What to Do During the Middle Two Weeks You’re Waiting for Your Antidepressants to Kick In

Image: Harmony in Red (The Dessert) by Henri Matisse

Harmony in Red (The Dessert) by Henri Matisse

Chances are you’re not having quite so many devastatingly low days now. You’re functioning a little better overall, but you’re still not ready to run any marathons yet or run for public office. Don’t worry about it – this recovery takes time, and it happens so subtly you may not notice it till someone else points it out. You’re probably still not eager to spend too much time outside your home, but the cyberworld provides many diversions (you can wander around it in your pajamas, and no one will know). I’ve found that things of beauty are both soothing and refreshing at this point, so that’s where we’ll start first. Continue reading

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Real Life Depression Symptoms

I think that one reason it took so long for my depression to be diagnosed is that depression symptoms lists suck. Seriously. I can look at them now and see why nothing clicked with me. Appetite problems? Nope. Sleeping problems? Nope. Suicidal thoughts? Nope. Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed? Well, when you’ve been depressed since childhood, that’s kind of hard to say.

And the lists leave a lot of real-life depression symptoms out. What about “don’t like to be around other people”? Or “read way too many romance novels/play too much Dungeons and Dragons.” And where was “wear dark clothes most of the time”? (Actually, if you live in a major city, wearing dark colors doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. It just makes sense, since otherwise your clothes always look grimy).

Here’s one of the problems. Those lists are, more often than not, lifted right from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the big, thick book that doctors use to diagnose mental illness. As you can tell by its name, it’s pretty darn technical. And dry. But that’s really no surprise, since it’s written by doctors for the benefit of doctors and insurance companies.

I figured that I couldn’t be the only one who didn’t recognize my own depression in those dry, technical lists, so here is my partial list of real-life depression symptoms:

  • Things just seem to be “off” somehow.
  • You cry frequently for no apparent reason, and it’s not the good kind of crying you get from watching “The Notebook”.
  • You look around your house at the end of the weekend and wonder why you didn’t get anything done, even though you weren’t busy.
  • Everything is a monumental effort. It’s the mental equivalent of having the flu.
  • You let little things that really shouldn’t be a problem slide for months, like registering your car. (Ask me how I know that you can get huge ticket from the nice state cop from this.)
  • You’re very irritable. (Let’s face it, if everyone is irritating you, it’s probably you, not them).
  • Your issues of Allure/GQ are piling up unread because you really couldn’t care less about your appearance. And if you’re not the Allure/GQ type, you’re not keeping up with your average hygiene routine – hair cut, waxing, plucking, trimming nose hair, etc. You don’t smell or anything, but just doing the shower/tooth brushing is about as much as you can handle.
  • You constantly feel like something bad has happened, or that you’re worried about something, but there’s really nothing you can put your finger on.
  • You can’t make a decision to save your life, even if it’s only to respond to “fries with that?”
  • You’re anxious and worried all the time over things that normally don’t make you fret.
  • Your feelings toward your spouse/significant other have changed. You may feel yourself withdrawing emotionally.
  • Your concentration is shot and/or you’re forgetful.
  • Your senses are dulled – nothing looks colorful, food doesn’t have much taste, etc.

I hope that this list has been somewhat helpful. Let me know what I left off – I’m interested in hearing other people’s symptoms.

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I Knew I had a Good/Bad Psychiatrist/Therapist When…

Image: The Betrothed by John William Godward

I thought it would be helpful and informative to share good/bad psychiatrist or therapist stories.

We’ll start out with my experiences…

My first experience with treatment was at the mental health clinic at the local hospital. I was fairly indifferent toward the first psychiatrist I had there, but I was unpleasantly jarred to find out that he was leaving after six months. Apparently they were on some sort of rotation. When I walked into the new psychiatrist’s office, I immediately got a bad feeling. It looked like he felt this was a temporary situation, as the office was completely bare except for the desk and two chairs. The reason for my visit was to ask him to raise my medication, as I was feeling the familiar signs of depression after being fairly stable for a year. He never even looked at me, and only asked me one question to determine whether I was depressed again or not, “Do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others?” I said, “Well, no, but I never have, so that’s not really an indication for me.” He ignored all the signs of depression I was recounting and refused to raise my medication. I absolutely hated him, and wouldn’t go back until he was gone six months later. This time when I walked into the new psychiatrist’s office I was very wary, but the difference he had made in that cold office was amazing. I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics, but I immediately noticed that the place smelled great. He had air fresheners in the office that made you want to inhale when you walked in. Continue reading

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Scented Baths

Baden-Baden Bath

The Baden-Baden bath is a bath that you will want to repeat frequently. Its lovely pine scent and its carefully mixed ingredients will create a body of water similar to the curative mineral content of the renowned springs at the luxurious Baden-Baden spa in Germany. Select an album of Mozart’s piano concertos to play while you bathe. Pour yourself a tall glass of sparkling mineral water with a slice of lime or a dash of fresh lime juice. Place it tubside to sip as a replenishing tonic.

