New Release Excerpt: Healing Depression Without Medication
Categories: Excerpt Health & Healing New Release Psychology & Personal Growth
“To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.”
—A. T. STILL, DOCTOR OF OSTEOPATHY
A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.
— DANIEL KAHNEMAN, THINKING, FAST AND SLOW
A wonderful example of this can be seen in Daniel Simons’s selective attention experiment, in which participants look at a video of a group of people passing balls to each other, and are asked to count the number of times those wearing white pass the ball. Before I spoil the experiment, please pause here and check it out, so you can see for yourself how easily we can miss information right in front of our faces.
If you watched the video, chances are, if you were busy focusing on the ball, you may have missed the gorilla. Or perhaps you saw the gorilla and lost track of the ball. If asked in advance, I am sure most of us would assume that we could not possibly miss a man dressed in a gorilla costume walking through a small group of people, but I know I did the first time I saw it, and so did half of those tested. The point is, if we are focused on what we expect to see, we may completely miss the unexpected that is happening right in front of us.
So, what do overlooked gorillas have to do with psychiatry and depression? If researchers, physicians, and patients are myopically focusing only on the brain and neurochemistry, we become blind to the myriad interplaying variables below the neck and in the environment that may be influencing depression or other “mental” issues. What may look and feel like depression might be an illness or infection, chronic stress, a poor diet and nutritional deficiency, a hormonal imbalance, an abusive relationship or work situation, or a host of other problems not located in the head. Consequently, we end up asking incomplete questions and arriving at inaccurate assumptions, leading to ineffective and even harmful treatments. Even when more complete answers are elucidated in research labs, it can take seventeen to thirty years for this new information to infiltrate your doctor’s office.
In my office, and in this book, I offer another way, based on the latest research. Instead of reflexively handing over a script, I take time to listen to your life story so I can better understand and help you understand how your particular symptoms might make sense and be an uncomfortable but normal response to your life circumstances.
Of course, I want to know about your symptoms and your particular flavor and experience of depression, anxiety, psychosis, or mania, but more importantly I want to know what was going on in your life when the symptoms began, what effect those symptoms had on your life then and since, what fears you now carry about any of those symptoms appearing and how you respond when they surface, what you believe about your illness and what you believe it says about you, and what your family believes about the illness and what it says about you. I want to know what you find meaningful and fulfilling in your life, what you believe in spiritually, what sort of balance you have in your life between work and play, and what you do to relax. I want to know about your relationships and the support you receive or do not receive, what you eat, what you do for exercise, what you do for play, what brings you joy. I want to know about your emotional life—what you are allowed and willing to express and how you do that, and what emotions are kept silent and buried, stewing beneath the surface.
These are not unique questions. These are the questions psychiatrists always used to ask before their jobs got reduced to fifteen-minute medication checks.
Time, listening, and presence are at the core of all healing modalities, but they do not earn revenue for our medical system. After gathering the pieces of your story, I attempt to weave the narrative of your life together with the latest research on the amazing neuroplasticity of the brain. We all have the capacity to rewire our brains to better focus, concentrate, and manage stress and emotions using tools you will learn in this book, like meditation, breathing, guided imagery, exercise, eating whole healthy foods, and getting outside in nature.
In my practice and in this book, I provide education about emotions and their intrinsic value in guiding you forward on your life path. I attempt to plant a seed that reframes your moods and emotions as normal messengers alerting you when life is out of balance, rather than pathologizing them as a threat to be feared and avoided.
I discuss the research showing the long-term physical and psychological consequences of the use of antidepressants, debunk the mythology of neurochemical imbalances, and educate you about a growing body of research, still largely ignored by the psychiatric community, that suggests that depression, and chronic disease, is often a result of inflammation. This inflammation is primarily caused by early childhood stressors and the accumulated unmanaged stress of daily life. If stress is a primary cause of what we call mental and physical illness, would it not make more sense and be far more empowering to learn how to manage stress ourselves rather than cover up its effects with medication?
Learning self-care skills empowers you for life and gets to the root of the problem, rather than making you dependent on a doctor and his or her prescription pad for your well-being. I hope to shift you out of a mind-set that you have been dealt a bad genetic card into the recognition that most mental and physical illness is more a matter of epigenetics—the interplay of your genes with the environment, which includes your beliefs, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, diet, and lifestyle—in other words, changeable factors. If this is true, as an ever-growing body of research indicates, then neither you nor I are passive players doomed to a lifetime of pills, but active participants in our own healing (or wounding). By collaborating in our healing process, we are removing the sense of powerlessness and helplessness that fuels anxiety and depression, and replacing it with a greater sense of control and self-efficacy, reducing the risk of mental illness.
In this book, I will share, with those I cannot see in my office, what I have unlearned, learned, and relearned about depression and how to treat it. In the first section, I will debunk the myth of the neurochemical imbalance and examine the effectiveness and risks of antidepressants. In the second section, I will present a more hopeful, holistic pathway for those seeking to avoid medication, or wondering if it is even possible to get off the medications you are already taking. Feel free to jump ahead to the second section if that serves you better. What I have discovered and compiled here are not new techniques but time-tested skills, tools, and lifestyle changes that healers have been using for thousands of years. In my studies, I have only rediscovered the simple truth that by balancing the breath, mind, body, environment, energy, and soul, people can not only get off and stay off medications but transform depression, heal, and thrive.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: This information is intended for general information purposes only. Individuals should always see their healthcare provider before administering any suggestions made in this book. Any application of the material set forth in this blog, newsletter, or book is at the reader’s discretion and is their sole responsibility.