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Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm Afraid I'll Suffer from Depression my Whole Life


Dear Ms.Curtiss,

Do you remember me? I am Lithuanian. I am writing to you because I want to say thanks one more time..Your book "Brain switch"  opened my eyes . You remember I was pregnant and I used anti-depressants.  Two weeks before the birth I stopped taking medicine. Your book helped me. I was lucky, I gave birth to a healthy daughter. She is 3 months old now.  I continued to reside with your book. But sometimes my daughter is very choppy, so then my depression is worse. Can you advise me to do something. Dear Curtiss, every day I wish you health, because you help me. I am very sad that I do not speak very good English, because I would like you to write so much. Sometimes I want to give up, but than I think of you. You probably are very strong. I would like to be like you. My mother is suffering from  depression, too, and I see her and fear I will be suffering from depression my whole life. Write back if you can.
L.

Dear L.

I suffered with depression for almost thirty years of my life before I “got” the idea that I could be in control of my thinking and depression was, essentially, a pattern of thinking that I fell into habitually. Much of depression is a habit. With persistence, and thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain (which makes new neurons every day of your life), you can, with repetition and persistence develop new neural get-out-depression thinking patterns and use those habitually instead of the get-into-depression neural patterns.

The brain is complex and you also need to understand how it works so you don’t give it the wrong signals that get you into depression. You need to know where depression is produced in the brain, how the process of pain perception works, what learned association is and how the brain uses it, a few mind techniques such as thought-jamming and brainswitching. All this you can learn by reading my book Brainswitch out of Depression, which you have read.

The thing you fear is true, you will suffer from depression for the rest of your life, just like the rest of humanity. These neural patterns of anguish will never be erased from your memory banks and they can be triggered off at any time. However, with some knowledge and habitual USE of the techniques you can call up the helpful neural patterns (also in the memory banks of your brain) and use them to get rid of depression by jumping off the neural pattern that is carrying depression in your brain, and hopping on one of the more helpful neural patterns which you have developed by doing the exercises.

However, as you remember from the book, when you are deep into depression, it is hard to remember about the techniques. You have to work very hard to connect (via learned association) your helpful neural patterns with the depressive neural patterns so when the painful one is triggered, the helpful one is triggered at the same time. The trick is commitment. A solemn promise to yourself to do a dumb exercise, no matter what.

The trick is to remember what needs to be remembered. Commitment helps with this. This is what takes persistence. Depression makes you apathetic, helpless and hopeless, so you think “Oh, this is too horrible, I need some help,” or “nothing will work so why bother with the exercises.” When I first created the techniques for myself I found it extremely hard to use them when I got depressed because depression is hopeless so why would I do anything? But finally I was able to do the exercises every time. I just did them because the neural pattern of my commitment to do them was there and, after a while, instead of thinking about my depression, I succeeded in thinking only the exercises. One time I’d use one exercise, another time a different one. But I always used one of them.

After a while, although depression generally hit me every morning, it took me less and less time to get out of it. Now, after so many years, when depression hits me, my reaction is so quick to latch on to some dumb little exercise that the depression never really gets a chance to set in and develop into a big hit like it used to. I am much better at noticing right away when I start going into a downer mode and grab on to an exercise.

And these days, I don’t get hit with it every day, maybe a couple of times a month, where it used to be a couple of times every day. My brain is a different brain than it was when I was depressed all the time. It is a different brain because, as an act of will, through persistence, and the practice of repetition, I made myself a different and more helpful brain. This is not an overnight success. Yes, you can get rid of depression every time it hits, and if you do the exercises right away it will be easier. But you have to build your own brain. No doctor or psychotherapist can do that for you. The anti-depressants provide no new brain development. Only you can do that.

You have a choice every moment of your life. Shall you do a dumb exercise, and get about choosing some more productive neural thinking patterns instead of thinking the depressive ones, and change your behavior patterns from passive to active, or jog, or do yoga, or shall you give up and fall in the depressive habits of thinking and behavior. You always have a choice to pick a more productive thought than the depressive one. For the rest of your life. And as you change your brain, you change your life. Keep in touch. I care. A. B. Curtiss

Below are the two letters of original correspondence between L. and me.

