Can you get better too fast?
Not really. Ask anyone in pain how much longer they’d like to hurt, given a choice.
There’s this thing.
When you are sick for a long time (I’ve had depression for decades) and then the fog starts to lift, it leaves you with a bit of a dilemma. You don’t know that at first. At first you’re all,
WOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’m FREEEEEE! (picture me running around in circles on the lawn, flapping my arms.)
Because holy shit, the transformation is incredible. My brain started functioning again after years of scraping by. I didn’t even know I WAS scraping by. I knew I was mildly muted by my depression, but holy hell.
At first, between homeopathic treatments, I had one, glorious, clear-brained day. It was like the sun coming out after a Seattle winter. I had energy. I wanted to run a thousand miles. I had ideas, and plans, and I got ALL THE THINGS done. I was fucking superman.
Not every day has been like that, but I’m having more of them. And I had NO IDEA how much the depression was hampering my ability…even just my ability to THINK. It was amazing to emerge from the equivalent of pea soup fog and chest-crushing oxygen deprivation to run along the ocean in the sun.
But about a week later, I had a thought. It went like this:
Who am I without depression?
It stopped me in my tracks. As long as I have been forming an adult identity, depression, or the spectre of its return, has been part of my identity. I’ve been Person (With Depression) or Depressed Person or Person (Trying To Be Happy) or Person (Probably Happy For The Moment).
The idea that I might have found a combination of treatments and experiences (homeopathy, hypnosis, etc) that had the potential to change my brain structure such that I might no longer be as vulnerable to depression, and that adding therapy, diet, exercise, reiki, touch immersion, extra sleep, creativity, etc would only enhance my quality of (not depressed!) life…stunned me.
If I am not depressed, I thought, can I just make plans and assume I’ll be functional? Can I exert myself and only run the risk of sleeping well that night? What have I assumed was not possible for me, that is actually possible? What is my identity without the sisyphean overlay?
Who am I when I am not pushing that boulder up the mountain all the time?
Ordinarily, if you’re getting treatment under the old models, you change slowly. It’s like walking to your destination. You have time to adjust to the idea of being in the new place, and your body keeps pace with your brain.
Now, though, we can literally fix it in an hour, sometimes. Certainly we can create dramatic change in the time it takes to cook and eat a single meal. When you get there that fast, there’s a transitional period. Most people will resist, be disoriented, try old things and find they no longer fit. Most people will need time to adjust, even though the problem is actually gone right away.
that’s ok, we just need to know that. We just need to give ourselves time and space for that. We need to grow into the new version of ourselves. And we need to give people around us that kind of slack as well. We’ll get there, we promise. But first, we need to breathe.
WANT TO HEAR MORE? I’m doing a call with Marcia Baczynski, called Embodiment for Brainiacs, about how intuition and energy make sense in a geeky, logic-oriented context. Join us!
As I said recently, I’m a geek. And I tend to run experiments on myself, which is a time-honored tradition among psych researchers (and others; see also: hemlock).
Recently I’ve been making seven-league-boot levels of progress in therapy and related places. Why? Because a whole bunch of techniques are gaining legitimacy and visibility, and they are much faster and more efficient than the old methods. As one researcher said on a recent webinar about neurofeedback, “We used to have to go through the mind to get to the brain. Now we can go directly to the brain.”
Most of the research and techniques that are emerging relate directly to trauma treatments. Some, like hypnosis, have been around for a while but are becoming more accepted. Some, like neurofeedback, have been in development for a while but are just coming to a useful maturity. All of them have varying results, because the people who are the subjects vary, but the conclusion is that they are worth trying.
One of the things that makes psych research different from other fields is that even the industry standard treatments, like antidepressants, are a best-guess-shot-in-the-dark that don’t work for everyone, and don’t have the same effect on everyone for whom they do work. If you go to your psychiatrist and decide that you should be on antidepressants, you could well spend months testing drugs on yourself–get a PGT test to see if anything is clearly not going to work, and then take one, see how you do, if it works, great, but if it doesn’t then titrate back off of it and try another one, lather-rinse-repeat until you find something that really helps…and hope you don’t build a tolerance or develop an adverse reaction.
