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

For hope

Having closely worked with many hundreds of people who have been suffering badly from depression, it is truly understood how whole life-affecting and truly serious this problem can be. Clearly, the worst part of it, by far, is the feeling of despair that comes when the person comes to believe they will never feel better again...

The belief that things will never get better is a desperately bad place to get to however, each and every time we've worked with someone with depression, so long as they do the do-able work as described below, they always get better...

Given how resolute, how serious depression is, you need to know that this statement is not made lightly. Look around this website, you will see that there is nothing for sale here. That statement that everyone can get better from depression is said because it's true, the reason to say it is to keep hope, so you will not despair to even try these proven steps...

Is it depression, anxiety or both?

Some people who have been diagnosed with depression are primarily struggling with intense anxiety. There are many cross-overs in the holistic approach to both depression and anxiety but the differences mean it matters a lot where you focus your therapeutic intention, especially in the beginning. If your main symptom and biggest daily challenge is a terrible feeling of internal tension and anxiety then focus on this first, in which case skip over to the article on anxiety here.

However, if your main symptoms or biggest daily challenge is a profound fatigue no matter how much you sleep or rest, loss of interest in things, feelings of sadness, hopelessness etc. then read on because if you are depressed then there are three things that you must do to get well:


Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort)

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Let Nature Help

The first step is to let Nature help. Do not try to do it alone. People who are depressed should take medicine to help but there is no reason to believe the pharmaceutical companies, that chemicals can do more for us than the natural drugs that grow in the soil of the earth.

For one example, the herb St John's wort, as written up here, 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.

St John's is not the only medicine that can help with depression either. There are equally potent herbs such as the calming, relaxing tonic Withania, more about it here, or the mind-quietening Skullcap, more here, or the energy-tonic herb Panax Ginseng, more here, that may work just as well or be even better suited.

Herbs were our first medicines, long ago we learned which ones reliably helped and how best to use them. Many of the common problems that can come along with depression, digestion, sleep, hormones etc. can also be helped with herbs. These potent but safe plants are our ancient allies, we have journeyed with them for countless generations.


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, or expressing yourself in some way, 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 or express about what's actually wrong.

Every person who has depression has some good reasons for why they feel the way they do. Talking or expressing 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 or express about how you feel but this critical step is very dependent on another person and finding the right 'someone' can be a big problem. Not many people know how to talk with, or be with, someone who is depressed and so they generally try to make things better by giving advice or trying to talk the person out of what they are trying to say!

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 else, the next time.

If you can find and 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 do some coaching with them until they get it! An attempt to briefly express this point in another way is here

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 or expressing is guaranteed to do, however unpleasant it may be at the time, the healing process always moves forwards.

A very important point to make here is that talking is not the only option to achieve what is needed in this regard. If talking about yourself or your feelings is simply not an option for you, then 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, or read it, or play it to someone and again, it is vital for that someone to practice understanding and acknowledgement with you. You must feel they have understood, and they accept, whatever it is you are trying to express.

These things help and they tend to help a great deal, however, an unexpected challenge that tends to come along with all this is that you may very well get an increase of feelings of anger when you start talking or expressing yourself more. Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychiatry, was something of a mad genius, but he was right in some respects about some things including when he said that 'depression is anger turned inwards'.

When you do start talking or expressing more, you must be prepared to not much like what you have to say or express including how you say or express it. This is almost to be expected, don't let it stop you and if you find that you get more feelings of anger and frustration when you start all of this then that's ok too. Those dark feelings are always better out than in and you can be certain that they will not stick around.

Once again, this point cannot be over-emphasised, it is critical that the person you are with understands that it is not their job to fix you right now or stop you feeling this way right now, that these bad feelings will pass by themselves when they are got out rather than held in. The steps within the important subject of anger, and how to deal with it in a healing way, are discussed in further detail here

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One way or another - Move!

Moving your thoughts and feelings by talking about them or expressing them in some way is essential, and so is moving your body. Numerous clinical studies have proven beyond any doubt that exercise is exceptionally 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. Rather, in a true sense, our feelings are in our bodies, which can be likened to our subconscious mind.

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

These feelings are far more troubling to our inner peace 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 can be said for sure is that you need to feel the effort of it. Your heart rate needs to go up, at least to the point that you have to breathe harder.

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 the experience of researchers in this field, nor the experience of me or my colleagues in real life at all.

So long as someone knows that it will genuinely help them to get better then they certainly will do it. The difficulty of getting started and the temporary discomfort of a heart-rate lifting exercise is nothing compared to the tortures of mental and emotional depression.

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Drugs & 'Chemical Imbalance'

Drugs, and the chemical imbalance theory of depression, are big subjects, for anyone who wants some further reading on this thorny topic, an article that presents some different points of view is copied here

For the here and now

The above steps will definitely help however, everything takes time so, how do you deal with the here and now in the meanwhile?

If you are depressed then you will be exhausted, and if you are exhausted then you need to rest, but there is an entire world of difference between stressed inactivity and peaceful relaxation. The problem is, of course, in the mind, in negative spirals of thought that are utterly energy-draining. You must take a break from your own mind to get the rest you need but how? How do you stop the tyranny of thought when it so repeatedly insists on being centre-stage?

Movies and technology can be great for this too, but one of the best of all ways to get out of your own head-space is with a good novel or some absorbing non-fiction. A good book is a 'medicine for the mind' and has been seen to be of tremendous help to a great many people's mental health, especially if it involves you reading or listening to a story. Stories have been told by every culture throughout all of human history. They remedy our being caught in taking everything in our own lives, in our own story, far too seriously. Whilst they entertain and absorb us, they bring peace and healing to the fractured mind.

Unfortunately, some people feel too unwell, too tired or too distracted to concentrate on a book so, maybe that one might come later if not ready just yet. In the meanwhile, there are other activities that can absorb attention, you just have to do whatever you know is enough to occupy your mind enough to not get caught in the whirlpools of thought. There will always be something, it's probably right in front of you already. The hardest step is just turning your attention away from the magnetic force of that black hole within and to make a start at looking at, or doing something, that's got little to nothing to do with it!

Many times, after working with someone in bad depression, they have said that the number one thing that helped them, that they remembered above anything else, was the clear and certain message that 'this will pass'. It seems unbelievable to the mind when it has become trapped in despair but it can be trusted because it's true; this will pass.


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