Depression is Not Always A Psychological Issue

Depression is often seen as a psychological disturbance where a person is persistently sad. The other symptoms include having trouble with concentration, getting easily annoyed by small things, unexplained anxiety, a negative perception of every situation, morbidity etc. The description I have given here is not the textbook explanation of depression or any symptomatic guide to detecting depression. These are traits that I have seen in a few patients of depression that I have encountered.

In fact, I have endured most of these very symptoms at one time in my life. My continuous work stress led me to believe that I might have a serious issue on my hands. So, I booked an appointment for myself and visited the doctor. After hearing my case, the doctor just prescribed a mild antidepressant and some sleeping tablets for me. He did not bother explaining my problem to me or tell me why I needed those pills. I was dismayed at this behaviour, but I still took the medicines. I tried them for 2 weeks and found no improvement. Moreover, I was always sleepy, which got me into trouble at work. When I went back for a followup visit, the doctor wanted to increase the dosage. I was not convinced, so I decided to take things into my own hands.

I did some research on the matter. There were many articles about the seriousness of the illness, the stigma attached to it, the symptoms and possible treatments techniques etc. But, most of the information was only from a behavioural and psychological standpoint. I wanted to avoid taking antidepressants and sleeping pills. I turned to yoga, meditation, walking, and other hobbies to keep my mind stress free and relaxed. It helped to a certain extent, but every now and then, my mind would take a turn into that dark alley where the shadows lie.

This is when I found an article about how nutritional deficiency leads to mood swings, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability etc. All these symptoms point towards depression when they persist over a long period. This got me thinking, I immediately booked a lab test for myself to check if my problem was less psychological and more to do with nutrition.

I was having B complex deficiency along with being anaemic. This meant I was having a deficiency of iron, vitamin B9, B6, B12 among other things. The article I had read suggested that a deficiency of all the above vitamins along with magnesium, selenium, iodine, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D etc tend to lead to depression. I took the results to a local doctor and he prescribed a set of vitamin supplements and a new diet plan. Within a few weeks, I was feeling more like myself and eventually, I made a full recovery.

What shocked me about this episode, was the psychiatrist that I approached at first, did not ask for any such tests. He did not check about my general health, my eating habits or any other symptoms apart from psychological ones. He was in a hurry to just prescribe antidepressants. My initial research always spoke about the psychological factors and aspects and hardly ever spoke about the impact of nutrition and food habits on our mind. They speak very vaguely about eating healthy food and avoiding junk food. But I had no idea, a simple vitamin or mineral deficiency could disrupt our mind, behaviour and attitude as well.

I was lucky to get out of this mess without any damage done. I want everyone to become aware of the impact of nutrition and healthy food on our body and also our mind. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or any such psychological problems, make sure you also check for any vitamin/ mineral deficiencies and hormone imbalances. I am sure your doctor would have checked on this, unlike mine. But, it is always better to be informed about all the aspects.

Beware Of The Impact Of Kindness

An act of kindness is universally respected as a good deed. Every religion teaches us to be kind and helpful. We praise generosity and we elevate compassionate people to a God-like status. Then, why did I warn you to be wary of the result of kindness?
Let me tell you a story to explain the statement.

There once was a village of wealthy and prosperous people. All the people of this village were blessed with good health, wealth and abundance. The villagers were grateful for their fortune, they shared it freely with those who were less fortunate. Once a sickly poor mendicant came to their village asking for charity. Everybody donated freely to help the poor man. Soon, with all their kindness, the beggar’s health improved. He was able to save enough money to stop begging. He took up a job in the village. Seeing his development, more beggars started to visit this village. The kind citizens continued to help everyone who came. But some of the villagers observed the sudden increase of beggars, they stopped being so generous. Soon, the rest of the families too started to make the same observation and stopped giving alms as freely as before.

The new beggars did not like this change. They started to demand charity, instead of requesting it. If anyone refused to help, they would get agitated at them. As the situation worsened, more and more families stopped helping. This made the beggars riotous.

Observing all these changes, the village elders and the chief called for a meeting. They wanted to settle this conflict, so they sat down to discuss the concerns. Through this discussion, the chief realized that the whole ruckus was a result of their own kindness.

The villagers were kind to everyone who asked for help, they never checked if the person deserved help or not. They blindly served everyone who asked. Their unquestioning attitude and kindness attracted all the freeloaders and lazy people around. The village became a haven for lazy and good for nothing people. Their begging was no longer a request for help, it became a demand for money. Later, it became the responsibility of the villagers to feed this bunch of beggars.

