Monday, June 21, 2010

My Visit with the Enemy: A Body, Mind, and Soul Cleanse (Part II)

A few days ago, I shared with you all that I was wrestling with a bout of depression for the period I was on a prescription medication to combat an infection I was suffering from.

In just ten days, I could feel my health and vitality, both physically and mentally, unravel, and I learned how easy it was to become depressed and allow that feeling to overtake your body and your life. But the difference for me, which is a great blessing, is that the visit with the enemy was short-lived. I was lucky enough to be on the antibiotics for less than two weeks, and I’ve been able to gather enough knowledge on natural health to effectively combat the imbalances my body was experiencing.

So now, as my time on my medication comes to a close I’ve decided that because it took ten days to fall off the wagon of ideal health, it’s in my best interest to do something radical for the next ten days in order to get back on track physically, mentally, and spiritually.

My objective is to find balance and ultimate health again, and my goal is to continue this journey beyond just ten days.

As all of you know, the body, mind, and spirit are all intrinsically linked, and when one part suffers, the others will inevitably suffer as well, but before I share my plan, I’d like to explain my reasons for sharing this journey to begin with: I want to share my personal cleanse so that I might inspire someone else to do the same (in their own way, of course), and also, I’d like to comfort others in their journey through depression; there are NATURAL ways to combat your pain. And finally, I’d like to share this plan with you all so that I may hold myself accountable.

How it will work: I know the next ten days will be a major challenge, but I’d like to share them with you. I have it set up so that new posts will appear on the blog automatically over the next ten days because I won't be on. However, I will be chronicling my days and experiences on a daily basis, and in ten days I'll share the series, for better or for worse.


My Personal 10-Day Cleanse (June 22nd-July 1st)

Daily Physical Activity- Physical activity isn’t just good for the body; it also helps to fight depression, so I’ll be doing one hour of exercise or physical activity a day, which will be in addition to any meditative yoga I will be doing. Physical activity has been proven to fight depression:
Daily Vitamins- I will take a Vitamin D, Fish Oil (Omega 3-fatty acid), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E daily in order to fight depression with my nutrition, as cited in these two medical articles: and
Daily Green Drink- My good friend is a yoga instructor and vegetarian, and she swears that Green Vibrance, a popular green drink, did wonders for her health, both physically and mentally. So I will begin my daily regimen and continue to do this beyond my 10 day cleanse. You can learn more about this here:
A Pescetarian Diet- The term Pescetarian is used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish, and there has been research done to show that this particular Mediterranean diet helps combat depression and many other illnesses. This will be a new challenge for me, and I hope to implement it past the ten days. I haven’t eaten read meat in over ten years so I am almost there. I just have to surrender the chicken, Lord help me! You can read more about a Pescetarian diet here: and

Yoga- I will commit to at least 30 minutes of gentle, meditative yoga a day in order to calm my mind, heal my body, and practice meditation.
Writing- I will write daily, both creatively and reflectively. Specifically, I plan to work on my novel and document my journey over the next ten days.
Unplugging- For ten days, I will not watch any television or spend time on the Internet. I will leave my long cell phone chats behind. So that means no Facebook and no surfing the web and no texting. I really believe too much time doing these things can fill our mind with mental toxins, and they keep us from getting out there and living our lives a good deal of the time. They keep us from being in the moment, and I want my focus to be on my friends, family, and spiritual being.
Rethinking- I will work on rejecting negative thoughts and will work on replacing them with positive ones in order to decrease anxiety.

Meditation/Prayer- During my yoga sessions and before bed, I will commit to spending real time praying and reflecting spiritually on my life and those that populate it. I want to increase my dialogue with God, as well as getting better at just listening.
Nature Focus- I will spend at least one hour outside in nature a day, whether that be via exercise, yoga, or relaxing with a book, a friend, or a family member. And while in nature, I will be present and pay attention to the beautiful details that unite us all.
Read Spiritual Texts- I will, on a daily basis, spend time reading and reflecting on one of several spiritual texts: the Bible, select devotionals, Emerson’s Self Reliance, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson (to name a few).
Do What I Love- Teaching has one luxury, and that is the summer break. Because of this, I am blessed to focus an extended period of time on doing the things I love that the school year typically suspends. So over the next ten days, I will, on a daily basis, commit myself to stepping outside my old routine and doing the things I love to do like writing, scrapbooking, photography, hiking, playing with my dogs, going on nature walks, and working on my novel.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Visit with the Enemy (Part I)

I read on the bottle that one of the side effects was depression. I remember laughing, chuckling to myself, and thinking, That’s for the sad people; it’s not for me.

