Monday, December 8, 2014

3 Tips for Overcoming Obstacles

overcome, faith, struggles, depression, suicide, holiday, cutting, self harm, life, purposeIf you're anything like me, you've spent most of your life climbing uphill. There have been many major obstacles in my life - some that have been placed on my plate and some that I have dished out myself. Fighting depression since the age of eight has been one of the greatest obstacles to overcome because of the debilitating disease itself and all of the additional conditions and consequences that it causes. I have heard people say things like "just shake it off" (long before Taylor Swift) or "you'll get over it." Not only do platitudes fail to comfort they also fail to offer any real direction or help. Not being new to this game, I know for a fact that not everyone wants help. I have been in a position many times where it didn't matter what anyone said or did, I just wanted to wallow in my pit and enjoy the familiarity of loneliness and depression. Sometimes, I didn't know an escape from the pit existed. However, there are many, possibly you, that are tired of living in the pit and want to make changes. That's great! I can assure you that it is possible. God has taught me so much over the years about overcoming obstacles like depression. I can assure you that it's not easy. You don't just "get over it." It takes work, faith and perseverance. I don't know what your next goal is or what obstacle you need to overcome but I would like to share these tips to help you overcome.
This morning I decided to overcome an obstacle. Over the last two years I have become drastically out of shape. My job involves sitting at a desk all day, every day, eating donuts and drinking coffee and my efforts to exercise in the evenings and on weekends have been less than inspirational. So today I got up, got dressed and drove to a boxing fitness center. With Eye of the Tiger playing in my mind and jump rope in hand, I charged into the workout like a champ. Six minutes and three routines later I was sitting on a box gasping for breath trying not to throw up. My obstacle hit me like a brick wall. Will I give up or overcome? Well, having faced a lifetime of obstacles, I've learned a few lessons that apply to this situation. Really, my only two choices are to stay in the condition I am, which I'm not satisfied with, or keep moving forward. I'm going to press on. Let me encourage you to persevere in your trek to climb that mountain. You can, and will, make it. Hopefully, you can benefit from my experience and apply it to your situation. Here are some tips for overcoming obstacles:

1) Don't wait to get started
Procrastination kills motivation. If you have an obstacle before you, start moving now to conquer it. You may fear that you're not ready and you might make a mistake. Probably. Mistakes help us learn. I wasn't ready to jump in to a full workout when I went to the fitness center, but my experience gave me an honest evaluation of what I need to work on - cardio. Now I know which direction to go. My efforts to combat depression took years because I wanted to be stable or "feel better" before working on other issues. Now, I can look back and be thankful for how far I've come. What move are you going to make now to overcome that obstacle?

2) If you get knocked down, get up and try again
This is an old saying, but vital to your progress. Never, ever give up. One of my favorite bible verses says, "No weapon formed against me shall prosper." I find it inspirational for two reasons: what it says, and what it doesn't say. It says that no matter what attacks me, the end has already been determined and those weapons lose. What it doesn't say is just as important. It doesn't say that the weapons can't harm me or do any damage. They can and will. But they can't defeat me. Depression has certainly damaged me over the years, but I'm still alive and enjoying the blessings in my life. Do you have scars? Then you are a survivor. Keep going.

3) Acknowledge every forward step
You will be alive until you die, no? Sounds silly, but there is a great truth here. Are you going to live a life of death or a life of living? The journey of life is yours to take. So what if your goal was 100 steps and you only made 82? That's progress, that's accomplishment, that's perseverance. Remember, it's not over until it's over and every positive move you make is, in itself, overcoming the obstacle. What is the last success you can name, no matter how small? You can do this, one step at a time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

3 Tips for Diminishing Depression During Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, family, prayer, blessing, depression, suicide, God, holiday, therapy
The first of two big holidays is upon us. In a few weeks, we will be celebrating with our family and friends. Traditions throughout the United States, including some things integrated from other lands and cultures, can be special times. The two most common Thanksgiving traditions are getting together with family and FOOD! Lots of yummy food - turkey, ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie... now I'm hungry!
Even with all the great food, the most meaningful part of Thanksgiving is the time spent with family. Perhaps that means a small group of immediate family members or a gathering that includes aunts & uncles, grandparents, cousins or in-laws that you don't get to see on a daily basis. No matter the size of your family, there is warmth, joy and love.
Or is there?
What if everyone else is happy but you feel hollow on the inside? For you this gathering doesn't bring back happy memories from childhood, it serves only as a reminder of pain and heartache. Or maybe you have no family at all with which to celebrate. There are many single people away from their home, widowers or people isolated for other reasons. This holiday may be a reminder of your loneliness rather than anything joyous in life. Many people share your struggle. I have felt that pain many, many times throughout my life. It is crushing, deflating, dehumanizing and can open up a well of sorrow within your heart. Here are a few tricks that have proved extremely effective in my life during holiday depressions.

1) Be Thankful: Imagine that, being thankful at Thanksgiving. Oh, the audacity! Seriously though, if your heart is heavy from the things you don't have, or don't feel you have, count your blessings. They may be few but focus on them. Every single one of them. Write them down. Find things to be thankful for - the last good book you read, chocolate ice cream, your dog, good memories of times spent with your best friend, your creative nature, rain that makes the flowers grow next spring, the color green; anything and everything.