I can tell you from personal experience: doing this while depressed is one of the most exhausting things ever, especially since side effects can include things like lethargy and low sex drive, and sometimes you get all the side effects with none of the benefits.
Why does this matter? Because with statistics like the ones for Zoloft and Wellbutrin, the odds of effectiveness for hypnosis or neurofeedback or homeopathy suddenly look downright gorgeous, and with the timeline for standard meds involving weeks of titration up and down, it might even make sense to try the alternative treatments first.
I was staring down the barrel of traditional antidepressant treatment recently. It seemed like nothing was going to work. Then I saw a naturopath and started homeopathic treatment. Changed. My. Life. Your mileage will vary, so be careful. This is just my experience.
Time to adjust to a homeopathic treatment: typically 1 week. Time to antidote if it’s having an adverse effect: in me, 4 hours.
Time to full effectiveness of hypnosis: varies, as fast as right away, as long as several months. Time to reverse the effect: almost immediately, usually.
Cost for any of these treatments: usually about $150/hour, more for neurofeedback, less for others. Cost of homeopathic remedies: varies, but generally under $30 for a one-month dose.
If it doesn’t work, you can still try the pills.
But paying attention to how your body feels you can often get faster and more effective treatment without using anything from Big Pharma at all.
nota bene: 1) I am not a doctor. Do not take any of this as medical advice, because it isn’t. 2) don’t change your treatments without consulting with the appropriate professional. That would not be me. 3) there is a place for traditional antidepressants. for those for whom they are the right treatment, they are literally a lifesaver. But if that isn’t feeling like the right solution for you, you have some other options. 4) alas, insurance doesn’t cover most of this
NEXT TIME: I will talk about what happens when you suddenly fix what’s wrong with you after years of having a problem.
WANT MORE? Marcia Baczynski and I are doing a call, Embodiment for Brainiacs, on November 1st. We’re going to jam about bodies and intuition and gut feelings and how that all fits in our geeky and logical brains. Sign up here.
Usually, I post here about pleasure, because…well, because yummy and awesome and so useful. Because pleasure makes us clear and whole; because pleasure gives us direction; because pleasure makes the difference between drudgery and service, between weariness and joy.
There’s more to life, and this has been bugging me for a while.
I have depression. It was in remission for about 2 years, but recently it has been back (in spades) (and very unpredictably).
As in previous episodes of depression, the well-meaning advice has come pouring in: you need to focus on yourself more, get out more, get exercise, have you seen a therapist? maybe you should make some new friends, learn a new skill, just eat better, take a supplement, take a pill, get a hobby…
With all due respect.
I do love myself. I didn’t, for years, but I do now. My self-esteem is really quite solid. When my brain is working properly, I know I’m smart. I know I’m skilled. I know I’m well-trained and that my work makes a difference to the people I work with. I know I have incredible capacity to see systems for what’s really going on and help their leaders adjust so they waste less energy on the way to their goals. I know I see people’s current realities and the potential they have. I know holding the vision of that potential and helping people plan to fulfill it makes a difference to them and to the world.
I know that. I know I learn fast. I know my love is incredibly strong. I know.
I have depression. It’s like having a cold in my brain.
When the depression is active, it takes over the circuits that relate to how I see myself in the world. It’s like an alien mind control game. What I know when I’m not having a depressive episode is NO LONGER RELEVANT.
Using the cold metaphor: my nose is stuffed up. I can’t use it to breathe. This doesn’t mean I need a new nose or that I never had one. It means the mechanisms that let me breathe are obstructed.
In real terms this means that I can’t access my brain’s pleasure mechanisms. They are still there (although they can atrophy over time–use it or lose it!) but I can’t use them. The circuits are circumvented or shut off. The less use they get the harder it is, but they can also be rebuilt with time and practice and sometimes medical or diet or exercise help.
So back to self-esteem and self-love: if you or someone you love has depression, self-esteem MAY be the problem, or it may not. But you cannot assume that just because a depressed person says hateful things about themselves when they are experiencing a depressive episode that they actually believe those things when their brain is their own.
If you have depression, ask yourself, honestly, when you’re not having an acute episode:
– am I smart?
– am I capable?
– am I loveable?
– am I interesting?
– am I strong?
– am I creative?
