When you get into self-help, you can spend a lot of time (and money) sorting through your “issues.”
This is a worthy endeavor. It’s a gratifying part of this human experience to understand and accept the conditioning that was passed down to you, and to have a framework for understanding how, where, and why you pass along those same dynamics, yourself.
Especially in the San Francisco area and in other New Agey communities, there’s an emphasis on digging through your “blocks” from the past, and there’s a general ethos of eschewing anti-depressants, of seeing those little pills as “the easy way out” and “not really solving the problem,” all while propping up the Big Pharma.
Like so many things in life, there is usually some truth to all sides. Sometimes, for some people, anti-depressants are a form of avoidance from facing the core work that really needs to be done.
However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes anti-depressants are a lifeline back to feeling alive again, and sometimes the inner work just isn’t cutting it.
In all of our searching for an emotional breakthrough, we can resist that there’s the biochemical side–this chemical cocktail in your brain and endocrine system that swirls around so many hormones and chemical processes, and that is, yes–
–very much responsible for a significant part of how you feel, from day to day.
Maybe you don’t need more inner work. Maybe it’s just biochemical.
People resist this. I used to, too, when I was clinically depressed and on anti-depressants in my twenties. Taking them felt like giving up, like I was saying to the world that I was powerless to do anything about my happiness. I hated that feeling.
I hated that feeling so very much that I quit taking them, without consulting my doctor (something you are never supposed to do, by the way), and somehow, some way, I managed to survive without them.
But I would revisit that feeling of powerlessness in 2012, when I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Things swirling around in the body were amuck, totally out of my control. I was exhausted, nearly all of the time. I was using every tool in my arsenal to live my life in integrity, and looking back–doing a pretty damned good job with the reality I was in, if I do say so myself.
It was the exhaustion, I thought, that contributed to those times when I was irritable and impatient, or when I had a long cry at the end of a long day, and thank goodness for all those years of “inner work,” which gave me a way of looking at my emotions that didn’t pathologize them (and which is, now, a big piece of what I teach others).
Maybe this is you, knowing deep down that things have gone awry, yet feeling a sense of deep resistance to “just popping a pill.” You believe in mind over matter. You know that you’re smart enough to figure this out. You know that you’re willing to do the work.
And still–maybe, just maybe…it’s biochemical.
Just the Facts
Here’s what I did to treat my auto-immune issue. These are just the facts, ma’am:
- When I quit eating gluten and dairy, my energy levels noticeably lifted, and because I had energy, I felt happier. That’s biochemical.
- When I started taking Armour thyroid medication, my energy levels lifted further, and because I had energy, I felt happier. Synthroid, it’s worth noting, did nothing for me. That’s biochemical.
- When I started cutting down on caffeine (no longer needing it to help my sagging energy levels), I felt less anxious. That’s biochemical.
- When my test results revealed that I was on the very low end of the Vitamin D range, I started supplementing with Vitamin D, and believe that it’s part of this picture. That’s biochemical.
- When I started adding maca powder to my smoothies, my periods–which had gone haywire with the auto-immunity–got more regular. That’s biochemical.
- When I let go of sugar, my sleep noticeably improved, which helps…everything. That’s biochemical.
Fact: a significant portion of how you feel every day is actually completely biochemical.
I lived then, and live now, a pretty amazing life. Like everyone else, though, there are pockets of my life where things are stressful or there’s a conflict to sort through, and those places are painful, or sad, or cause anxiety.
I figured that it was just a matter of doing more inner work to find patience in those places, calm when thinking about them caused anxiousness or anger, and reaching for hope when things felt sad.
Guess what? Not always. I can account for no new breakthroughs in my emotional understanding that seem to underpin the greater patience I have in those areas that formerly felt so reactive, or the greater ease with which I drop thinking anxiously or angrily about perceived wrongs, or the hope that I generally feel even when I’m sad.
Prior to the biochemical changes, I was always very committed to tools that helped my life, and I did see success with them. It’s not ALL biochemical.
But after the biochemical changes, it all just feels…simpler. More do-able. There’s less to “work on.”
“More inner work” isn’t always what we need. I thought that I was just treating my auto-immune issues, not my day-to-day emotional or psychological well-being.
Turns out, I was treating both.
Powerless to Powerful
You could see treating biochemistry as I once did–something that feels powerless.
Or, you could see it as a great gift.
It’s a gift that you are living in a time when, if you are suffering terribly from depression, there is a pill out there that can find you some relief, so that you can have enough strength to love yourself and others to get through your day.
It’s a gift that science understands some of what these chemicals in our brains do, and that we now know there is a wide range of things out there that you can do to boost them–more vitamin D, more Omega-3s, etc.
It’s a gift that you can probably choose from a huge, wide range of options for all of this–and they’re affordable. It doesn’t cost money to ditch sugar.
In fact, we’re not powerless when it comes to this biochemical cocktail. There is a wide range of options.
Ditch Holy Grail Thinking
And…sometimes, for reasons I haven’t figured out, my energy levels will still unexpectedly plummet.
Or I’m sailing along for weeks with patience and compassion, and then there’s an argument with someone. Who knows? Maybe it’s the triggering of a deep core wound, or maybe I accidentally had some sugar and my biochemistry has tilted in the wrong direction (because seriously, people, the sugar thing affects a lot).
It seems to me that the most dangerous thing about anti-depressants, or dietary changes, or deep inner work, is thinking that it’s some kind of Holy Grail that will solve all of your problems.
Underpinning that belief system is one tiny-big word that seems to cause a lot of our suffering: perfectionism. “If I just [eat right, live right, follow that plan, take that pill], I’ll be happy.”
It’s our dysfunctional attempts to avoid suffering, fear, sadness, anxiety…that really cause the suffering. Click to tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/7yYkZ
You are a human being, and you’ll come up against challenges. When people say “it’s all about your choices,” they’re telling the truth.
It’s about the tools and perspectives you choose to adopt, the patience and compassion you choose to practice, and the mindset that you choose to be committed to.
It’s also–because we live in a biochemical world–about the choices you choose to make in regards to your individual biochemical cocktail. Your choice might include a prescription bottle that you rattle like maracas every morning before you pop one, or your choice might be more yoga, less caffeine.
I support whatever choice you make, actually, so now you know you’ve got at least one person on your side, extending compassion for whatever you decide.
I only ever just invite you to choose consciously, from a place of considering all options. That’s what true power looks like.