Then I remember thinking, it’s just ten days. In ten days I’ll be healed of this infection. This drug can’t possibly have any sway over me in that short period of time. It just didn’t seem logical to me, a fiercely logical woman, that years of a strong, healthy lifestyle could be undone in a week and a half of prescription medication.

There’s no way.

But then the investigator in me decided to do a little research on the drug (which shall remain nameless to protect the drug companies) around the web, and what I found was disturbing to say the least.

People called it “poison.” And every type of ailment or reaction I could conjure up in my hypochondriac-of-a-mind was spilling across the computer screen as I scrolled further and further down the page. One person after another explained the physical pain that came to live in their otherwise healthy body and joints. Others meticulously described a tailspin into depression. The most disturbing parts were the accounts that exposed the long-term effects of the drug. Even AFTER getting off this medication, people still experienced the devastating effects of physical aches and depression.

It was only day two, and I was determined, despite the mounting evidence, to stay optimistic...

Well, on day three, the little researcher in me was at it again, and this time I was determined to find out how I could decrease the chances of having these ill side effects. I wanted to be the model patient. So I started digging. And sure enough, I found a laundry list of “do nots.”

First it was “Don’t drink any caffeine because you won’t be able to process it.” Then it was “Don’t have any dairy products because it will induce nausea.” Then it was “Restrain from any physical activity to avoid damage to the tendons and joints.” And following those edicts were “Don’t take pain relievers. Don’t take supplements. Don’t go in the sun.”

So in one fell swoop, I was forced to relinquish everything that made me… well, ME.

I couldn’t garden. I couldn’t revel in my morning cup of joe. No yoga. No exercise. No bike rides. No going to the beach, swimming at the pool, or reading in the sun. No daily vitamins or supplements… "No, no, no," was I could hear.

Despite my efforts, by day five I was dragging and aching all over my body. My joints were stiff and popping. I had never felt this type of aching lethargy before. Lucky me; I was in that minute “1%” of patients that would react in such a way.

And by day six, I was depressed. Yes, I said it... Depressed! I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I kept my blinds drawn. For fear of what, I do not know. I couldn’t bring myself to see my friends, so I canceled plans with lame excuses. What was I going to say to them? “I’m sorry, but I am really depressed right now”? That wasn’t going to happen.

And then the lack of control set in. For no reason, I felt like I could cry, and I did. For what exactly, I didn’t really know. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a grayish, drawn girl that resembled me, but she wasn't me. My poor husband looked at me as if someone had come along and sucked his wife right out of her body during the night. Even when he was home from work, I still just wanted to be alone.

And in all of this alone time, I started thinking about the warning on that darn bottle again. Here I was, thinking just eight days before, that this warning about depression was just for the sad people. But now it all made perfect sense. In ten day’s time, when someone is stripped of all the healthy things that make them vibrant, and that lifestyle is replaced with a man-made prescription drug, of course the side effects are going to be depressing. Of course we aren’t going to have an overall sense of wellbeing.

I wasn't different from anyone else. Depression was knocking at my door. He was settling in at my kitchenette. He was resting on my pillow.

In just ten days, he was making himself quite at home. And he was starting to undo me...

But trust me, I am determined that this is just a visit. I am outing him now; I'm opening the blinds and letting the sun in. My bout with this nuisance will go down in my history book as a personal victory. Because unlike so many sufferers, my ten days are over today. The foreigner will be out of my body and out of my house in 24 hours. And to be SURE of this, I have a plan to heal myself…

I have a very good plan indeed…


A Personal Note:

I decided to share this very personal story about myself for a few reason.

First, I share this story with you on the tale-end of our “Journey from Darkness to Light” series. It was perfect timing that my good friend Nihcole shared her three part series. And from the reactions and the discussions on our Facebook community, I know it’s touched more people than just me. So thank you to Nihcole and our readers for giving me the courage to share this.

