Literally, over the past month I have seen more depression in my
practice and life than ever before. The winter has been extremely long
and all around me businesses and relationships are failing.
Depression is a real illness and a real tool of darkness, squeezing the light out of so many lives.There is a way out.
Dr Denton D. Weiss, M.D. is board certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Weiss' approach to his medical practice flows from his convictions about the meaning of life which are deeply rooted in his Catholic Faith. He and his wife, Michelle attempt to live an integrated approach to life which recognizes the unity of the body, mind and soul, and find great joy in helping others to do the same. They call this approach "Bella Vitae" or "Beautiful Living".
PORTSMOUTH, VA (Catholic Online) - Dear Dr Denton: I am depressed and don't know where to turn. I cannot seem to shake off these emotions since - " my dream business collapsed", "I have fallen out of love with my wife", "My daughter and grandson moved out and I worry about them all the time" . and the list goes on.
When I hear such cries of exasperation, I call to mind the words from the Anyway Prayer attributed to Mother Teresa - "What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway"
Literally, over the past month I have seen more depression in my practice and life than ever before. The winter has been extremely long and all around me businesses and relationships are failing.
Depression is a real illness and a real tool of darkness, squeezing the light out of so many lives. There is a way out.
All of us experience some form of sub-clinical depression throughout our lives. That depression can be related to the environment we are in, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a business, or simply our own focus on the negative vs. the positive factors in our lives. This form of depression can become clinical Depression, requiring medical management and significant counseling, if left unchecked.
If you're reading this article you are probably already somewhat circling subclinical depression or you would not be interested. Welcome to the human experience. You are normal! Here is a typical day of someone experiencing a form of depression:
The alarm rings and you just can't seem to wake up. Your first thoughts are ones of solitude and regret, worry, maybe even shame. You finally get up and going and you just don't care about what you are wearing but you have to! Why? Because of the demands of your job, your children, your spouse or you simply need to get out of your pajamas. Off to the day's events of breakfast for everyone else, but yourself. You're just not hungry. Simply coffee is what I need!
Now on to the day. Kids screaming, boss is not smiling, or the traffic is hell.
Lunch hits and you want something sweet and filling and a hit of caffeine.
Talk at lunch with a fellow employee or family member you know. You know the one you've been wanting to sneak a text to and complain about your life or just unload your life too. In reality you just want to be alone I think, or maybe I don't.. confused?
Midday you are starting to hit the 3pm I can't move moment. So you mentally check out until something shocks you into reality. (Pick up the kids, patient not happy with .., client wants to know why you didn't.., knock over that can of soda you were trying to hide.)
Home at last or you never left home because you called in sick from life. The house is a little cold, the little sunlight you saw is fading away, and everyone is a little frustrated by THEIR day.
You eat, they eat, we all eat, eat, eat, eat... Or if you're really depressed you don't eat at all. (Warning sign!) You have a shot of something with alcohol in it to give yourself a little escape.
Its bedtime and you're about to try to sleep. You tell yourself I can get some enjoyment out of this day. You think sex will bring me joy, but you just can't move in any direction that even resembles love of any kind even if its self love it's not fulfilling.
After laying in bed for an hour you finally fall asleep, or you completely collapse and fall asleep or lastly you go downstairs and have a bowel of frosted whatever cereal, ice cream, cookies and milk...
Now if you made it through my description of a day as experienced by someone in the grip of depression, and you recognized some familiar experiences, you really do need to read the rest of this article so we can help each other.
- Me, by writing this article to remind myself of the things that bring beauty and joy into the world.
- You, so I can give you the simple tools to find joy and begin to live an abundant life.
Take Time to Pray
First and foremost - Please read and reflect upon these verses from the Holy Scripture as we begin:
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly
Psalms 3:3 But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.
In order to find a way out of depression you have to make some new choices. First, how you begin your day. First thing in the morning, embracing a way, a tradition, that goes deeply into our Orthodox Jewish roots, and was continued on by our Church fathers, is a key. We can choose to accept a gift Jesus Christ gives to us every day, the invitation to Prayer and Praise.
However, we must respond to this invitation. Because we are created in the Image of God and have been given human freedom, the Lord awaits our response. . We must direct our freedom toward what is good and true and beautiful. By choosing what is good and what will make us genuinely happy, by choosing love. What we choose changes not only the world around us, but it changes us.
As we wake in the morning, we need to choose to begin with praises for the Lord our God like our Jewish fathers and Fathers of the Church did and still do. We join in their beautiful chorus.
In Jewish tradition prayer occurs three times a day. Morning Service (Shacharit) begins with the Preliminaries. Modeh Ani - The blessing recited upon arising.
Afternoon Service (Minchah) and the evening Service (Ma'ariv) are daily prayers that include a closing prayer Aleinu "It is our duty to praise.." Does this sound somewhat similar to our prayers?
