depression

Feeling It for Yourself

Feeling It for Yourself

"If I could explain what the one biggest shift has been from when I was 17 and suicidal to today and 22 and a lot healthier place, it's just that before I used to try to run away from my pain and tell no one about it, and now I try and run right into it and tell the people closest to me about it."

~ Kevin Breel

180°

180°

"When you feel the sting of separation inside, simply turn inwardly and intuitively around one hundred and eighty degrees and there will be your innocence, your beauty, your completeness. It may seem impossible, but give it a try until you reconnect with what in truth you never lost."

~ Adyashanti

A Different Relationship to Sadness

"We had some very important evidence here that suggested that the ability to work with sadness in people who had recover from depression may determine whether they're able to go on and sustain the benefits of treatment or whether they're going to relapse. But how do you work with a trigger of relapse like sadness when sadness is also a feature of our universal human experience? We weren't interested in trying to eliminate sadness. We weren't interested in trying to get people not to feel sad. What we really needed to do was help people develop a different relationship to their sadness. And what does that mean in terms of trying to teach people certain skills. This is really the point at which mindfulness comes into the picture."

~ Dr. Zindel V. Segal, from "The Mindful Way through Depression," TEDx Talks, April 2014


See also:

Williams, J. M. G., Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Kabat-Zinn, J., & Sounds True (Firm). (2007). The mindful way through depression: [freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness]. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. [Sounds True, library]

Mindfulness Research Guide

Standing Strong Together

"The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one...We can't really expect to find an answer when we're still afraid of the question....The only way we're going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together."

~ Kevin Breel, from "Confessions of a Depressed Comic," TEDxKids@Ambleside 

See also: 

 

Decreased Symptoms of Stress in Students

Excerpt from "Mindfulness Programs In Schools Reduce Symptoms Of Depression Among Adolescents: Study," by Carolyn Gregoire, The Huffington Post, March 15, 2013:

University of Leuven study looked at the experiences of 408 students from five different schools in Flanders, Belgium, all between the ages of 13 and 20. At the beginning of the study, the students answered a questionnaire designed to reveal symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and were then divided into a test group and a control group. The test group followed an in-class mindfulness training program which consisted of instruction in mindful breathing and body scan exercises, sharing experiences of these exercises, group reflection, inspiring stories, and education on stress, depression and self-care. The control group, meanwhile, received no training. All students filled out the questionnaire after the training, and again six months later.

The researchers found that students who adhered to the mindfulness program exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program. Whereas before the training, 21 percent of the test group and 24 percent of the control group reported symptoms of depression, after the mindfulness training, 15 percent of the test group versus 27 percent of the control group had depression symptoms. Six months later, 16 percent of the test group and 31 percent of the control group showed signs of depression.

The study is the first to examine the effects of mindfulness on depression among adolescents in a classroom setting, but previous research has found that mindfulness meditation can reduce symptoms of depression and chronic pain in adult patients...

This month, the first international conference for mindfulness in schools will take place in London. And in the U.S., the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program, supported by Congressman Tim Ryan, is bringing mindfulness training into schools as a way to boost students' emotional resilience and help improve academic performance.

More...

The Direct Experience of Emotions, Not the Stories

The Direct Experience of Emotions, Not the Stories

So after the mindfulness training, there was greater activation in regions of the brain that help control attention, including the insula, a region of the brain that allows you to feel your emotions as they are happening, the direct experience of emotions, not the stories.

To Experience the World Directly As It Really Is

Excerpt from The Open-Focus Brain by Les Fehmi:

The physicist Werner Heisenberg once said that what scientists observe "is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." When it comes to trying to understand the brain, researchers start with a strongly biased question: "What is wrong with the brain?" We need to abandon the biased view of the human central nervous system as somehow genetically and chemically flawed and the belief that a growing number of powerful drugs, whose mechanisms and long-term effects remain disturbingly unknown, will fix us. Instead we need to ask what is right with the nervous system and how we can enhance it by reducing operator errors. The best treatment tool for many, in my view, is attention training. The misuse and rigidity of attention get most of us into the chronic problems of anxiety, depression, and pain, and the effective use of attention skills can get us out. Flexible attention may not fix everything, but it can do far more than most imagine.

Humans were never meant to see the world through a lens of chronic fear or other negative emotions. We were meant to experience the world directly as it really is. We were meant to form deep connections to other human beings. With attention training at work, school, or home, we can open our hearts, experience the fullness of our senses, and reconnect with forgotten parts of ourselves. We can experience moments of unity and transcendence and find the world has been reenchanted. It will be a watershed moment in human evolution when we are able to pay attention to how we pay attention, control our attention, and take personal responsibility for the creation of our own realities. This is a truly profound realization, a revelation. It's time to learn to use the way we pay attention to create a more vibrant reality.

