This is Not Me…Is It You? A KEY

I remember what it felt like to be in the middle of the struggle with depression.  I remember wondering how in the world I was going to be able to endure this intense struggle for the rest of my life.  I could barely think about the next week and how I could climb through the hurdles of a few days, let alone years and years.

I also remember occasionally having very distinct impressions that this struggle had a purpose and that there would be something in the future that would help me to understand the purpose in my fight with the depression monster.  I had a hard time believing it.  After all, during the most difficult times of the fight all I could do was just move to the next moment, the next hour, the next day.

Yesterday I read a story that captures a very defining understanding in my life.  Unbeknownst to me while I was battling a 12-year monster, I was being prepared for what I am doing right now–planting seeds of hope for those battling the monster.   And so, the battle of many years ago gave way to fanning the flame–the flame of hope, the flame of a purpose in the struggle, the flame of something greater at work…

The story I read goes like this:  a young college student was studying medicine.  It was his greatest desire to help other people, to save lives.  In the midst of his studies, he had to undergo a heart operation…which meant he had to drop out of school as well as accumulate massive amounts of debt in order to pay doctor bills.  For years he battled the disappointment of not becoming a doctor.  He felt like a failure because he was not doing what he really thought he could only do by becoming a doctor.  Instead, he became president of a company that made medical devices.

This man and his wife had a young son, an only child, the light of their lives.  He was only six years old when he became ill and it was discovered that he had the same heart defect that his father had.  Long story short, the father had a dream about how to construct a heart valve that could save his son’s life–and thousands of people thereafter.  It was brilliant, it was inspired, there was a purpose.  The valve was placed in the young boy.  The doctor was extremely hopeful and awed by the process of the development of the valve.  The doctor and the father had been friends since medical school.  While the father was irritated that he could have been the doctor to operate on his son and possibly save his life, the doctor friend pointed out that because he was not the doctor he was actually in a position to develop the valve that saved his son’s life.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe that life’s challenges derail us from doing or being what or who we really want to be.  The father in the story really believed that he had failed because circumstances caused him to leave medical school and follow a different path.  For a very long time he believed that he was not living true to who he really wanted to be.  The irony is that his challenges prepared him to be in a position to save his son’s life–years and years later.

I will always remember the times during my fight when I thought, “This is not me.  Who am I turning into?  Something is so wrong.  I just know this isn’t me…”  I thought the depression was keeping me from doing what I really wanted to do…thankfully there was at least an ember smoldering in the background that kept me wondering if this was really true.

The key to recognize is that your challenge has a purpose–a purpose that has yet to unfold.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  You are being prepared for something…

We Are Not Alone

Today is just a simple pause in the narrative…a pause to realize that we are truly not alone.  Whether or not you are religious or whether or not you believe in a Higher Power, the fact is that there is a God, a Higher Power, who created you and me.  And He understands your struggle better than anyone.

This video captures my daughter and some of her greatest friends as they sing a song that can speak peace to troubled hearts.  May its message plant within you hope–hope that you indeed are not alone.

Merry Christmas!

A KEY is Handed to Me — Part 2 Hormone Balance

from my journal:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For eight months now I have been working with Dr. J to get to the root of the depression monster. I have had several blood tests, am working with the ups and downs of life in general, and then sometimes the chemical
imbalance still throws me into a spiral a few to several times a month…but I
continue to trudge through.  

A few months ago I realized that there was a
very direct link between my cycle and when I would feel myself slip into a
downward spin–where the world is dark, where I don’t think I am a good person,
where I feel so overwhelmed by everything I need and want to do, where
everything I’m not doing stares me in the face and I feel like a failure…Last
fall (after I tapered off the medication) I decided that I was going to try taking one antidepressant when I began to
fall into this hole…just once a month or so.  I did and wow, within a couple of hours the darkness
passed and I was me:  I could be objective about life, its ups and downs,
deal with stress much more productively, and believe that improving myself one
step at a time is all that I need to do.  My doctor told me to go ahead and
continue with the once-a-month pill if it made such a difference.  That’s
the amazing thing about me and an anti-depressant.  I have always reacted
to it within 2-3 hours of taking it.  So the fact that I could just take
it once a month and be fine is still intriguing to me.

So do the changes in diet and all of the
supplements make a difference?  Yes, yes, yes.  How else would I be
able to almost completely go off anti-depressants after nine years and do as well as I have?  

Later that month:  I have had to change doctors due to a move.  Dr. J recommended a DO that specializes in hormone balancing.  I made an appointment.  When I described what I
have been going through and how horrible I feel during week two and three of my
cycle, he showed me the ovulation cycle and how progesterone works.
 During week one and two the body doesn’t create much progesterone.
 Then around day 14 it begins to ramp up, peaking at day 21 (which is why
blood work to test levels should happen around this day), and then it slowly goes
back down.  If there isn’t enough progesterone, a person will often feel
grumpy, irritable, cranky, stressed…you get the picture.  I said that’s
exactly how I feel. 

“Progesterone balances the effects of estrogen; is
a natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety hormone; protects against
cancer; improves sleep; lessens PMS symptoms and PMS Related headaches; and is
a natural diuretic.” (

I am normally
doing all I can to hold things together at this point in the month.  Not
this time.  I feel normal–for the first time in a very long time during
this point in my cycle.  I call it a miracle.  I call it a tender
mercy.  I believe that maybe it’s the final piece in this puzzle I’ve been
diligently putting together for the past two years.  It’s amazing.  I
am so grateful.  I will continue to not drink milk and be careful about
how much other dairy I eat, and I will continue to eat more rice-based foods
than gluten-based foods…and I look forward to being able to walk with my
neighbor on a consistent basis when good weather hits.  I wonder what my
levels will be next month…but the proof is in how I feel.  