If you think that this is just another imaginary story, then think again. Transpose this story onto your life and analyse. Often, we try to be helpful to friends or family just because they are our friends or family. We go out of the way to help them, but our friends take the help for granted. God forbid, if we refuse to help them for any reason, they start to get agitated and emotionally blackmail us. They make statements like, ‘how can you be so cold-hearted?’ or ‘is our friendship not worth the trouble?’ They guilt-trip us into going beyond our limits to help them.

It is not just with our friends and family, we see this trend even with certain charitable and social organisations. They make us feel guilty for our well being and use this guilt to manipulate us into donating more than we can afford.

I will not persuade anyone against compassion. In fact, the world could use more kindness, but beware of whom you shower it upon. Not everyone who asks for help deserves it. Do not fall prey to false propaganda and manipulative lies. Stop and check the veracity of any problem before you start to help them.

Use Writing As Therapy

Writing is often considered a good habit to cultivate, many use it as an avocation. Some might even turn it into blogging as I have. But, I feel that penning down your thoughts is the best form of therapy. This is not an original thought; many psychologists have recommended that we maintain a journal of all the events that affect us. I never quite understood the benefits of this exercise until I tried it myself.

It all started with an interview of a famous celebrity, I will not name him as he is a controversial figure with many people glorifying him and just as many reviling him. In this interview, he was asked to advise students who study away from home and fall into depression.

He gave the following simple exercise for all students who feel alone or agitated on any event or issue. ‘Every time you face an issue that disturbs you, write it down’. Find a peaceful place to sit and record the complete incident from your memory in that book. After writing it once, if you do not feel calm, write the same incident again. Try not to revisit what you wrote the first time, but write the whole incident freshly as you remember it at that moment. Repeat this process of writing until your mind cools down. He said it is a way of removing the incident from your mind and getting rid of it.

I tried to follow what he advised and found some interesting things about myself. I realised the first time, I described an incident that hurt me in great detail. I wrote an essay that was 20 pages long describing my emotions, my pain and all hurtful words. The next time I wrote it, the number of pages came down considerably, so did the description of all the emotions. By the end, I wrote about the event 5 times and my fifth attempt was only half a page.

I read back at all the 5 essays that I wrote and I was startled to see the change in tone with each attempt. At first, it was all centred around me and my feelings. The next attempt was slightly less about me and more factual. The third time I became a bit critical of my self. By the last time, I narrated the incident from a 3rd person pov.

I found this technique very helpful and therapeutic. It was also a kind of analysis into my way of thinking too. I want everyone to try this method of self-therapy before we pass judgement on it. Tell me how it works.

Always Finish What You Start

Have you ever started something that you were very excited about, but have quit midways? Have you started a project with one idea in mind and when things didn’t work out as you planned, you lost interest. It has happened to me a few times and I have burnt my fingers to learn from this mistake. Never quit midways. Always have the patience to wait until the end. If you have confidence in your convictions then it is worth the effort, I speak from experience when I say this.

While in college pursuing my undergraduate degree, I had taken up a computer programming course. My intention was to earn enough programming certificates so that I can take a job in either the programming field or my chosen field. The plan seemed simple at that time. A little into this course, I realized that it was not that simple after all. My programming certificates were not equivalent to a degree in computer science, so I may not get jobs as easily as I hoped. This disheartened me and I quit my course halfway through to continue with my undergraduate program. After graduation, when I started my job hunt, I faced tough competition at all interviews. Any additional qualifications that one held became important. I lost a few lucrative job opportunities, to someone who had done a certificate course in programming. This was a hard punch to me, though I had knowledge of programming, I did not have the patience to complete the course and get my certificate. This was the first time that I learnt this lesson.

Though I learnt my lesson, I did not quite remember it. Later on in life, I faced a similar problem. I decided to get fit and enrolled in a fitness program. To join this program, I quit my yoga class halfway through. Again, I lacked patience and was in a hurry to get healthy fast. A week into my new health class, they started yoga training. I was upset, I told them that I just quit my yoga class to come here so that I can get on a fast track. The cherry on the top was that, if I had finished my yoga class, I could have leapfrog this level. Since I quit halfway through, I had to redo the whole thing. 

There are many such situations in all our lives, some funny, some not so funny, where we ended up paying dearly for our impatience. Call it lack of foresight or impatience or lack of planning. Either way, we paid dearly for not finishing what we started. Consider yourself lucky and learn from my mistake, if you have not faced such situations. 

Many of us, would have set up New year resolutions hoping to better themselves. Make sure you follow through on your resolution and not quit. You never know when this resolution will add a new lifeline for you. So, I resolve that this year, I will finish all the endeavours that I take up. Here’s to hoping that I’m successful in doing it. Cheers!!