Loosening the Grip of Emotions

From “Anxiety? Banish the Thought,” The Week Magazine: Health & Science, Jan. 20, 2011:

So many Americans suffer from anxiety and depression that antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft have become household terms. But new research suggests that mindfulness therapy—a sittingmeditation-based treatment with roots in Buddhism and yoga—can help people with mood disorders feel better without drugs.

“I was skeptical at first,” Stefan Hofmann, a psychology professor at Boston University, tells the Los Angeles Times. “I wondered, ‘Why on earth should this work?’”

Yet after reviewing 39 studies on the practice involving 1,140 patients, Hofmann’s team concluded that mindfulness therapy relieved anxiety and improved mood; another study published  last month found the treatment is as effective as antidepressants at preventing relapses of depression.

It doesn’t work for everyone, but experts have found that training patients to observe their own immediate thoughts can often loosen the grip emotions have on their minds—MRI scans of patients’ brains display shifts in mental activity.

Jordan Elliott, a 26-year-old marketer, began mindfulness therapy for debilitating anxiety four years ago; he now meditates for 10 minutes each morning and has stopped taking Prozac. “When a negative thought pops off in my head,” he says, “I say to myself, ‘There’s a thought. And feelings aren’t facts.’”

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See also:

The Uninvited Ache

Excerpt from Tinkers by Paul Harding:

Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.

Howard resented the ache in his heart. He resented that it was there every morning when he woke up, that it remained at least until he had dressed and had some hot coffee, if not until he had taken stock of the goods in his brush cart, and fed and hitched Prince Edward, if not until his rounds were done, if not until he fell asleep that night, and if his dreams were not tormented by it. He resented equally the ache and the resentment itself. He resented his resentment because it was a sign of his own limitations of spirit and humility, no matter that he understood that such was each man’s burden. He resented the ache because it was uninvited, seemed imposed, a sentence, and, despite the encouragement he gave himself each morning, it baffled him because it was there whether the day was good or bad, whether he witnessed major kindness or minor transgression, suffered sourceless grief or spontaneous joy.

Hating and Loving Death

Die Schrecken des Krieges: Frauenraub (Antonio Bellucci) "Life, of course, never gets anyone’s entire attention. Death always remains interesting, pulls us, draws us. As sleep is necessary to our physiology, so depression seems necessary to our psychic economy. In some secret way, Thanatos nourishes Eros as well as opposes it. The two principles work in covert concert: though in most of us Eros dominates, in none of us is Thanatos completely subdued. However—and this is the paradox of suicide—to take one’s life is to behave in a more active, assertive, “erotic” way than to helplessly watch as one’s life is taken away from one by inevitable mortality. Suicide thus engages both the death-hating and the death-loving parts of us: on some level, perhaps we may envy the suicide even as we pity him."

~ Janet Malcolm, in The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes

Ego-Free States

The hookah-smoking caterpillar in Tim's Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Excerpts from “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” by John Tierney, New York Times, April 12, 2010:

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, California, for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

…Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

…“There’s this coming together of science and spirituality,” said Rick Doblin, the executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “We’re hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we’re showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can’t.”

Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as “existential medicine” that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

“Under the influences of hallucinogens,” Dr. Grob writes, “individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.”

Read the entire article here…

[Thanks Dōshin!]

Leaving the Outside World Behind

Excerpt from “All-Nighters: Failing to Fall,” by Siri Hustvedt, New York Times Opinionator (March 3, 2010):

The Neuronal Switches for Waking and Sleeping

In sleep we leave behind the sensory stimulation of the outside world. A part of the brain called the thalamus, involved in the regulation of sleeping and waking, plays a crucial role in shutting out somatosensory stimuli and allowing the cortex to enter sleep.

One theory offered to explain hypnogogic hallucinations is that the thalamus deactivates before the cortex in human beings, so the still active cortex manufactures images, but this is just a hypothesis.

What is clear is that going to sleep involves making a psychobiological transition. Anxiety, guilt, excitement, a racing bedtime imagination, fear of dying, pain or illness can keep us from toppling into the arms of Morpheus. Depression often involves sleep disturbances, especially waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. Weirdly enough, keeping a depressed patient awake for a couple of nights in the hospital can alleviate his symptoms temporarily. They return as soon as he begins to sleep normally again.