Oh, it feels wonderful to be able to handle life
with a feeling of hope and to be okay with taking everything one step at a
time…to feel in control because my chemistry is right!

Science is finding more and more the connection between gut health and brain health.  Here are a couple of great articles to learn more about this connection:
You don’t need to take my word for it or even the evidence that the authors of these articles are giving.  Try it for yourself.  Change one thing in your diet.  Make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in getting to the root of illnesses.  Do a 3-month cleanse of the herbal tea I recommend and see if you notice a difference.
While this was not the final answer for me, it was the key that opened the lock to the solutions that would follow.

A KEY is Handed to Me – Part 1

I remember walking into my doctor’s office on that spring day in 2010 as if it was yesterday.  For a few months I had been thinking, “I wonder if there is a root cause to this depression that can be dealt with and overcome so I am not dependent on Prozac the rest of my life…I wonder.”  It was at this point that the first key to the solution of the battle with depression was handed to me.

I remember exactly where I was standing in my doctor’s office.  I was there to get routine blood work done on my thyroid.  I was in the hallway.  Dr. Johnson came out of a room and said hi to me.  I “casually” said, “I’ve been thinking about going off my anti-depressant and seeing what else I can do to get to the bottom of this depression.  If at the end of this searching, I need to stay on the medication, I will because the alternative is much worse.”

Dr. J said that he was just reading a book called “The UltraMind Solution” (see favorite book section to the right of this post) and that I might be very interested in the concepts.  He told me that he supported me looking into the possibilities of there being something that could actually bring about healing.  He told me he would work with me in tapering my medication while at the same time looking into possible allergens that could be visible through bloodwork.

I read the book and began a different vitamin regime–vitamins to strengthen the production of serotonin and the hormone balances of my body.  According to Dr. Hyman in The UltraMind Solution, “Being vitamin-deficient produces toxic molecules that inflame the brain and cause depression.”  Finding the right vitamins is very important.

Dr. J ran extensive tests related to possible allergens.  I learned that I was developing a possible sensitivity to gluten, dairy, and sugar.  Dr. J suggested I reduce my intake of all of these things for a time.  I decided I would.  I eat a regular diet of fresh food–veggies and fruits, I cook from scratch, I don’t drink soda, I rarely eat fast food…so I wondered how difficult this was really going to be–and I wondered if it really would make a difference.

For three months I eliminated about 80% of the gluten, dairy, and sugar in my diet.  It was a lot more difficult than I thought!  But I did it.  I lost about 15 pounds which really surprised me and my gut stopped “rolling around.”  I had not even realized that it was “acting up.”  That was just normal to me!  I began to feel a lot better.  I also walked for an hour several times a week.  I was on a great vitamin regime.  Things were hopeful.  I can also recommend this herbal detox tea to help get rid of parasites and/or other gunk in the colon.

It was a start.  It wasn’t the final answer but it was an extremely important first step.  For now, my intention is to invite you, the reader, to consider what you perhaps have not considered:  gut health linking to mind health.  There is a connection.

Stay tuned for the next post that will describe more about the link between the gut and mental health…igniting the ember.

Food for thought:  Many people know you can change your environment to reduce toxins by eating organic food; filtering your water; avoiding mercury-containing fish, vaccines, dental fillings, and more.  But most people don’t think you can change your genes.  

Well, you can.

You can’t trade your genes in for new ones (well, at least not yet), but you can change how those genes function.  You can change how they work, which ones are turned on or off, and how they control your biochemistry and physiology…so if you are born with genes that predispose you to certain problems, you can work around them, help them do a better job, and prevent disease or health problems.  You can boost your ability to detoxify by turning on the right genes and turning off the wrong ones.  You can help by giving them everything they need to do a good job, such as the right vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients…”     Mark Hyman, M.D.

Enduring…KEY knowledge

Almost a year ago I attended a class where the presenter was a woman who struggles mightily with depression.  If I remember correctly, it hit her full force many years into her marriage.  She told about times where it was so bad that she had to be admitted to psychiatric care at the local hospital.

She was speaking because she had figured out a way to manage the depression.  She had figured out that exercise and learning something about controlling her mind were very helpful.  I kept waiting for her to say how she had completely eradicated the monster from her life.  Instead, the message was, “This is real.  It is a problem.  I have learned how to endure.  My coping mechanisms are exercise and eating better and here is a pile of really good books that have helped.”

After the presentation, I introduced myself and told her that I, too, had fought the monster for 12 years and after much searching and learning, it was completely gone.  That was all I had to say to know that she was not interested.  She did not believe me.  Her belief was what I had believed for so long:–there is no cure; there is no way out of this any more than there is a way out of cancer; this is just my “lot;” this is my test; I just need to endure it valiantly.

Enduring.  Endurance.  Endure.  These words have new meaning for me.  Words cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am for whatever it was that caused a shift in my mind in 2010 that said, “I wonder if there is a root cause that can be eradicated and bring healing…I wonder…”  That one little thought created space for people, answers, and healing to come into my life.

Enduring…do you really need to endure this monster for the rest of your life or is there another answer?  Has your endurance so far been enough?  Is it time to be a strength to someone else because of the lessons you have learned in your journey?  Is it time to look at why you endure?

It matters!