Depression  

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

First thought - for hope

I've closely worked with many hundreds of people who have been suffering badly from depression so I truly do understand how serious and life-affecting it can be. The worst part of it, by far, is the feeling of despair that comes when the person begins to believe they will never feel better again and that is a truly desperate place to get to.

It is in response to that despair that I want to say this; which is that each and every time I have worked with someone with depression, so long as they take the steps as outlined below, which are difficult, but do-able steps, they always get well!

Given how severe and resolute an illness depression can be you can be certain that this is not a statement I make lightly. Look around my website, you will see that I am not trying to sell or promote anything here. I say it because it has been true and because I want to give you a reason for hope, for without it we have no light, no chance, nothing.

Is it depression, anxiety or both?

I also want to mention early on here that many people who have been professionally or self-diagnosed with 'depression' are actually primarily struggling with intense anxiety. There are many cross-overs with the approach to both depression and anxiety but it matters a lot where you focus your therapeutic intention, especially in the beginning, and if your main symptom and daily challenge is really a terrible feeling of internal tension and anxiety then I suggest you focus on that first and foremost in which case skip over to the article on anxiety written up here.

On the other hand, if your main symptoms or difficulties are a loss of interest in things, a profound fatigue no matter how much you sleep or rest, deep feelings of sadness, hopelessness etc. then read on because if you are truly depressed then there are three things that you must do to get well:

1) Let Nature Help
2) Somehow or other - Talk!
3) One way or another - Move!


Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort)

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Let Nature Help

The first step is to let Nature help you. Don't try to do it alone. I do think that people who are depressed should take medicine to help but I do not believe that chemicals can do more for us than the natural drugs that grow in the soil of the earth.

The herb St John's wort, as written up in detail here, just as one example, has been put head-to-head with the best antidepressant drugs available in over 25 clinical studies and has been consistently shown to work at least as well as the drugs with none of their side-effects.

However, St John's is by no means the only medicine to take to help with depression. For example, there are equally potent herbs such as the calming, relaxing tonic Withania (more about it here) or the powerful, mind-quietening herb Skullcap (more here) or the great energy-tonic herb Panax Ginseng (more here) that may work just as well or be even better suited.

Herbal medicine is an ancient art as well as an increasingly well-proven modern science. Matching the right herbs with the right person in the right dosages is a huge part of both the art and science of this work so, as mentioned right at the beginning, especially if your condition is serious and you just know you need a professional to help, then go to a herbalist or truly holistic practitioner with plenty of experience in this area who understands how to work with both the mind and the body at the same time.


Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap)

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Somehow or other - Talk!

Feelings of depression create a terrible sense of disconnection with the outside world. Consequently, many people who feel depressed withdraw from others and become increasingly isolated. The greatest mistake with depression is to try to 'do it alone'. Talking is hugely important. Even when people say 'I have no reason to feel depressed', this is just the line that they tell themselves or others because they haven't found the way to talk about what's actually wrong.

Every person who has depression has some good reasons for why they feel the way they do. Talking about those reasons may do nothing to change them in any practical way right now but it still releases some of the stranglehold they get over our mind and mood.

You simply must talk about how you feel and what is going on in your life with someone but I do understand that finding the right 'someone' can be a big problem. Not many people know how to talk with someone who is depressed and instead of knowing how to simply listen and reflect back what they are hearing they generally try to make things better by giving advice or trying to talk the person out of what they are trying to say! It is as they say, 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'.

The person who is depressed can easily leave the conversation with the sense that their feelings have not been understood let alone acknowledged. Worst of all they can sense the other person's frustration that they were not able to 'fix' their low mood and so it makes it even harder to open up to them, or anyone for that matter, the next time.

If you can afford to see a good therapist who knows how to listen, then great, but if that is not possible or even if you need more than that to feel 'heard' then you may have to tell the friend or family member that you trust the most with this process exactly what you need and then be prepared to keep coaching them until they get it!

I have tried to convey the sense of what I mean about this very briefly in a poetic way here. The gist of it is that you need to feel that you can express yourself without your listener taking it on themselves to be your judge, jury or 'fixer-upper'.

This can be very challenging for the person who cares about you because they want to help you and so they naturally try to talk you out of it' - but that is a big mistake. Once they know that this is not what you need from them, that you simply need to be able to vent and that you are not blaming them for how you feel, or asking them to fix it, then you will experience for yourself the great relief that comes from really being heard, and your companion will experience the great relief of being able to help you just by being there!

