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
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Uncle Jimmie

Cotton farming was hard, hot work, but it also afforded time to reflect on life  which Jimmie did a  lot.
My mother's favorite brother was my Uncle Jimmie.  I guess it's O.K. to say that out loud now since they are all gone now and it won't hurt anyone's feelings.  I doubt it would be a surprise to anyone anyway.

Jimmie was the closest in age to her and she idolized him.  I hate to say he was conceited, but he was definitely cocky.  In school he was a sportsman.  She told me she always stood behind a very tall man at track meets because she was afraid to watch in case he didn't do well.  He attended the University of Texas and played basketball and football.  He bragged to me that he was a hit with the girls--"I had good teeth and all my hair."  

He loved to tease and he always had a question or a puzzle intended to amaze and mystify.  By the time I became the object of his interest, he was a farmer and country philosopher.  He actually aspired to grander things: he loved to dance to Glenn Miller, Wayne King, and all the big band era musicians.  He taught me to dance.  When I was a senior in High School he agreed to teach all the kids who wanted to learn to dance.  

Glenn Miller was one of Jimmie's favorite conductors and  he taught me to dance to  the big  band music.
This came about because at the prom when I was a junior nobody danced.  The girls in the class conspired with me to have a dance every Friday night at the Community House.  He refused to do any of the arrangements--that was strictly up to us.  We reserved the building and borrowed records and a record player.  All Jimmie agreed to do was chaperon. He told us the boys would have to wear a coat and tie and we must have an admission fee.  

The most important rule was that if he ever saw or smelled any liquor, he was through.  We figured there was no chance the boys would even show up.  But they did, and they wore their best pants and sport coats and ties--it was great!  Admission was 25cents.  After a few weeks the quarters added up to enough to buy new records.  There was no Jitterbug and Rock hadn't been invented yet, but we all danced and learned manners about what was appropriate at a dance.  It just lasted that one year, but at the Prom in May everybody danced.

Jimmie influenced my life as long as he lived.  He was an example of integrity and honor that supported me in my marriage, with my children, and my life in the community.  When he was dying, I was privileged to visit often, cook for him and comfort him as much as possible.  I had the chance to tell him how much I valued the influence he had on my life.  That may have been the only time I ever saw him cry.

My memories still bless me and I still recall things my Uncle Jimmie said.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Spiritual View of Illness

I have been researching the recent change in medical doctors' opinions about about how a patient's spiritual condition may affect the outcome of disease.  When I was young, doctors did not ask about faith or spiritual connections.  Healing was all about the microbes and blood tests--the science of the body--but now there are serious studies exploring the connections between religious beliefs and medical outcomes.

When psychology became important in medical treatment, doctors began to  see connections between the mind and the body as causal.  We are one organism:  What affects the mind also affects the body.  Now doctors are exploring the connections of the spirit to the mind and the body.  Is it really true?  We are one organism and what affects one part of us, may presently cause changes in another area.

 It is easy enough to find out if certain beliefs cause a difference in a religious population rates of illness or mortality.  Do fewer spiritual people get cancer from smoking than non-religious people?  If so, the fact that many of them believe smoking to be a sin and refrain from it may explain how their religion protected them.

Another confounding factor may be definitions.  Religious does not necessarily mean spiritual, at least, not to all people.  A great many people are religious but do not seek inner peace or understanding--it is a difficult difference to explain.  Who knows what happens in a person's spirit unless she can tell you; then it becomes a matter of mental ability to describe or understand.  

I have found that spirituality goes beyond obedience to the commandments and supersedes sin--Spirituality is a plane of communication with God.  I like to read some of the writing of Brother Lawrence.  He talked about "practicing the presence of God."  In the matter of illness, we have to consider that God may allow us to suffer pain due to the illness, but it doesn't mean he isn't beside or in us as we  go through that experience.   

When I am experiencing pain, I may look at my current activity.  Is there something God is showing me about what I am doing?  Is it something I should rest from?  Not that the activity itself is wrong, but it's just that at that moment God will show me something else he wants me to see.  I have lately begun to have pain in my neck when I sit in church.  The pain seems to result from the fixed position.  Maybe it's just that sometimes my neck hurts, and it's not spiritual.  It's something to do with my neck.  Maybe I just need to address it with the doctor.  Maybe God will bless that, too.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Simple Things

I have graduated to paper airplanes!  I still love my kites and the dances they do in the wind, but I have taken up airplanes now.  There are many sites on the net that have downloadable templates and instructions.  I guess the supreme thrill is to design the plane yourself.  If you look at the real thing and fold a paper one to look like it, you have arrived!

I am really simple.  Kites, bread, paper airplanes, poetry--simple pleasures will take you through life.  On Saturday I accompanied two of my grandchildren and one of my daughters to the zoo. 

 It wasn't a new experience, but that day and with those people it was still fresh and rare and new.  It brought back memories of other excursions with other kids, but this one was special.  When you think about it, everything is special.  Everything is important for its time, for its occasion, for its people.  When you pile it together, it may not seem noteworthy, but at the time, it has it own significance.  I love to remember each special moment and rare incident and special person.  The total becomes my life and memory.  I so glad I had that one.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Grandchildren--They Really Are!

Grandchildren are wonderful.  You can be proud of them without anybody criticizing because you didn't raise them.  You can applaud them without being responsible for their mistakes.  When you are a grandparent you can afford to only look at the positive attributes.  Their faults won't be your problem.  I love it!

I visited with two of my grandchildren last week, and I got to applaud when Katy took second place in the 100 meter dash. I was privileged to  cheer when Shania passed her driving test on the third try.

It is also scary.  I don't want to fear for them in the world I see around us.  I don't want a crass society to destroy their joy on the altar of greed or power.  I have no reason to think they will be spared the difficulties of growing to adulthood without temptation or disaster crossing their lives.  What is the best I can expect for them?

I know they will be loved by parents and grandparents, friends and relatives.  I know they will be offered the joys of Christian love and fellowship as they grow in their church.  I know they have been blessed with parents who teach them responsibility and obedience to both the civil law and Godly commandments.  

As I think about this I realize I cannot know all the blessings or disappointments they will face, and I cannot guide them through the maze that awaits their lives.  I won't live to see the end of the story, but I pray that it is meaningful in the difficult parts and joyous in the victories.  Their careers and loves and joys and battles belong to a grand hope that is tied up in the future.  I am so glad I was here for the beginning.