2) Plan Ahead: If you know your Thanksgiving situation is going to be less than ideal, make survival plans now. Is going to your family get together a painful duty? Try something new this year. How about dropping in to say hello and I love you, then heading out to do your own thing. Make plans with friends or schedule activities for yourself such as renting funny movies or working on a hobby.

3) Serve Others: Did you know that there are numerous churches and charitable organizations that feed the poor and homeless people on Thanksgiving?  You can volunteer to cook, serve, clean up or even deliver meals. Plus, you can spend time talking to people, asking about how their life is going. It will be a joy for them just to be treated like a normal human being and you might make a new friend!

If you are feeling especially lonely or low this season, please reach out to someone. People care about you, even if it's not the ones that are supposed to. I care. I will be praying for you this Thanksgiving.
If you have any other suggestions for diminishing depression during the holidays, please share in the comments below.
God bless

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear Anxiety

anxiety, stress, depression, courage, endurance, perseverence, therapy
I don’t know why, but it seems like the less depression I have, the more anxiety tries to creep in. It’s like they are trying to do a tag team against me. Depression has wrestled me down but couldn’t pin me into submission. Now that I have gotten the upper hand on him he has decided to tag his partner, anxiety, and let him have a go at it. 

Anxiety is like a pilot light in the furnace of my heart. Always there, deep down, staying lit, waiting for a chance to flame up. Heartburn of the soul. I decided to write anxiety a little letter to let it know that I am not happy about these visits and I plan to fight, not just lay down and surrender.

Dear Anxiety,
    Thank you for stopping by this morning. Although not totally unexpected, your presence was somewhat of a surprise. It’s strange because now that your cousin has been vacated, you think that you are encouraged to take his place. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you are not. Just as he has been defeated, you will be also. I am thankful for your annoying presence because you will make me stronger. You will provide ample opportunity to turn to God, to let Jesus be my strength and my hope. He is the light of the world and the light of my life. He is my life. Much to your dismay, I’m sure, your attempts to conquer me and tear me down will only result in a more fine-tuned, refined instrument in God’s hands. For that, I say bravo, little anxiety, bravo.
    Oh, I realize that there will be fights between us. You’ll sneak in a jab here & there. That’s right, I know what your plans are. I would rather not be bothered by your petty attempts but I will take the challenge with one little nugget of truth in mind - in the end, I win. God has already proclaimed it. Jesus has the victory in hand (both hands actually) and he has me in his hands. Your pathetic disruptions are nothing more than last-ditch efforts, flailing failures to be discarded at the edge of eternity. I hope you enjoy your brief moments of success. They will be your last. My gloves are laced up, my footwork is better than ever, my strength comes from HIM and his punches have power like dynamite. Step into the ring sucker. Let’s go - fight’s on!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

5 Things to Ask Your Friend with Depression

depression, compassion, friends, suicide
How do you talk about depression and suicidal thoughts with your friend or loved one? It's a tender subject to discuss. You're afraid of their reaction. Maybe, you think, talking about suicide will put the idea into their mind. Maybe they will get upset or resent you asking questions. These are genuine concerns but a person's life and possible death are too important for us to avoid talking about this serious subject.
Below are 5 questions or conversation starters that can help open the door to your loved one's emotional state of thinking. Once you get the conversation started, keep asking questions. Don't offer advice or platitudes. Listen and commit to following up on a regular basis.

1. How's life treating you? Why?

2. I've heard that everyone with depression thinks about suicide sometimes. Do you think that's true? How about you?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your depression recently? Is it improving or getting worse?

4.What's the best thing going on in your life right now? What's the worst thing?

5. How do you see your life in one year? What will you be doing?

Remember, there are several reasons a person may not immediately tell you about their depression - embarrassment, lack of trust or fear. Be lovingly persistent. Consistency shows you care.
If, during your discussion, your friend or loved one relates to you a serious desire to end their life, please go with them to get immediate help. Pick up the phone and call their doctor or 9-1-1 if necessary. Walk with them through the process of getting help. It's a scary road to walk alone. Be the friend that will make a difference in their life. God bless.

What are some questions or conversation starters that have helped you?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hurt People Hurt People. But Hurt People Also Heal People.

