Depression, it’s all a state of mind. That feeling of helplessness, lack of motivation, sadness, lethargy; all are related to the same goings-on in the brain. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter necessary for so many brain functions, quite often doesn’t get to where it needs to go. From a scientific perspective, this is often because synapses in the brain are no longer connecting the way they should be. Thoughts and feelings can quite often reroute these synapses and initiate the snowball effect that so many people are struggling to fight against.
A portion of the film-documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?! goes into some detail about the neurological causes of depression and even what can be done about it. The conventional way is usually to seek professional help from a doctor or therapist, both of whom will be fairly guaranteed to recommend some form of antidepressant. The medication is recommended to accompany psychological therapy, which acts as an aid in finding the root of the problem but also to monitor how the medication is affecting the patient. Such treatment doesn’t work for everyone, especially when other factors come into play.
Take for example: myself, the author. The high stress of grad school coupled with all sorts of drama in the personal life, building up over the course of a few years caused quite the backlash some time ago. I went from being the sort of person that always had a smile on her face to never wanting to leave the house, spontaneously bursting into tears without any provocation or way to stop, and I never felt like I’d gotten nearly enough rest. A new doctor I was seeing gave me a prescription for Prozac and had me attend weekly sessions with the in-house therapist. It helped for a while—about three months—and then things suddenly went worse than before. After two more sessions at the therapist, he figured it out.
“You’ve hypomania,” he tells me. “A condition much like being bi-polar only you’re primarily cheerful, perky, and optimistic with brief but severe bouts of depression once in a while.”
Apparently, antidepressants are the last things you want to be taking in such a situation. So, what was I supposed to do? They wanted to medicate me with something else once the Prozac was out of my system, but my father made it very clear that he didn’t understand why I should be medicated for a life-long condition that had never been a problem before. The stress had caused the recent problems, but it was nothing that couldn’t be dealt with other ways.
As I said before, it’s all a state of mind. Hypomanic or clinically depressed, it really makes no difference in the end. Different things work for different people as quick fixes, but in the long run, the same changes need to be made. You need to work at thinking differently. The pills aid in keeping the chemical reactions in the brain more balanced, but they don’t realign synapses. Only mental conditioning can do that. Baby steps are best at first, figuring out was causes you to feel the most happy or that inspires you to do something productive.
A good chunk of the time, a depressed person externalizes, as well, which can only add to the stress. The most common evidence of this is a messy/disorganized living space. Unconsciously, they allow their habitat to reflect their state of mind. Something that helps to relieve this odd stressor is to pick a corner, a shelf, a desk, and to clean it off and organize it. Add flowers, more light, a silly-looking ornament (I’m quite fond of lawn gnomes, personally), and that will begin the process of lightening the load. Often enough, it urges the depressed to keep going, to keep cleaning. The space being clean, even if it’s a single room or just the most frequented spot, can leave the mind so much more at ease.
Multivitamins can also help. Sometimes, the body isn’t getting the proper nourishment, especially if the depression has been an ongoing issue. Not leaving the house can cause a Vitamin D deficiency, as the human body generates that from sunlight. Fifteen minutes in the sun each day is all you need. Fortified milk or supplements can help otherwise. And that’s only one example. For the most part, every single vitamin and mineral you read about on the side of a cereal box contributes to overall health-both physical and mental. The brain is an organ, after all, and needs tending like everything else.
It takes effort. It takes ongoing determination. It takes support from friends and family because having fans to cheer you on provides one of the best natural highs. It also takes understanding of how you, as an individual, function. Remember what makes you happy, what leaves you the most emotionally fulfilled, and work from there. Paying for a therapist or medication is not always necessary. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be save for severe cases, but doing what feels comfortable is just as important.
Remember, it’s not the end of the world unless it explodes. Everything, until then, is fixable, and we can do it!