Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fighting depression without the stress

There are days when I just don't seem to have brain function, when thinking beyond eat, knit, sleep becomes an overwhelming task.  I blame it on the fibromyalgia and brain fog that goes with it, but I suspect it is more the clinical depression.  I can't take anti-depressants because the pain meds I'm on can interact fatally with them and if I had to choose between treating pain or treating depression, pain wins.  I lived for 10 years with this pain because the doctors would pat my head and tell me that it's not so bad and just take a tylenol.  I was ruining my liver because 3 extra strength tylenol barely put a dent in the pain.  But it wasn't so bad, right?

I do okay for the most part with the depression but there are days (weeks?) when I'm just down and I can't function at a level that makes me feel normal.  Fortunately I've had fewer and fewer periods of depression in the past year, especially after leaving Christianity behind.  It's not that Christianity was causing my depression but it didn't help when you are in a system where you are apparently to blame for overwhelming feelings of despair.  Despair being a sin and all. 

When I was a fundie, depression was looked upon as not trusting God so taking meds for it was considered a crutch.  One youth pastor told a high school girl she was using a crutch by taking her anti-depressants.  I learned about it after the fact, but since she wasn't a member of our church, but simply part of the mid-week youth group, I hope her parents yanked her out of there quickly.

My son has Tourette Syndrome and OCD and a host of the sidecars that go with all of that.  He was taking haldol for his tics, which were so strong they were painful to him.  His eye-blinking without his meds would prevent him from being able to read or watch tv because of the constant blinking.  This youth pastor told him he was using the meds as a crutch.  I still shudder when I think of all the damage done to my son by these people who were supposed to be the light of Christ to the world. 

I try to use more natural methods for dealing with the depression but it's not always easy.  Getting outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, exercise, eating better...those help but when you're on the bottom of a depression cycle, forcing yourself to do those things is like trying to shovel water out of the ocean.  Generally I just ride it out and it passes more quickly than if I try to fight it.  There are cautions about riding it out, though.  You have to tell someone you're in a cycle so they can sort of keep an eye on you and make sure you don't decide to stay on the train.  That requires someone who's not intrusive or nagging but can gently nudge you to get off at the next stop.

And of course, during these times I'm not terribly spiritual.  I used to try to force it because relying on Christ was paramount to overcoming anything and being depressed was a sign of your failure to do that so I tended to try to hide it from my fellow church members.  These days I just wait, knowing the God/Goddesses are there waiting on the other end of this.  That helps more than me trying to force rituals I don't feel.  In fact, I think it helps shorten the cycle because I do love the rituals and eagerly look forward to them when I'm not in a cycle. 

I'm not saying Paganism is curing my depression, but it is much kinder to people suffering from it.  The pressure is off to perform (being a solitary and all) and I don't have to justify anything to anyone.

Still, it sucks when you're down and your brain is mush and you can't formulate arguments or reason your way out of a paper bag.  Although there are those who believe I can't do that when I'm not depressed.

In the meantime I just muddle through and do what I can while waiting it out.  At least I'm free these days from the extra burden of trying to make this a spiritual issue and measuring the strength of my faith by how well I pull myself out of this.  Indeed, it's much easier to climb out when you wait for the stairs to show themselves rather than trying to climb up without them.

It just doesn't get much better than this.


  1. I know some say the herbal supplement St. John's Wort can help with depression, but it can interact with other drugs too so a doctor should be consulted before taking it.

    I hope your depression eases and lifts soon. Bright blessings to you!

  2. I hear you about the depression. It's truly debilitating. And sometimes, even when it lifts, I can go for a week or two before my brain function fully returns back to normal.

    I've learned (for me) to treat it like a forced break. I don't go online as much, I don't read the msg boards, I don't do a lot of blog trolling. It's time to go deep and inward. I allow myself that time, for however long it takes and I find that not fighting it (and certainly not attaching any supposed lack in my spirituality) helps it move along at a less glacial pace.

    Since walking away from fundie-ville (and honestly, traditional xianity) my depression has lessened very much. I'm on 1/4 the dose of meds I used to be and I'm thinking that by year's end, I may be off entirely. And I haven't taken an anti-anxiety med in over two years. I think it's totally related.

  3. Debra, St. John's Wort has the same thing in it that causes a fatal interaction with tramadol so I can't take it either. Thanks so much for the blessings. I think they help as much as any medicine would.

    I'm glad you're able to decrease your dosage, Tana. I had to go off mine during chemo because the particular meds I was on could cause abrupt liver failure. And it had taken me 2 years to find an anti-depressant that worked and didn't make me feel like a zombie. It has been liberating to free myself from the spiritual overtones of every freakin' thing I do, including depression.

    But yeah...I do tend to withdraw when I'm in a down cycle. It's just what I have to do to get through it.

    Unfortunately, being an invisible condition, most people think I'm just lazy or babying myself too much. Nothing I can do about them but I'm learning to let that go, too, and not let them upset me anymore.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your depression. I've had bouts of depression on and off since I was a teenager. I can't say I know how you feel, because only you know how you feel. But I can say that I wish you healing and peace.

    Have you read Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George? My last bout of severe depression I read this book and it changed my life.

  5. I suspect I've had this most of my life. In high school, in the late 60s to early 70s, no one ever talked about depression and especially not in children. But it would explain some of the things I was going through, the problems I had relating to people and them to me.

    Thanks for the wishes for healing and peace. It really does make a difference to hear that rather than how I should just work through this and trust in God. A huge difference.

    I haven't read that book but I will look for it. It sounds really good.

  6. ... i think I might look for that mysteries of the dark moon book...

    It won't cure your depression, but sunflower seeds contain something (i forget what) that helps to combat it - I always make my friend batches of sunflower seed flapjacks when she's going through the mill.
    Nellie x

  7. I'll look into that, Nellie. I use sunflowers instead of nuts when I bake. Thanks.

  8. I suffered from depression as a child. After rounds of medicines only made me sick- or worse- I found an herbal remedy that I credit with launching me onto the path toward a free spirituality. Herbalism was my gateway to this world. I started drinking lemon balm and rosehip tea. I don't know if you're still dealing with this, as this post is over a year old, but I'd be interested in hearing how this part of your tale plays out. I shall read on! I love being off work for a few days so I can do this :)

  9. I still suffer from depression but I've found some activities that help. Aromatherapy seems to help the most. My problem is that even herbal treatments conflict with my pain meds and after trying to go without them for a week, I won't try that anytime soon.