Friday, June 29, 2012

Depression is a Fact of Life

I thought I had some moral dilemmas, turns out...
I thought I had some moral dilemmas, turns out it was just a neurotransmitter imbalance. (Photo credit: Divine Harvester)
I've written about depression before, but the press it gets seems to demand another look.  Are you really sure you want to go that route?  Being or becoming depressed is really pretty simple.  I can do it, and most of the people I know could give it a good try.  

Of course there are situations and events that are depressing.  When I worked in the prison system, inmates would tell me they were depressed and they thought antidepressants would make them less depressed.  They wanted a magic pill that would take away their loneliness and remove the mess they had made of their lives that brought them to a 5X9 cell.  It doesn't work that way.

First, let me emphasize that if you find yourself in a prison and you aren't depressed about it, you need to reassess the situation.  You should be depressed about committing criminal acts and wasting your life in non-productive ways.  Depression in this instance is a spur to change.

Medication can change the way you feel.  It does not change the reality of your situation.  I assured the inmates I counseled that their best option was to change the way they approached life. Occasionally I found someone who would try my way, and lo, and behold!  It worked. 

One guy told me he was so depressed he didn't even want to eat.  Let me assure you that the food in prison left a lot to be desired, but it still sustained life.  I told him he must go to meals everyday even if he didn't eat.  He would have a routine; he would talk to other people, and sometimes he would find something he might like.  He tried it a few times.

On his next visit I told him to make a chart and evaluate everyday on a scale from 0 to 10--miserable to fine. and each day note whether he had gone to meals.  He reported his best days as those he had gone to meals whether or not he had eaten the food.  It was an absolute revelation to him that going to meals, talking to other people, engaging in life was an antidepressant.

Of course, if you're not in prison, you might need to use other scales to measure improvement.  Physical exercise, just exertion, can bring about an antidepressant effect.  There is a reason for this beyond the obvious acts of getting dressed.  The neurotransmitters that help to regulate human emotions and are responsible for things like sleep are produced in increased quantities when they are used up.  If you don't use them, the body won't make anymore. If you do use them, the body strives to replace and replenish them.  

The moral to this story is that if you are depressed, the remedy is to be more active.  Engage in activities that make you tired like running, walking, jogging, washing windows, chasing grandchildren, or riding horses.  Of course, it helps if the activities are rewarding in themselves.  If you wash the car, you may gain a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that you did a good job and it didn't cost much; you will look smashing in the sparkling car, and your neurotransmitters had a chance to increase.

Antidepressant medications don't give you more neurotransmitters.  They just keep the ones that are present active a little longer.  As long as there are neurotransmitters available, the cells don't make anymore.  The body is very efficient that way.  Medications may have severe side-effects that are very negative.  Use all the non-pharmacological  remedies available to you to make your life exciting and challenging and rewarding without the side-trips to prison or the hospital.  For another remedy, click here.

Another post about depression
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