If you kinda think mostly yes, then I’m going to go ahead and say that while you HAVE DEPRESSION your self-esteem is just fine. What you need then are tools to not listen to the depression when it mounts a hostile takeover in your head. That’s a different set of tools than changing how you feel.
You wouldn’t send someone with a stuffy nose to a reconstructive surgeon.
I’m @leelasinha on twitter. Find me there and let’s talk!
Today’s guest post is by the lovely Heather Rees, a career change coach with a strong sense of the value of presence in the body. Please welcome her!
Your body is not gross, ugly, misaligned or any manner of wrong.
It is not too fat, too skinny, too tall or short.
It is not five pounds away from perfect or in need of hiding behind clothes.
Your body is this: Gorgeous.
It is perfect and miraculous and worthy of revelry.
It deserves to be licked, tickled and caressed.
It wants adoration and your deepest respect – so give it.
Listen to your body as you would a dear friend and, just like that, play with and love and care for your body with a heart full of abandon.
You want this.
I know you do.
You want this wild freedom to love openly that which we’ve been trained to abhor.
Deep down, deep within, there are places that call you back to this freedom. You once had it, back when you were young. Those sunshine days of wonder when the length of your limb was as worthy of love as the stalk of grass held between young fingers. What happened to those days?
We grow up.
We learn that such love is too brazen, to sure and not enough of everything that they tell us is worth accepting. We learn that our bodies are not that (whatever that may be), and therefore, and assuredly, not enough.
Underneath the nonsense, the rabble of violence, your down deep place still knows your beauty – revels in it! – and all the pleasure your body can feel.
Let’s get back there. Let’s buck the system. Be a revolutionary.
Decide to not worry for an hour or a day what exactly your body is (or isn’t) and tune into what exactly it feels. The rhythms, the shifts, the openings and aches.
Decide to notice what comes and goes: the breath, your pulse and all that you hear, see and smell. Touch and taste, too.
Decide on pleasure. Ditch the pain. Yes, you may have reasons to complain (pain is no lightweight) but what you feed will grow. Grow pleasure.
Pleasure comes in through our senses – those impeccably crafted inborn centers of pleasure making, and pleasure taking.
As small as a hair dancing on our neck. As big as a merlot. The sense you connect with gives back what you seek: Love, pleasure and down deep feeding of that place that knows how perfect you really are.
Heather Rees is a career change coach and strategic ally for women who want to do work that is meaningful to them. She is also the creator of the newly released Soul Revival: a Return to Your Senses – an exploration of the senses to spark creativity and reconnect with the soul. Read more here, or connect on Facebook and Twitter.
Just took a nap on the beach. That makes two hours today on the beach, one lying down. Here’s why that’s important: outdoors is not the enemy. It is awesome. Some days it is more nap-worthy than others but it is not a bad place to be. If, like me, you have made it your gym of choice, you need to love it as a general thing. Whatever your gym is, you should love it as a general thing. Not all the time but enough that you think, oh yay! I get to go to the [gym].
Because this is not about weight. This is not even about fitness. This is about pleasure.
I have an amazing friend who is working their tail off right now to recover from a back injury. They are partially paralyzed. That is .courage. yo. Also a definite fixation on pleasure. Like, the pleasure of tying your own shoes.
Walking three miles on the beach is awesome. It brings me back to joy and gratitude. That’s what it’s about.
Keep your focus on pleasure. That way you will be happy about doing your movement and play. Two, that happiness makes your body chemistry better. Three, beauty makes your life better. I’m always on twitter posting about how #mygymdoesnotsuck. I post pictures. Because it is gorgeous. Now i want to see who else does it.
What is your beautiful workout place? Gym? Park? Mountain? Use your gorgeous children as weights? Share on Twitter! I want to see. hashtag #mygymdoesnotsuck and #iamanathlete
I went swimming today.
Which might be no big deal.
Let’s start with the complicated: I had drowning dreams as a child. I used to wake up choking, mouth clamped shut.
And when the swimming teacher threw me in the pool to “teach” me to swim, I held my breath and let myself sink to the bottom.
That was it for swimming lessons, pretty much.
Despite all that, I love the water, love being in the water, lakes and pools and ocean.
I used to spend Far Too Long in the shower and in the bath.
I love being in the water.
