Dealing with Depression

Question from Sam:
I have been very, very depressed lately. Many factors attribute to this: My dad’s cancer, difficulty in finding a job, Trump, racial tension, global warming, plight of migrants etc. The world seems very bleak, and as a result, it’s getting harder and harder for me to resist religion as a means of comfort. I try so much to rely on science and logic for my troubles, but none of it makes me happy. I love movies but I’m scared that if I turn to that, I might hurt somebody in some way (b/c of the whole plight of child actors). Everything in me seems broken and hopeless. Is there anyway I can still be happy again?

Answer by SmartLX:
My wife is going through something similar. Assorted life challenges coupled with large-scale global tragedies and threats completely out of her control (Trump is a major focus, and we’re not even in America) lead to frequent bouts of depression in someone already prone to them. Honestly I wish I could do more to help her, because you never want to see the people you love suffer.

The difference between her and you is that she’s Catholic. She doesn’t seriously doubt God to my knowledge and never has. That’s why I can tell you that religion can be no help at all at times like this. Her thinking is not that God has a mysterious plan that somehow requires all this suffering for some greater good, but rather that God is punishing her specifically for past unidentified wrongs while allowing all this awfulness to happen. Faith is no comfort whatsoever in the day to day.

Perhaps if you gave in to religion you’d bring a different attitude. You’d tell yourself that God loves all of us and has a grand plan, or will come down and fix all this mess eventually, or at the very least everyone will get their just deserts after death. But as you know there’s no evidence for any of this, you would need to live with the fact that anything positive you claimed about God was your own naked assertion, either ignoring it as you prayed or trying to brainwash yourself into forgetting it. And frankly, if you have the kind of mind that generates depression from such disparate sources, God would probably become part of the misery in some way, just like he is for my wife.

Meanwhile, science and logic can be comforting (e.g. by telling you that there is no supernatural force driving the world to ruin, and each misfortune big and small has tangible causes which can potentially be addressed) but they can’t make real problems suddenly unreal, and their power to reverse depression has a natural limit as a result. You’re going through some awful things and so is the world, and the normal, expected reaction to these is sadness. Unemployment especially can feel worse and worse over time, I know.

First thing I can tell you is to go and see a damn movie. If it’s an old movie, it won’t affect the “plight” of any now-grown child actors who were in it. If it’s new, at least you’re helping everyone involved get more work, and it’s a lot better than reality television where child subjects lack even the meagre protections child actors have won over the years. Getting to know about particular child actors and their work can in a small way raise their profile and increase the chances that people will notice if they’re mistreated. Most importantly, if you need to feel some joy and you know one thing that’ll do it for you, and you can only imagine it hurting people in the abstract, don’t go looking for reasons to deny yourself. By all means choose your films carefully, but there are so many.

Next thing is to focus, as the famous Serenity Prayer says (in a sentiment dating back to Greek philosopher Epictetus), on the things you can control and not the things you can’t. There’s probably very little you can do about your father’s cancer, but you can greatly affect his comfort and state of mind, so be a good son. Potential employers make up their own minds about who to hire, but you can get out there and present the best possible version of yourself, taking pride in this regardless of their decision. Politicians have the power to affect national policy on immigration, the environment and so on, but you as a citizen can contact any politician you like, draw their attention in other ways, and even have a hand in their removal. Look into local or online activist groups and see if any are doing good work you’d like to join in. The point here is to give yourself a purpose, however short-term or arbitrary, other than mere survival. Purpose leaves a hole in the mind when it’s not there.

Speaking of joining, we are social creatures and none of us are meant to shoulder the burdens of the whole world alone. You can find groups specifically for your own issues (cancer support, job hunting, human rights, etc.) but joining any group, official or informal, will potentially put you in touch with people you can truly connect with on at least one level. A burden shared is a burden halved, and just knowing there are people you can talk to if you need to can be a very nice thought. If you’re an introvert like me then you may wish to control the amount of time you spend in company, but it’s still important to have that option.

Finally, I realise you’re un- or under-employed but some form of therapy or counselling may be what you ultimately need to get a handle on your runaway thoughts. I have no idea what’s available where you are but some form of pro bono, bulk-billed or volunteer program may exist that will put you in a room with someone who can give better mental health advice than I can. Doesn’t hurt to research it.

For now, just know that I truly hope you can find ways to feel better. There are people who don’t know you at all but feel for people like you and are working to improve the world for your sake. Good luck.

7 thoughts on “Dealing with Depression”

  1. Hello, Sam, I am joining SmartLX in good advice he gave you that I just read.
    I sympathize with you, having had passed, twice, many years ago, clinical major depression that, both times, lasted for a whole year, with a year in between.
    I hope your depression is not as severe as mine had been, and that you will eventually overcome it, with the help SmartLX so nicely put in print you.
    English is not my native tongue, Serbian is, Greek is my third language, so I cannot express myself so nicely as he did, but I assure you that I am on your side, in my heart, with you.
    I myself have my own demons, a seven and a half old autistic grand son, who hasn’t spoken a word, ever, but I also have his younger, by two and a half years, brother, both boys are sons of my only child, my son, what I mean to say is that my personal tragedy kind of prevents me from participating in the world’s tragedy, something that you don’t have, except that your father is so ill, which means you are still a young man, so, I wonder, where is some love interest in your life, but what do I, as a woman, know about men who don’t have money and are therefore out of the ‘market’, but, be sure that I do know something about it, because my son, when he was younger, some ten years ago, succeeded in finding a girl who wanted him, even without money…I got lost in chatting, to conclude I wish you well and that you get out of the rut you found yourself in.
    And, as SmartLX said,
    Good luck, Sam.

  2. Great answer LX.

    Sam, as someone who’s latest obsession is with all things nutrition and health, I’d like to tell you some of the things I think may also help you with your depression.

    Several studies have come out recently about the key connections between physical health and mental health. Makes a lot of sense really, since our “mind” is obviously connected to the physical brain and, by extension, our entire bodies.

    If you are not already doing so, make sure to get some exercise everyday. The body releases endorphins when you work out. You might have heard of a “runner’s high”, and it’s a real thing. Exercise also causes the body’s repair mechanisms to kick into high gear, which helps the body heal itself, including pathways in the brain. The increased production of stem cells post workout in your body for example promotes the growth of neurons.

    Eat a lot of veggies. There’s way too much information to get into all the specifics, but the evidence that eating a lot of veggies improves your health in so many ways is overwhelming. When you get all that fiber, your gut biome (all the microbes in your stomach and intestines that help break down the food you eat) changes accordingly. A gut biome that receives a lot of veggies keeps the intestines properly lined with mucus, which keeps those same microbes from sneaking into your body and causing immune responses. Since things like broccoli and spinach and kale are loaded with magnesium, and your body uses that in every enzyme it makes to kill pre-cancerous cells, it’s essential to eat your dark leafy greens. The amounts and varieties of nutrients in veggies allows your body to have the tools to keep yourself properly regulated.

    Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Your body uses that sleep time to process memories and to clear out the gunk from your brain. And I literally mean the gunk. People who regularly get 8 hours of sleep have lower rates of dementia and alzheimer’s. Sleep is critical to your health.

    The above things are really no brainers, and you’ve probably heard of them before. But they really do matter, and studies on depression have found that healthy whole foods, sufficient sleep, and exercise lower rates and severity of depression.

    There are other things I do too that are still being studied, but I will share them anyway because at least for me they work. Meditation allows your mind to reset and relax, and teaches you how to focus on things while blocking out others. I think it’s a useful thing to have in the toolbox. There are plenty of youtube videos on it, so if interested I’m sure you can find something to your liking.

    I also do a daily intermittent fast of 16 hours and eat a keto style diet. Keto is basically a carb free diet, no starch or sugar or carbohydrates. This means I use fat and protein as my primary sources of fuel. My body produces something called ketone bodies which allow cells to burn fat for fuel. Guess what? Ketones burn “cleaner” in the brain, reducing the amount of residue left over. Those residues may affect depression, just like they do dementia and alzheimer’s. This is still being researched, but I’ve read (and personally experienced) the increased mental acuity from going carb free and getting my body into a state of ketosis (meaning producing and using ketone bodies). The intermittent fast is easy for me to do because carbs are what causes the big hunger cravings. Since I don’t eat carbs, I don’t have the big cravings anymore. I’d have called someone a liar if they told me I could go 16 hours a day without eating, and only eat during an 8 hour window, and not be crazy with hunger before I tried keto. Now I know it’s true. Please research it and find out for yourself.

    PLEASE NOTE – IF YOU ARE ALREADY A DIABETIC CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE GOING ON A KETO DIET AS IT MAY NOT BE SAFE FOR YOU TO DO SO.

    Lastly, if you need to talk, reply in these comment sections. Sometimes just talking to people helps a lot. And everyone here is a pretty good listener, and has experienced the things you’re experiencing.

    I wish you well.

    -Tim

    1. Tim, I like your answer to Sam, too, since I myself am into healthy eating, and, generally, living, the only thing I would add is that there are authors of keto diet that recommend, tell us that we should not eat exclusively just proteins and fats, without any carbohydrates, but, instead, just a little of carbs, no starch, of course, and not too much protein either, because it can make the body turn them, proteins, that is, into carbs, or something like that.
      As for the other advice you gave to Sam, they are all just perfect, especially your insisting on eating a lot of all veggies and all greens. To this I will add that spinach and Swiss chard, are at the top of the list of plants with the most of nutrients-carbs index. Water cress, too.
      So, as a sort of an authority on healthy diet, too, I can say that you, too, are one helluva expert on healthy diet.
      Finally, I wouldn’t call you obsessed with healthy eating, you are just normal, because animals are normal, and they all eat the way you and I do. Let us keep it that way, and spread the word about it here too, after all, we, atheists, are into everything natural, so, in our nutrition, too, as well as of the ORIGIN OF ENERGY AND MATTER, BEING SPONTANEOUS, FROM NOTHING, OR, ALTERNATIVELY, ENERGY .I S. THE UNIVERSE, IT HAS EXISTED FOREVER IN THE PAST AND WILL IN THE FUTURE !

  3. Sam, you would be in good company in seeking peace of mind by reading God’s Word. In fact there have been more people who have found comfort through God’s Word than through any other recorded method. What is more God does not care why you come to Him. He only wants us to come so that He can do for us what you are seeking. To help us to find rest and peace. Please read John 14 for starters.

    There are those who want you to think that we are some accidental occurrence of the getting together of microbes. But this is not true. The truth is God crated us and He did so because He loves us.

    For the last few thousand years man has depended upon God and His Word for strength and guidance. And there have not be a few, who have testified to have found what they were seeking.

    You can depend on God. Grab on to His hand, and don’t let go. No matter what anyone else says. Hold on. http://www.afmonline.org/field-stories/detail/the-dendit-projectgods-blessings-and-miracles

    1. Tim, I like your answer to Sam, too, since I myself am into healthy eating, and, generally, living, the only thing I would add is that there are authors of keto diet that recommend, tell us that we should not eat exclusively just proteins and fats, without any carbohydrates, but, instead, just a little of carbs, no starch, of course, and not too much protein either, because it can make the body turn them, proteins, that is, into carbs, or something like that.
      As for the other advice you gave to Sam, they are all just perfect, especially your insisting on eating a lot of all veggies and all greens. To this I will add that spinach and Swiss chard, are at the top of the list of plants with the most of nutrients-carbs index. Water cress, too.
      So, as a sort of an authority on healthy diet, too, I can say that you, too, are one helluva expert on healthy diet.
      Finally, I wouldn’t call you obsessed with healthy eating, you are just normal, because animals are normal, and they all eat the way you and I do. Let us keep it that way, and spread the word about it here too, after all, we, atheists, are into everything natural, so, in our nutrition, too, as well as of the ORIGIN OF ENERGY AND MATTER, BEING SPONTANEOUS, FROM NOTHING, OR, ALTERNATIVELY, ENERGY .I S. THE UNIVERSE, IT HAS EXISTED FOREVER IN THE PAST AND WILL IN THE FUTURE !

    2. who says god’s HE?
      maybe it’s a SHE?
      or, with black skin?
      or, a black woman?
      or, just an IT!!!
      but, problem’s solved
      cause there’s no god.

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