In our Beautiful Catholic Tradition we have the gift of offering prayers throughout the day. The first step to leaving depression behind is by beginning your day with a simple prayer of thanks. If you wish to follow in prayer with the holy ones (that is what the word saint means) then begin with Lauds:
Lauds (Morning Prayer)
Terce (Mid-Morning Prayer)
Sext (Midday Prayer)
None (Afternoon Prayer)
Vespers (Evening Prayer)
Compline (Night Prayer)
Once you start the day with a routine, a pattern, a way of quiet simple prayer that is focused on the good and beautiful in your life - as simple as thanking God for the softness of your blanket upon your cheek - you begin the day in Grace. The word grace means gift. You open up to this deeper truth of life - all is gift. Then, you begin to understand what I mean by beautiful living.
The world will soon pause to recognize a Saint we had in our midst, a gift named Blessed John Paul II. I recall his words on beauty, Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God, which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: "Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!" (John Paul II)
Take Time to Move
Now let's get moving! Jim White a well known expert in the field of Nutrition and Exercise will be the first to tell you "Get Moving" Step out of bed and do 10 deep knee bends, or 10 sit-ups, or 10 push-ups, or just walk up and down those stairs 4 times.
In Oct of 2013 an article was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that looked at 30 different studies that evaluated exercise and depression. The Article was a review article by the University of Toronto which critically studied 6,363 citations and chose 30 to compare.
These 30 were chosen as citations because they used a prospective longitudinal design and looked at the relationship between exercise and depression over a minimum of two time intervals. 25 of these articles demonstrated that moderate exercise can prevent episodes of depression in the long term. Simply put walking 20 - 30 minutes per day = 2 hours week - can prevent depression!
Really. This comes as no surprise when you think about the outcome of this study. We have all had the experience of going for a walk and then feeling invigorated.
Take Time to Eat - Correctly
Now that we have looked at prayer and exercise, let us consider the practice of eating well. Yes, nutrition. What we eat truly changes us.
A preliminary study performed in Britain indicates that indeed diet and depression have some links. The researchers looked at 3000 middle-aged office workers over a 5 year period. The diet of these individuals was followed as well as their symptoms of depression.
Not surprisingly they found that the individuals who had a diet high in "Junk Food" were more likely to report symptoms of depression. What was the "Junk Food": A diet high in processed meats, fried foods, chocolates, and sweet desserts, fatty dairy and refined cereals.
I can already anticipate the response of some of my readers - Dang, there goes my Frosted Cereal! So Dr D Give us some good news!
Apples, carrots, and Salmon are good for you - and they taste good! They also help you to walk the in way of happiness by nourishing your body so you can nourish your soul and mind. We are integrated human persons, body,soul and spirit.
I know, for some of my readers, I may sound like a broken record, but really team, the research keeps supporting what we've been talking about on-line for years now. The study shows that individuals who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish were just not as likely to report depression.
This makes complete sense when you look at the research Barry Sears has performed looking at omega three fatty acids and brain food, as well as reports that a TRUE Mediterranean diet leads to lower rates of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases (Both of these diseases are clearly disorders of the brain/nervous system). The Zone Diet the Mediterranean diet and the South Beach Diet are all saying the same thing. Eat fruits, vegetables, and fish.
Now I am going to give you the Dr D Virginia Beach, Beautiful Living Diet!
In the morning take your blender, food processor, or if you're my wife Michelle and I, just pull out the old Nutri-bullet ( Little blender from Target). Put a hand full of frozen blueberries, cup of frozen mangoes, a scoop of almonds, and a cut up small apple and push the button. If you are really daring add a tablespoon or two of frozen spinach. BAZANG (I think that's a word?) breakfast in a smoothie style.
Not sweet enough? Then add 1/2 of a packet of stevea in the raw. In one week I promise you'll feel better. Get a late night yearning for those old frosted whatever have another Dr D Smoothie☺ All I want you to do for the next month is add this little idea to your nutrition. I promise you'll start feeling better.
What about supplements for depression? What about antidepressants?
First and foremost, know that mainstream medicine in America believes in antidepressants and therapy. And for full blown Clinical Depression this is extremely important. My goal is to try to prevent all of us from getting to that level.
There are number of supplements that have been presented as helping people with depression. They represent a broad group and their effects, like medications, can be variable. I will try to give you a better understanding of the most commonly used supplements and my opinion from a logical approach.
I think it is important to step back and look at what is truly going on in your life. If you have had a loss of a job, a loss of love, or a dramatic family change, then your cause of depression is somewhat clear. If your depression is paralyzing you and you don't have any reason for the depression then professional help is warranted. The physician may need to prescribe medicine and therapy as well as recommend some of the same lifestyle changes I am describing today.
Here is what I would describe as safe supplements for depression.
The B vitamin family is a group of water soluble vitamins that are extremely important for all individuals, even our youngest neighbors in the womb. We now know that birth defects of the central nervous system can occur secondary to a lack of folate B-9 during the early development. B-9 folate , B-12 cobalamin, and B-6 pyridoxine are most commonly researched B vitamins.
