A Holistic Approach to Depression

depression-article.jpgA couple of years ago I hauled a bunch of trash to the dump, then returned with a load of compost. In the process, I dislocated my lumbar vertebrae. As my body tried to compensate for the injury, I developed painful spasms in the hip muscles.

For most people, the solution would have been to pop painkillers, but I knew better. Painkillers would have done nothing to correct the real problem, and by masking the pain, would have allowed me to overexert myself and further injure the damaged area.

So, instead of taking painkillers, I got a massage, made a couple of visits to the chiropractor, put some antispasmodics over the affected areas, and doctored myself with some heavy doses of the muscle relaxants lobelia and kava kava. I also took it easy and let my back have time to rest. In a short time I was fine.

Pain may be annoying, but it serves a useful purpose. It keeps us from further stressing damaged tissues by making us avoid using them until they have a chance to heal. Depression can do a similar thing for us emotionally.

One of the pitfalls of the whole positive mental attitude dogma, that is so prevalent in modern society, is the tendency it has to make people feel like they should be “up” all the time. There's an attitude that if you're depressed, something is “wrong” with you. If you had a positive attitude, you'd never feel unhappy, sad, depressed, etc. However, the truth is, we're all going to feel that way from time to time.

So, there is nothing wrong with feeling depressed once in a while. It's normal and natural under certain circumstances. For example, it's normal to feel depressed when you lose someone close to you through death, divorce or separation. It's also normal to feel depressed when you're under a lot of financial pressures, such as a heavy debt load or bankruptcy. Having to go to court over anything can be depressing.

In short, depression is often a natural response to life's difficulties, just like pain is a natural response to injury. Both serve a purpose.

Pain gets us to “lay off” an injured body part to give it time to heal. Depression causes us to “pull away” from the normal pressures of life and take time to introspect. It is actually a form of healing, because it can get us to stop the rat race of our lives long enough to look inside and see what is happening in our emotions, and why.

For instance, several months before my 50th birthday I was feeling a little depressed (mid-life crisis, I think). But, rather than feeling guilty about it, I took a few days off to figure out what was bothering me. As a result I was able to get in touch with some important feelings and make some changes in my life, which resulted in a renewed sense of vigor and personal productivity. The problem is that most people can't (or won't) make time for this process.

On the next page of this article I discuss some of the chemical causes of depression.