Lost & Found: Anxiety, Depression & Mental Illness 

Here is my personal essay about mental illness. ellensue

Lost & Found: Anxiety, Depression & Mental Illness

I put my heart & soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

—Vincent Van Gogh

Remember that ad on TV about helping people of color get into college with the tag line: “The mind is a terrible thing to waste”?  Well, I have altered it slightly to read:

“The mind is a terrible thing to lose…” which I did at one point in my life, or at least misplace, after the birth of my second child. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage in 1962 on Christmas Day, my son was born in November of 1963, and my daughter was born April 20th, 1965, and I had moved at least twice because of my husband’s jobs, so I was exhausted!

I ended up with severe postpartum depression in the hospital and was treated with anti-depressants and therapy. My thoughts raced, but went nowhere. I felt like I was living in a void, and to be honest, I think I did lose my mind, or at least misplace it during those months of deep depression. Because depression seems to run in my family, with suicide on both my mother’s side and father’s side of the family, I believe that depression is a combination of  environment as well as inheritance.

If you’ve never lost your mind, or perhaps in my case, misplaced my mind, there is no way to describe the experience. I compare it to soldiers in a foxhole with bullets whizzing over their heads and coming home unable to speak about it or explain it. You had to be there.

Words to describe the anxiety and feelings when one is clinically depressed is almost impossible. Losing touch with my day-to-day reality put me in a limbo state that felt like Hell. It’s as though my mind was in a holding tank waiting for someone to unlock the door, when only you can do that. Meds do help as does talk therapy, but the road back is all uphill.

One of the reasons that I eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly is that I believe mental health and physical health are linked, so by being vigilant with my diet and exercise regimes, I feel I am helping to offset some of the negative DNA I inherited. There are also books and articles on the link between mind and body which I have read. I am also very sympathetic to hear about others experiencing depression, because I know it is not something you can “snap out of,” as people used to advise me. Of course, they never experienced severe depression, so their advice fell through the hole in the wall of my brain.

Finally, I read somewhere that depression is, first of all, an attempt to survive by depressing all the other functions to keep a person alive, that is, shutting down lesser functions to keep the body functioning. By misplacing/ losing my mind while I was exhausted from three pregnancies in less than two years, my body was able to survive.

Having my mind in the Lost and Found part of my brain for a few months may have been my body’s way of shutting down to save me. Eventually, I did get well and even had a third child, 14 years after my older daughter was born. I felt I was strong enough to survive post-partum and took the risk of another pregnancy and now have three grown beautiful children. I regained my equilibrium, but stay vigilant!

Books I found helpful:

Silencing the Self: Women and Depression by Dana Crowley Jack

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by (Author. William Styron)

Nutrition and Mental Illness: An Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body Chemistry by Carl C. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are By Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

 Dealing With Depression Naturally: The Drugless Approach to the Condition that Darkens Millions of Lives by Syd Baumel

A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan, M.D. with Kristin Loberg

 The Secret Strength of Depression by (Psychiatrist) Frederick F. Flack, M.D.

P.S.  I hope to post a short piece for Healthy Bytes on Exercise and Mental Health, which I promised some time ago. es

Mental Health: Book Review of A Mind of Your Own, Part One

I had planned on reviewing a new book entitled A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD. However, there is so much important information in the book that I will review only  Part 1 and do another posting of Part 2 in a few days, after I finish reading it.

I am reviewing this book for several reasons:

  1. May is Mental Health Month
  2. The book focuses on women and mental health
  3. My family has a history of depression and suicide
  4. The stigma of mental health illnesses needs to be eliminated

What I like most about this book is that the author, who studied to be a psychiatric doctor, has “crossed over” from mainstream (allopathic) medicine to holistic medicine, because she found the solution to her own depression through what she calls “lifestyle medicine” and is now helping other women do the same. She writes: “I see myself as an ambassador to a new way of experiencing health and well-being (p. 7).”

