Depression is ugly. There’s no way around this fact. Depression is like driving to an amazing job interview and your car dies in the middle of nowhere. Say goodbye to the interview. You will be sticking around for a while.
Those of us with anxiety are well aware of our depressive episodes. Depression and anxiety come in the same package. The National Institute of Mental Health states on their website that, “Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompany depression.”
When a car breaks down, our immediate reaction is often a bit senseless. We may get angry at the car for busting down. We want to scream at it; to kick it; to take a sledgehammer and smash all its windows. Likewise, when someone we love becomes depressed and simply stops functioning, we often become overwhelmed and frustrated by their ineptitude; and rightly so. It is not easy having a car bust down and spoil longed for opportunities. However, smashing in the car, telling the car it is lazy, sending the car on guilt trips for busting down is not going to get anyone back on the road. Smashing up the car will only make matters worse. One must give the car a tune up. Maybe it needs some more gas.
The consequences of maltreatment, however, are obviously more severe for living things. Didier Lefevre traveled into the rough terrain in the bleakest parts of Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. He recorded his journey in captioned photographs and illustrations in a book called The Photographer. At one point, he comments on the treatment of caravan horses who accompany travelers through the rocky passes. “Caravan horses go through martyrdom” he says.
"They’re overloaded, yanked here and there, subjected to freezing cold, and wounded by stones. They collapse from exhaustion and get abandoned on the side of the road. The trails are littered with dead horses and donkeys." (46-47)
People who are suffering from depression often feel like these horses who have been driven to the point of exhaustion. They feel like they cannot take another step. Yet the travelers feel like they must drive the horses harder. Lefevre showed a sequence of pictures of a horse and explained,
"That horse is making long stops. He can’t take any more; His eyes seem to be saying, 'Enough.' The asshole Muj’, the one Regis and I don’t like, comes up to him, places his AK-47 on top of the horse’s head and fires a volley of shots forward between his ears. The poor horse whinnies and runs desperately for fifty yards before stopping again, panting. And the Muj’ starts again, and keeps at it all the way to the top." (63)
Most of us could agree that this is maltreatment of the horse. Obviously, the man needs the horse to carry his things. He needs the horse to keep going. But this is clearly not a good solution. When the horse finally dies of exhaustion, it will be of no help at all.
As someone who has been that horse before, here are some things that I feel are helpful for people who suffer from depression.
*Recognition of the Illness
When the horse can’t go any further the mindset toward the horse must change. A person with depression may be strong in spirit, like a horse, but simply unable to utilize their strength at the time. This is not laziness. They are sick. When someone comes down with physical ailments we allow them to be sick. We do not expect them to act like a healthy person. That would be harsh. The same is true for depression. To help them, you must recognize that they are sick and need special treatment and reprieve.
* Positive Energy
When you are depressed, you don’t want an AK-47 fired next to your ears. You want to laugh again. You want to enjoy life. You want to like yourself again. When you are surrounded by positivity and cheer it gives you strength to move again. Nobody wants to be forced to act happy. But whatever degree of positivity your loved one is able to accept, offer that to them. Sometimes, something like cleaning up an area of their home so they have one less thing to worry about can add positive energy and show that they are cared for.
Now that you have recognized that they are ill, realize that their hopelessness is faulty. Have hope. Share hope. Give any dosage of hope that they are ready to accept. Life is never as bad as a depressed person believes it is.
Depressed spirits often lack in confidence. This is ill founded. See past this. See their potential rather than their sickness. Share this vision rather than pointing out how awful they have become since they have gotten sick. That will just make them feel less able.
* Encouragement of Healthy Choices
No one wants the horse to stop at the side of the road and never trek again. Encouraging the regeneration of healthy habits without being overbearing is important. This is a tricky balance. Help your loved one to run again. But keep in mind that they are injured. Don’t make them run faster than they are able. Encourage them toward manageable efforts that may improve their condition. They need encouragement to realize they are capable of much more than staying in bed all day. Make the encouragement positive and manageable rather than negative and overwhelming.
* Seek Help
All of this can sound overwhelming when we have our own discouragement and problems. We don’t want to overwork our own selves. If it becomes too much, seek help from a professional-- for your loved one and for yourself if needed. Seek help from friends and family. Don’t try to cure their ailments alone.
* Take Care of Yourself
If you are happy, your loved one will benefit.
Life is a blessing. Everyone deserves to enjoy it. Let’s all try to lift each other.
Guibert, Emmanuel et. al. Trans. Siegel, Alexis. The Photographer. New York. First:2003.
"Like many people who have been given a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (and many who have not), I am always braced for the next recurrence. Anxiety, like the tide, is forever receding and returning, receding and returning. I have been experiencing this pattern for nearly 20 years now, so that my anxiety has come to seem, at times, inevitable and unassailable — a fait accompli. My anxiety, I’d concluded, is what I am. There is no escape."