hug, compassion, love, health, hope, God, kindness, life, heal
Hurt people hurt people. Yes, it's true that people in pain or people that have been hurt have a tendency to lash out at others and direct their pain toward others. Subconsciously a scarred heart treats others in a harsh manner in an attempt to self-heal. The hurt person may be sharing their burden with another with the expectation that the person will help them by carrying the burden with them. They may be lashing out in a knee-jerk reaction in order to hurt a person just like they have been. The hurt person may also attempt to bring others down so that they can save themselves (like someone drowning). I have many emotional scars from years of living with an unloving father, from the death of my mother and from the various consequences of my own actions that have hurt myself and others. Since I have fallen in love with and married my wife I have noticed that she often has to deal with pain and hurt in my heart that she did not create. And vice versa - some of the issues haunting her stem from her past, yet I have to endure them. We love each other to the moon and back, but we are two hurt people that sometimes hurt each other.
     But is that all? Hurt people also help people. They care for and nurture people. They heal people. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. What's the most common way to understand another person's feelings? Experience the same thing, or at least a similar level of pain during a similar circumstance. My mother died when I was eight years old and I bet that if your mother died when you were young you can empathize with the part of my heart that remains scarred from that loss and the subsequent relational void in my life. When we share a similar experience, we have a bond. We have an understanding of each others hurts along with the fears and insecurities that develop because of that hurt. Many people have started charities or ministries that reach out to a specific group of people because they themselves have experienced similar circumstances. Nancy Goodman Brinker started the Susan G. Komen Foundation because her sister died from breast cancer. The Ronald McDonald House was started, in part, by Fred Hill, whose daughter had leukemia. I know several bloggers and authors who use their platform to reach out to people suffering with the very disease or condition that they have experienced. I began reaching out to others that suffer with depression because I can relate and I want to encourage them and help educate their friends and loved ones about depression.
     People who have experienced hurt can use their super power of empathy to help others. That may be occur in the form of listening without offering platitudes. You may sense when a person needs additional help before they realize it. You might be able to help someone survive when they no longer have strength left to fight. The hurt within will grant you the uncanny ability to see past scar-filled reactions and offer compassion and forgiveness. That's the one that I need most of the time. I am thankful for my wife for innumerable reasons, but one of the reasons is that she is hurt, like me, and she uses the experiences from her past to help others. She cares for and nurtures people in dire circumstances. My wife heals people. People - meaning me. What can you do with your hurt? Hurt others or help them - the choice is yours.
God bless!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Most Beautiful People...

butterflies, compassion, courage, depression, endure, God, hope, kindness, life, love
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tonic or Toxin: Side Effects of Antidepressants

medicine, pills, drugs, antidepressants, depression, healthy, suicide, therapy
As my wife and I watch tv, we occasionally see a commercial for the latest and greatest pharmaceutical. We inevitably end up laughing at the dozens of side effects listed for a drug meant to treat one condition. You may have a drug for the treatment of a skin rash that has side effects like blood clots, seizures, sexual dysfunction, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, blindness and maybe death! As scientists attempt to alter one chemical in the body, they wind up affecting other physiological systems and natural functions. This is also true for psychotropic (psychoactive or psycho-pharmaceutical) drugs. After 25+ years of SSRI prescriptions, current studies are showing both the immediate and long-term side effects of these substances, much to the dismay of pharmaceutical companies, doctors and patients.
Why would companies continue to produce medication that is considerably ineffective and potentially harmful to their customers? According to IMS Health, sales of antidepressants in the United States alone surpassed $11 billion in 2010. That sounds like a lot of reasons to sell such products. The responsibility for the surge in sales lies with all involved - the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors and us, the consumers. Making an informed decision needs to be one of our top goals before taking any pill, especially one that is going to alter your mind. Even if a doctor recommends medication, take the time to learn about what it may, or may not, do to your mind and body. Discuss your findings with your physician and also discuss a time frame for cessation of treatment. Even if you need the medication to address an immediate need, especially a mild condition, that doesn't mean you should become dependent on it for the rest of your life.
Not only can the side effects from antidepressants be dangerous, but the effectiveness of the drugs tends to have declining results over time. Longitudinal (long-term) follow-up studies show very poor outcomes for people treated for depression in both hospital and outpatient settings, and the overall prevalence of depression is rising despite increased use of antidepressants (Moncrieff & Kirsch 2006).

Here are some of the most common side effects of antidepressants:
  • amotivational syndrome - a psychological condition associated with diminished inspiration to participate in social situations and activities, with episodes of apathy (also stated as a general syndrome of indifference)
  • heart problems
  • hostility/aggression/violence
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations/delusional thinking
  • depression
  • sexual dysfunction
  • birth defects
  • suicide/risk/attempts -  this is a warning to be taken seriously for adults and children taking SSRI's
  • additional medication necessary - often, doctors will prescribe more drugs to treat the side effects associated with antidepressants which can add additional problems
This is not an exhaustive list nor does it address the various conditions associated with the prescription of antidepressants. The main goal of this piece is to raise awareness of the seriousness of side effects from psychotropic medications and to encourage consumers to be more proactive and in control of their health care.
Follow the links below for additional reading on this subject.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Which Came First - the Depression or the Insomnia?

insomnia, sleep, depression, healthy, therapy, disorder
The age-old question: Which came first - the depression or the egg? Or the chicken? No, wait - the insomnia! Do you find that you can't sleep normally at night because of depression? One thing is for sure - depression adversely effects sleep. But does one cause the other? Up until recently, no one would deny that depression causes irregular sleep habits. That is still true but recent studies have shown the opposite to be true as well. Insomnia, specifically, can lead to depression.

