How to Heal Depression

Part Four:
As Healing Continues...

Eighty-four: View Problems As Creative Challenges

During depression, it's easy to view problems as burdens, interruptions, something else to struggle through--in short, upsetting.

As the depression lifts, it's easier to see problems as creative challenges, invitations to activity, even games.

Problems do not need to make you unhappy.

Think of life as a process to be enjoyed as you go along.

Too often depressive thinking says, "When I get through this, then I'll be happy." With that thinking, it's no wonder one is seldom--if ever--happy. Did you ever notice that problems just "keep on comin'"?

So, when a problem arises, view it with the attitude you'd have if your best friends said, "Let's play Monopoly (or poker, or canasta, or touch football, or whatever your favorite game is). When we intentionally create problems for ourselves, we call them games. Can't we treat the unintentionally created problems the same?

Enthusiasm, creativity, playfulness, and a bemused sense of humor are the keys.

More damn fun!


Eighty-five: Seek Comforting

Being hugged, stroked, nurtured, and adored is a perfectly natural desire. When the need for these arises, do what you can to fulfill it.

A professional massage--or a series of them--is an excellent investment in healing.

Perhaps the comforting comes not by touch, but by touch tone. Make a list of friends, support group members, relatives, and others whom you can call and say, "Tell me I'm okay!"

Of course, the #1 comforter in your life--and the one whom it's often hardest to accept comforting from--is yourself. Tell yourself, often, "I love you," "I care about you," "You are precious to me," "You're great!" Blush if you must, but tell yourself nonetheless.

A person will be called to account on Judgment Day for every permissible thing he might have enjoyed but did not.


Eighty-six: Relationships May Change

As you heal, you may find your relationships change.

The relationships based on the "depressed you" tend to wither, while the relationships with people who like you for the real you often grow stronger.

Treatment for depression does not make people "all the same." Far from it. As depression lifts, the individual qualities of the person tend to surface and are naturally expressed. One may even develop (or deepen) an eccentricity or two. This deeply upsets those who count on you to be your "old, predictable self."

Some people prey upon the weaknesses of depressed people, using fear, guilt, and unworthiness to manipulate and control. As these symptoms of depression heal, you become less needy, less manipulatable.

This, obviously, does not please the controllers or manipulators. They may try to manipulate you out of treatment. Don't let them.

Don't make any firm decisions about relationships until your healing is well underway. Observe what's happening inside yourself and with others. There's time to make choices later.

But beware: if you fail to attend one of the regularly scheduled meetings of the Ain't-It-Awful Club, guess who gets talked about?

Ain't it awful?

To laugh often and love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics; to appreciate beauty; to give of one's self; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived-- that is to have succeeded.


Eighty-seven: Enjoy the Good

Don't be surprised if good things happen to you without your even trying.

Struggle, effort, and trying are, for many depressed people, the only way they know to get something good.

As depression heals, good things tend to happen--spontaneously. Accept them. Enjoy them.

You may, for example, find yourself simply not wanting to continue a bad habit you thought would take enormous effort to overcome. Or, you may find yourself naturally wanting to take part in a healthy activity that you figured would require tremendous discipline.

You may find career opportunities, relationships, and your health becoming more of what you want them to be--simply because you are being more of who you are.

"Enjoy life," the bumper sticker reminds us. "This is not a rehearsal."

What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.


Eighty-eight: Making Peace with Depression

Clinical research indicates that approximately

There's no way of telling which path your depression will take. The important thing is that the depression can be contained and the symptoms eliminated--as in the treatment of high blood pressure, low thyroid, or diabetes.

The point is that either one heals oneself from depression; one heals oneself from depression and it returns (in which case it can be successfully treated again); or depression is a fact of life (for which, ongoing, long-term treatment can be safe and successful with periodic medical supervision).

So, make peace with depression. It's not an enemy. It's not out to "get ya." It's just an imbalance of the biochemistry of the brain and/or the thought patterns of the mind. As with any illness, it needs ongoing acceptance and healing.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.


