Might you be depressed?

Might you be depressed?

How recently have you heard someone mention depression? Likely not that long ago. Perhaps you’ve seen a Facebook post or read about it in an article. It is hard to go a week without mention of it.  Decades ago, people would have experienced bouts of low mood during certain moments of their lives, and perhaps it continued for a lifetime. Back then, it just wasn’t talked about as much.


With the genesis of public notices seemingly committed to ending stigmatism against mental health such as Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ and messages posted on billboards encouraging all to seek help, you might even find yourself wondering, “Am I depressed?”. After all, awareness brings curiosity.


What is happiness anyway?

I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for your primary physician, whose routine visits went from writing a prescription for an antibiotic to responding to patients’ stories of lacking a sense of purpose, dealing with divorce, losing a job, and a loved one’s addiction to heroin. So instead of prescribing medicine for physical pain, it has become routine for doctors to prescribe an SSRI. The general population seems to have gone from a vitamin deficiency to a Prozac deficiency.


Here’s the thing though…

Depressed moods are normal. Even prolonged depressed moods are normal. Think of yourself walking in to see your doctor after the death of a family member. You complain of difficulty getting out of bed, lack of motivation to do anything, and crying throughout the day. According to a questionnaire you found online or completed right there in your doctor’s office, you are diagnosed as depressed. You discuss the options with your doctor. You might mention that depression runs in the family and therefore, all the more reason to start taking pharmaceuticals. Right? Seems to make perfect sense. After being advised of possible side effects, you leave with a prescription, and make a follow-up appointment. I can’t imagine how this might make you feel. If it were me, I think I would leave thinking ‘I have a broken brain, and this will fix it’. Maybe I leave with hope.

Your genetics might show that you have the potential to express depression more than your neighbour, but that doesn’t mean you cannot change your environment to ensure these genes are not expressed and instead, suppressed.

via @luellajonk

I am not against pharmaceuticals, but they come with a price and are meant for temporary relief. Many have side effects that are less than pleasant. Others may be difficult to wean off once initiated. Knowing this, it doesn’t make sense for this to be your first approach at fighting depression. Your brain in not broken and there is no such thing as inheriting depression. Your genetics might show that you have the potential to express depression more than your neighbour, but that doesn’t mean you cannot change your environment to ensure these genes are not expressed and instead, suppressed.

But isn’t it normal to feel depressed when you lose a loved one, your job, are experiencing marital strife, long term connections are severed, and perhaps feel isolated (you know that one all too well amidst Covid). So why do you feel you must detach from the feeling then? It is normal to feel this; it is without pathology. Sometimes you just need to sit with that feeling, and realize that the hurt won’t be there forever, it is temporary, and it will be okay. But yes, it can hurt so so much.


In the last couple of decades, the studies on brain neuroplasticity have given us real promise. Our brains have the ability to change and grow so that we can feel and think differently.  Think of what your muscles would look like if you never exercised. They would be weak and spindly. Once you begin to work specific muscles, they will express accordingly. Your brain works similarly. If you make an effort to turn on or express neuronal pathways associated with a happy mood, which is generally possible by both psychological and social connections, that mood will be expressed more often and become more resilient to outside triggers.


It is well documented throughout the literature that a common theme in all or most types of depression is absence of connection. From the examples I listed above, you can see how that is true. When one loses a job their sense of purpose quite often exits simultaneously. Or you might be someone that just shows up at work and goes through the motions. Or you are a student studying what your parents think you should study. How about never REALLY connecting with your spouse? I mean deeply connecting – with meaningful conversations. The same is true with parental connections. An individual whose only form of connection is through online video games with numerous ‘chat’ windows up is craving the feeling of being part of a community, tribe or group. Also, during Covid – it is not only the obvious physical disconnection from our loved ones that lowers our moods, it is the uncertainty of the future. It is hard to feel secure when you might be lacking hope. Whenever you feel ‘out of control’ in your life, whether you are a teenager experiencing parental control or you feel a substance/addiction has control over you, you will become depressed. Craving a sense of control is innate to us as humans; all animals crave this. Caged animals in zoos have no desire to procreate because they have no connection to their own tribes/herd. Children feel and crave this connection too; both physical and emotional connection. You provide them with control by teaching them to communicate and then being there to listen to their story. Feel the feeling with them, don’t downplay it.


What to do when connecting to another individual is not an option? Being in nature is a natural form of connection. We are part of the animal kingdom. Yes you have a mammalian brain more evolved and intricate than our primates, but we all exist together and share the land. You are part of Mother Earth in all of its glory and amazement. For others who are spiritual, you get deep connection knowing you are a child of the Universe. There is a higher power taking care of you. You cannot help to feel this way when you are amidst the landscapes that we are so fortunate to see, smell and touch. Contributing to a group, signing up for with volunteer work, or visiting the elderly are also great antidotes against depression.


Still no clue where you can begin?

 Go back to doing what you normally did in order to feel happy. Connecting to an emotional health professional, skilled in mood and thought in the specific area you are struggling with is a great way to start. This is someone you can tell your story to and have listen and connect to YOU. A face to face – human to human connection. I feel connection can cure nearly all form of disease.


I don’t view depression as a disease. Society may call it a disease because individuals experiencing and displaying signs of submissiveness, fall into a state of helplessness and victimization. This behavior and mindset keeps one paralyzed and stuck because it brings a sense of ‘forgiveness’ to our self with messages of ‘this happened to me and therefore there is little I can do’. But as you can see…


There is a lot you can do.