     Of all the symptoms associated with depression, insomnia has been a commonplace cohort. Insomnia, the inability to go to sleep or stay asleep long enough for at least 3-4 weeks, produces fatigue (big surprise, right?), irritability, memory problems, reduced concentration, weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and lowers the immunity system. The majority of physicians have echoed the sentiment that it would be cured as the depression was successfully treated (Carey, 2013). But, is it a one-way street? It's more likely that they play off of each other. Along with the traditional effects, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well (
     Historically, this relationship was thought to be clear - depression causes sleep disorders. Therefore, the consensus was treat the cause, cure the symptom. That idea has begun to shift. Rachel Manber, a professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Stanford, declares, “but we now know that’s not the case. The relationship is bidirectional — that insomnia can precede the depression.” (Carey, 2013) One poll, focusing on adolescents aged 11 to 17, found that of those reporting unhappy moods, 73% were not sleeping enough at night ( Psych Central reports that two recent studies verify the link between sleep duration and depression (Wood, 2014). One, measuring sleep duration among twins, reported double the rate of depressive symptoms for those that slept 5 hours a night compared to those that slept 7-9 hours per night.
     Based on these findings, some changes in treatment and prevention should be considered. Some scientists claim that curing insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery. How do you treat insomnia? Adding more prescriptions doesn't seem to be the answer. SSRIs, which often help improve mood, can cause or worsen insomnia. Positive results have been seen by using talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy instead of drugs. "Optimizing sleep may be one way to maximize the effectiveness of treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy,” said Dr. Watson (Wood, 2014).
     The first step to getting help in this area is to keep a sleep diary for at least two weeks straight. Each day record how many hours you slept along with your mood the next day. You can take this to your doctor or therapist for help with treatment. Recommendations to treat insomnia can include:
  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Get into bright light soon after waking in the morning
  • Get some form of exercise every day
  • Avoid afternoon naps if you have nighttime insomnia
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol, especially before bed time
  • Avoid eating, reading or watching TV in bed
If you suffer from insomnia along with depression, be sure to discuss these recent studies with your doctor. As you begin to implement the strategies listed above, keep journaling your daily mood, noting changes in well-being as well as sleep quality. Over time, you should begin to see the positive changes you desire with sleep problems becoming the exception, not the norm. Nighty-night!

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. Psalm 4:8

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

This Is Your Brain on Food: The Link Between Eating Well and Mental Health

brain, diet, healthy, food, holistic, mental health, depression
One of the things I enjoy most about the current mental health awareness movement is the all-around (holistic) approach to health and wellness. There is a growing focus on healthy eating, exercise, emotional health and spiritual health. All of these are tied together and affect one another. An article I read yesterday discusses the link between healthy eating and mental health. Studies increasingly show the strong correlation between the two. What we eat doesn't just affect the weight on our scales, it affects the weight on our minds.
Please forward the article to anyone you know that would be encouraged today!
God bless!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Time to Turn North

north, turn, mountain, courage, depression, God, Deuteronomy, life, endure, strategy
How long have you been dealing with depression? Have you reached a point in your life where you are tired of struggling and ready to do what it takes to get better? Maybe that is reaching out for help or accepting the help that is available to you. Maybe that is making the necessary changes in your life that only you can make. I don't know what that looks like for you, but God does. I have struggled for years, always accepting the "fact" that I would always be depressed and there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, I reached a point in my life where I was tired of circling that mountain. There are still battles to fight, but the fight is well worth it. Is God saying this to you? Is He saying you have circled that mountain long enough? If so, it's time to turn north.

Monday, March 17, 2014

10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally

exercise, healthy, outdoors, family, depression, diet, life, walking, bicycling, holistic, natural

Passing along some helpful tips from an article by Andrea at Frugally Sustainable.

10 Tips for Dealing with Depression Naturally:
Instead of pharaceutical drug therapy, perhaps it would be beneficial to begin looking toward natural remedies for depression.
  1. Prevention is key. If you know your depressive triggers, do all that you can to avoid them. Reduce anxiety, maintain a healthy diet, and participate in an exercise program, all easier said than done I know, yet they are the most effective preventative measures. 
  2. Exercise. If you aren’t exercising on a regular basis I highly recommend it. There are so many different forms of exercise (i.e. yoga, aerobics, weight lifting, running, etc.) Begin slowly building up to at least ½ hour a day – it can be even more beneficial for treating/preventing depression if you can do it outside — this alone will help the blood start flowing to all parts of your body and you’ll begin to feel better almost instantly. The most important element to any exercise program is to find one that is the most suitable for you. 
  3. Diet. Your diet should be high in calcium and B vitamins, cut out the refined carbs, and avoid sugar like the plague. Coincidence that the rate of refined carbohydrates and sugar in our American diet is increasing at an alarming rate and so is the rate of depression? I don’t think so. Eat local, fresh, and sustainable, and use supplements when necessary. 
  4. Herbal supplements. Herbs contain many medicinal powers and can heal a variety of ailments. St. John’s wort is one of the most promising herbs for the treatment of depression. It has been used for centuries by people and cultures all over the world. A few of the other beneficial herbs include passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, Valerian, oat leafy tops, and nettles. Begin researching the benefits of herbs on depression and anxiety while you seek out the council of a certified herbalist, naturopath, or other holistic health care practitioner.  
  5. Get enough sleep. Once in a depressed state, one of two things can happen…you sleep to much or you can’t sleep at all. An excellent way to ward off sleep irregularities is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it every single day. Take a soothing bath (using Epsom salts), drink an herbal tea to help naturally induce restful sleep, reduce stimulants…do whatever works into your lifestyle, but guard your sleep!
  6. Pay nature a visit. Prioritize your time in nature by spending at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. It is essential for us to connect with nature, especially during times of depression. Chop wood, mess around in the garden, walk the dog, take a hike, ride a bike, go canoeing, go skiing…whatever you choose to do, do it outside for at least ½ hour — longer if you can. The exposure to sunlight alone can do wonders.
  7. Use your hands to create something. Revive your God-given gifts — ’cause we all got ‘em — and use them to make something beautiful. I have discovered that the times in which I’ve been the most depressed I have not listened to a longing deep inside of myself…you know, the one that calls me to do something outside of myself. Whether it be making your home, cooking meals for your family, working on your car, leaning to crochet, baking, writing, taking pictures, painting  pictures…stop resisting, follow your heart, and do what you love.
  8. Do something for someone else. When depressed, our thoughts tend to turn inward. We often begin re-living our hurts and sometimes helping other people who are hurting, helps us. It’s theraputic to be able to find meaning in doing good.
  9. Talk it out intellectually. Depression is not the cause of hopelessness and extreme sadness — it is a symptom. If there is a specific problem you are having that is causing these feeling…hit it head on. Research solutions, meet with a therapist or counselor, set goals, and come up with a plan. Do not allow your problems to go unanswered. Hope can be found in moving, step by step toward addressing our issues. 
  10. Call a friend. It could be that we are afraid of becoming a burden to those that love us, but we must remember we are relational beings — specially designed to live in community with others. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and call a friend!
Copyright © 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Long-term Effects of Antidepressants (SSRI's)

