The powerful letter below comes from Denise Norwood. She was kind enough to allow me to share it. There is so much helpful information here from someone who has battled mental health issues for 55 years. She is a rock-star, a super-hero and role model! There is always hope. It may not be easy, but life is worth the effort. Thank you Denise for your strength and grace and for sharing your wise words and sage advice.
From Denise: "I put the following together in the hopes that my 55- year battle will yield some input that resonates and helps. Much love and strength to you."
Dear Suffering Comrade,
I write to you with straight talk. I write with a lifetime's worth of information excavated from the inside out, not academically gleaned from the outside in. I write not in an attempt to 'save' you or fill you with false hope. I write because I know that right now, this second, a teaspoon of comfort and a pinprick of light is worth trying for.
I am you and you are me. I have been where you are many times and I accept that a flare-up into that space will happen again. My story is your story. The only difference is that I have succeeded in two things:
Crafting an effective game plan for prevention and treatment of flare-ups
I call it quasi remission because the shadow of depression still blocks out the sun at times, and will, to varying degrees for the rest of my life...but does not swallow me whole anymore or render me helpless and uninformed as to what's going on or what to do. Or who the real enemy is (hint: it's not you). Once self-blame is erased from the equation, the risk of dying decreases, and the prognosis for remission (or quasi remission) increases. I do not mean to imply that erasing self-blame is a task easily achieved -- after all, self-blame is how depression works as you well know. In fact self-blame is the cornerstone of depression. And depression has a lot of help in metastasizing self-blame -- our societal and religious culture is steeped in ignorance and is thus an unwitting accomplice in your suffering.
So what can we do? Turns out there are many effective things we can do. But again there's a rub. Actually there are several rubs and they are:
One thing won't do it. It's a combo pack.
It's got to be a custom fit. My combo pack is not the same as yours.
The degree of severity governs the components in the combo pack.
Prevention is as critical as treatment. We don't get to stop. We don't get to take breaks. Ever.
Any good news? Yes.
So what are these 'things' we can do?
In addition to medication which is its own unpredictable (sometimes miraculous) steep mountain range, here they are:
1. If you are critically ill, your only option is to go to the hospital. No other 'things' can be attempted if you are stage 4.
2. Perfect fit therapist. For life. Therapy, in addition to or in conjunction with psychiatric medication oversight is a must. Meds alone aren't going to cut it, but for me, therapy is a life long part of my illness management, and meds are not. Never give up the quest to find a therapist that is a perfect fit.
3. Additional restorative sleep. More than the general population.
4. Clean food. I firmly believe that caffeine, sugar and alcohol are like kerosene on a fire for those who suffer with depressive illness. I urge anyone and everyone afflicted to never go near these substances.
5. Just right exercise. I recommend exercising as is possible, but avoiding going overboard. While in a deep flare-up, it is hard, but being outside in the sun walking or jogging does beneficially change brain chemistry—not overnight, but it does.
6. Vitamin D. Lots of it. 10,000 units a day is not too much for some...have your doctor test your levels and write a prescription.
7. Yoga and meditation. You may have to "fake it till you make it", but the more structure to your day that is centered on healing, the more insidiously empowered you will feel.
8. A weekly professional massage with someone you are comfortable with.
9. Soak in a hot bath with a cup of epsom salt and a cup of baking soda in it -- a couple times a week.
10. Drink an electrolyte infused water, also called alkaline water -- just a ton of it. Adding fresh squeezed lemon makes it even more alkaline which helps reduce inflammation which is at the root of just about every malady.
11. Add raw virgin coconut oil or Udo's blend oil to your diet. Three tablespoons a day...either in smoothies or in oatmeal or as part of homemade salad dressing-- or even straight. Get oils into your body. Coconut oil is miraculous. I have not tried the following, but if you and your doctor agree, cannabis oil is bringing relief to many sufferers. Black seed oil is also effective (and legal).
12. Energy therapies. These are healing modalities that are centered on energy type approaches. Reiki and chakra cleansing are just two. Don't be scared off of trying these types of things, they can really help. This illness runs in families, and as out there as this sounds, getting at and neutralizing the energetic blueprint handed down generation after generation is a valid and potentially powerful and effective treatment tool. (And these types of energy healing treatments do no harm.) I highly recommend veering off in this direction and trying anything that resonates as a valid option to try...or that you feel even slightly drawn to. Look these things up and educate yourself -- I think there is a sacro-cranial treatment also.
Don't rely on just mainstream medicine, it takes many and varied treatment options to find the perfect combo pack for you. For life and forever, not just until you feel better. Prevention, management and remission (quasi or otherwise) is a life long commitment.
One final note. Rarely if ever is depression caused by only one thing. It too is a combo pack. PTSD, heredity, seasonal light quotient depression, cerebral allergies, situational trauma, childhood abuse and neglect, programmed religious zealotry, empathy/high sensitivity, chronic pre-seizure states of brain chemistry, neurotransmitter imbalances, endocrine system malfunction, vitamin deficiency, and the myriad of causes not yet discovered provide an infinite number of combination possibilities. Unearthing your unique combination will guide you towards your perfectly customized prevention and treatment plan. Dig in. You are not alone and better days are ahead.
Thank you for reading this. I send you strength and the promise that you can slay the dragon standing before you and the others waiting in line. If I can do it anyone can.
In Loving Comradeship,