And when someone very close to me discovered that, she bought me a wetsuit. Why? Because Maine. Specifically, Maine. Is. Cold.
Or at least the ocean is often cold. If you wait for times when the water feels good, you could be down to about six or eight weeks of swimming a year.
The first time I wore it, it was like magic. Just like the first time I wore Vibram five finger shoes, I suddenly felt like I had a new superpower. I could go in the water and Not Be Cold! Amazing. A-mazing.
But after that summer, by this and by that I didn’t get it out again for a while.
And then today happened.
I got up, got dressed, got to the beach by seven. Walked/ran three miles (out and back) and felt like I wanted to swim. But about half a mile from the end of my route, the air changed. It got chilly. I knew I couldn’t swim without being chilled for the rest of the day. I put a bookmark in it, remembered I had a wetsuit, and…
came back in the afternoon. With the full wetsuit, not the halfsie one. I wore my version of a bikini (thank you, Moving Comfort bras!) and pulled the wetsuit on, zipped myself up (love those long zipper pulls!) and headed into the water.
Shock, shock, bliss.
The way a wetsuit works, it allows water through but then it traps water in the neoprene. That water warms up and insulates you from all the rest of the water. So those first few minutes are cold, but then you’re fine.
I also had my brand-new, so-excited-to-have-them, made-in-Italy, gee-these-really-fit open water goggles. They’re like a cross between regular goggles and a dive mask, with a big silicone seal that goes all the way around your eyes, but it leaves your nose exposed.
I stayed out there for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, backstroke, floating, playing, bouncing. The surf was strong, there was a storm coming in, but there wasn’t any riptide to speak of and I was so, so happy.
The ocean lifts me up.
The ocean sets me back on my feet.
What a gift.
There’s one caveat: if you are like me, the biggest risk is that you won’t notice how tired it makes you until you get out of the water and are shaking a little. That not-noticing can be fatal if you’re not super careful. If you’re thinking about heading in to shore, it’s time to head in. If you think it might be time soon, it’s time now. Play safe out there.
That said, everyone near a body of water should own a wetsuit and use it.
I swam in the ocean for 30 minutes. After I walked for an hour this morning. I loved it. It was a joy. I am an athlete.
What is your favorite thing, so good you can’t resist? Tell us! Tweet #Iamanathlete.
Let’s start here: Moving Comfort makes INCREDIBLE sports bras. So when I saw that they were making dresses for being active in, I was thrilled. YAY, I thought. The bra plus a skirt!
Not so fast.
My dress is an XL in black, and runs true to size. Empire-waisted, with obvious seams, it is not suitable for a formal office but meets my standard of “business casual” in a pinch. The fabric does have a sheen to it, and there is a logo down the middle of the back. The dress is a little tight around my middle only because I am apple shaped. None the less my therapist said I looked “professional” in the dress with a linen shirt over it.
The bra is a shelf bra with MASSIVE elastic underneath it. This saddens me because MC makes SUCH AMAZING sports bras, and I had high hopes that they had simply attached a bodice and skirt to a bra. That would be my ideal.
This bra is not sufficient for any kind of bouncy exercise. It is, however, just fine for going out and about. Unfortunately, the wide elastic then must be combined with a real sports bra (I use one by Moving Comfort, of course) for exercise which means a LOT of ribcage compression. On the upside, when you’re done you can remove the sports bra and still be reasonably dressed. Also, if your chosen form of exercise involves being upside-down, the built in shelf bra can be a handy asset.
Because I’m short (5’2″) and apple shaped, the bodice tends to scrunch up under the bustline, which is a little awkward but has the result of putting the fuller part of the skirt where it belongs.
Length: it’s a little long in the torso for me, but again, I’m short. The skirt is just about perfect, several inches above the knee, and completely nonrestrictive. The fabric is heavy–the weight of a lined swimsuit.
Color choices: I think this dress may be discontinued, as I can’t find it on the website for the current season. It was either black or multi–would love to have seen it in a bright red or cheerful tangerine or soothing aqua. I do hope they haven’t discontinued the idea of the running dress entirely–it has a lot of merit, and their version is really lovely. You can even go commando if you don’t plan to bend over…
Got a favorite exercise solution for the apple shape? Tweet it! #iamanathlete