treatment

A Celebration of Therapy, In List Form

No treatment method is for everyone, but I think talk therapy gets an especially bad rap, considering the profound upsides.

So today – a little celebration of therapy, in list form:

1. It turns out that there are a lot of treatments out there that work really well and really quickly. EMDR can take as little as one session and can considerably lessen the excruciating feelings left by a traumatic event. Treatment for anxiety and panic has come very far too. Therapists with the right certifications might be able to ease your pain a lot more quickly and easily than you think.

Young at Heart Portrait2. Therapy can reduce your blind spots. There’s nothing like talking to the same person every week about your wellbeing to make you realize things about your wellbeing. And if you’re not seeing clearly when it comes to how you feel (and so many of us aren’t), then you’re working with a huge handicap when it comes to feeling better.

3. Even if you have a fantastic support system, chances are you need more support. Depression attacks the very things we need to see ourselves through the recovery process – motivation, energy, hope. Sometimes I think of therapists as expert advocates – trained professionals who have been through it before, who know the ropes and can help us navigate this crushing disease.

4. Let’s face it, talking helps. Being listened to helps. Having someone who won’t recoil at your dark thoughts, who won’t shun you your jealousies or be scared by your fears – it’s priceless. It allows you some space to have perspective, to welcome in the META THOUGHTS and learn some ways to cope with all. those. overwhelming. feelings.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by Nevil Zaveri on Flickr

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The Meta Thoughts

Bebop Sleeping

Bebop Sleeps

I was chilling on my back porch the other day with my adorable dog on my lap. Suddenly I was sure that the reason my doctor hadn’t called me back was that I have cancer and they don’t know how to break it to me. They know I’m depressed so they want me to come in in-person. I’m never going to have children and then for the rest of my life people will look at me and think, “How sad. She always wanted children.” A blow like this will sink me back into the worst of my depression. I’m never going to get better. That’s my future. I’m never getting better.

See that? Blink of an eye and I’m like four steps into my hypothetical, mourning my imagined losses, starting to panic.

This is the moment when therapy, or some other intentional recovery effort, does something. Before I started recovering, a turn like this would have landed me in bed, completely shut down and miserable. Now…

The Meta Thoughts

The Meta Thoughts

Enter: The META THOUGHTS

Instead of following the hypothetical, I realize that it’s just a hypothetical. I realize that I’m panicking, that I’m entering a tailspin. I realize that nothing bad has actually happened.

I got up, shook myself. Put a leash on my dog, went for a walk and called a friend.

After a bit of distraction and support from my friend, after I was able to calm down, I remembered that not every thought deserves its day in court (or its time in rumination-ville).

The appearance of the Meta Thoughts is new for me – the inkling that bad thoughts aren’t real events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m genuinely happy for you. If you do, try to remember, they’re there for you – those heroic Meta Thoughts.

 

Second photo by Lisa Cyr on Flickr.

Helpful Links

Blue and Droopy and Still BeautifulI recently found a treasure trove of useful links about depression on Reddit.

I was thrilled to see a lecture on depression by Robert Sapolsky, the author of one of the books in the “Books To Chill To” post. The lecture is almost an hour long, but he does a fantastic job of laying out the case for depression as a serious biological condition, and describes the biology and psychology of depression in a compelling and approachable way. I found this video very validating. I think it’ll be helpful not only for friends and family who are trying to understand what their loved one is going through, but also for people in the midst of the shitstorm who doubt the credibility of their own experience and symptoms.

Wing of Madness Depression Guide is an almost twenty year old blog on depression. It’s not overly technical, but it is well researched and the tone is somewhat formal. I love that it has a Start Here post that walks the reader through a context for depression, understanding a diagnosis, and tips on seeking treatment. There are also TONS of links to articles, curated for sufferers as opposed to mental health professionals.

I really like this article from the New York Times. It argues that trying to find an up-side to depression is to minimize the seriousness of the disease. I completely agree.

Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel is more formal than Wing of Madness. If you’re looking for good information about types of depression, symptoms, etc., this is a great, centralized collection of information. They have a mood journal app that I haven’t checked out yet but that looks good. Anything that makes tracking your mood less maddening gets an A+ in my book.

More to come.

 

Photo by Dominic Alves on Flickr

Drastic Pain Calls for Drastic Improvements

Still Life with Skull Leeks and Pitcher by Picasso

Still Life with Skull Leeks and Pitcher by Picasso

I’ve been told by multiple mental health professionals, from psychiatrists to social workers, that I should not make big decisions while in the midst of a crisis.

I mostly think that’s terrible advice, and it’s definitely inappropriate when it comes from someone who doesn’t understand the context of your crisis. When you’re suffering an abusive relationship, it’s a huge decision to leave – a huge decision that you must make and enforce before your crisis will end. That’s an easy example, of course. There are harder ones – quitting your job when you don’t have another one lined up, ending a relationship that has its ups and downs.

But there’s something deeply marginalizing about that advice. Yes, you’re hurting, and that means you’re not qualified to choose a path, so just keep crawling along for a while. Your problems are not real, so things will probably clear up on their own.

True, you’re often not thinking clearly when you’re in a crisis. But recovery is full of big decisions. Seeking treatment itself can be a life changing decision. We’re supposed to wait? For what?

I stayed in a traumatic job for more than a year after I knew I needed to leave. I stayed in a city that I desperately wanted to leave, too. I suffered without the support of my closest friends and family, who were too far away to realize how bad I’d gotten.

Maybe I didn’t have it together enough, or didn’t have the confidence to leave. I don’t think I was blindly following bad advice – but I did take it seriously, and it was liverwurst.

A chemistry professor, who was also a minister, once told me that we live more powerfully when we live by our own choice.

Trust yourself. Find a calm moment, think on it, and trust yourself.

 

Photo of painting by Sharon Mollerus on Flickr

Can I Just Say #6 – A Note on Psychiatry

Operating SystemI am grateful for the work that medical science has done on depression. I am grateful (really!) for the medicine, which I’m taking and which is helping. But can I just say that I would appreciate some humility from the psychiatry crew?*

Your science is very young. You have no idea of the actual mechanism of most of your tools, and most of your interventions work only in the short and medium term. You don’t know my body better than me. You don’t know my mind better than me, and you don’t know which meds will work.

You ask me to track my symptoms and then ignore me when I say that it’s driving me crazy. (Are these thoughts worse than yesterday? These feelings? Oh. That was a bad one. Is this anger or anxiety…).

What’s the point of a bunch of painfully collected data if you can’t even begin to infer causality? Am I more anxious than a week ago because of the meds or is it because I just started a job at a call center where customers tell me to go fuck myself? Please stop acting like we have a counterfactual, an alternate Mfupi who didn’t start that job. Another Mfupi with my biology and history who’s not on the meds you recently switched me to. Just stop.

Also, there aren’t that many drugs for depression. You should be familiar with them.

I appreciate your help. I believe you have my best interests at heart, just have some humility. Please recognize that “everyone is different” means that you don’t actually know how to help me.

So don’t act like my doubts = noncompliance. This isn’t a relationship in which one person should comply. This is a partnership. You bring your imperfect understanding of my condition. I’ll bring my imperfect interpretations of my thoughts and feelings. And we’ll figure it out together.

Thanks.

 

*I’m a huge fan of psychology, where PhDs and other experts provide talk therapy. This post is about the medical field of psychiatry, which, for depression, mostly concerns itself with managing medication regimens.

Photo by Mark Anderson on Flickr