Having crossed over, she is almost vehement in her stance of opening up a conversation that radically challenges the mainstream theories and assumptions on depression. Basically, the Introduction illuminates the relationship between the health of your gut and mental health in the context of inflammation. This link between the gut and the brain is not so far-fetched as you may think. Many years ago, I read a book by Deepak Chopra, MD, an Ayurvedic doctor whose name is linked with holistic mental, physical and spiritual health. He stated that the body has a mind of its own.

As Brogan notes at the end of the Introduction, she has divided her book into two sections. Part 1 is called “The Truth About Depression,” which includes an overview of the latest research and how we can alter our “genetic destiny” and Part 2 is the actual program guide called “Natural Treatment for Whole-Body Wellness.”

In Chapter One (Decoding Depression) in Part 1 of the book, Dr. Kelly includes a statistic that I found hard to believe: “The fact that one in four women in the prime of their life is dispensed medicine for a mental health condition represents a national crisis.” (She has her first footnote for that statement. Her Bibliography/ Notes cover pages 296-326, so she has done her homework!)

On page 13 Brogan asks us to embrace the following new ideas: (Direct quote)

  • Prevention is possible.
  • Medication treatment comes at a steep cost.
  • Optimal health is not possible through medication.
  • Your health is under your control.
  • Working with lifestyle medicine—simple everyday habits that don’t entail drugs—is a safe and effective way to send the body a signal of safety.

Referring to her patients that she has guided through the medical maze to a holistic path of (mental) health, Dr. Brogan’s enthusiasm and passion for her work are contagious. Part One demonstrates this clearly. Chapter 1 is called Decoding Depression, Chapter 2 discusses the Serotonin Myth, while Chapter 3 explains The New Biology of Depression. Chapters 4 and 5 cover Psychiatric Pretenders and products that need new warning labels.

All the chapters are packed with notations to studies that demonstrate to me a need to re-evaluate everything we have been told about anti-depressants, over-the-counter meds like Tylenol, immunizations, fluoride, and all the information we have been fed by Big Pharm that has created a psychiatric tsunami of misinformation and drug side-effects, especially anxiety and depression in women.

 

Part 2 is called Natural Treatments for Whole Body Wellness, which I will review when I finish reading this section. But I looked ahead and saw that Dr. Brogan includes some recipes, so I am posting one today as a tease to stay tuned for Part 2.

The KB Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen organic cherries or other berries (I would use only organic berries. es)
8 ounces coconut water or filtered water
3 Tbl. collagen hydrolysate (As a protein base: see below*)
1 Tbl. sprouted nut butter or sunflower seed butter
3 large pasteurized egg yolks
1 Tbl. virgin coconut oil
1 to 2 Tbl. grass-fed ghee+
1 to 2 Tbl. raw cocoa powder
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. One serving.
* collagen hydrolysate is a protein food supplement high in the amino acids glycine, proline, and lycine. It comes as a dry powder.
+ Ghee is clarified butter used in Indian cooking, such as the Kitchari recipe I have posted several times. Here’s a link to one of the postings:

Actor and Activist Mayim Bialik Speaks up for Mental Health.

Mayim Bialik
website: http://www.mayimbialik.net/

The article is entitled “Big Brain Theory” By Gina Shaw about Mayim Bialik, who stars on the very popular TV show, The Big Bang Theory. Mayim is a proponent of removing the stigma of mental health. In real life and in her TV character Amy, she is a neuroscientist, earning her PhD in neuroscience from the University of California-Los Angeles in 2008.

In 2016, Bialik did a series of public service announcement in support of its #StigmaFree campaign. She partnered with NAMI, which stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental health is a personal issue for her since her family’s history includes depression, panic disorder, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). In her book, Girling Up, Mayim devotes a whole chapter to “major stressors, unusual events, what symptoms spell depression versus those that spell grief.”

I applaud this young mother, actor, and activist for speaking up and speaking out about mental illness, which many people still stigmatize. With my own family history of depression, I feel that Bialik has done a wonderful service for this misunderstood health issue. At the end of the article are three steps you can take to resist the mental health stigma:

  1. Educate yourself and others
  2. Strive to see the person first, not the condition
  3. Speak out and get involved.
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