The Downsides of Prozac
Prozac, antidepressants, drugs, medicine, depression, suicide, healthy, therapy, SSRI

 by Craig Lambert

Harvard Magazine  

Like many others, Elizabeth Wurtzel ’89 and Lauren Slater, Ed. M. ’89—the authors, respectively, of Prozac Nation (1994) and Prozac Diary (1998)—suffered “Prozac poop-out”: the drug’s mood-altering effects wore off and depression returned. In fact, according to a 1995 study by associate professor of psychiatry Maurizio Fava, Prozac wears off within a year for about one-third of those who take it. “This is tolerance,” says clinical instructor in psychiatry and University Health Services physician Joseph Glenmullen, M.D. ’84. His new book, Prozac Backlash (Simon & Schuster), documents not only tolerance, withdrawal syndromes, and drug dependency, but a panoply of dangers linked to “Prozac-like drugs”—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). “We now have unequivocal evidence from a wide range of side effects that Prozac-type drugs impair the normal functioning of the brain,” Glenmullen says.

SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa—trade names that invariably include an x or z for drugs that are best known as antidepressants. But “calling them that is misleading,” says Glenmullen, who notes that primary-care doctors, not psychiatrists, write 70 percent of SSRI prescriptions. SSRIs are now prescribed for anxiety, obsessions, substance abuse, chronic pain, shyness, even “to feel ‘better than well,’” Glenmullen says. “They’ve become all-purpose psychoanalgesics. People think they’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, pharmacologically—if everyone at your office is taking Zoloft to stay alert and work long hours, you’ve got to have it, too.”

Prozac sales surged in the wake of Listening to Prozac, the 1993 bestseller by psychiatrist Peter Kramer ’70, M.D. ’76, who coined the term “cosmetic psychopharmacology” and sang that with Prozac he had seen “patient after patient become…’better than well.’ Prozac seemed to give social confidence to the habitually timid, to make the sensitive brash, to lend the introvert the social skills of a salesman.” Sales also broadened as pharmaceutical houses developed what some are now calling “a strategy of marketing diseases as an effective way of marketing drugs. It’s a trend toward pathologizing daily life,” Glenmullen says. He points to a psychiatric syndrome called “social phobia,” a very rare disorder that a therapist might encounter once or twice in a career—people so terrified of social contact that they may, for example, avoid going to restaurants for fear of being seen eating in public. “Over the last few years, psychiatrists have been inundated with drug-company mailings that cite ‘experts’ renaming ‘social phobia’ as ‘social-anxiety disorder,’” Glenmullen says. “The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] recently approved Paxil to treat social phobia. But the mass media report this to the public as a treatment for shyness!”

The drug panaceas, however, may be illusory. Rigorous studies have shown that the placebo effect accounts for most—at least 64 percent, and perhaps much more—of SSRIs’ benefits. Furthermore, in clinical trials, side effects often tip off research subjects that they are getting the active drug. Better-designed studies use placebos with side effects (like dry mouth), but no antidepressant properties. Under these conditions, Glenmullen writes, the “performance of the placebo climbs and the difference between the placebo and the antidepressant is virtually washed out.”

