Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 8 The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

Play to Beat Winter Blues

The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

How do you beat winter blues? Does anyone else get sort of bluesy during the winter? After moving from year-round sunny Arizona to four-season Utah, it took me a few years to realize that the sluggish, gloomy, “can’t seem to get my motor going” struggle wasn’t me. Phew, it isn’t a character flaw— or maybe it is, but at least it’s a temporary character flaw. Snow and freezing wind in December is fine. I love a white Christmas. I’m even game for some snow-man building and downhill sledding in January, but as February d-r-a-g-s into March and the sky is still gray and gloomy, I become convinced that I will never see the sun or green grass again. I want to stay hidden under my bed covers and it seems to take a Herculean effort to get me out of bed and moving in the morning. 

Learning that my wintertide melancholy was a real thing (seasonal affective disorder) and was common (I’m joined by 10 million Americans), I felt empowered to take back my February & March and rediscover my winter wonderland.  Here are three ways I’ve given myself permission to play away the winter blues. 

Finding a PLAYFUL Way to MOVE My Body

Exercise in snowy winter was a challenge for me since my go-to routine was out-door walks. But I dislike slipping on icy sidewalks. I’m a wimp in cold weather. So after a series of immobile winters I knew I had to figure out a way to keep moving from January until the sun came out again. If not for my own mental health, then at least for my family’s.  I tried the treadmill at the local rec center, but running in place like a hamster—not super exciting. I needed a fun, playful way to move. Something I could look forward to. Something I would actually want to leave my warm, cozy bed covers to do. 

A minitrampoline!

Perfect.

I’d read about the multiple benefits of kinetic jumping, from clearing the lymph nodes and boosting your immune system to stimulating a sluggish thyroid and increasing Serotin levels. I needed all of those benefits to help beat winter blues.

And jumping on a trampoline felt a lot more like play than like exercise

Santa’s elves brought me a minitrampoline for Christmas and I spent the rest of January, February and March jumping my way right out of winter blues.

PLAYING Outside Again

While waking up and jumping to 80s cardio tunes got me out of bed in the morning, I still struggled with feeling cooped up indoors. It was time to make a decision.  I decided that winter was cold and that I could still go outside. Mind-blowing, I know. But it was for me. I just decided that I could still go for walks outside. I could put on gloves and earmuffs. My nose would turn pink and drip and I would live. I changed my mind that walks had to happen first thing in the morning and I started going for walks at lunchtime.

Miracles happen when I make a decision, when I set an intention: a friend starting inviting me for spontaneous afternoon walks. This winter I have spent more time outdoors and the cold hasn’t bothered me. I feel more energized. I don’t feel like I’m dragging through winter. In fact, I can hardly believe it’s already March.

Planning a PLAYFUL Winter Getaway

The third way I’ve made winter more playful is to give myself permission to take advantage of opportunities to getaway. If my husband has a business trip, I give myself permission to ask for help with the kids and tag along. A change of scenery (especially if the weather is warm!) is effective medicine for winter blues. I’ve also found that winter is a great time to go on a writer’s retreat. The kids have fewer sports activities, I’m not as occupied working in the yard & garden, and I can usually find great rates on an airbnb. Holing away with a mug of hot chocolate and a manuscript feels like medicinal hibernation. And I get a lot of work done, too.

For moms with young kids, an overnight getaway may not be in the cards, but you don’t have to travel far or spend money to have a change of scenery. One of the most healing things I discovered when my kids were young was to getaway one night a week to the local library where I could curl up in a couch with a stack of the most recent periodicals and read short articles (nothing too brainy) or even just flip through the pictures. If you’re an introvert like me, any time alone is extremely recharging. If you’re an extrovert, you probably want to plan a night out with friends. In either case, looking forward to some adventures on your calendar will help winter feel more exciting than tedious. 

Make Winter Fun

The bottom line is that while winter is cold and gray, it is also  magical. Giving yourself permission to play through winter helps you maximize the benefits of winter and diminish the gloom. Find fun ways to stay active. Find a local state park with inexpensive ski rental options. In Utah, the Wasatch State Park offers a $12 cross country package that includes all the equipment rental. This makes a great Saturday afternoon getaway adventure. 

Have some fun discovering your winter adventurous self. Making a decision to be more adventurous and giving yourself permission to be more playful can really help to beat those winter blues. 

Ep. 3 The Power of Permission Part 1

Power Permission

The Power of Giving Yourself Permission

Have you given yourself permission to do what you love? Often we think we need outside permission before we can pursue a goal or passion. Sometimes we think that other people know better what we can do. That’s not true! No one knows your passions and desires better than you, and no one needs to give you permission to go for your dreams.

Other Places We Get Permission

Going for our dreams without external endorsement can be scary, so sometimes we wait for life to let us know it’s okay to move ahead. We get default permission from three sources:

 
  1. Seeing or Hearing Someone Else Do It: I always felt guilty for taking a nap during the day until I read that Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, loved to take power naps any time, any place, including on the floor of trains. I also felt embarrassed for my mismatched collection of partially-filled notebook diaries until I saw J.K. Rowling’s haphazard collection of papers and notebooks. Sometimes knowing that we’re not crazy and not alone gives us permission to be true to ourself. 
  2. Accident, Illness, or Near-Death Experience:  This is the “Live Like You’re Dying” paradigm. It’s not the ideal way to get permission, but it can be very effective. I’m betting that you know someone who really started to live and pursue long-buried dream as a result of an accident, illness, or near-death experience. Before Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness, I lived in full-out martyr mode. I could not give myself permission to slow down, take a nap, or take care of myself. Getting sick definitely gave me permission to safe-guard my own health, but wouldn’t it have been better if I’d just given myself permission to be healthy in the first place? I think so.
  3. Being Asked to Do It: You might also know aspiring actors, singers, authors, etc, who want someone else to discover their talent and take care of all the career building. Having someone else tell us that we are good enough and ask us to share our talent feels much safer than going it alone. But the truth is that most successful people are self-made. Their permission came from inside. 

I Give Myself Permission To . . .

Part of my journey of healing through depression and chronic illness has been learning to give myself permission to:

  • Take my time
  • Take a Nap
  • Make mistakes
  • Leave thing undone
  • Try
  • Figure things out
  • Play
  • Be an amateur
  • ASK FOR HELP
  • and much more

Next Week: The Power of Permission Part 2

In Episode 4 we will explore the Power of Permission in Specifics areas such as happiness, money, health, decision-making, and doing less. See you next week. mw