 

An Adaptive Response to Affliction

Excerpt from “Depression’s Upside,” by Jonah Lehrer, New York Times Sunday Magazine (February 25, 2010):

The mystery of depression is not that it exists — the mind, like the flesh, is prone to malfunction. Instead, the paradox of depression has long been its prevalence. While most mental illnesses are extremely rare — schizophrenia, for example, is seen in less than 1 percent of the population — depression is everywhere, as inescapable as the common cold. Every year, approximately 7 percent of us will be afflicted to some degree by the awful mental state that William Styron described as a “gray drizzle of horror . . . a storm of murk.” Obsessed with our pain, we will retreat from everything. We will stop eating, unless we start eating too much. Sex will lose its appeal; sleep will become a frustrating pursuit. We will always be tired, even though we will do less and less. We will think a lot about death.

The persistence of this affliction — and the fact that it seemed to be heritable — posed a serious challenge to Darwin’s new evolutionary theory. If depression was a disorder, then evolution had made a tragic mistake, allowing an illness that impedes reproduction — it leads people to stop having sex and consider suicide — to spread throughout the population. For some unknown reason, the modern human mind is tilted toward sadness and, as we’ve now come to think, needs drugs to rescue itself.

The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse. Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction. Maybe Darwin was right. We suffer — we suffer terribly — but we don’t suffer in vain.

What Could Be Useful About Depression?

Excerpts from “Depression's Evolutionary Roots,” By Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., Scientific American Mind, August 25, 2009:

Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can’t concentrate on their work, they tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. Some can plunge into severe, lengthy, and even life-threatening bouts of depression.

Matt exploring Musée Rodin (2005) So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it...Analysis requires a lot of uninterrupted thought, and depression coordinates many changes in the body to help people analyze their problems without getting distracted...

Sometimes people are reluctant to disclose the reason for their depression because it is embarrassing or sensitive, they find it painful, they believe they must soldier on and ignore them, or they have difficulty putting their complex internal struggles into words.

But depression is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression. (There are several effective therapies that focus on just this.) It is also essential, in instances where there is resistance to discussing ruminations, that the therapist try to identify and dismantle those barriers.

More…

Andrews, P. W., & Thomson Jr, J. A. (2009). The bright side of being blue: Depression as an adaptation for analyzing complex problems. Psychological Review. 116 (3), 620.

La-Porte The Gates of Hell
La Porte de l'Enfer
Auguste Rodin

In the Fire

Anita Barrows in conversation with Krista Tippett from “The Soul in Depression,” Speaking of Faith (Feb. 26, 2009):

Suddenly, in depression you are ripped from what felt like your life, from what felt right and familiar and balanced and ordinary and ordered, and you're just thrown into this place where you're ravaged, where the wind rips the leaves from the trees, and there you are. Yeah. Very, very much the soul in depression.

And I think that all of the talk about, 'Oh, well, this will, you know, be really good for your soul or your character, this will make a better person of you,' feels like absolute rubbish when you're in the midst of the wretchedness of depression. But I think that in a way, I mean, it almost feels sort of physiological. If the soul were material, I think depression sort of works on it the way you could work a piece of clay, so that it softens and it becomes more malleable. It becomes wider. It becomes able to take in more. But that's only afterward. In the fire, what you get is the fire.

This is a poem called "Questo Muro." It is a phrase from a passage in Dante's Purgatory. Dante has been in the depths of depression, in the depths of the inferno, and he's now working his way out of it toward Beatrice, who is — you know, you could call her the soul or the anima. And he and Virgil are climbing the mountain, and all of a sudden they get to a wall of fire, and you can't go any farther unless you go through it. So this is my poem, and it really is a poem, I think, about finding the courage to persist, to go through that fire.

Questo Muro

You will come at a turning of the trail
to a wall of flame
After the hard climb & the exhausted dreaming
you will come to a place where he
with whom you have walked this far
will stop will stand
beside you on the treacherous steep path
& stare as you shiver at the moving wall, the flame
that blocks your vision of what comes after.
And that one
who you thought would accompany you always,
who held your face
tenderly a little while in his hands —
who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass
& washed from your cheeks, the tear-tracks —
he is telling you now
that all that stands between you
& everything you have known since the beginning
is this: this wall. Between yourself
& the beloved, between yourself & your joy,
the riverbank swaying with wildflowers, the shaft
of sunlight on the rock, the song.
Will you pass through it now, will you let it consume
whatever solidness this is
you call your life, & send
you out, a tremor of heat,
a radiance, a changed
flickering thing?