There is a great deal of 'inertia' in the state of depression. People feel stuck because they are stuck. The cure for depression is dependent on moving that stuck state. This is always hardest at the beginning but once you start moving the stagnant thoughts and feelings (which talking is guaranteed to do, however unpleasant it may be at the time) the healing process always moves forwards.

I do have some understanding of how hard this can be for a lot of people who are deeply depressed however it just has to be done.

By the way, you may need to be prepared to have an increase of angry feelings when you start talking about what's going on in your mood and your life!

Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychiatry, was a mad genius but he was at least right about one thing when he said that 'depression is anger turned inwards'.

When you start talking more you will likely not much like what you have to say and perhaps won't even much like the sound of your voice when you are saying it. Don't let that stop you and if it makes you angry then good, get angry! Those dark and angry feelings are better out than in and I can assure you that they will not stick around like the depression does.

Talking will definitely help the bad feelings to be released and if you do it I think you will soon find yourself singing an unexpectedly different tune...

One last point to make in this subject is that not everyone is a natural talker and if you personally feel that you simply can't express what it is you are feeling in words then please consider the equally viable option of turning to art, in whatever form that might take.

In many ways the whole point of art is to express that which cannot be put in words. But keeping your art to yourself is the same as keeping in your thoughts by not talking; you still have to show it to someone and it is vital that you feel they have understood what it is you are trying to express by what you have made or done...

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One way or another - Move!

Moving your thoughts and feelings by talking about them is essential, and so is moving your body. Numerous clinical studies have now proven beyond any doubt that exercise is extremely beneficial for all kinds of depression - why is this so?

It is because our feelings are not stuck in our heads nearly as much as we may perceive them to be but rather, in a very real sense, our subconscious minds are in our bodies just as our conscious minds are in our heads.

The dark feelings of depression are noticed and reflected on in the brain but if you spend time delving into how you actually feel you will find that in depression there are always hollow, heavy, dark and unpleasant feelings that are very much centred in the body, especially in the heart and the belly.

These feelings are far more troubling to our inner being than the thoughts that reflect them but for the most part we are not nearly as aware of them as we are the thoughts that they produce.

Movement, both through talking or expression, and through moving your body, helps to release those stuck feelings.

In terms of 'how much exercise does it take?' what I can personally say for sure that you need to feel the effort of it. Your heart rate needs to go up to the point you have to breathe harder.

It truly doesn't matter if you don't enjoy the exercise at first. In fact, perhaps it is wisest to expect that you won't enjoy it so at least at first you know you just have to make yourself do it regardless!

There is an assumption that people who are depressed will not be able to find the motivation to exercise and will reject it as 'too hard'. This has not been my experience or the experience of my colleagues in real life at all.

So long as someone knows that it will genuinely help them to get better then they generally certainly will do it. It is a simple truth that the temporary discomfort of a heart-rate lifting exercise is absolutely nothing to the seemingly endless tortures of mental and emotional depression and it is a certainty that if you move your body you will, eventually, improve your mood.

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Drugs & 'Chemical Imbalance'

This is a huge subject in itself and I want to keep a positive focus here on what I personally know can help but for anyone who wants some substantial reading on the thorny subject of drugs, depression and chemical imbalance I've copied a detailed article here.

Final thought - for the here and now

These steps will definitely help but everything has to work through a process that takes some time so, how do you deal with the here and now in the meanwhile?

I understand the profound fatigue that comes with depression but what most people don't realise is just how much energy they are using up in negative thinking. Depression is not so much a loss of energy as it is a stuck energy. As we've been discussing certain types of movement are essential to getting well but it is also necessary to simply get a rest from the circular nature of the thoughts that accompany depression.

If you are depressed and exhausted then you do need to move but you also need to rest, but it must be relaxed rest or it will come to no lasting good...

I want to gently suggest to you that the more you think about your problems the worse you will make them. Talking about your problems is good, thinking about them is bad.

One of the best of all ways to get out of your own head-space is with books and a good novel or absorbing non-fiction book is a true 'medicine for the mind' However, if you are too ill to read or just aren't a reader then distracting yourself into any kind of project or activity is far better than being lost in dark and circular thoughts.

Start with just a page, or just a corner of the room, or just the first item on a list. Getting out of the dark pit of thought is not easy but it will happen when you take such steps, however small they may at first seem.

Above all, never forget that 'this will pass'. It will seem unbelievable to the mind trapped in the darkest of places but it can be trusted simply because it is true; this will pass, it always does.


Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda)

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Constitutional Health Note:

Lastly you might want to learn about your constitution to help better understand how depression may have become an issue in your health as well as more about what kinds of foods, herbs, exercise etc. may best help you.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and there is a brief introduction to this subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd