This report is to support chapter 16 of my book ‘Finding Happiness and Freeing Your Spirit’. Available on Amazon Kindle Finding Happiness and Freeing Your Spirit.
I have expressed via my blogs and book that I feel that there are two problems with Depression and Mental Health Disorder. One is that it is labelled Depression, and two that it is labelled Mental Health Disorder. You see Depression sounds depressing and to tell somebody who is experiencing the symptoms categorized under depression that they are depressed will actually further activate stress hormones (namely cortisol) which is hugely detrimental. Equally to classify it as mental health makes it sound as though it is all in the mind, and making somebody who is experiencing extreme stress believe that they are mental not only insults the condition but makes the person suffering feel even worse than they already do.
It is crucial to raise awareness of the Physical changes occurring in the body when one experiences a ‘Depression’ so that they have the maximum power to help their body override these physical occurrences and regain control of their physical body.
This report is named ‘If this Rat could talk’ for the reason as stipulated on the tin. I am not a Doctor or Scientist; they have explicit knowledge and they could run a series of tests on a lab rat and come up with the exact rises and fluxes and by the recorded reactions they could give a well-documented report on what is happening with that rat, but if the rat could talk it would give insight into something that cannot be easily measured by science or education. And so I am that talking rat, and it is with my intrinsic knowledge that I offer my layman theory of ‘Depression’, and the certified professionals can interpret this ‘inside knowledge’ to apply scientific theories and effectively help people.
First and foremost the most important thing that I want to get across is that the condition labelled as ‘Depression’ is a physical condition and not a ‘Mental Health Disorder’. Yes there are neurotransmitters that respond to the release of cortisol, the hormone cortisol. Hormones are a ‘physical’ internal make-up and you do not see teenagers in puberty or women during menopause as being labelled with a ‘Mental Health Disorder’, their physical surges are recognised, understood and treatment is available to increase happy-hormones and create hormone balance, at least it is in the menopause, teenagers still largely suffer in silence. Equally alternative wellbeing advice is offered such as healthy diet and exercise as these are well known to regulate hormones and help the body fight cortisol.
So it is not wrong for people to suggest these methods when talking about ‘depression’, they are right in that if the body has higher levels of positive endorphins and serotonin etc. the body is better equipped to fight the over production of cortisol.
So my theory is this, instead of an adrenaline rush producing fight or flight reactions the over production of cortisol makes the body shut down in a similar extreme reaction to stress.
People who have very good access to ‘happy-hormones’ due to exercising in ‘comfort’, not having financial worries, having company (crucial for oxytocin) and healthy diet (bread is cheaper than fruit) are naturally better guarded against extreme cortisol production. Even when you can feel the stress rising, if you can quickly engage in happy hormone activity you may be able to prevent it rising to a dangerous level.
The thing is that level. I suspect that there are various reasons why some people produce a normal healthy amount of cortisol in response to stress (it is a human survival instinct to identify when something is not right), and some just keep producing the cortisol. It may be genetic make-up or it may be related to earlier trauma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was once thought to be a post war disorder but it has since been recognised that PTSD is equal in post war veterans and subjects of childhood trauma. So it is possible that the body once stressed and cortisol is produced is afraid, unable to cope, cannot see the light through the dark literally, and the person wants to curl up in a ball and sees no ability to cope with this life, with thoughts that family and friends would be better off or relieved if they were gone. It is a very horrible, frightening and traumatic state to be in, and your body is physically taken out of your hands as you are traumatised. Once you are in this state of being you are not ‘fed-up’ or ‘stressed’ our ‘down’ or ‘sad’. To go for a walk or to the gym, put on music or cook a delicious healthy meal is extremely difficult because you are debilitated, you find it difficult enough to cope, to move, to function; function probably being the best word of choice, to function is just so very difficult. Of course like a zombie you know that you have certain commitments that you must fulfil and so somehow you function but it is internally crippling as you are working against your body and putting further strain on your system.
Eventually the cortisol levels will reduce to a ‘safe’ level, when you are no longer wishing to impale yourself and you are able to function and practice self-help techniques as mentioned above to bring yourself into a happier place, this is when you can go for a walk. And when the cortisol lifts you feel amazing, strong, you have survived and you swear you will never get ‘down’ like that again. It is only when it happens again, again and again that you must face up to the fact that your body is attacking you. It is not your brain. You are of sound mind and you know how lucky you are. You know that people in the world are worse off; you know that you have food in the cupboard and a bed to sleep in and a beautiful family and that you have no reason to get into the complete state of helplessness or rage.