 Start by looking for ways of connecting to yourself, those around you and your community. Begin with your tribal connections, and if that is not working, build new connections in the community. Join a sports team or coach a sports team. Talk to a neighbour, say good morning to the coffee barista and mean it. Ask the cashier how their day is going and mean it. Ask open-ended questions to your spouse and kids and actually listen to their answers. Put your phone away more often when around family. Smile more often. Your brain will recognize this as a sign you are happy and it will automatically send out signals supporting serotonin uptake, your natural happy hormone. Eat healthfully. Priorities ring clear in terms of where you spend most of your time, which often shows what you feel is most important. Action always speaks louder than words.


Note: Prolonged episodes of depression are serious, and I want you to take some action. Please start with some of the suggestions I made in this post, knowing that small steps is the only way to climb out of it. You will get there.

It Sucks When…

It Sucks When…

You get up in the morning with a dull headache.


You had plans to conquer the world today. Well, it happened to me last Saturday morning. My Saturdays are designated to either indoor house chores or outdoor garden work. This particular Saturday I had a list of outdoor tasks to be checked off and I had envisioned myself jumping out of bed like a jackrabbit and running.

Instead, I woke up to my alarm clock at 6 am (normally I naturally wake up before 6 am, well rested). Right away I knew something was off. “Oh well” I thought and went downstairs to make my cup of coffee with the thought of “when I get moving, it will be better”.

Nope. That wasn’t happening. Headache remained.

Begrudgingly I plowed ahead with the day. After my morning shower, and still not feeling better, I made myself some breakfast. I thought that perhaps I didn’t eat enough the day before and I was hungry. I ate some healthy brain food and carried on. I realized soon after that it wasn’t lack of food, as it made no difference.

It was hard to avoid thinking about my head! It hurt…plus I felt my waist was strapped to an anvil. For those of you that suffer with migraines, I have a whole new empathy for you. This was not fun.

Mid-morning as I was shovelling soil out of my compost bin into a wheelbarrow – I started to feel sorry for myself. I was questioning, “Should I nap?” (I NEVER nap – not even when I had small babies in the house.) “Lost productivity time” I thought, “carry on soldier” my intuition was telling me. So, I listened.

My mind wouldn’t stop thinking. Why do I have a headache? What did I do the day before? I did take note that the previous evening I seemed energized more than usual. Normally around 9:30 pm the melatonin is increasing, and the cortisol is decreasing (the two neuronal hormones that should act in a see-saw-like-manner). I like to read in bed but usually can only get 10 minutes of reading in before ‘game over’ happens. This particular night, I was at the 45-minute mark when I thought, “Hmm, this is odd, oh well”. I had the gut instinct to put the book down and shut off the light, and I did eventually fall asleep without too much effort.

As I continued to shovel and feel even more sorry for myself, the next thought that popped into my head was “Joey!!” Joey is my 15-year-old son. “I bet he used my espresso machine and filled the bean bin with caffeinated beans!” See, typically, I make myself a decaf espresso after dinner. Yesterday I happened to have made myself a double decaf Americano after dinner. Thoughts started to race further about “I can’t live with my teenagers during this whole Covid thing anymore!!! They are driving me insane.”

Well, as it happens the headache went away in 30 minutes after that. Did Joey fill the bin with caffeinated beans and wouldn’t admit to it when I drilled him on it later that day? Possibly (knowing the wrath of mom), or maybe I wasn’t properly fueled, and it took a bit of time to hit the system? Possibly. My point is, I may never know…BUT… I am aware.

Awareness is the key point here. Being aware of your behaviours and thoughts, along with reflection is what we all need more of. We need to pay attention and focus more. It is hard to do this when ‘life is so busy’. I am happy I followed my ‘gut feeling’ and kept on going. I had a very productive day, although I would have preferred to not have such a slow ‘out of the gate’ performance. However, it all got done and was followed by a beautiful rain.

“The mind always wants to know THE WHY, and it won’t stop until you are satisfied with the answer.”

via @luellajonk

What was interesting was the cascade of thoughts that went through my brain. The mind always wants to know THE WHY, and it won’t stop until you are satisfied with the answer. I want you to instead feel that perhaps just taking note is more important than knowing the why. The answer will come to you eventually. Staying present and focusing on what IS good about your day is much, much more important.

As I shoveled with thoughts of pity entering my head, I realized I needed to see the positive. It was a beautiful crisp morning. Perfect for yard work. No bugs, with a nice breeze going through the backyard. The compost was nice. My back is stronger than it used to be, and there were no aches or pains to speak of. I could go on and on, but what I want to bring to your attention is that we all have ‘bad days’, but we also have the choice of how we perceive these ‘bad days’.

No matter what happens in life we HAVE A CHOICE OF THE THOUGHTS THAT come into our heads. Do we want that thought or not? Does it make me feel good to have this thought or not? Is this thought the truth? (e.g. Joey. Did he use caffeinated beans?) Who knows and who cares…? I am still alive. My work was done. Setting my thoughts (mindset) first thing in the morning wrote the story.

I went from self-blame (not eating enough and reading too long), to blaming another person, to God knows what else I was trying to trace this headache to… who cares? Stay focused and present on what is ahead of you – give gratitude to what you do have around you – and carry on, young grasshopper… life is good. Do you have clothes on your back? Food in your cupboard? And a roof to protect you from the rain? Truly a beautiful rain it was.

Check, check, and check. Yep, life is good.

One final note: What I described above is completely different than depression. Depression is not having a bad day, it is much more than that. Let’s save that for next week, shall we?