Health Wars: Return of the Old-style Mentor (or Guru, Sensei, Master, Teacher, Grandpa...Jedi...Your Pick!)

Recently, I went through some health difficulties, one could call them. I spent a month in the hospital. It was a confusing and painful experience. The culprit, or at least what seemed to be the culprit, was Major Depressive Disorder.

Soon after being involuntarily admitted to the Nova Scotia psychiatric ward I was prescribed several sessions of Ultra-Brief Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT). Apparently ECT is commonly used in Nova Scotia, where I was at the time, and they are a leading province in terms good results from this treatment. Simply put, you are sedated, given muscle relaxants and then briefly given a targeted electric shock to your brain. This shock induces a seizure. The practice comes from the observation that epileptics experience a significant mood increase after an attack. One might have an impression of ECT as seen in the film "A Beautiful Mind" (I certainly did at first) but methods, research and technology have developed a lot since then, plus you are sedated so you don't feel anything, except a bit of headache when you wake up. Was it effective? For me, yes! After 9 sessions I was a a different person, I could even say perhaps the happiest and clearest minded I had been in my whole life.

Do I recommend ECT? Depends. I think in an acute case it can be a quick way to solve the problem. However I strongly believe there are other ways! Ever since I got out of the hospital I dedicated myself to finding out more about depression and to do anything I could to stop it from happening again and then spreading the word.

For me one blessing that came my way was Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Along with prayer, spending time in community, improving my diet and seeking out natural remedies, CBT has been amazing. Upon reflection though, I chuckle a little. Why? Because CBT is so called a newish, scientifically-proven, drug-free way of dealing with depression. Another word for it could be mentorship -- something that has been around for a loooonnng time! Here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a depressed friend who was interested in CBT (I changed the name of the particular psychologist):
I found Dr. So&so to be quite objective, and goal oriented yet caring and not too pushy. He stays very professional, up to date on the latest research (he's always telling me about studies that pertain to my situation) and I think he is a good psychologist, in that he seems to be devoted to what he does, sticks to it himself and is genuinely concerned for his patients (at least from my experience).
Again he is quite professional, so I don't know much about him including if he is religious at all except from what I read in his cv. But he does respect my faith very much, he seems to read up on Catholicism from what I can tell so we can talk about it better and encourages me very much to continue being true to my faith. I would say he really tries to be unbiased, really being invested in being helpful to his patient rather than imposing his own views. Though he sometimes encourages things that have been proven in research.
He's helped me with a lot! With procrastination and achieving goals that I might be avoiding. He is always specific and practical, for example in tackling my final essay he helped decide how I can tackle it best, working with me so I can work it out, rather than just arbitrarily telling me to do things ( so breaking the task up, making it less overwhelming, rewarding myself in a healthy way when I accomplish it). Most of all, he's helped me to find behaviours and thinking patterns in myself that are either anti-depressant or make me more depressed and how to shift to more anti-depressant behavior.
He says himself his methods are simple, practical, aimed at specific things. Its about slowly changing the way, and being more mindful of the way, you think and act. Its something you have to continue to actively do. He also told me I will find it empowering if I stick with these things, because you learn to control your feelings and not let them control you -- I'm really starting to experience that now and it is amazing! I can at least say that his guidance is very helpful to me (I'm still doing phone appointments with him, which is a convenient option). I think cognitive behavioural therapy is a real blessing and liken it to old-style mentoring. It's really in a lot of ways like the path of growth in Christian virtue.
I hope that's helpful! I know this is running a bit long here but I thought I'd just mention that a naturopath might be something to look into as well. I've been seeing one, who tested me for food sentivities and I've gone gluten, dairy, and corn free for the last month with really amazing results! Sensitivities, besides leading to chronic, and often unnoticed, physical problems, can effect mental health as well! I can send you some research on that too if you like.
Through this experience I have come to believe the current psychiatric system to be flawed. In the psych ward where I spent a month of my life the space was, ironically, dull and depressing. Besides the ECT and maybe some of the groups there wasn't much else to heal the mind, sooth the spirit or aid the body (these three parts of the human body I believe are inseparable and mutually impact each other). We were given no counseling, though some of the nurses were kind and easy to talk to, othrs gave me the look like "why are you even talking me" when I approached them with questions. Anxiety was almost totally treated with an anti-anxiety drug"Clemazipan" (not sure about spelling), and the food was worse than I would have been eating at home.

Something is missing. No: a lot is missing! Did anyone consider: maybe it's celiac? NO. Or ponder: does she have all the vitamins or minerals she needs? No! Or think: maybe she needs therapy to overcome trauma from her past? NO NO NO! No one did. Don't get me wrong, I think these mental health practitioners are helpful, and many are sincerely devoted to helping people. But there is soooo much more to depression than sadly gets looked at by a lot of doctors.

Thank goodness for sincere psychologists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy to heal our way of acting in such a fundamentally human way. Thank goodness for naturopaths and chiropractors and biochemists who seek to heal the root cause of illness and prevent disease before it occurs, instead of treating the symptoms when the condition is already very developed. Thank goodness for martial arts teachers and dance instuctors, who help our bodies become fitter while instilling us with confidence, perseverance, discipline and respect for ourselves and others.

Besides the psychologist, the naturopath was helpful in many ways too, one of which was testing me for food sensitivities. What were the results? I am very sensitive in to gluten, corn, and dairy. And also mildly sensitive to tomatoes, soy, beef, and strawberries. Is this a depressing revelation? Well it could be if you choose to take it that way. To me it is inspiring. It is an opportunity to be creative! And feel fantastic doing it. One month of gluten, corn and dairy free eating has resulted in more energy, better digestion (no more frequent diarrhea, hurray!), clearer mind and...believe it or not less BO! (Yup, BO means your body is toxic!).

I can honestly say that these days I am happy, grateful and inspired by so many things. Together with the therapy and guidance of that naturopath, I also met with a biochemist/pharmacist whose helping me supply my body with vital nutrients, vitamins and amino acids that naturally keep depression away. I'm also seeing a chiropractor who is helping me get rid of the stuck parts in my spine to optimize blood and nerve signal flow to the rest of my body. Plus, in terms of excercise, which is very important of course, I've chosen Taekwon-do and flamenco dancing (both of which I've never done before in my it's never too late to start!) along with some soul-soothing nature walks. I enjoy all three very much!

So thats my story. That is my experience.

If you are curious about any of this and want to know more here are some links:

Gluten-free living and recipes:

Nutrition and Mental Health:


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