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Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Was Accused of Being Insesitive

Dear A.B.,

I'm sharing a response from a chatroom conversation about anxiety and depression. I made a post in which I described Directed Thinking, which I described as hard work, but worth it, and said drugs were unnecessary when dealing with emotional pain and disturbances. I also said many drug companies and some doctors didn't have our best interests at heart due to financial gain. I provided two of your book titles.  One person asked if I was a scientologist.  Another said I was ignorant.  Of course, I was accused of being insensitive.  This response sort of touches all bases:

My daughter's suicide attempt was in fact the result of her being OFF her medications (unbeknownst to us) at the persistent urging of her ignorant and arrogant boyfriend, who felt that by simply trying harder, she could kick her anxiety and depression. He undid years of stability and achievement with his ignorance.

Pharmaceutical companies are businesses, whether they market insulin or anti-depressants or high blood pressure medications. Free market enterprise is not a conspiracy; it's a fact of our society and economy. There are compassionate and professional doctors in every field; they help their patients kick smoking, free themselves of debilitating migraines, or help them overcome panic disorders. To dismiss an entire branch of medicine as a conspiracy between pharmaceuticals and physicians is patently absurd.
If only taking a pill (or several) to treat depression and anxiety were an "easy" solution (as opposed to the "hard work" you espouse). We're not talking about individuals finding themselves "feeling disturbed, anxious, depressed" as you state. We're talking about people who have lost themselves in a deep, dark hole without an ability to function normally. Sometimes all the medication can do is help the sufferer sit on the edge of the bed, or take a shower; it can take months of persistence, therapy, and medicine to help someone who is that ill manage to function. That's hard work.
I agree that life has its inevitable pain and sorrows. But profound depression and anxiety are not opportunities; they have the power to strip an individual of any ability to see color, hear music, taste food, or anything else that is to be human. I'm delighted that your hard work has yielded you a satisfying life, but I am offended that by implication that you believe that those who have not achieved such satisfaction are somehow shirking that hard work--the "effort, discipline, commitment (& motivation & practice)"--that will cure them. That's what makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Let's explode the myth that we are responsible for all our ailments--poor eyesight, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, acute or chronic depression. And let's stop drawing a line in the sand between physical illness and mental illness, declaring the one valid and deserving of medical diagnosis and intervention (and free of conspiracies), and the other invalid, and a result of lack of discipline, fraught with conspiracy and evil intent.

This woman has obviously been through a lot with her teenage daughter's depression, but she'd rather insist that her child is "ill" and needs medicine, than entertain the notion that behavioral changes and a shift in perspective could help her. 

If a young teen has been on anti-depressants for a few years and has been labeled Mentally Ill, depressed, and told that she needs drugs to function, I would imagine it would be harder for her to change and incorporate Brainswitching in lieu of drugs.  You "gotta wanna," as you say, but for now she's steeped in the "culture of depression" and meds.


Dear G

In a way the woman is correct in saying that not all mental illness can be cured by willpower or mind techniques. Sometimes people are missing the amino acids that are the precursors of the neurotransmitters necessary to get the brain to respond to commands. Just the fact that men produce more serotonin than woman is a clue that chemistry is often involved in mental problems. 

Western medicine is way behind the integrative medicine such as that recommended by Dr. Weil and understood by healers who practice Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Instead of anti depressants which cause the brain to inhibit the uptake of serotonin it is possible to get increased seratonin to the brain in other ways--even deep breathing exercises increases the brain's ability to produce serotonin. There are herbs and nutritional supplements which can do much to alleviate nervous disorders such as anxiety and depression.

But once the nerves have been oversensitized due to trauma (such as PTSD or illness) it is impossible to overcome anxiety by willpower or thinking techniques alone. The nerves must heal, they cannot be simply commanded by willpower.

For instance if a person is deep into anxiety due to trauma or illness, the brain may be missing the neurotransmitters necessary to command the brain, therefore the instinct for fear continues to automatically activate, over-responding to normal stimuli. In other words, the accelerator works fine (the instinct to fear and anxiety) but the brakes (our reasoning power) do not have sufficient brake fluid to be able to work when we try to apply them.

In my own case, after my back injury and my 3 weeks on oxycodene my nerves were oversentized to the point where I suffered anxiety for several months. I could always hypnotize myself in order to sleep at night and to get some temporary relief during the day, but my regular mind tricks did not work to alleviate the overwhelming anxiety. Normal sounds such as the TV or the timer in the microwave, even my husband's loud voice were suddenly excruciatingly painful. I had no appetite and no energy. I felt disconnected from life in a way that was frightening. My mind techniques were still helpful in that I could remain cheerful and keep up with my responsibilities even though I was in a lot of emotional pain. I made myself get out to social events and did yoga and swimming every day to keep my body going. Mind techniques gave me the support to be able to keep on going. But I needed the additional help of nutritional supplements.

Now that I have not been troubled by anxiety for several months, those sounds also are no longer painful and my energy and zest for life are back. It seems that my nerves have now healed from being oversentisized.  I did seek the help of someone who practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture rather than returning to Kaiser for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs. I am still on a regimen of  a dozen different supplements and herbs. Due to my age (77) and the fact that my organs are no longer so efficient at producing hormones and amino acids that my body needs, I will probably take these kinds of supplements for the rest of my life.

