merissanathangerson

Woe Is Me

In Mental Health on November 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Dear Yenta,

This year everything went right, and then everything went wrong. I don’t completely understand how or why I fell apart, but I did. I quickly went to a psychiatrist and have been medicated ever since. My life got back on track but little things feel different. I am doing well compared to before, but I wonder, is there another way I could have patched myself back together?

-Fragmented

Dear Fragmented,

Depression, my friend, sucks. There’s no two ways around that. But the causes and implications of a meltdown are complicated and individual-based. In some cases, medication is the best option because a life, or lives are at stake. It is important to weigh your own situation, your own tools. Can this dark period be navigated without the safety net of medication?

And then there are branches to the therapy tree. Are you someone who is strong and needs to know everything? Or are you strong, but not with feelings, and need to gloss this experience? There are so many options in medicine, healing and growth, that it can be easier to shut off, shut down, and keep going.

A few ideas for the brave self-healer:

1) Meditate and Therapeute

Sitting in silence and unfolding your mind can be the most effective way to cure a million ailments. Do you have Tourette’s? Anxiety? Depression? Can you not sit still, not control your thoughts; do you feel feverish with energy?

Meditation is not an easy road, not the choice for the weak of heart, but once an individual chooses this path and gets over the hard part, the rewards are innumerable. Basic meditation begs that you be present and notice your thoughts, notice your world. It is like a game of slow intimate connection with the self. One monk I know has no fear because he trusts his mind and body because he knows them so well.

Therapy and meditation combined are an incredible option. As your meditation reveals the workings, and sometimes hidden traumas of your mind, then you can reference a talk therapist for support and help working out the bigger issues. This is good therapy because it is self-controlled. The power dynamic in a therapist’s office can be off-putting, whereas here you are able to chart your own healing. Better yet, meditating is free and always available. For a free meditation instruction go to http://www.shambhala.org for a center in your city.

2) Shamans, Witches and the like

Depending on your nationality or cultural history, tapping into your roots could be an excellent way to cope with your misery. Hindu, Tibetan, Muslim, Jewish, Indian, Hmong and other healing systems differ and often are related to the beliefs you were raised with. Or, for some, the beliefs you choose to adapt. Medication can shut down important life-experiencing pieces of each individual, whereas finding someone who might better understands the intricacies of your experience could be more suitable to your needs.

One important part of calming the mind is connected to knowing the self, and the selves that paved the way to your own. Checking in with your cultural past may be chock full of answers, or may very well lead you back to the psychiatrist with the Prozac. Trusting this less rational system yields different results for everyone, but never leaves you bored.

3) And finally….your body.

So many people get depressed without evaluating simple things. Did someone die? Did you move somewhere new and it is too loud? Is someone violating your personal space? Are you no longer in love? Are you realizing something about your past? Any number of external factors could be causing your misery.

But the body is the locus of all distress. Whether it started in the mind or in the stomach, you need to treat your nausea. Make a checklist: have you been exercising? What are you eating? Too much caffeine? Lots of mac n cheese? Not enough veggies and fruits? Are you getting protein? Are you smoking too much? Has your weed habit taken over?

Taking a quick inventory, returning to your food pyramid from kindergarten, this can at the very least make these wild new emotions of misery more manageable. And sleep. My uncle says some people should sleep for a whole year to cure their depression. Do you need to sleep?

A community acupuncture clinic or acupuncture school, just $20 a pop, could help a) teach you about self-care and b) calm your nerves. Also, massage is an amazing way to support your body and spirit while navigating whatever it is that is mentally ailing you. This doesn’t have to be expensive; most cities have a massage school with a clinic where massage by trained professionals ranges from free to $40 on a sliding scale.

Remember that America is not big on feeling the harder feelings, and that crying, mourning, releasing…this can often cure a broken heart. Support from any of these options, or from friends, a long bath, a walk in the woods, any kind of support serves you as you try to stabilize your mind. E-mail me if you have more questions.

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  1. […] caution when it comes to psychotherapeutic drugs. There are other ways to treat depression (See: Woe is Me) There is also a LOT that can be done with the body and mind to work around medications you do […]

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