The following is a guest story by Maria.
When I first talked to Maria I instantly knew that she was going to recover quickly.
Making a firm decision to fix your depression is the first step to actually beating it.
Maria talks about her story, the resources she used, and how she finally found what looks like a long-term cure to her mood problems.
Everything is exactly how she sent her story to me, except for added links if you want to learn more about the resources and books she mentions.
It is a lovely autumn day, Tuesday October 28th 2014, and I feel life is beautiful and meaningful, again! But, just two months ago, this was not the case. I was at the end of my rope trying to find a way to climb out a 7-month long severe depression episode that started back in January. So what happened you ask?
“The problem has nothing to do with positive thinking. The problem has to do with a misunderstanding of depression… When your head’s on fire, the book “Feeling Good” is only going to make you feel worse. This book was a great read–when I wasn’t depressed or anxious. The problem is that the book was useless when I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression… If you are in a deep depression one positive thought is not enough to change your brain chemistry. Not only that, but isn’t thinking positive hard while depressed? Isn’t that a symptom of depression?!”
This message resonates with me completely: when I am not depressed, I have no problem doing positive thinking. In fact, I am known as a half-glass-full type of person to family, friends and colleagues. I never believed that negative thinking caused my depression, but what else then?
So, I read everything on http://dominatedepression.com/ that day and left a phone message on the contact number provided, but I was not sure what to expect. When the phone rang the following night past my no-phone curfew time, I had a premonition and I picked up the phone. Indeed, it was TJ calling back and we talked for forty minutes!
Next, I started his 6-week program, read the Mood Cure book by Ross recommended by TJ and arranged a few one-on-one sessions with him. Well, I made a partial recovery after about 2 weeks (depression was gone but not the various side effects from the antidepressants I tried but had stopped back in early August; more on this alter) and a complete recovery after about 1 and half months. Maybe the depression had run its course, but let me just tell the story.
I found the Mood Cure book a great complementary tool to the 6-week program. The amino acid supplements approach did not have the proclaimed 1-day effect, but my depression went away after about 2-weeks of trying various supplements, as well as changing my diet as recommended.
The one-on-one sessions (3 one-hour and 1 half-hour) with TJ were extremely helpful to me for two main reasons. They convinced me to do some tests to pinpoint the problems more quickly, and they offered me much needed moral support during the recovery period. (I was extremely anxious to see the result as I felt that this approach was my last resort.)
During these sessions (via Skype), TJ never gave me the feeling that he was watching the clock (like most therapists do)! Besides his passion and commitment, I was also totally floored by his professionalism. Once I pre-paid for one-hour session but then decided to do half-hour only. Before I even had a chance to tell TJ to return the money, I already received a refund from PayPal!
Back to the recovery, the various tests showed that I am mostly healthy and balanced but my stress-hormone cortisol is out of the roof, and my vitamin D and Iron level are low. In retrospect, these are not surprising findings, positive or negative: 1) I have always eaten ‘healthy’ (lots of vegetables and fruits, limited sugar) hence the overall good test results. But my past diet did not contain enough fat and protein (I am a middle-aged woman who always has the last 10 lbs to loose 🙂 which are critical to mental health. 2) My depression episodes (started 5 years ago) tend to occur in the fall and winter seasons, and vitamin D and Iron are essential to a happy mind.
So, I am now taking vitamin D and Iron supplements and also use a light box. 3) I am one of those over-achievers and perfectionists, not in the clinical sense, who burn the candle at both ends: try to be successful at a stressful job and try to run a happy family of four. At times, I almost enjoyed being a ‘super’ woman, but then I crashed, lesson learned hard way! So these days I am more in tune with my body and rest whenever necessary. Stress management is one of the keys in my case.
Medication did not work for me! In fact, the first medication I tried (I have resisted taking medication until this most recent episode) made me severely insomniac. This coupled with atypical high stress turned my mild depression into a severe one. (My previous episodes in the past 5 years were never this severe and usually lasted about 4-5 months. I recovered from them by exercising and quit drinking.)
Then I needed other medications for insomnia. My sleep got better but my depression never went away and the medication also had various side effects on me. I understand that medication might be necessary for some people, and I did read various success stories online. But, it just did not work for me. TJ has his own interesting story with medication that is worth reading.
Exercise is key in prevention and recovery. In the past, exercise helped me recover and I noticed the pattern of slacking on exercise just before an episode hits. However, during this episode when I was severely insomniac and depressed, exercise did not have the usual effect on me, because my body was stressed to a breaking point.
Soon after I found TJ and started to take supplements and change my diet, exercise had its usual magic on me again. So I am exercising regularly now: 3-4 times a week with group aerobic exercises, weights or jogging. I also walk a lot.
Talk-therapy was helpful. I found a good therapist through a friend and I met with him weekly for about 3 months. (This was the first time I tried talk-therapy because of the severity of this episode.) Although I learned a few useful tips, I must say it provided more of a moral support than anything else. This is mostly due to the fact that I am generally a positive person, as said early, and I know the essence of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
I have no problem implementing it when I am not depressed but it is hard when I am depressed! This explains why I found TJ’s view on depression-and-positive-thinking so refreshing and resonating. Having said that, practicing CBT every day does not hurt and seeing a good therapist is even better if finance is not a concern.
Mindfulness study was interesting. I took a 8-week course while still depressed. I also bought The Mindful Way Through Depression book by Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn. It made me realize how not mindful I had been living my life: I am goal oriented and kind of always on the run. But ,it did not pull me out of depression. The book indeed cautions against practicing it if you are in the midst of deep depression. But I was desperate, to say the least. Nowadays, I try to be as mindful as I can. It is hard but I believe it is useful in prevention.
What else? Not surprisingly I spent much time on internet and read many self-help books during my recover. Internet browsing is a double-edged sword. Without it I wouldn’t have found TJ, but I also felt that some of the time spent there was not constructive. Self-help books are, no pun intended, helpful. I personally find the following two books particularly helpful: Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is the father of mindfulness practice, and Back from the Brink by Cowan, who really provided moral support through his story and his interviews with others who suffer from depression.
They say that the relapse rate is high among people who had recurrent episodes. But I hope I have found my long-term solution: stress management (rest, let-it-go, less worry and less perfectionisms, mindfulness and social activities), good diet, exercise, and some supplements when needed! I cannot thank TJ enough for helping me find this path.
TJ has asked me if I would do video testimonial, because “it seems like positive messages make it through the “depression filter” for people much better when they see a video”. Unfortunately I am not brave enough to do so: I am worried about the stigma associated with depression. Nevertheless I hope my story here can help you in some way.
Afterward by TJ: Maria was definitely set on overcoming depression by utilizing all her resources. What resources are available to you that you can go out and start using today?