I have a friend who suffers from depression. Not the kind that passes quickly. Not even the kind that responds to anti-depressants; he’s tried most. He has the kind that makes him want to cry almost daily. That makes him want to throw himself off a cliff (except he’s afraid of heights). That makes him hate life.
Most people don’t understand that kind of depression, unless they’ve been through it. I do, to a degree, because I too have suffered from depression. But thanks be to God that’s now safely in my past. I long to see the same kind of healing for others.
Meanwhile my friend, and millions of others with him, continue to suffer. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15 to 44 and in a given year, affects more than 16.1 million Americans, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older.
He’s in bad company.
When I went through the depression, many years ago, I thought there was no way out. The talk therapy I went through just seemed to make things worse. Indeed, according to the authors of The Body Keeps the Score, that can happen. Author Bessel van der Kolk said, “Of course, talking can be very helpful in acknowledging the reality about what’s happened and how it’s affected you, but talking about it doesn’t put it behind you because it doesn’t go deep enough into the survival brain.”
Van der Kolk’s research, as covered in his book, primarily had to do with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, but the solutions he wrote about work for other psychiatric disorders as well. What he found was in line with what other researchers have found: that our traumas are stored in our bodies, in all of our glands, organs, tissues and cells.
The late Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who worked at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University Medical Center described this in her book, Molecules of Emotion. She said that our bodies are our subconscious mind. And that “our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.”
If you could observe your body in any given emotional condition, you would find emotion manifested in three ways: your brain chemistry, your neurological design and the energetic signature in your body. When we feel angry, our brain chemistry matches the chemical balance for anger. It is the same for all the other emotions.
Not only are those energy charges stored in our physical body, as Pert described, but they also appear to be stored at an energetic level in places called alarm or meridian points. We all have emotions and memories such as failure, disappointments, suffering or loss hidden away or suppressed in our bodies, to be retrieved, reformed and released or ignored, and left to fester. Wounds that never heal.
In fact, your body actually has a very well ordered cataloging system for all of your emotions and memories. For example, anger will consistently be stored in the liver alarm point, grief in the lung point and so on.
If you have a lot of any one type of emotion, it could manifest as a physical problem like asthma or heart problems. Just as physical problems can lead to emotional traumas.
While the root causes of problems like depression can be complex, the solutions lie in the sorts of treatments that van der Kolk advocates. Since each of us is unique, each of us is likely to respond to a variety of methods, but the bottom line is this: There is hope for those who are suffering from depression, even those who wrestle with thoughts of suicide on an all too regular basis.
But like with any change, the person has to want it and work for it. And sometimes the change they desire won’t fully come; that is, they have to be content with the healing they get as they get it and live fully in all that they have in the moment, instead of always looking to be someone or somewhere else.
It’s difficult with anxiety and depression. When we’re locked in that state, we don’t believe anything can help. We want relief but we don’t want to hope. Sometimes we don’t even want to try. And sometimes our anxiety can cause physical problems that we are convinced are the root of our problems when what is often true, those physical problems are symptoms of our emotions.
Figuring out which is which and how to treat it is the trick.
Early in my journey toward healing I was given medications that made things worse. It made me want to give up. Then I discovered that focusing more on others, exercise, and a healthy diet offered much more benefit than the medications or talk therapy did.
I seemed to get along okay. I still suffered from stretches of depression, but I was able to cope, unlike my friend who deals with it daily. I thought that was as good as it got, until it was gone completely.
For me, the final piece of the puzzle was found in Splankna, a mind-body protocol that helps clients identify where the body is holding different emotions related to a root trauma and clear out those emotions so they no longer causes symptoms like anxiety or depression or phobias.
I went to see Sarah Thiessen, the founder of Splankna, for a fear of flying I harbored, not depression. At the time her website offered testimonial from someone for whom the fear was completely lifted. I wanted that relief. I got that and more. I also found a lifting of the burden of anxiety and depression that I didn’t realize was still within me (my coping mechanisms were that good).
I’m not saying that Splankna is the key to curing depression. I am saying that according to van der Kolk there are multiple ways deep wounding that causes depression, anxiety, PTSD and other problems can be addressed. For some it results in total healing. For others it is a lifting of the emotional burden at least in a part that is significant. For most a multi-faceted approach is needed. The trick is finding a practitioner who will walk that journey with you, and for you to stay on the path.
Those with emotional struggles, especially depression or anxiety, want quick relief. If it doesn’t work immediately they are quick to go on to try something else. But healing from these struggles is rarely quick. The good news is, however, a lifting of some of the struggle, at least in part, is possible for those who stick to a wellness course.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you love is stuck in deep depression to the point of feeling suicidal, get immediate help from a suicide hotline such as those found on the Happy Happy Vegan’s website here. Then, when you’re feeling more stable, explore the value of alternative therapies like Splankna or improved nutrition or exercise, or a combination of a variety of methods to help you find more long lasting relief.