My medical doctors had the best intentions, of that I’m sure.
I trialled four anti-depressants in six months, and none of them improved my symptoms. With my then-slow-moving brain, I took some advice and tried some alternatives — and set out to find a way to feel better. Here’s some of what worked for me.
Acupuncture. I had tried it once before, after a back injury, and it had helped me. In all good fortune, I have an accomplished acupuncturist in my small town. He had trained in a psychiatric clinic earlier in his career, so was compassionate toward my slow-moving mind and body. I started out seeing him twice per week, and, several years later, now see him once a week for “maintenance.”
Nutrition. I started seeing a wholistic nutritionist. We talked about eliminating sugar and processed foods, and continuing to avoid caffeine and alcohol (these I dropped early on, due to their mood-shifting qualities). We worked through some homeopathic protocols and high-quality supplements like fish oil and vitamin D, on top of multi vitamins and minerals.
Meditation. I came to vipassana and tried my best at it. I’d light a candle nearly every day and sit in front of it, trying to focus on my breath, hoping to feel better, or, simply feel.
Exercise: Walking, swimming, and skiing. It was intensely hard work to even get out the door when I was at my worst, but I came to find that the effort was worth it. Exercise helped me to start to feel both physically better and good about myself for having accomplished it. There are ideas and studies about how bilateral movement promotes mind-body connections, and even helps brain messages cross the corpus callosum. Plus, although it is very hard to do when you’re depressed, exercise starts to feel good over time.
Joining a swim club. Exercise + camaraderie + buoyancy = feeling good.
The band. I lucked into finding a folk-ish roots band that practiced a lot and performed very little. There, I could sing. The act of opening your mouth and letting out a good sound, in the company of a kind group, can do wonders for finding a feeling.
Getting a dog. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone. It’s a lot of work and a huge commitment. For me, though, in my life and relationship, it was a good idea. A dog needs attention and care and a walk every day. And I needed to give that. Plus, a dog gives back a thousandfold.
Yoga. It feels good.
Friends + kind people. Accepting help is hard. Even when you’re feeling well—and not no mention when some of your former friends don’t know what to do so they withdraw. Asking for support is a big job—with risks—but there are moments where it’s necessary and can be rewarding.
It is a grand mix of variables, but when the magic pill doesn’t quite work, some people can get better without drugs.
Have you tried any alternative therapies to try to start feeling better? What were they and how did you know that they were helping?
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I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this. You are reading the sixth in a series of thirteen articles on surviving depression. Find the first five articles here.