What is not washed out are the side effects, which include the potential for brain damage. A few years ago one of Glenmullen’s patients who was taking Prozac developed a tic—the tongue darting in and out of the mouth—that persisted for months after the drug was discontinued. That sent Glenmullen to Countway Library. He found reports of tics and other neurological side effects, like drug-induced Parkinsonism, associated with SSRIs. “The tics include lip smacking, lip puckering, fishlike kissing motions, and pelvic thrusting,” Glenmullen says. “They are involuntary, disfiguring, and can be very noticeable—and may persist long after the drug is stopped. This is the dread side effect in psychiatry, and it can indicate brain damage. Such reactions are not rare. Neurologic agitation is estimated to occur in 10 to 25 percent of patients, and muscle spasms in 10 percent."

The FDA mandates clinical trials for antidepressants that typically last only six weeks and primarily test the drug’s efficacy and short-term safety. “We lack systematic monitoring of long-term side effects,” Glenmullen says, noting that a former FDA head estimated that only 1 percent of long-term side effects comes to the agency’s attention. Glenmullen adds that such side effects of psychiatric drugs typically take three decades to gain a critical level of attention, as with the restlessness and involuntary twitching—tardive dyskinesia—associated with Thorazine and other major tranquilizers. “Those drugs were prescribed the way Prozac is now,” Glenmullen states. (To date, an estimated 30 million people have ingested SSRIs.)
Earlier generations of serotonin-targeting drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, and Ecstasy “have been exhaustively studied in animals, and all have been shown to be neurotoxic to cells in the brain—for example, destroying nerve endings. But there’s very little comparable research on the SSRIs,” Glenmullen says. “To do animal research, you need tiny doses of the pure drug. Yet researchers say that each pharmaceutical company controls the supply of pure drug while it is under patent. To do studies under a company’s auspices means signing a contract that allows it to veto publication unilaterally."

Hence, side effects show up in the massive field trial of the marketplace. “Repeated studies have shown that about 60 percent of patients have some form of sexual dysfunction—loss of libido, difficulty reaching orgasm, impotence—on SSRIs,” Glenmullen says. “But Eli Lilly’s official figure is 2 to 5 percent.” More ominously, the Prozac “lift” has lifted some into violent rampages, like that of the Louisville printing-press operator who in 1989 killed eight and wounded a dozen more with an AK-47 assault rifle just weeks after starting Prozac. Glenmullen has seen some of his own patients besieged by suicidal thoughts of “a particularly obsessive quality” after starting Prozac, and says that the Swedish and German equivalents of the Physician’s Desk Reference warn doctors of this potential side effect and provide guidelines for managing it.

For his part, Glenmullen has long prescribed Prozac and other SSRIs and continues to use them in specific cases. But he also suggests numerous treatment alternatives for anyone using or contemplating the use of such drugs—including psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, behavioral treatment, 12-step programs, herbal remedies like St. John’s wort, exercise, and diet modifications. About one SSRI user in four really does benefit from the drug, he says, but he adds, “There is no free lunch. Most of these people who feel so good about the long-term use of Prozac think it’s cost-free. Patients need to be better educated about the risk-benefit analysis. If they are taking Prozac to feel ‘better than well,’ that’s a big mistake."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Dreamless Night

The Dreamless Night - by Jamie Hughes
suicide, depression, hope, poetry, courage, clouds, dreams

There once was a night like no other
Skies were dark and empty
Dark like looking down into a deep, black well
Soul-less, nothingness forever
Not one star could be seen
Not a twinkle, not a glimmer
There were no wishes made that night
No hopes, no dreams
That was the Dreamless Night
The moon was absent
Her mysterious, beautiful glow was gone
No reflection of the Sun could be seen or felt
There was no tomorrow coming
There would be no joy in the morning
Silence could be heard
Both pleasant and eerie
Soothing yet frightening
The dreamless night was just beginning

This is a poem I wrote several years ago while going through a depressed episode. It definitely reflects the feelings I was experiencing at the time. Melancholy, despair, hopelessness - the usual gambit for depression. Do you have negative feelings like these during depression? As real and potent as these feelings are, they don't accurately describe what I know to be true. God has tried to teach me over the years to learn to recognize thoughts based on pure feeling (which I already know are influenced by my depression) and not let them control me during down times. This is easier said than done, of course, but is 100% learnable and doable. Psalm 30:5 says "weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Even though my emotions were telling me there was no hope or joy in the future, God's truth says the opposite. With Him, there is a better day coming, there will be a sunrise. Right now, we have to make it through the dark, cold night before we see the promise fulfilled, but God doesn't lie. The next time you are feeling hopeless, try admitting to yourself that those feelings are real, but not true. It helps me a lot during those times.

God bless!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What are you giving today?

love, hope, faith, patience, courage, understanding, peace, passion, healing, strength, beauty, freedom
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Does Exercise Help Depression?