Dear Ms.Curtiss,

At first, I wuold like apologise of my English. I am from Lithuania, it is east Europe. I have read your book "BRAIN SWITCH". It is a wonderful book. I believe yuo are the best doctor-
psychotherapists that I have ever meet. I have got very big problem. Can you advice me, please. I am 35 years old. Depression came into my life when I was 29. Now I am pregnant and I use drugs (Cipralex 10 mg). I know you was in depression for along time. Did you drink the medicine when you were pregnant? Do  yuo know what is the antidepressant effects for a baby. I started use drugs 23 week of pregnancy. I am very much afraid of my baby. Maybe you can share your experiences, please. Your book helps me very much, but I am very afraid to refuse drugs. I think this will take time.I know you are very busy, but  I wuold like ask you respond to my letter, please. It is very important for me. Thanks in advance.
L

I never took any drugs for my depression because I was more afraid of the drugs than the depression. In this country there are now big suits because Prozac and other anti-depressants have caused problems for pregnant women. On the other hand, many women took these drugs and had no problem so all may be well with you and your baby.  I don't know how to advise you because I don't know anything about drugs. I don't think anti-depressants do any good. I do think that hormonal problems and lack of nutruients in some people can cause depression which can be alleviated by natural homeopathic supplements such as vitamins, hormone replacement etc. I hope all goes well for you and I'm sorry I can't be of more help.
A. B. Curtiss --

My Cousin Has Been Prescribed Every Drug Available


Dear Ms. Curtiss,

Thank you for your wonderful writing.  I believe my husband and sons were inspired when they chanced upon you at your booksigning.  My son was thrilled with your "Dragons Guard the Zoo."  I have been inspired by "Brain-Switch Out of Depression." 

 My cousin is a very talented author.  I look forward to the day that her fantasy novels can be enjoyed by many.  However, her adult life has been defined by depression.  I can't count the number of times she has been in the hospital to prevent injury to herself. She has been treated with every drug available.  She recently ended over a dozen sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which seemed to have no measurable benefit, but the side effect of sizable memory loss.  As I have been reading your book, I am praying that she will accept it from me, and be willing to consider and implement its wisdom.

Thank you again for your inspiration.  I am most grateful.

Best regards, M

Dear M,

Thank you so much for your letter. I do not take private patients any more. However, that said, I continue to answer anyone's specific questions via email. I do not charge for this. I find that having to coelesce one's thoughts into an actual question may be more helpful than a face to face meeting which are often unprofitable because the person wants to tell the same "life story" over and over again, rather than figuring how how to write themselves a new story.

Many of these email exchanges I post on my blog (after editing for privacy) for, often, those suffering depression have questions and sometime answers that are helpful to others suffering the same thing. My blog is http://mobyjane.blogspot.com.

I wish your cousin a speedy recovery. I also suggest that in addition to Brainswitch, if your cousin is open to the idea, that you also get a copy of Depression is a Choice since your cousin has a degree in English.

Brainswitch is the neuroscience of how you get out of depression. Depression is a Choice is the philosophy of how you get out of depression and it is the psychological autobiography of my own journey into and out of manic depression. I think you can get a used copy of this on amazon.com for only a couple of dollars.

Another thing to consider about your cousin. If she has been on so many drugs for so long, it is possible that she is suffering from a lack of necessary nutrients in her brain as a result of the drugs. I was on oxycodene for only three weeks and it so fried my brain that I was in constant anxiety for 6 months. Kaiser's answer was more drugs for the anxiety but I decided to seek the services of a doctor of Chinese medicine who put me on a regimen of nutrients. It took several months but as a result of the vitamins and hormones I completely recovered and for the last year.have never felt better in my life. Just a suggestion. A. B. Curtiss ----

Dear A. B.- 

Thank you for your thoughtful, considered responses.  I will immediately forward this suggestion to my cousin.

We just spent a lovely day together.  I confess I prayed for the right moment to share your writing and answers with her.  (I primed the pump by sharing with her some of your wonderful poetry and exquisite illustrations.--Shel Silverstein has been replaced:-) )

I have shared your work with other family members, and we are all praying that she will take your writings and experiences to heart.  I've ordered "Depression is a Choice," and look forward to reading it.  Thank you for your guidance.