You realise that you have a problem, the outside world suggest that you have a ‘Mental Health Disorder’, are you really mental? That is very upsetting when you know that you are of sound mind and that this is something despite your own very strong will you seem completely unable to control. You are then identified as having ‘depression’ of some sort at least, but you are a happy person, you love life and you don’t want to walk around saying that you are ‘depressed’, that suggests that you are miserable and many people still to this day still say ‘depression and all that rubbish’, and I firmly believe that to be a poor description of the pure darkness that occasionally, or regularly attacks you when your body physically over produces Cortisol when it is triggered by stress.
Of course medicine recognises that delivering hormones will help to work against the cortisol and these can be effective but ultimately lowering the body’s natural ability to defend itself and naturally produce happy-hormones and self-regulate does not really help long term.
A crucial part of learning to live with ‘depression’ is to be on top of your triggers and be in tune with your body so that you know when cortisol is kicking in; if you act extremely quickly you may be able to reduce the cortisol levels. If you let people around you understand how they can help they really can help. Sometimes you have to be really quiet and still if possible, keep yourself in a safe and calm environment until the cortisol reduces, which may be a few hours or a few days, but once you are aware of what is going on and once you trust that you are in a dark place that is NOT your fault, you will help your body recover so that it can function normally again. Just like an open wound to the bottom of your foot, you know you need to let the body work its miracle to heal it before you put weight on it. Well the body is just as sophisticated at healing over production of cortisol if you don’t beat yourself up and let it do its work.
Oxytocin, another hormone, is crucial to the recovery of a dark episode, this is commonly known as the love hormone and you literally do need love and affection to produce oxytocin and oxytocin is the greatest warrior against cortisol. Naturally, and I use that word in a loaded sense, you will or at least you are unlikely to experience a ‘depressive’ episode when you are ‘in-love’ as your oxytocin levels are so high your cortisol does not stand a chance. It is no wonder so many people are in love with being ‘in-love’, it is the best position in life to operate from. But the good news is that even when single you can produce oxytocin. Either with the love of a pet, or just talking, now picking up the phone to talk to someone is the last thing you want to do when you are ‘depressed’ and we have already established that that is not my choice word for the condition. But, once you let somebody you trust understand that sometimes a trigger means that your body overproduces cortisol into a state of inability to function it is easier to respond when they call and ask if you’re ok with a simple ‘No’ that is all you need, and then without the horrific responses of ‘think positive’, or ‘go for a walk’ or ‘put the music on’ or ‘think yourself happy’ they will know that all they need to do is keep you on the phone, just let the conversation flow. When you are forced into talking your body is actually producing happy hormones instead of stress hormones. And it does not have to be a happy conversation, it just has to be active talking, even if quiet, preferably for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Additionally if you do have somebody in the house with you it’s just gentle touch, or a hug, a decent hug, without talk of ‘what’s wrong’, this will give your body a chance to naturally produce oxytocin, this will help your physical body physically fight the cortisol behind the scenes. Of course you don’t feel it, it’s just amazing when you realise that you are starting to function again, and that the darkness has lifted.
Even when you are completely alone and you do not have people to help you you can help yourself by practicing self-love. Historically frowned upon but self-love and self-compassion is more widely talked about and accepted as the norm these days and you should not be shy of being kind to yourself, you must believe that you are worthy of love and be your own good friend. Again once the darkness has taken hold this is scary and hard to do but you need to do what you would tell your best friend to do. Force yourself into the bathroom, force yourself into the bath, see it as bandaging a wound, you have to gently force your body into a ‘nice’ situation so that it can help heal itself. If you can keep some dark chocolate in the house, even though your body will naturally want to carb load (for serotonin) at this point, drag yourself to the cupboard, force feed yourself a single square of dark chocolate which will help your serotonin and dopamine happy hormones and release endorphins subtly helping your recovery, it really does help!
You may find once you are out of the bath or once you have had a hug or talk that you are able to put some quiet background music on. Force high level happy music on yourself and your body may resist increasing stress further but if this is non-intrusive and quiet your body will respond naturally to the positive vibe and all of a sudden you are winning, you are physically regaining control and the cortisol has not managed to maintain its debilitating high.
Of course going back to the advice on natural health and all the ways that you can naturally and proactively make your body release happy hormones on a daily basis (male and female – there are strong links with stress affecting testosterone, libido and increasing ‘depression’). But you do need to be in a particularly good position to be able to enjoy life’s simplicities that offer these happy hormones in abundance, and the sad reality is that many people have struggles that hinder these processes and more triggers to cortisol than access to wellbeing. The crucial difference to understand between different human beings is why some produce a healthy amount of cortisol and why some produce a truly debilitating level of cortisol leaving them vulnerable and questioning their own mental wellbeing.
