Depression is a Choice

by Patricia Aiken

Personal economic crises, rise of the militaristic police state, mandatory vaccination threats, IRS audits, FEMA camps and hundreds of other realities assault our mental well being daily. Some feel depression is the normal reaction to the increasingly hostile world we find ourselves facing. In addition to the economic depression we have entered, one psychologist has termed our culture The Great (Clinical) Depression. Even in financially more prosperous times, depression has been rampant.

It’s been estimated that during World War I only 1% of women ever experienced severe depression. With every generation that percentage has expanded. Women born in the 1970’s are experiencing serious depression at 12-15%.

Given the maniacal march to totalitarianism we face, it’s not difficult to understand why aware individuals would manifest one of the classic symptoms of depression- a feeling of hopelessness about the future. Behavioral therapist A.B. Curtiss and others agree that it’s not our fault that we get depressed. However, Curtiss points out that as painful and debilitating as depression can be, there are simple, drug free choices to overcome it. A memoir of her journey out of manic depression, often called bipolar disorder, is her first book, Depression is a Choice - Winning the Battle Without Drugs. It chronicles Curtiss being the third in her family to suffer from debilitating depression.

Thirty years of one psychiatric visit after another to find a solution proved fruitless. Drug treatment was out of the question since she had watched her father and brother being horribly diminished by them. Entering the field of psychology, as many do, seeking help for herself, she became a board-certified cognitive behavioral therapist and certified hypnotist. She found in her study of neuroscience, brain mapping and ancient wisdom the answer to her depression. Curtiss explains depression:

It is a biochemically-based physiological reality that exists in the body. Salivation is also biochemically-based physiological reality that exists in the body. We don’t have to cut out our tongue or take Prozac to stop salivating. We just have to stop thinking the thought lemon. The way we stop thinking the thought lemon is to think some other thought. Thoughts cause the chemicallybased physiological reality of salivation and thoughts can uncause it. Thoughts cause the chemically-based physiological reality of depression and thoughts can uncause it. Since we can choose what thoughts we think, that makes depression a choice.

All thoughts are bio-electrical but they cause bio-chemical consequences in the brain. Stressful thoughts of which we may or may not be aware trigger the fight-or-flight response which is supposed to lead us to forward action but ends, instead, in itself, a negative feedback-loop of escalating panic, fear and depression. But these feelings only exist in one part of our two part brain, the sub-cortex, the seat of all our instincts and feelings. In the neo-cortex, the area of our cognitive faculties, reason, language and math, there is no depression because the neo-cortex doesn’t have the capacity for any feelings, good or bad.

Historically, people have survived with brain injuries to the sub-cortex and have totally lost the capacity for any feeling. We can temporarily brain switch out of our depression by functioning from the neo-cortex instead of the sub-cortex and leave our painful feelings of depression behind.

In my own life, my upbeat, sunny disposition was naturally adequate to overcome life’s pressures. The death of parents within 47 days of each other, a painful romantic break up, a major move and an unfair job loss all cascaded together to turn my usual overriding happiness into a stormy depression. Never having experienced any depression that a quick nap or at most, a night’s sleep didn’t alleviate, I sought conversations with friends, counseling, chocolate and group therapy to no avail.

A life long book worm, I stumbled on a book in a public library entitled, The Self-Talk Solution, by Shad Helmstetter. Contained within the pages were the same type of exercises Curtiss recommends. I was shocked that it had never entered my awareness that I could have control over depression. Already in my mid-thirties and up until that time, I just went where my usually happy thoughts took me. What a relief to know I had a choice on what I thought that gave me control over how I felt. It was like crossing from the shady side of the street to the sunny side and took about as long. The only person in my therapy group not happy about my new insights was the therapist; especially when I said sayonara.

On in the article entitled, Don’t Go Gentle Into Depression, Curtis writes:

Don’t give in so easily to your first feelings of depression. When forcefully encountered, onset feelings of despair and helplessness can be alleviated. Then fullfledged depression will let you alone. In a very real way, bully though it is, depression is like living in a room of pain. And you can learn how to leave the room.

Depression only happens in the subcortex, the feeling part of the brain. There is never any depression in the neocortex, the thinking part of the brain. You can brainswitch out of your subcortex into the neocortex by using simple mind exercises. Doing the exercises repetitively can actually form neural patterns in the brain that you can use on purpose, instead of remaining stuck in the painful habitual neural patterns of your depression.

You can actually build a neural bridge from your feeling brain to your thinking brain thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity.

A new book, Train The Mind, Change The Brain, by Sharon Begley, the science editor of Time Magazine, gives a wide over-view of the latest research in the ability of the brain to modify its cellular connections as a result of new thinking and new behavior.

“The book, The Mind And The Brain: Neuroplasticity And The Power Of Mental Force, by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, shows plasticity as a long-recognized key component to learning and memory. Now neuroplasticity is seen an as important adjunct to cognitive behavioral therapy that can bring an end to depression.

Depression is like the bully who terrifies you as long as you are afraid, but fades at any real resistance. When you focus your attention on painful feelings, your fear keeps triggering the fight-or-flight response which continues to pump stress chemicals like adrenalin (epinephrine) and norepinephrine into your brain, causing the chemical imbalance feeding your depression.

Simple mind exercises like singing a nursery rhyme, or repeating some mantra like yes, yes, yes, yes, yes for five or ten minutes immediately starts to lessen pain in the subcortex by enhancing cognitive focus in the neocortex. Even though the exercises are simple, even dumb, in the beginning it is hard to do them. That’s because it is difficult to withdraw your attention from your pain and actually do something else other than thinking the thought, “I am depressed.” Simple mind tricks seem so lame compared to the immense pain of depression. But if you persevere and do the thinking techniques, you will immediately brainswitch neuronal activity from the subcortex to the neocortex and give yourself some immediate relief from the pain.

Any neutral distraction helps to lessen your habitual reaction to the first downward spiral that plunges you into depression and despair. Having a few mind exercises “at the ready” for when depression hits is a great deterrent to simply rolling over and giving in to those first downward tendrils of despair.

Sometimes Depression is physical

A few years ago I found myself again severely depressed but with no cascading issues piling up. Happy one day, barely getting out of bed the next. The usual self-talk and mind tricks did nothing to override the ugly mood. Unable to find the reason for the depression was depressing in itself. Finally, the underlying condition was exposed.

In addition to neuro-chemically caused depression, debilitating, low moods can also be caused by hormonal disruptions. Incompetent mercury amalgam removal had severely compromised my thyroid function leaving me with a body temperature in the 96 degree range. Stressful events, toxins and poor diet are just some factors that can lead to adrenal fatigue and low thyroid function.

Restoring thyroid function with Wilson Temperature Therapy put me back on an even keel. WTT is now the thyroid treatment being taught at naturopathy schools as it actually re-sets the thyroid, allowing it to function normally on it’s own.

Just knowing the cause was actually a ray of hope. The simplest and most accurate way to check thyroid function is by taking body temperature 3 hours after rising and several times again during the day. At 98.2 patients report a remarkable change in not only mood but many other symptoms.

The Daily Dozen for Depression.

  1. Recognize and verbalize to yourself that you are depressed as soon as possible. “Oh, I know what this is. This is depression. Okay, I can handle this.” This will start to break up the tendency to identify with depression as “your life” instead of seeing it as it really is, a body alarm system gone out-of-whack.
  2. Have a mental list ready, ahead of time, of neutral or positive thoughts to think instead of the thought “I am depressed.” A nursery rhyme, a mantra, a prayer, a word. Even row, row, row, your boat works.
  3. Do just the opposite of what you normally do when you are depressed to break up the depressive mind set. If you normally sigh a lot, every time you start to sigh, sing a few “la, la, la’s” instead, or say “ho, ho, ho” as if you were Santa Claus. If you normally sit in the dark, turn on all the lights. If you normally curl up immobilized in the fetal position, get up and dance.
  4. Try to recognize and verbalize the habitual thoughts that come with your depression. When you catch yourself in a habitual thought have a substitute thought ready to replace it.
  5. Add one item to personal grooming that would ordinarily not be done just for “work” or “around the house.” It doesn’t matter how small a change.
  6. Look around for the next task at hand. Do the thing closest to you and your second task will already appear clearer.
  7. Do a small thing. Don’t try to clean the house. Just clear off a small part of your desk. Don’t try to jog for a half hour, just start jogging and commit to the first five steps.
  8. Call someone you know is not home and leave a cheery message on their answering machine. The very cheerful sound of your own voice will break up the habitual mindset of depression. Don’t talk in a weak, sad voice.
  9. Leave your house and go someplace where you will have a chance to hook-up with regular life in some small way. Just open the door and walk out. Isolating yourself is another habit of depression that you must start to break.
  10. Look up jokes on the Internet. Laugh out loud. Smile. Force the corners of your mouth up. Whether you feel like it or not. You are not laughing and smiling because anything is funny. You are laughing and smiling because it breaks your direct neuronal connection with your depression. The longer you can laugh and smile, the bigger the break.
  11. Ignore your depression. Paying attention to your depression maintains a direct neuronal connection to your depression. Paying attention to anything else breaks the direct neuronal connection to your depression for as long as you can pay attention to something else.
  12. Don’t think about yourself. You are not really thinking about yourself when you are depressed, you are just thinking about your depression. The way you don’t think about yourself is to think about someone else. Send someone a silent blessing or healing. Imagine their pain melting away, their tumor disappearing, their wound healing. If you take just the smallest, tiniest baby step in the right direction, you will see that you have just turned yourself around 180 degrees.