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
exercise, depression, suicide, hope, healthy, therapy, walking, life, God, family
When people say you need to start walking to lessen your depression, I'm pretty sure they don't mean for you to pull a Forest Gump and never stop! According to research cited in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the advantages of walking and other forms of moderate physical activity are astonishing for helping curb depression. It decreases depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy. One 12 week study showed a 50% decrease in symptoms for participants that walked on a treadmill or rode a stationary bike following public health recommendations for physical activity 3-5 days a week. A 30-minute walk or 20-minute bike ride would fit that bill. There are plenty of other activities that can help raise your spirits, but walking consistently is one of the best goals to set and maintain in order to help regulate your mood.
Not only is walking great for your physical and emotional health, I have found it to be a wonderfully uplifting spiritual experience too. There are so many times that I needed to spend time alone with God and couldn't because of normal, everyday distractions (not that they were bad things, just busy things). Going for a walk or run gives me the opportunity to enjoy some one-on-one time with the Lord and talk to Him, praise Him or even pour out painful emotions to Him. Regular exercise benefits mind, body and spirit. 
But, you may say, when depressed, you really don't feel like doing anything like that. Yes, depression sucks the life out of you. It's hard. The best thing is to make exercise a habit. Start a walking plan today. Put it on your calendar, to-do list or whatever you need to in order to make it consistent. You can't wait until you feel like it - trust me, I know!
Friends & family - don't just tell your loved one with depression to get moving, go with them. Just like any other disorder, they may need help getting started or overcoming the effects of depression on their body and motivation. Ask to go with them or do something to help free up 30 minutes so they can go walking. An added bonus to walking together is the social aspect of building your relationship. And whether they say it or not, it really means a lot that you would care enough to spend time with them.

God bless!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saffron vs. Prozac for Depression

There have been a lot of studies lately that show the effectiveness of natural plant extracts in treating common ailments, including depression and anxiety. In this article from Dr. Michael Greger, he discusses the use of saffron compared to Prozac when used to treat depression.

saffron, Prozac, depression, suicide, hope, therapy, holistic, healthy

You are loved!

love, kindness, depression, suicide, God, compassion, Jeremiah

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Created with a Purpose

God created you with a purpose. If you haven't already, begin asking him what it is.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Types of Depression - Understanding Your Enemy

Understanding your enemy is an important part of any strategy whether it be during a war, a football game or when fighting a disease. You can learn how your enemy attacks and how to counter those attacks. "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle," (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
If you have depression, gaining a deeper knowledge of the disease will help you recognize symptoms, triggers and patterns, leading to more effective coping strategies. This will also enable your loved ones to cope with symptoms you experience, helping them to have more understanding, patience and strength to fight with you and for you. Remember, they are on your team and teamwork leads to success.
A proper diagnosis from your physician or psychiatrist should be your starting point to ensure the correct treatment so always listen to the professionals. The following information from WebMD helps explain the types of depression and their symptoms. On their web site, there is a link under each type for more in-depth information (

"All depression types are not the same. Major depression, also known as clinical depression, and chronic depression, also known as dysthymia, are the most common types. But there are also other types of depression with unique signs, symptoms, and treatment."
- Major Depressive Disorder: major depressive disorder is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities.
- Dysthymia (Chronic Depression): characterized by a long-term (two years or more) depressed mood. There are also symptoms present that are associated with major depression but not enough for a diagnosis of major depression. Chronic depression is less severe than major depression and typically does not disable the person.
- Atypical Depression: key symptoms of atypical depression include overeating, oversleeping, fatigue, extreme sensitivity to rejection, moods that worsen or improve in direct response to events.
- Bipolar Disorder: a complex mood disorder that alternates between periods of clinical depression and times of extreme elation or mania.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): depression that occurs each year at the same time. It usually starts in the fall or winter and ends in spring or early summer.
- Psychotic Depression: delusional thoughts or other symptoms of psychosis accompany the symptoms of depression. With psychotic depression, there's a break with reality. Patients with psychotic depression experience hallucinations and delusions.
- Postpartum Depression: diagnosed when a new mother develops a major depressive episode within one month after delivery.

Educate yourself and your loved ones. Read the information together and point out the symptoms you experience. Let them know what helps and what doesn't before you go through those symptoms again. Never give up, know your enemy and know yourself. #gameplanoffense
God bless

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Unwanted Journey

Do you ever feel like you are on an unwanted journey? Does suffering from depression make life seem that way at times? Maybe there is a bigger picture that your life, depression and all, fits into in order to bring God glory. Your depression is not the end of your story. Check out this excerpt from Adam Hamilton's book The Journey:

"Life will have its moments of disappointment, its times of overwhelming sorrow and intense pain. But the good news of Scripture is that God not only walks with us on these journeys; God redeems them and brings good from them. The Bible is filed with such stories.
Jacob's son Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, then wound up in Egypt, falsely accused and thrown into prison. But that was not the end of Joseph's story.
David fled into the wilderness when King Saul tried to kill him. He stayed among the Philistines for a couple of years, writing psalms that asked God, "Why do you allow my enemies to prosper? When are you going to save me?" He did not want to take this journey. But that was not the end of David's story.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told to bow down and worship the Babylonian king's image; if they refused they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. Surely they did not wish to take this journey to the fiery furnace. But that was not the end of their story.
The people of Judah were taken captive and marched to Babylon, where they would live in exile for fifty years. But that was not the end of their story.
And the child who would be born in a stable in Bethlehem would walk to Calvary. But that would not be the end of his story.
All of us take unwanted journeys, but God always walks with us on these journeys. God works through them and redeems them, and these difficult journeys will never be the end of our story!"