Folate is found in whole grains, beans and fruits and vegetables. B-6 is found in beans, fish, poultry, dark leafy greens, papayas and oranges. B-12 is naturally found in animal products such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. I would recommend a simple B-complex vitamin if your diet is less than adequate (Fast food 1 - 3 times per week) if you want to emphasize these vitamins I would not go beyond these daily amounts unless prescribed by a physician: Folate 1000 micrograms, B-12 1000 micrograms, B-6 50 milligrams. These are conservative but absolutely safe numbers.
Essential fatty acids are found in all cell membranes. They represent the building blocks of the brain tissue. Barry Sears has demonstrated the effects of omega fatty acids on brain and heart health. I recommend up to 4000 mg of commercial grade fish oil daily. Commercial cod liver oil will give you a boost of vitamin A and vitamin D as well as omega 3 fatty acids. As for omega three fatty acids look at the EPA vs. DHA types. Buy fish oil that has twice as much EPA vs. DHA. The research on the ideal ratio is still out but this is a good rule of thumb. PS remember no more than 400IUs of Vitamin E per day.
The following are some over the counter supplements that are much more controversial and should be taken only with caution or ideally a physician's guidance:
The building blocks for neurotransmitters are amino acids. Some professionals believe taking amino acids can lead to the increased production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increasing serotonin will have a potential mood elevating effect. 5-HTP is the most commonly taken amino acid supplement taken for depression. This should not be taken with prescription serotonin stimulating medications without a physician's guidance! Conservative doses are 50mg 2 times per day up to 100 mg 2 times.
Saint John's Wort like 5-HTP can affect prescription meds so please use this only under the guidance of a physician if you are taking other medications. The starting dose is 300 mg two times per day. Typically like 5-HTP it will take up to three weeks to see a change.
Sam-e is another amino acid that has been showing promise in depression therapy. Sam-e is similar to 5-HTP but is synthetically produced. The Sam-e has less risk of nausea and diarrhea than 5-HTP, but has the risk of driving bipolar patients into a manic state. Manic state is a phenomenon when the individual becomes hyperactive i.e. hypersexual - spending sprees, relatively no need for sleep, obsessively ruminating.
DHEA is a hormone found naturally in the body. It is a building block hormone that is converted into other hormones in the human body. DHEA can be taken as a therapy for postmenopausal women with symptoms of depression, hot flashes, etc. The dosing starts at 25mg per day and can go up to 200mg per day.
OK Dr D What's the bottom line - I am Depressed
1. Wake up every morning and Thank God for The Gifts of Your Life - Remember that hot shower you are about to take. If you are in Haiti there is a good chance you aren't even bathing in clean water. Pray Lauds
2. Throughout the day say little prayers. Don't be afraid to ask for Mary's intercession, she is our mother too, since Jesus gave her to John at the Cross. (John 19:25-29) Simply ask her to pray for you. Stay in a state of grace by praying throughout the day.Prayer is simply an ongoing conversation with God.
3. Perform an act of love, of kindness, to someone you love and someone you don't know. Hugs for your children, open the door for a stranger, or simply smile at a stranger as you walk down the street.
4. Exercise daily. I think simply walking 15 min per day in your work clothing is a great start. The more depressed you feel the more exercise you should fit into your day! EXERCISE, EVEN IN ITS SIMPLEST FORM, HAS BEEN SHOWN TO HELP WITH DEPRESSION.
5. Eat a diet high in fruits vegetables and fish. Your breads should be whole grain only. If you can't see some grains in the bread don't eat it. Remember start this week with adding a morning smoothie packed with frozen fruits, veggies, and some almonds.
6. Sleep 8 hours per day and try to be consistent on your bedtime. Your body's natural rhythms need your help to stay balanced. Sleep deprivation a symptom of depression is a downward spiral. So exercise to reach physical fatigue which will allow your body to relax and sleep. Walking in the evening will clear the mind, fatigue the body, and allow you to sleep 2 - 3 hour later.
7. Take fish oil and vitamin B supplements. 500 mg of ultra-refined fish oil and a single B complex vitamin is an easy starting point.
8. Pray Vespers and Thank God for the Beautiful day that you were just given. If I dwell on the difficulties in my life in an unproductive way and not, for example in my own life, on the joy of seeing a young women who was horribly scarred now married and carrying their new born child, I've missed the essence of life.
To Love when others hate. To give when others take. To see good in all people. To long for justice but give mercy. To make the world more beautiful by opening one door at a time.
As Mother Teresa said in her Anyway Poem - If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.
Be Blessed Not Depressed. Our God is a God of Love and He calls us to become like Him. That is the way of happiness. That is Beautiful living.
Dr Denton D. Weiss, M.D. is board certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Weiss' approach to his medical practice flows from his convictions about the meaning of life which are deeply rooted in his Catholic Faith. He and his wife, Michelle attempt to live an integrated approach to life which recognizes the unity of the body, mind and soul, and find great joy in helping others to do the same. They call this approach "Bella Vitae" or "Beautiful Living". They founded a nonprofit charitable foundation to promote beautiful living called Bella Vitae. He, and Michelle, are contributing writers to Catholic Online.
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