Eighty-nine: Society and Depression (the Good News)

Imagine for a moment that the millions and millions of depressed people in this country were no longer depressed:

Whether this sounds like Sir Thomas More's Utopia, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," or John Lennon's "Imagine," it does describe what is possible--for the first time in human history.

Take an extreme case: the homeless. Have you ever spoken with a homeless person who you would say wasn't clinically depressed? Well, neither have we. Whether they're depressed because they're homeless or they're homeless because they're depressed no longer matters--treat the depression and perhaps a good number of the homeless will again become productive citizens.

Healthy individuals make healthy societies.

If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.


Ninety: Society and Depression (the Bad News)

It is estimated that untreated depression costs this country 43.7 billion dollars per year.

With so much undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, and undertreated depression, what are we, as a country, doing about it? Not much.

Yes, the National Institutes of Health are doing a good job educating the American public about depression and its treatment.

But it's not enough.

Medicaid and Medicare will not pay for the latest generation of antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor). Treatment with these drugs costs about five dollars a day--which is not a problem for a middle to upper-middle class person--but it can be devastating to a lower income person whose food budget is less than five dollars a day.

This lack of healthcare coverage is especially distressing because it is estimated that as many as sixty-five percent of the elderly in this country have a clinical depression. A good number of the elderly depend on Medicare for their medical treatment.

What if one of the reasons people are trapped in poverty is depression? What if giving them proper treatment allowed them to work their way out of poverty?

Do our elderly and lower income citizens deserve such lack of treatment?

Equally startling is how economically wasteful this policy is. Many people are being treated for specific symptoms of depression at a great cost (for sleeping pills, sedatives, pain pills, etc.), when five dollars' worth of antidepressants would, by treating the depression, relieve most of the symptoms.

Why waste money ineffectively treating symptoms?

And what cost can we put on unnecessary suffering and misery?

These are questions the government somehow has not fully considered. If you have any thoughts on this matter, please drop a note to your elected officials.

When you hear depressing news, there's no point becoming depressed about it. Either do something about it, or determine that someone else is going to do something about it, and then let it go.

Treating depression doesn't cost money. It saves money--and lives.

Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression.


Ninety-one: Giving to Others

Someone once asked: "If you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" It's an interesting question. The answers are often more interesting.

As your treatment reaches its conclusion, and as your healing continues, you may find that your healing is enhanced by giving to others.

What do we give to others? We give of what we have. Among the things you have is the knowledge that (a) depression is an illness, and (b) depression is a treatable illness.

A lot of people--roughly ten million in the United States alone--are waiting for that information.

To the degree you can, and in the ways you know how, give them that information. We wrote a book. That's what we knew how to do. If you feel so moved, do what you can do.

No, we are not asking you to become the local proselytizer of antidepressants. We're simply saying that if there's one person who might be inspired by your story, consider telling it.

Then let the person decide how, when, and if he or she will use the information you so kindly supplied.

Lighting your own light, letting your own beacon shine, this will then inspire others who will inspire others who will inspire others.


Ninety-two: Thank You and Enjoy Your Journey

Thank you for reading our book. Glance through it again and again as you move along your path of healing.

In closing, we want you to know that we have walked this road ahead of you. We have deep compassion for all depressed people go through because we, too, have suffered from depression.

We also know how difficult it was to read the writing on the wall (even though it was written in neon letters twelve feet high), to seek treatment, and to "hang in there" until the treatment was successful.

So, we are not just authors and you are not just readers: we are all human beings--magnificent and monstrous, phenomenal and foolish, grasping selfishly and giving unconditionally.

And you know what? We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for joining us.

Enjoy your journey!

It's been troubling me. Now, why is it that most of us can talk openly about the illnesses of our bodies, but when it comes to our brain and illnesses of the mind we clam up and because we clam up, people with emotional disorders feel ashamed, stigmatized and don't seek the help that can make the difference.



Copyright © 1994-1996 Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D. & Peter McWilliams

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