There is an important thing happening in the world. Mental Illness is slowly becoming less of a hidden secret while more and more people speak up and out, insisting on being heard and on erasing the cruel stigma around most invisible brain dysfunctions. This is good. But we must be careful. Keep an eye on cultivating answer-oriented frames of mind rather than encourage the present trend of creating fame that celebrates and accommodates each diagnosis for its challenges. A limelight of pity creates value in being broken and increases the person’s problems rather than diminishing them.
Let me offer some answers.
For comprehension more detailed, let me focus on depression in women for a minute.
The two most challenging yet effective times to treat depression (particularly in women and girls) is during the teenage years and menopause. This is largely due to the immense amount of reorganizing your body and brain (and, hence, your hormones) are already engaged in. This is a time when the brain ( even more than the body) seeks to be shown how to grow healthier. This is a time when help is desired and more easily accepted when presented in the right light. But it is also a time when greater damage is easy to inflict via misinformation from propaganda via marketing, social sharing, political programs, religions etc. These lead to unhelpful expectations and beliefs.
During these periods – again, the teen years and menopause – the company of other women, medical professionals, group therapy, news, media marketing etc. tends to reinforce the misery descending upon bodies and brains that are reorganizing themselves for the next stage of life.
Nothing magnifies pain like public opinion. Especially when at the same time that women are being told they will suffer, they are also being treated as if this depression is irritating and they should just get over it. This catch 22 is the crux of the complication in helping women stabilize.
I travel the globe working effectively with people who have depression (along with all kinds of other mental health challenges) and I also raised eight children – four girls and four boys, six adopted and all with varying degrees of abuse and mental health challenges as part of their story – and so I am uniquely qualified to understand the problem of depression regardless of culture.
Around the world depression is prevalent. Often people want to know why. Well, given the degree to which movement offsets depression and the present day rise in sedentary behavior amongst young people, given the changes in brain wave behavior caused by screen usage and social network addiction, given the vulnerable nature of teens to social opinions and the immediacy and reach of social network bullying worldwide, given the high levels of state-change medicinal usage in elementary students effectively preventing the natural maturation of the brain, widespread depression is more than an overdiagnosis, it is inevitable.
However, I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, though I do want to point out the bleak and dangerous nature of current trends in order to help us change things for the better.
That is my job. Changing things for the better. That is my job and I am good at it. Not only because of my own personal history with mental health and abuse, and not only because of my history as a mom, but because it has been my passion and motivator from the day my memories begin.
As a professional, I work with teens and their families all around the world, and as a mom I helped guide eight children into adulthood, navigating depression and avoiding addictions for my high-risk teens.
Every story is different. Every culture carries its own tools and pitfalls. Every family has a unique history. Every person is genuinely alone with their thoughts. BUT we all have brains and bodies that work in pretty much the same way. So I have learned a few things that, when taken home and tailored to fit your unique goals and abilities, work for everyone.
As you know I share these things everywhere and often. I write books, articles, and shows. I speak, perform, and invent new ways to give this information away.
I want to share one of those things here with you now. Specific information for anyone with depression, avoiding addiction or suicide. This is something I see families worldwide struggle to accept and yet it is monumentally important. It is a lifesaving understanding, every time.
To help: There is really no replacing a change of environment and a restructuring of the roles everyone in the family is playing.
Too often people want to hang onto the life they are living and “fix” their children’s problems, or the person with the diagnosis, without having their own lives derailed. However, the life you are living led to, or is feeding, this problem in some complicit way. So change is the answer.
If you live with an addict: The first step to really helping an addict is an acceptance that the job ahead is huge and requires an absolute nonjudgmental commitment from everyone in the support network. Step two is to approach healing from the concerns of the addict, not the wishes of those around the addict. Addicts don’t stop using because we want them to. They stop using because they want to stop more than they want to use. This ‘thinking with the mind of an addict’ requires some very challenging re-balancing of motivators but once it’s done you can speak the same language and head for the same goals, you are on the same team.
So, where depression and addiction are concerned, change, the right change, motivated by a desire for health, is the answer. Always.
However, if you step in and change the environment, if you attack all the pleasures and don’t replace them with greater ones, you will fail so big the problems become stronger, even more resistant to change.
So yes, restructure the roles everyone in the family is playing. Make less screen time and movement that is fun for the mover a rule, examine the beliefs of your home and your culture with a willingness to shift, adjust, rewrite, and then, if you allow for a life that isn’t perfect in appearances but is mostly a joy to experience, you will likely avoid addiction and depression altogether.
True these issues often originate (as in adolescence and menopause) from genuine physiological imbalances. However, one’s psychology becomes their physiology and vice versa. Thus you can still use psychological change to re-balance physiological shifts. That was always a good idea. It just needs to be done with the right mindset and supportive environment.
For example, the person who fears the world often does so to balance feelings of depression. Depression is a mentally slowed down, body heavy experience. Fear is a quick thinking, anxiously vibrating, heart fluttering one. The two can actually balance each other out. This technique, however, has a deleterious effect on health and emotional well being.
The depression driven fearful person is often advised to take self-defense classes in order to remit their feelings of fear. This action does help them feel stronger but the need for self-defense also vindicates their feelings of fear and causes them to believe more fully that the world is dangerous. Sometimes people in this scenario then unconsciously seek to prove themselves right and invite danger through unfocused action. Thus, they discover that they were right, the danger is real. They discover this without seeing their own complicit behavior in the circumstance. Generally, this commonly used approach simply causes the fear to shift position.
However, having a purpose and being active may have remedied the originating cause: depression. Thus some people will actually heal this way.
A better approach might be to have that same person take Tai Chi with a focus on health and longevity. This would also improve strength and preparedness. However, without an increase in the focus on danger. Fear distracted, used, and dissolved. In the course of making these changes, the previously fearful person would also alleviate any symptoms of depression but this time without behavioral side effects.
I do not mean to make this sound easy peasy.
To be honest, before I started using neurofeedback sometimes these changes required herculean efforts and were just not enough to maintain the improvements they instilled. Neurofeedback became my tool for reaching deeper into the brain and creating behavioral change from within. The combination was so powerful, so easy peasy, I changed my life trajectory and became a medical professional sharing what I had learned for the benefits of others.
So add a little (okay, maybe a lot) of neurofeedback and you can say goodbye to depression altogether. Particularly in younger brains. As for addiction, in my experience addiction is usually caused by a desire to feel better. When you feel better it dissolves quite easily.
So help yourself and your people feel better, and let joy do the rest.