Warm regards,

M

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm Afraid I'll Suffer Depression All my Life


Dear Ms.Curtiss,

Do you remember me? I am Lithuanian. I am writing to you because I want to say thanks one more time..Your book "Brain switch"  opened my eyes . You remember I was pregnant and I used anti-depressants.  Two weeks before the birth I stopped taking medicine. Your book helped me. I was lucky, I gave birth to a healthy daughter. She is 3 months old now.  I continued to reside with your book. But sometimes my daughter is very choppy, so then my depression is worse. Can you advise me to do something. Dear Curtiss, every day I wish you health, because you help me. I am very sad that I do not speak very good English, because I would like you to write so much. Sometimes I want to give up, but than I think of you. You are probably very strong. I would like to be like you. My mother is suffering from depression, too, and I see her and fear I will suffer from depression all my life. That makes me very sad. Write back to me if you can, please.  

L.

Dear L.

I suffered with depression for almost thirty years of my life before I “got” the idea that I could be in control of my thinking and depression was, essentially, a pattern of thinking that I fell into habitually. Much of depression is a habit. With persistence, and thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain (which makes new neurons every day of your life), you can, with repetition and persistence develop new neural get-out-depression thinking patterns and use those habitually instead of the get-into-depression neural patterns.

The brain is complex and you also need to understand how it works so you don’t give it the wrong signals that get you into depression. You need to know where depression is produced in the brain, how the process of pain perception works, what learned association is and how the brain uses it, a few mind techniques such as thought-jamming and brainswitching. All this you can learn by reading my book Brainswitch out of Depression, which you have read.

The thing you fear is true, you will suffer from depression for the rest of your life, just like the rest of humanity. These neural patterns of anguish will never be erased from your memory banks and they can be triggered off at any time. However, with some knowledge and habitual USE of the techniques you can call up the helpful neural patterns (also in the memory banks of your brain) and use them to get rid of depression by jumping off the neural pattern that is carrying depression in your brain, and hopping on one of the more helpful neural patterns which you have developed by doing the exercises.

However, as you remember from the book, when you are deep into depression, it is hard to remember about the techniques. You have to work very hard to connect (via learned association) your helpful neural patterns with the depressive neural patterns so when the painful one is triggered, the helpful one is triggered at the same time. The trick is commitment. A solemn promise to yourself to do a dumb exercise, no matter what.

The trick is to remember what needs to be remembered. Commitment helps with this. This is what takes persistence. Depression makes you apathetic, helpless and hopeless, so you think “Oh, this is too horrible, I need some help,” or “nothing will work so why bother with the exercises.” When I first created the techniques for myself I found it extremely hard to use them when I got depressed because depression is hopeless so why would I do anything? But finally I was able to do the exercises every time. I just did them because the neural pattern of my commitment to do them was there and, after a while, instead of thinking about my depression, I succeeded in thinking only the exercises. One time I’d use one exercise, another time a different one. But I always used one of them.

After a while, although depression generally hit me every morning, it took me less and less time to get out of it. Now, after so many years, when depression hits me, my reaction is so quick to latch on to some dumb little exercise that the depression never really gets a chance to set in and develop into a big hit like it used to. I am much better at noticing right away when I start going into a downer mode and grab on to an exercise.

And these days, I don’t get hit with it every day, maybe a couple of times a month, where it used to be a couple of times every day. My brain is a different brain than it was when I was depressed all the time. It is a different brain because, as an act of will, through persistence, and the practice of repetition, I made myself a different and more helpful brain. This is not an overnight success. Yes, you can get rid of depression every time it hits, and if you do the exercises right away it will be easier. But you have to build your own brain. No doctor or psychotherapist can do that for you. The anti-depressants provide no new brain development. Only you can do that.

You have a choice every moment of your life. Shall you do a dumb exercise, and get about choosing some more productive neural thinking patterns instead of thinking the depressive ones, and change your behavior patterns from passive to active, or jog, or do yoga, or shall you give up and fall in the depressive habits of thinking and behavior. You always have a choice to pick a more productive thought than the depressive one. For the rest of your life. And as you change your brain, you change your life. Keep in touch. I care. A. B. Curtiss

Below are the two letters of original correspondence between L. and me.