It is crucial when learning to manage your own darkness to identify triggers and avoid these situations. If you are living in a stressful way you may have to change your life. Change is never easy and that is why people don’t change what seems obvious. If you are in a volatile or simply unloving relationship you owe it to yourself and anybody affected by you to remove yourself from that situation. If you have a diet high in white flour and sugar you have to understand what these chemicals are doing to your body and cut them out. (white flour blocks oestrogen which is crucial for stabilising hormones). Money problems will trigger stress so make manageable agreements as soon as possible, you don’t have to wait for the money problems to go to reduce stress you just have to know they are managed. Work stress – get out as soon as you can without adding to other stresses, again by taking control of the situation your body is already producing dopamine instead of cortisol as it knows that you will be rewarded in six months instead of in the same job in six months. Friends, toxic relationships, the list goes on, the key is to recognising it, being brutally honest with yourself and then seeing what you can change and start the ball rolling.
You will hope that you never get another trigger but just be as prepared as possible for when you do. Have people in the loop of how to respond to you, arm yourself with goodness, if you are female tap into your natural cycle so that you are more aware of when to avoid stressful situations. Avoid social media triggers and news triggers, make sure you have plenty of positive affirmations in your eye line, not because you consciously need reminding but so that your body has a constant happy hormone boost instead of or in preparation of a cortisol strike.
You are not mental and you do not have to beat yourself up for what people tell you is conscious behaviour. You are fighting a physical debilitating reaction to normal triggers and you will recover and deal with each episode better the more you learn what is physically happening to you.
The only thing that society, Dr’s and Scientists need to understand is that people who fall under the classification of ‘depressed’ are experiencing a physically debilitating internal hormone attack of over production of cortisol that is preventing them for a short period of time from functioning in a healthy way, often leading to rash decisions. As a society we need to target the triggers, combat loneliness and poverty and make comfortable exercise and a healthy diet easily accessible to all.
Some triggers will never be avoidable (heartbreak) but some can be worked on.
My personal idea is that ‘depression’ is highly linked to empaths. Empaths are sensitive people acutely aware of negative energy / when they are being lied to and so it makes sense that their highly intelligent internal physical make-up will become more stressed by production of high levels or cortisol when exposed to / triggered by these external factors. They are less resilient to the man-made society that we live in. They are more in tune with Mother Nature and the natural state of being. To tell an ‘earth angel’ that they have a mental disorder is profoundly damaging and this will cause high levels of internal stress, manifesting itself in physical illness and often leading the (beautifully) sensitive person to escapism via toxic diet or behaviour and causing a divide between loved ones.
Note that this report is based on a decade of background reading, experiences, observation, various self and external diagnosis such as cyclothymic, aspie, depressed, PMDD, SAD, and it is an accurate observation of this lab rat that can talk. I kept a daily diary for a period of two years measuring every possible trigger and contributor. I can tell you that cookies are dangerous! You can also escape the danger of rash decision making during an ‘episode’, once you are acutely aware you can delay sharing your decisions (such as quitting, emigrating, moving, ending relationships etc) until a week after your episode, 9 times out of 10 you will not go ahead with that very certain decision that you made a week earlier!
My conclusion is that the way to tackle ‘depression’ is a tall order and that society needs to adjust itself from birth, education and work-life balance to cater for different variations of human being. You already have places such as coexist working with peoples natural energies experiencing highly productive work in team members who are able to lay low when the cortisol kicks in.
We simply need to actively work towards a kinder more altruistic way of living. Yes oxytocin really is a large part of the answer, along of course with controlling what you can in terms of stress! There is significant room for debate on what drives entrepreneurs and entry into various professions; I firmly believe it is down to this inner knowing that this man-made system is very bad for your health. It is not healthy to leave the house before sunrise and be subject to a heavy commute, with strict time management all day and a pay cheque at the end of the month that leaves no disposable income. It is not natural to ‘have’ to leave your child (more than you want to) nor is it natural to struggle to find time to ‘enjoy’ exercise and healthy cooking. When you know from childhood that you are being moulded into something that you are not this makes education very challenging.
Life needs a shake-up and it is doable, it just needs enough people in the right positions to accept the real problem and make changes. Nothing is impossible in terms of what is man-made, just hard.
We need to stop labelling people with Higher Perspective with whichever ‘Disorder’ fits the bill. It is not a disorder to know when something is wrong. If anything it is a disorder to think that everything is okay.
People are having breakdowns and committing suicide on a daily basis not because they are mental, but because they are misunderstood, feeding crime and aggressive behaviour.
Namaste. Mitakuye Oyasin.
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