Yesterday I talked about how great EMDR is. I explained how it works by essentially allowing you to change your old negative pathways of thinking and develop new, positive ones. This allows those old, negative pathways to heal over and eventually disappear. I tried to describe the feeling and experience of EMDR but in the interest of time I decided to make this a 2-part essay.
Going to an EMDR therapist you should probably be prepared to see and experience things differently than when you go to your regular therapist. While you are doing EMDR it is probably best to put your regular therapy on hold so you can focus solely on your work in this model. A lot of the time, you will only see your EMDR therapist for however many sessions it takes for you to reach your goals. This depends completely on the therapist you choose. Some only do the intense EMDR work and that is all they do. Others mix traditional therapy with EMDR and you may end up seeing them for longer. My main point here is, EMDR is intense, it's draining, it's real, actual work. Going to your traditional therapist while trying to do EMDR may be too much to handle and if it is, that's totally okay. If your therapist cannot or will not work with this, find out why first and foremost. Your therapist knows you, they may have very good, clinical reasons for their opinion. Hear them out and try to figure out what will work best for your specific treatment. If they try to talk you out of EMDR but you still feel strongly about it, then I would say you may either want to wait or visit an EMDR specialist in your area and see what they say. They will likely be completely happy to talk to your therapist and attempt to work out a treatment plan for you together with your therapist.
I should also explain that EMDR is different than a traditional therapy session. Your therapist will ask you questions and will most likely ask you to close your eyes and really visualize your answers. This is helpful in getting you to relax and feel open and ready. Your EMDR therapist will ask you to be aware of your thoughts and your body - how does it feel? Do you feel any particular sensation anywhere in the body and what do you feel or hear as a message when you pay attention to it? Your therapist will ask you to allow your mind to go wherever it needs to go, you may see memories in your minds eye of events you had totally forgotten about. You may experience sensations in your body - warmth, tingling, aching, tightening - pay attention to these sensations and make note of them and what they mean to you.
Your EMDR therapist also uses tools to help speed up your brains processing and building new pathways. These tools can be one or all of the following things - an approximately two foot long bar with small colored lights inside held up on a tripod or set on a desk or table - you will be asked to follow the lights with your eyes. Another possibility will be what I have experienced with both of my EMDR therapists. Small rounded paddles, approximately two inches around held in your hands that vibrate intermittently while you are searching through old memories. Or, your therapist may just ask you to follow his finger with your eyes and stand in front of you moving it back and forth while you focus on the movement with your eyes.
Remember - EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-processing. Studies have shown that moving your eyes or focusing your attention left-right, right-left, etc, directly effects the building of new neuro-pathways and brings symptom relief for PTSD, anxiety, and depression sufferers.
Through EMDR I learned the following pathway was alive and kicking in my brain. I began focusing on the sensation of anxiety in my chest, my therapist had me hold the paddles and close my eyes. I let my brain bounce around, go wherever it needed to, and after a minute or so I saw my teenage self sitting on the porch of my boyfriend's house when I was about 17. I recognized this as a memory of my smoking pot and completely freaking out. I was not the pot-head type but the boyfriend was so I had gone for it. Only to find out, it made me want to die (I believe this may have been a panic attack brought on by the paranoia I got from smoking pot. Awesome.)
My brain then bounced to several other long forgotten incidents of my throwing up or panicking or freaking out. Eventually my brain bounced its way to a memory I had completely forgotten. It explained why I hated Boston and didn't want to go there ever. Apparently, in college I had gone to Boston with some friends and at some point, the T (metro) broke down. Underground. And it was really dark and really freaky for about 15-20 minutes. Surrounded by strangers, clinging to my friends and amazingly, not freaking out during the period of darkness, probably because I knew instinctively it wouldn't do any good.
Basically, my brain had built a pathway with all sorts of delightful stops along the way, that I had largely forgotten. And somehow along the line they became tangled and the messages I received from these long forgotten experiences were "You ruin everything. You kill the fun. You suck. You can't do anything right so you should just stay home. Boston hates you, it's out to get you. You ruin everything. You ruin everything. It is all your fault."
Um...well if that's not a Panic Attack Cocktail I don't know what is! And there were loads of these pathways in my brain created by many other incidents and traumas that had stuck with me. Never processed or resolved, just...basically squatted in my brain rent free for years. Years. Many of them. Seeing these memories allowed me to take the power out of them.
The best part of EMDR is using a memory of a time when things were amazing or wonderful. This is the heart of the experience - you will use this memory to flood your brain with delightful, delicious endorphins and dopamine! Yum! When you end your session you will likely end it on this memory. You will use this memory like a mouthwash to rinse the icky off the session and replace it with minty freshness.
|Find your truth and own it baby!|
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