before my aimed bedtime of 11:00 pm. As much as I miss my afternoon java, I am desperately in need of good sleep more. Also, I'm trying to train myself to go to bed at the same time every night, and much more difficult, wake up at the same time every morning. This helps to facilitate the release of a Melatonin burst before sleep.

Also, to help facilitate this, my goal is to use no screens at least an hour before bedtime, and use only very dim lighting such as a lamp or candle during that hour. I have installed an app on my phone called Twilight, that blocks blue spectrum light, so that if I need to look at my phone to set or check an alarm or other activity, it only gives off red spectrum light, not signaling my brain to wake up. Primarily, this is face time for Victor and I (see #s 5 and 6). But I can also use it for reading (real books or magazines) or journaling and I will post later my makeshift red spectrum book light :).

5. Stop Ruminating! I have a very hard time turning off my brain at night. While much of the time my mind is busy troubleshooting and problem solving whatever current puzzles presented themselves recently, I do mentally chew on stresses, obligations, worries, or things I spaced out or forgot earlier. And though I laugh a lot (including at myself, like tripping over my own feet on the way out of my therapist's office this week and "catching" myself on the closed door of the office across the hall, eliciting quite a scream from it's occupant! I was still laughing about it halfway home, it was like a scene from a comedy!) and am constantly on the watch to capture the highs of the day, sometimes I ruminate on negative experiences, difficult relationships, or painful emotions. Probably more than I would like to admit.

The best way to stop this cycle is to engage in a social activity. Physical activity is best, but any activity in which mental energy is expended on a more beneficial focus is helpful in breaking the cycle. If alone, journaling the thoughts and then leaving them with the page helps. So does engaging in any activity that leads the mind away from rumination. Reading, household tasks, games, etc. A plus for me is that I'm rarely alone, and my kids keep me I insanely busy, thus reducing the amount of free time I have for rumination to begin with!

6. Social connections, aka face time. As in with the actual person, screen free. We are social creatures, pack animals. The basis of human relationships is social connection. We all need it. As an introvert, I tend to prefer one on one connection or small close knit groups rather than lots of people at one time. That is fine as long as I make the most of those connections, and make them often. Especially with my closest connection, my husband. So anyone who would like to volunteer to baby-and-Grandpa-sit, so that we might have a few more out of the house dates now and then, you will not be turned away, and I'll happily pay in chocolate!

Most of the above six steps are very much in harmony with the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that I am exploring with my therapist. They link together like gears. Hopefully, I can get my gears back to running smoothly, because I have a lot of things to do and would like to get back to doing them!

For those who are interested, here are some links to the items I have chosen to implement:

The book

The Omega-3 supplements

The light box

I am not compensated in any way for providing these links or highlighting this lifestyle program. I personally feel it is the best fit for treatment of my depression, and I believe it can help others as well. I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice. I'm just sharing what I'm learning and implementing in my own life. Each interested individual is advised to carefully examine any treatment plan and discuss it with his or her personal doctor.

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