My mind techniques were sufficient to cure myself of manic depression but not anxiety. I don't think that lessens the importance of my work for depression,  but it does mean that these techniques, in and of themselves, will not cure every kind of mental problem. They will help keep you on the right road to a cure for any problem, but you may need hormonal or other nutritional balance in addition to them.

Of course the problem with those who are relying on anti-depressants is that one can’t count on their safety or effectiveness. Research shows that they are no more effective than placeboes (of course this may very well mean that placeboes are extremely effective in and of themselves) and they only help 50% of the people who try them. Much of the drug testing is skewed or downright fraudulent and the doctors don’t know anything about what they are prescribing except what the drug salesmen tells them. Since psychiatrist no longer have time for “counseling,” they don’t monitor their patients effectively so they don’t have much of a support team. Support of like-minded people is so important to those suffering from depression. We all need to know that someone gives a damn about us and we need to be responsible enough to seek out some kind of friendly if not loving support. We are a herd animal. Being alone is not good for us.  A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thanks for your detailed reply.  I am so happy that you found some assistance through nutrition therapy and herbal medicine after your back injury.  It sounds like it took some experimentation, but you hit on the right mix eventually.

I would not describe the anxiety that resulted from your injury and treatment as "mental illness."  I think of it as an expected, unpleasant side effect that humans often encounter after something traumatic, and I consider surgery a trauma to the body.  The initial injury also limited you in many ways, so that was also difficult, if not traumatic, understandably impacting on your well-being and emotional state. 

As you have said in your books, we can not control the advent of depression, (or anxiety) but we can control our responses to it.  You did not write yourself off as mentally ill  and start taking anti-depressants.  You saw yourself as one going through a normal, but painful adjustment and responded by tweaking your self-care routines.

From your writings, and those of Thomas Szasz, I gather that there is a line in the sand between physical and mental illness.   While a mind/body connection is surely at work, that is different from declaring emotional states to be actual illness in need of medication.  Have you made some changes to your approach since you wrote Depression is a Choice? 

This is what I told the woman before she responded.  Was I off base, cruel, or just wrong? 

Thanks for reading this.
This is what I wrote in the chat room: I'm not branding all drug companies and doctors conspirators, just the drug companies that manufacture psychotropic drugs and the doctors who prescribe them. If you believe that these companies and doctors are compassionately going the extra mile for humanity by selling their wares, be my guest.

I never once used the word simple or easy. Finding refuge in the thinking part of the brain rather than in the emotional part, takes effort, discipline, and a huge commitment, but I do believe that with effort, discipline, commitment (& motivation & practice) everyone *is* capable of exercising control over their minds!
This is the part, ironically, that I think people don't want to hear. While the typical protest to my stance is, "It's not easy...how dare you suggest it is!" When I elaborate on just *how* not easy it is, the hairs stand up on the back of necks.
I think the real issue is in accepting and embracing how NOT EASY it is to live medication/drug/alchohol free and deal with the pain of life, which, btw, NO one escapes from!
Even if your hormones, chemistry, DNA, family history, IQ and income are ideal, and you are married to your soul mate, and in love with the beautiful visage staring back at you in the mirror, I would still insist, life is painful for you at times and you are visited by depression and anxiety at times.
Can we allow ourselves to believe that life is instrinsically hard and even if we have, and do all the "right" things, we're still going to find ourselves feeling disturbed, anxious, depressed? Let's explode the myth that we are unusual creatures, much less sick, ill and in need of medication, for having these feelings.
I do happen to believe there is something noble, to use your choice of words, to bear the inevitable pains of life with dignity and grace. To truly bear them, learn & grow from them, is indeed ultimately the task which gives meaning to our existence.


Dear G
I think the clue to where the line in the sand between mental and physical illness should be drawn is at the point where physical symptoms can account for the distress. Self-reported symptoms in the absence of physical evidence that can account for them are not reliable.

You asked if I have made some changes to my approach since I wrote Depression is a Choice.

My answer is that I was glad for my understanding of how the brain works and my tried and true mind techniques because this information and those mind tricks gave me a way to handle my extreme anxiety without completely succumbing to it. I could mitigate my behavior and response to the anxiety so my life could go on in a mostly normal manner. I used the mind techniques constantly so that I didn't give up and sink into the dark despair of panic attacks or deep depression. I could keep going, maintain a cheerful attitude and look for solutions to my distress while I was in a lot of really terrible emotional pain.

But my mind tricks could not "cure" the chemical imbalance in my body caused by the drugs I took the way brainswitching to the neocortex from the subcortex during any of my depressive episodes were sufficient to effect a chemical change by getting the fight-or-flight response to stop triggering and allow the chemical balance to normalize.

My nerves were oversensitized to the point that the flight or fight response triggered non-stop for several months except when I hypnotized myself. And my age also worked against me in that my organs were not as efficient in producing the hormones and other chemistry I needed for physical and emotional well-being. 

So I needed nutritional supplements to take effect and that took several months. I cured my manic depression with brainswitching and thousands of people have been able to manage their depression without drugs using brainswitching. But I needed Chinese medicine and acupuncture in addition to brainswitching this time. So I have to accept that there are other people out there whose bodies are not producing the hormones and other chemistry they need for their emotional well-being. Western medicine, however, to my way of thinking, is way behind Chinese medicine and homeopathic nutritionists in figuring out where the balance lies.

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