Dear Ms.Curtiss,

At first, I wuold like apologise of my English. I am from Lithuania, it is east Europe. I have read your book "BRAIN SWITCH". It is a wonderful book. I believe yuo are the best doctor-
psychotherapists that I have ever meet. I have got very big problem. Can you advice me, please. I am 35 years old. Depression came into my life when I was 29. Now I am pregnant and I use drugs (Cipralex 10 mg). I know you was in depression for along time. Did you drink the medicine when you were pregnant? Do  yuo know what is the antidepressant effects for a baby. I started use drugs 23 week of pregnancy. I am very much afraid of my baby. Maybe you can share your experiences, please. Your book helps me very much, but I am very afraid to refuse drugs. I think this will take time.I know you are very busy, but  I wuold like ask you respond to my letter, please. It is very important for me. Thanks in advance.
L

I never took any drugs for my depression because I was more afraid of the drugs than the depression. In this country there are now big suits because Prozac and other anti-depressants have caused problems for pregnant women. On the other hand, many women took these drugs and had no problem so all may be well with you and your baby.  I don't know how to advise you because I don't know anything about drugs. I don't think anti-depressants do any good. I do think that hormonal problems and lack of nutruients in some people can cause depression which can be alleviated by natural homeopathic supplements such as vitamins, hormone replacement etc. I hope all goes well for you and I'm sorry I can't be of more help.
A. B. Curtiss --

Monday, April 16, 2012

Turn away from the Darkness

Right this instant, turn away from that great darkness you have been cursing and think only about the small candle you are now going to light.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Makes us Happy?


Hi AB!

Your friend who strives not to be too authentic...I'm not sure where he's going with that exactly, but I wonder if he's thinking along the lines of author Andrew Potter, who wrote The Authenticity Hoax.  I just checked this book out from the library last week. (Funny how it jumped off the shelf towards me...I had recently read your last blog entry!) 

From the book's jacket : Potter has examined our "fetish"  for "authentic" lifestyles, and has concluded that our obsession is actually a form of exclusionary status seeking. The result is modernity's malaise: a competitve, self-absorbed individualism that creates a shallow consumerist society built on stratification and one-upmanship that ultimately erodes genuine relationships and true community.

Hmmm...is this something like what you and your friend are also concluding? Potter writes, "...the search for authenticity is motivated by a visceral reaction to secularism, liberalism, capitalism, and the sense that a meaningful life is not possible in the modern world, that all it offers is a toxic mix of social-climbing and alienation. So, we seek the authentic in a multitude of ways, looking for a connection to something deeper...in each case, we are trying to find at least one sliver of the world that is innocent, spontaneous, genuine, creative, and not tainted by commercialization, calculation, and self-interest."  (page 264)

I can certainly relate to that paragraph.  We do seem hungry, starving, as a culture really, for something that is not tainted by vulgar or selfish motives.  We want the experience of the meaningful, and the reassurance that even if it's just the tea we drink (organic) or the jeans we wear (also organic cotton) we have somehow latched on to something more gratifying, different, and yes better, than those who prefer Lipton and polyester!

If you have time, would love to hear your thoughts about this!

G

Hi G

Sorry it took so long to get back to you.  I’ve been tied up with publishing my middle-school book Hanner and the Bullies. It’s now on amazon.com if you want to glance at it. I’m now tied up making a movie trailer for the book. It’s only 2 minutes but I’m amazed at how many long hours goes into something so short. I have also been booksigning almost everyday.

Here, before I comment on all this,  is a further bit I copied from the website you suggested. About the bad taste of the “masses.”

Ever notice that the masses have incredibly bad taste? Admit it. Take a look at a painting by Thomas Kinkade ("Painter of Light"), the best-selling visual artist in the United States. His work is so awful it must be seen to be believed. Or go down to one of the discount furniture warehouses, the kind that are constantly advertising "no payment until 2037". Try to find a single piece that you would be willing to put in your living room. Or listen to an entire album by Kenny G, the best-selling intrumentalist in the world. Your typical urban sophisticate would find this experience not just unpleasant, but positively harrowing...

The popular view of aesthetic judgment is dominated by what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls "the ideology of natural taste." According to this view, the difference between beautiful and ugly, tasteful and vulgar, stylish and tacky, resides in the object. Bad art really is bad, it's just that only people with a certain background and education are able to recognize it as such. Yet, as Bourdieu points out, this ability to detect bad art is distributed in an almost miraculously class-specific fashion. In fact, only a tiny percentage of the population has it. And as Bourdieu documents quite exhaustively, this capacity is almost entirely concentrated among the high-status members in society. The lower classes uniformly love bad art, while the middle classes have resolutely "middle-brow" taste.

Anyone with an even moderately critical turn of mind can see the obvious explanation for this pattern... So, we don't quite say that his work is "so awful that it must be seen to be believed", but that for people of a certain class, it certainly seems so. Millions of people, obviously, think otherwise. 

So, Dear G., it is an intriguing thought. What are we all looking for—in art as well as in life? Art is the easiest to answer. I think the judgment one makes upon design, art, furniture, etc. depends upon your education and familiarity with the objects you are judging. If Kinkaid’s art work was the first you ever saw you would regard it differently than if you had spent some time wandering around neighborhood art shows, museums, taken an art appreciation course or had purchased some artwork to hang in your own home and lived with a succession of pictures as you tired of them, or decided you really liked them. You would be developing an educated taste. 

So when they say that good taste is not found in the masses, I question that. It depends upon education and more affluent people generally are better educated and have more experience. But anybody can educate themselves. Window shopping is good for this.

As for what people really want from life? Maybe that’s easy as well. Instead of judging the life styles that people are opting for, let’s get more basic. We all want to feel safe. So far in this country this is a given for most people because we have the freest country the world has ever known. So far we can count on our individual freedom. 

Troops are not going to knock on our door and take us off to some forced labor camp like they do now in North Korea. Now, it is true that some people become enslaved to friends or family. But this is something that can be fixed, sooner or later by the individual. 

In my book Depression is a Choice I talk about “the transcenders” those people who had horrendously abusive childhoods and yet were able to go forward from that horrible beginning to live happy and productive adult lives. We can also become enslaved to drugs, both legal and street. Again, this is fixable. 

We all want to be safe  so we have to be careful that in opting for safety we don’t become enslaved.

We all want to be loved and respected. This is why we rush around madly trying to find the “right life style.” But life style won’t get us love and respect. Being loving and respectful gets us love and respect. The more we are loving and respectful, the more we relax into ordinary life and take pleasure in the small moments, a sunrise or sunset, a bird flying overhead, a clean kitchen, a note from a friend.  

We all want to have a sense of accomplishment—that what we are doing makes a difference, creates something that wasn’t there before. We get a sense of accomplishing by working on something, great or small, important or unimportant. It’s a way of connecting with others and feeling needed. I love the way the movie Hugo made this point.

Rich or poor, big house or little, life on Walden Pond, or in some high rise, we are all fundamentally the same, human. And we need each other and we want to feel needed.

While I was booksigning in the Zoo I saw a number of people who were taking a child or an adult for an outing who was severely physically or mentally challenged. We all see people like this on occasion. People in wheelchairs, autistic children, or people with Down’s Syndrome. We see old people held by the hand because they are so unsteady on their own. 

Usually we don’t approach these people. We might smile, or give a thumb’s up if we keep our wits about us and don’t freak out at some outlandish sudden outcry, suddenly thrust-out arm, or loud groan, drooling, or someone shaking uncontrollable. I’m as guilty as anyone as far as never going out of my way to approach these people. I fear to intrude. How would they take it? What should I do? Would they be embarrassed by my attention?

But I had a momentary fantasy about all this. Suppose we all knew what to do. Suppose someone handed out little business cards when such a person came by that said, it’s okay to come over and hug us, or give us a good word. What if all of us, the whole big crowd of us knew what to do? So when a severely crippled person came by in a wheelchair, suddenly we all rushed to their side with hugs and “hi, hope this is a good day for you” “Nice sunny day for you today”  Letting them know we cared about them—that they were one of us. 

I suspect that not only would the crippled person feel something good had just happened. But, when it came right down to it, the whole crowd of us would be the ones who profited the most. Don’t worry about your life style, worry about whether or not you can offer your heart to those around you. A. B. Curtiss