Image One-Half Cup of Borax
One-Quarter Cup of Sea Salt
Five Drops of Oil of Sage
Five Drops of Oil of Rosemary
Ten Drops of Oil of Pine Balsam
Loofa Mitt

While your bath is running, combine the Borax and the Sea Salt in a glass bowl, stirring with a metal spoon. Add the Oil of Sage, the Oil of Rosemary, and the Oil of Pine Balsam to the dry mixture in the bowl and stir thoroughly. Add this entire mixture to the bath while the water is still running and stir the water with your hands till it’s apparent that the Borax and the Sea Salt are completely dissolved.

Now it’s time to claim your just reward. Slip into the tub and journey back to your earliest moments of sensation. Give your conscious mind a rest, and allow your unconscious feelings free rein. Soak for at least twenty minutes, and breathe deeply of the healing scents surrounding you. The essential oils in the Baden-Baden bath are wonderful for restoring the body’s vital energy and stimulating the respiratory system. When you are fully relaxed you may use the Loofa Mitt to invigorate your skin and circulation. Do not use soap with this bath. If you can, let your skin air dry before you dress.

Clan of the Cave Bear Spa

The Clan of the Cave Bear Spa is a powerful, healthful ritual designed to purify the mind and body. Enter this prehistoric spa for a transforming retreat from the outside world. It will prepare you to embrace new situations with grace, and help you to accept life’s challenges with courage and confidence. Once you have experienced its magical properties, you will return to this spirit-renewing ceremonial spa again and again.

One-Quarter Cup of Powdered French Clay
Sage Smudge Stick
Pine-Scented Soap
Loofa Mitt
Pumice Stone

Warm your bathroom ahead of time so that you’ll be comfortable outside the bathtub during the spa ritual. Prepare your Clan of the Cave Bear mud pack by mixing the Powdered French Clay with enough water to make a slight runny paste. Take off your clothes, tie back your hair, and slather the clay on your face, neck and upper chest.

While the clay is drying and drawing impurities from your skin, light the end of the Sage Smudge Stick and wave it in the air for a minute or two until the bathroom is redolent with the earthy scent of the burning herb. Smudge sticks, widely available at health food stores, are bundles or herbs tied together tightly so that when lit, the stick will smoke rather than burn. Sage was burned ritually by North American Indians to purify and cleanse the environment. It symbolizes the virtues of strength and wisdom, and the forces of the earth that can be summoned to counteract negative thoughts and influences.

Extinguish the smudge stick and fill the tub to the top with comfortably hot water. By now the clay will have dried on your skin, so you may climb in and submerge yourself. Splash water over your face and neck to soften the clay, and wash it off your skin with the Pine-Scented Soap. Pine has a powerful resorative scent that brings to mind positive, secure experiences. After ten minutes or so, scrub your skin with the Loofa Mitt to remove dry, dead cells and smooth your body all over. Continue to soak for another ten minutes or so.

Now, pull the plug and let the water drain out of the tub around you. While you are waiting, rub the Pumice Stone against the rough areas of skin on your elbows, feet and hands – anywhere there are calluses to be smoothed away. When the tub is nearly empty, turn on the faucet to a cool temperature and squat in front of it, splashing water over yourself to rinse off.

You will now glow pink all over, purified from head to toe, mentally and physically. Rub your skin vigorously with a rough towel and let yourself air dry completely before you dress and emerge into the world, a more powerful entity.

Copyright © 1991, Maribeth Riggs

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Finding Help: How to Find Help Through Psychotherapy

Millions of Americans have found relief from depression and other emotional difficulties through psychotherapy. Even so, some people find it hard to get started or stay in psychotherapy. This brief question-and-answer guide provides some basic information to help individuals take advantage of outpatient (non-hospital) psychotherapy.

Why do people consider using psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a partnership between an individual and a professional such as a psychologist who is licensed and trained to help people understand their feelings and assist them with changing their behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-third of adults in the United States experience an emotional or substance abuse problem. Nearly 25 percent of the adult population suffers at some point from depression or anxiety. Continue reading

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