Hamilton, Adam. "Pg. 100-101." The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. Nashville: Abingdon, 2011. N. pag. Print.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Understanding Suicide: Myth vs. Fact

Check out this fantastic reference article from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention dated 9/6/13. This is an essential topic to understand if you have a loved one with clinical depression. Please take these items to heart and discuss with them.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers and communities, as well as on our military personnel and veterans. 

To understand why people die by suicide, and why so many others attempt to take their own lives, it is important to know the facts. Please read the facts about suicide below and share them with others.

Myth: Suicide can’t be prevented. If someone is set on taking their own life, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.
Fact: Suicide is preventable. The vast majority of people contemplating suicide don’t really want to die. They are seeking an end to intense mental and/or physical pain. Most have a mental illness. Interventions can save lives.

Myth: People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for “attention.”
Fact: More than 90% of people who take their own life have at least one and often more than one treatable mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and/or alcohol and substance abuse. With better recognition and treatment many suicides can be prevented.

Myth: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will put the idea in their head and cause them to act on it.
Fact: When you fear someone you know is in crisis or depressed, asking them if they are thinking about suicide can actually help. By giving a person an opportunity to open up and share their troubles you can help alleviate their pain and find solutions.

Myth: Teenagers and college students are the most at risk for suicide.
Fact: The suicide rate for this age group is below the national average. Suicide risk increases with age. Currently, the age group with the highest suicide rate in the U.S. is middle-aged men and women between the ages of 45 and 64. The suicide rate is still highest among white men over the age of 65.

Myth: Barriers on bridges, safe firearm storage and other actions to reduce access to lethal methods of suicide don’t work. People will just find another way.
Fact: Limiting access to lethal methods of suicide is one of the best strategies for suicide prevention. Many suicides can be impulsive and triggered by an immediate crisis. Separating someone in crisis from a lethal method (e.g., a firearm) can give them something they desperately need: time. Time to change their mind, time to resolve the crisis, time for someone to intervene.

Myth: Someone making suicidal threats won’t really do it, they are just looking for attention.
Fact: Those who talk about suicide or express thoughts about wanting to die, are at risk for suicide and need your attention. Most people who die by suicide give some indication or warning. Take all threats of suicide seriously. Even if you think they are just “crying for help”—a cry for help, is a cry for help—so help.

Myth: Talk therapy and/or medications don’t work.
Fact: Treatment can work. One of the best ways to prevent suicide is by getting treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar illness and/or substance abuse and learning ways to solve problems. Finding the best treatment can take some time, and the right treatment can greatly reduce risk of suicide. In fact, it can bring you back your life.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Are You What You Eat?

Are diet and depression related? Studies continue to back the premise that what you eat and drink effects your emotional balance.Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

10 Things to Never Say to a Person with Depression

     There are many lists of platitudes and insults out there so this will not be new information. However, I hope that by reviewing some specific ones, while adding my personal reflections, the friends and families of people with depression will gain a better understanding of why these remarks can be so painful and destructive. I have personally suffered from clinical depression since the age of 8 and have heard statements like these many times. To most people, these are normal responses to life and can, at times, be seen as positive motivators. It may seem odd that they could be taken in such a negative way. Such is the cloud of depression. It acts as a negative filter or magnifying glass to the sufferer. Simple statements like these can feel like a knife in the heart to the person in depression. Even if your intentions are good, these will often times make a person feel worse.

1) Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
    - Not very encouraging when you already feel helpless. This actually increases the "I'm a failure" thought process of many with depression.
2) It’s all in your head.
    - While this may technically be true (due to a chemical imbalance in the brain), it does convey the message that the person's pain is imaginary or an exaggeration of some sort.
3) Just focus on the positive things in life, not the negative.
    - Well... if it were that easy, the person would already be doing that. When having a depressive episode, the pain is so strong that it's difficult to feel good about anything.
4) I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been depressed before too.
    - Worst. Platitude. Ever. Even if you have felt that way before, someone in that much pain does not feel consoled by the comparison.  Experiencing situational depression involves many of the same symptoms but is not the same.
5) You should get out more. Socialize. Hang out with friends.
     - Depression is an odd catch 22. A suffering person longs to be wanted and accepted, yet feels lonely in a crowd of 200 people. 
6) It could always be worse.
    - Although this is true, it's hard to imagine for a person with depression and may drive them further into thinking about suicide.
7) You are selfish and just want attention.
     - While there are some that will use any circumstance to draw attention to themselves, the majority of people suffering from depression are genuinely in pain and agony.
8) You should exercise more.
     - This one is a matter of timing. During a depressive episode, it can take all of your strength just to get up and do daily activities like bathing, eating or going to work. Exercise should be encouraged during recovery periods.
9) Just pray about it.
    - Calling out to God is probably the best thing a hurting person can do. However, your loved one may feel like God isn't helping them because they aren't instantly getting better.  Pray with them and for them.
10) You have to choose to be happy.
       -  When you have a chemical imbalance working against you, among other issues, your emotions are often chosen for you.

On behalf of your loved one that suffers from depression, please think about these types of statements and consider making changes that will better reflect the love and compassion you want to share. Even when saying tough things are necessary, consider the timing and the amount of personal support you are willing to give. Look for my next list - 10 Better Things to Say!

God bless!