What someone with anxiety and depression would love to tell you ……….
Last year, at a Mind and Body exhibition, I was speaking with a woman and her adult son. He was not impressed to be spending his Saturday afternoon walking around this event.
I acknowledging this and it broke the ice.
He sat down and for the next hour, we entered into a conversation. It didn’t make sense. There was no privacy. The room was full of people to connect with.
I quickly realised the importance of the conversation.
I learned weeks before the man was suicidal.
His family were terrified. They had engaged with local support organisations as he did not want to go to a therapist. He agreed to take anti-depressant medication given by his GP.
The advice given from the support organisations – one told him to meditate which he was unable to do. The other said they noticed his negative thinking and to practice positive thinking.
Both bad advice for someone in a state of extreme distress.
I asked him what would help.
This was not a man practiced in using his voice, eventually we got to it.
This what someone with anxiety and depression would love to tell you, but often can’t.
Deep rest, the kind that leaves you feeling peaceful, invigorated, alive and full of energy.
There are some myths that stop a person with anxiety and depression experiencing this much needed rest. These blocks can cause a person to deteriorate.
Watch Cracked Up: The Darrell Hammond Story on Netflix, you will see Darrell share his experience of the downward spiral.
“You’re a nut”. These were the words used by Darrell Hammonds Psychiatrist, Nabil Kotbi (Professor of Clinical Psychiatry) he relays “You are schizophrenic, you are bipolar, you are borderline personality, multiple personality… I’m joking you are not any of these things, you are this way because of something that happened to you. You have a story that’s not diagnosed”.
Dr Kotbi (MD) goes on “these labels don’t make sense to me and then you start from scratch”.
This is a highly unusual approach by a psychiatrist. Darrell Hammond was in a fortunate position to have met such an open minded psychiatrist.
Most psychiatrists are dogmatic. They label. Dr Dorothy Rowe, famous Psychologist and Author, states “the profession of psychiatry is based on the belief that there are such things as mental illnesses, and that these illnesses have a physical cause and a physical cure – drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. The only way to maintain the belief that mental disorder has a physical cause is steadfastly to refuse to be aware of what is going on and what has gone on in the individual lives of individual people”.
When a person is desperate, they will often accept a label, going against their own inner voice.
A person given a psychiatric or mental illness label may experience relief briefly. However, it will not lead to deep and lasting rest.
In the Cracked Up documentary we see Darrell Hammond use the practice of yoga and meditation to help re-wire the brain to heal from trauma. There is no doubt this mind/body technique helps to reduce his symptoms – he explains he now sleeps 5 out of 7 nights.
Mindfulness is the new workplace craze.
In his book McMindfulness: How Mindfulness became the new capitalist spirituality, Ronald Purser explains: “Although derived from Buddhism, it’s been stripped of the teaching on ethics that accompanied it, as well as the liberating aim of dissolving attachment to a false sense of self while enacting compassion for all other beings. What remains is a tool of self-discipline, disguised as self-help. Instead of setting practitioners free, it helps them adjust to the conditions that caused their problems. A truly revolutionary movement would seek to overturn this dysfunctional symptom”.
A well-known UK anxiety management professional rightly teaches that anxiety is not a mental health issue. Symptoms are the brain/body’s natural response to excess fear and the production of too much adrenalin.
He has part of the puzzle, however it is incomplete. Using mind and body tools and techniques can help reduce symptoms but used without doing deeper work, what these spiritual practices were intended for, will result in bypassing pain. This can end in crisis.
These approaches may offer temporary relief of symptoms’, however sustained periods of deep rest are unlikely. As Ronald Purser explains not voicing the conditions that caused the problems only adds to more dysfunction.
A number of years ago I delivered workshops to therapists who struggled with overcoming myth 1, even though it would benefit them professionally.
What I realised is many therapists do not fully understand the physical (mind/body) implications of fear and pain. Many have never experienced it personally.
It’s difficult for a therapist presented with a client who has deteriorated to the degree of someone like Darrell Hammond. What is needed in these situations is intelligence, intuition, use of one’s own voice which is not taught in text books. Hence the reliance on labels and the medical model.
The other major oversight by therapists is to engage in the psychological causes of a person’s distress too early.
I have a friend who experienced post-natal depression after all three of her boys with one failed suicide attempt. After her father’s passing, the avoidance of her issues and grief became too much.
She entered into therapy.
She lasted a couple of sessions until she exploded (emotional breakdown).
She did not have the coping mechanisms or the stable family environment to deal with the psychological issues and childhood trauma she had experienced.
So, despite the political debate for people to have more access to talking therapies, until psychology and the counselling profession develop a deeper understanding, they can exacerbate reliance on the medical model.
Entering into counselling and therapy is to willingly enter into stressful process. This does not provide initial rest that is often needed.
At a recent event, I met a man who had received a pot of funding to help people with ‘mental illnesses to run.
He explained this method worked for him, he had been deeply depressed.
I asked him whether this approach would be right for everybody and if he realised people with anxiety symptoms already have too much adrenalin in their body.
The conversation ended there. This man spoke ten to the dozen, didn’t stop for breath, there was no space to converse. This was a man running on adrenalin.
Only now he was taking a group of people with him.
The popular belief that a healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise) is all that is needed was challenged in the 1960’s by the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania which baffled scientists. The people there died only of old age – no suicides, no drug abuse, little crime, the heart attack rate was half that of neighbouring villages.
Scientists found the people of Roseto were far from living a healthy lifestyle, they drank wine (a lot), smoked, ate pasta and Italian sausages. So something else was going on in that village and it was far from a lifestyle of fitness and eating regimes.
Holding a belief that all you need to do is improve your physical health will lead to superficial healing.
It will not lead to deep rest.
Back at the mind and body exhibition, at the end of the conversation the man said to me, he intuitively knew what felt right and what didn’t, what he should do next.
I was glad I listened and took the time to speak with him.
And that he was finally able to use his voice and say what he really wanted …..
Rest, I need rest.