Depression is not a dirty word
Written by Bronwyn Barter
Recently I was asked to do a talk at a special event for the public. It was left up to me what I would speak about, but when I said that I would probably speak on the subject of depression, I got a frown and the comment that the subject was a “bit heavy and unpopular and could I talk about something else?”!
As a Rebirther/Breathworker I see a lot of clients who are feeling depressed for one reason or other. Many people just feel a sense of relief by simply expressing their thoughts and feelings and getting some support at a psychosocial level. It is clear that if speaking about depression is uncomfortable, and we are discouraged from talking about it, it will never come out from under the cloak of shame and the finger pointing from those who have been untouched by this condition.
Here are some interesting facts about depression; one in seven Australians will suffer from being depressed in their lifetime. Depression has the third highest burden of all diseases in Australia. Burden of disease refers to the total impact of a disease measured by financial cost, mortality, morbidity and other indicators. Burden of disease is often expressed as number of years of life lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. Depression is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. This means that on average, people with depression live with this disability for a higher number of years than people suffering from other non-fatal diseases such as hearing loss and dementia. The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both the developed and developing nations by 2030. (1)
The above facts indicate to me that although this subject maybe unpopular, it is relevant today on Australia and the rest of the world. The ability to steer away from this subject just keeps it in its place. Its place, it seems, is one of hidden shame and brewing like a volcano; it is about to burst. We can’t live without looking at what ails us. Denial and avoidance creates acceleration of a problem and stunts the opportunity to learn and grow. There is always a cause of depression. Someone doesn’t just get depressed. Its not a disease of the body, it’s the result of upset, internalization and depressed and suppressed feelings and emotions.
Recently one of my clients told me that she was depressed. That’s like saying “I am a broken arm” if you had a broken arm. The statement if expressed another way, would be “I am feeling depressed”, now we have something that we can work with.
Depression has been medicalised and is named as a mental illness, when in fact it is a natural human experience. Feeling sad, down, lethargic or unmotivated is not an illness, it’s a condition, a response to something that has happened. The event could be recent or in the past, either way depression is just like a big hole in the ground, if it is not filled up with positive attitudes and thoughts, it fills up with the next shower of rain and one can easily be drowned in it. The sheer concealing of sadness and grief creates an abnormal chemical reaction in the body. The stress hormones fire up and create seemingly crazy body responses and reactions. The imbalance is a result of the brain triggering off the stress response continuously, minute by minute and hour by hour.
Serotonin levels go way out of balance as a result of the stress that we create, we don’t suffer from depression as a result of an original imbalance. We cause the imbalance. There are no conclusive tests for the levels of Serotonin in the body, as it is not known how much or how little Serotonin is needed by any individual to establish equilibrium in the brain. Did your doctor give you a blood test before she prescribed anti-depressant drugs for you, or did she just tick off some symptoms on a check sheet, often provided by a pharmaceutical company, and declare that you are depressed? Often when clients come to see me they are no longer wanting the drugs, but are now addicted to them. After years of taking them they need help to wean themselves back to reality and then be able to feel and respond normally again.
So why swallow the pills?
Studies have shown that those patients with depression and on anti-depressants will do much better if they are doing some form of talk- therapy than those that don’t. Then why not start with the therapy and only do the drug therapy if an actual brain illness occurs? Depression is not usually caused by a brain injury. It’s a feeling, a feeling of being low in energy and helpless.
When a client accepts personal responsibility for their feelings and responses and what caused of them, they can then go on and change their attitude to their experiences, gain some insights and respond differently to create a more positive outlook. Therapy and the support to change, without collusion, from a practitioner will help a person who is feeling depressed, to overcome their sadness, grief or helplessness and steer them in a direction that is practical and empowering.
Put like this it sounds really simple, it is.
Keywords; depression, serotonin, stress, brain
© Bronwyn Barter 2013 About the author: Author of Healing the Dependency on Depression, Rebirther Training Australia President Australian Academy of Rebirthing/Breathwork