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Fw: Finding Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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  • ~*Kelly
    Finding Light At The End Of The Tunnel By Pauline Thivierge BA, CMHt., RP It could be assumed that there is an alarming rise in depression if we consider the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2005
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      Finding Light At The End Of The Tunnel

      By Pauline Thivierge BA, CMHt., RP

      It could be assumed that there is an alarming rise in depression if we consider the ever-increasing volume of antidepressant medication advertised in the media. Fortunately, for our convenience, it is not even necessary to remember the name of the advertised pill, as each seems to be colour-coded. If we have the advertised symptoms, we need only ask our doctors for “that coloured pill” to banish the blues. Thanks to the magic of pharmaceuticals it is possible to abolish feelings. This treatment option may subdue depressive symptoms, but it can also dull potentially good and healthy feelings from being expressed.

      Depression is a very real and potentially disabling problem for many people. In Analytical Hypnotherapy, Volume II, Morison emphasizes that depression can “seriously interfere with the client’s ability to cope with life and to function successfully.” One can experience anything from extreme apathy, fatigue and irritability to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. Further, Emrika Padus in The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health, states that living for a prolonged period of time with feelings of “helplessness and gloom can increase our vulnerability to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis allergies, cancer and even AIDS.”

      It is startling to consider that pharmaceutical advertising and the increasing number of physicians who prescribe antidepressants do it as the exclusive treatment of choice without suggesting alternatives. This has become evident in my clinical practice in which most of the clients on antidepressants are women. In none of these cases had there been any other form of therapy suggested in addition to the medication. Many of these people had been on antidepressants for years. One woman reported that she had been on antidepressants for more than fifteen years.

      A common theme expressed by these women was a relief from the feelings of sadness and an increased ability to get through the day. This relief however came at the price of experiencing a “flat line” of emotions. They felt no real happiness, joy or excitement and their everyday problems like financial, marital, career and family concerns continued without resolution. Low self-esteem issues were still prevalent as were many long-term psychological issues, but these were made more tolerable because feelings were controlled by the medication.

      I worked with a woman who had tried every diet available to lose weight. She would lose a few pounds only to gain back more than she had lost. The weight problem had existed for about eight years and she hated her physical appearance. Nine months prior to this, she had been placed on antidepressants by her physician in response to continual tearfulness, feelings of fear, lethargy and hopelessness.

      In my approach to treatment, I began by helping her to identify reasons for the symptoms she was experiencing. As she was unable to connect to any causal factors I began to discuss some of the emotional and psychological characteristics frequently associated with excessive weight gain. She broke into tears as I spoke of weight as being an insulator or protective mechanism in response to something fearful. It was at that point she admitted that when she was heaviest her husband would not initiate intimacy with her. When she was lighter he would make advances towards her, which she did not want. While she wanted to lose weight to feel better about herself, the weight “protected” her from something much more powerfully motivating than her desire to be thinner.

      Further discussion revealed that in her twelve years of marriage she experienced constant verbal and psychological abuse with intermittent physical abuse. With two school-aged daughters to raise and a lack of education, she depended on her husband for financial support. Emotionally battered for years, she felt worthless and was frightened that her husband would harm her if she ever tried to leave. She felt trapped. These were valid reasons to feel depressed. Though her husband continued his insults and controlling behaviour along with the occasional slaps and punches, she felt better able to resign herself to her situation as she “didn’t feel much” since taking the antidepressants. Her physician didn’t know the story. He hadn’t asked and she didn’t tell him.

      Our work together did not focus on weight loss but rather ego strengthening, life skill development and problem solving. Her self-perception began to change positively when she returned to high school to complete her diploma and she found herself liked and respected by peers and classmates. After finding a part-time job her self- esteem continued to grow, and having explored the services available to single mothers and abused women she left the marriage.

      The changes did not happen over night and during most of this time she . remained on her medication, though at continually decreasing amounts. Today she has a full-time job with a chance of promotion, a nice apartment which she shares with her youngest daughter, and she likes her life. The antidepressants were weaned out of her daily routine, unlike many who stay on these drugs for a lifetime.

      With this approach to treating depression, the underlying emotional and psychological issues are dealt with, not simply medicated away. This underlines the difference between coping with depression and learning to take control over it. In his book, The Mind Body Prescription, Dr. John E. Sarno presented a case of a fifty-year old man with a long history of depression. Antidepressants helped to elevate his spirits for a short time until “he suddenly developed severe manifestations of TMS [Tension Myositis Syndrome], including major muscle weakness in one of his ankles.” Dr. Sarno saw this as “a case of symptom substitution.” The medication had altered this man’s brain chemistry and alleviated his depression, but it failed to change the inner conflicts responsible for his depression. In fact, the body substituted leg and back pain in place of the depressive symptoms.

      The family physician is usually the first and frequently the only contact that a person with depression will make. Dr. Sarno identifies that few physicians believe that illness results from repressed emotions. “Psychoanalysts,” he claims, “are the only clinicians who have held to the concept, but their influences in the larger fields of psychiatry and general medicine is limited.” Sarno contends that “contemporary psychiatric research identifies chemical events in the brain associated with certain pathological states, like depression, and then assumes that if the symptom can be altered with drugs, the disorder is cured.”

      Most medical training is focused upon symptom removal rather than the exposure and removal of causal factors. The current trend towards minimizing depression as the result of brain chemistry imbalance, and the vested interests of the pharmaceutical companies have only reinforced the current, accepted approach to the “treatment” of depression. Medication or some form of chemical intervention may well be necessary to help an individual with depression gain an experience of emotional stability, but it should not be at the exclusion of processing and experiencing feelings and emotions. This “band aid” approach does not provide a long-term, successful solution.

      If you are struggling with depression, are on medication, are about to be put on medication or on nothing at all, it may help you to deal with the underlying issues of the depression. Do not be satisfied to simply “not feel.” A qualified therapist can assist you to resolve past issues and learn to take control of the events of your life that have disempowered you. There is light, life and a whole range of feelings at the end of the depression tunnel.

      Pauline Thivierge is a rehabilitation counsellor, cognitive therapist and hypnotherapist who works out of her office in the Muskoka region. She is a regular contributor to The Natural Healer magazine and is available for workshops, seminars and private appointments. For more information or to order her self-hypnosis tape series you can call Pauline at 1-866-337-2586.

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