Also, in sharing this, I hope everyone sees how easy it is to become depressed, and that if they are depressed, that they are not alone. There are so many people who love you and there are so many natural tools, as Nihcole shared, that can lift you up out of your depression.

And finally, I wanted everyone to understand why I am doing what I am going to do next. I have a plan to get myself back on track, and I’d like to share that journey with you all, and I thought it would be strange to share the journey without sharing the origins of its inception.

So please stay tuned…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman's Journey out of Depression (Part III-B of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

If you are just joining us, please read Part I here:
And you can read Part II here:
Part III-A can be read here:

Disclaimer: And please keep in mind that though Ms. Chartier has a background in mental health and is very informed, citing all her resources, she is not a physician. Please consult your physician if you are dealing with depression or find a professional in natural remedies and homeopathy to help you. Thank you.

Part III-B
By: N. Chartier

Change Your Lifestyle, Change Your Life

So far in this series, I have shared what triggered me to seek psychiatric care, how antidepressants affected me and changed my life, and the natural cures I rely on day-to-day that have drastically improved my stressed moods and depression. Now, I would like to focus for a few minutes on some of the other ways to help improve your quality of life and therefore, your emotions. Combating depression and anxiety naturally can be done. I am living proof that it is possible. But, it requires more than just taking a handful of supplements every day. It requires changing the way you think, what you eat, how you live your life, and who you associate with among other things. Depression can be a serious problem for some, but for most people, by establishing a healthy lifestyle and incorporating the supplements I previously mentioned, living life depression free naturally is not only possible, it is probable. Here are few other changes you can make in your life to not only help combat depression and anxiety, but to improve your quality of life over all:

• I know I have said it before and now I am going to say it again: Exercise! Exercising does more than just burn calories and boost your heart rate; it also helps to improve your mood because physical activity stimulates the “feel-good” chemicals in our brains, like endorphins, which leaves us feeling more relaxed and energized than before we worked out. Plus, exercise helps to boost our self-esteem, too.

• Eat organically as often and as much as possible. If you are on a budget, find out which foods are the most important ones to eat organically and only buy those. For example, foods with thin skin, such as tomatoes, absorb more mood killing, harmful pesticides than their thick skin counterpart, the pineapple. Also, try purchasing your fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets. Locally grown fruits and veggies are typically not genetically modified and are not treated with nearly as much pesticides as their big-company counterparts.

• Eat Protein. Protein sources such as turkey, chicken, beef, eggs and dairy are the best natural sources of the 26 essential amino-acids, particularly tryptophan, which helps to improve mood and sleep. I try to eat a protein source in every single meal.

• Eliminate or reduce your intake of bad mood foods like alcohol, tobacco, excessive amounts of caffeine, starchy carbs, sweets, candy, and soda. It’s okay to drink a cup of hot tea or coffee in the morning, but if you are relying on 8 cups to get you through the day, you could be doing a lot more damage to your mood than you know. Sugary and starchy foods spike up our blood sugar and give us a temporary energy or mood boost, however, when our blood sugar plummets after eating these foods, we are left feeling lethargic and depressed. Alcohol, as many of us know, is a depressant. Drinking alcohol at night prevents us from falling to quality and restful REM sleep, which leaves us feeling tired and depressed the next day.

• Drink water! Purified by reverse osmosis, and lots of it! Dehydration causes headaches and can leave us feeling depressed and lethargic. Try to drink between eight to ten glasses throughout the day. If you do, you might actually find that you won’t need that 3 p.m. coffee anymore.

• Get at least 10 to 20 minutes of sunlight each day. The vitamin D we get from spending about 20 minutes in the sun is enough to boost our mood instantly. While everyone else at your office is having a 5 minute smoke break, go take a 5 minute sunlight break for a quick mood booster.

• Spend at least 15 minutes a day alone with your own thoughts. Better yet, start a journal and spend 15 minutes each day writing down your thoughts. It will help make you more aware of what triggers certain emotions and will also help you to clear your mind by getting negative thoughts out of your system rather than harboring them.

• Connect with someone. Feeling blue? Call up a good, reliable friend or sit down and write a letter to a friend or family member. Having someone to talk to and who will listen to you, even if they have no advice to offer, improves bad moods drastically.

• Avoid people/situations that are negative. Limit the amount of time you spend with friends or family members who have a tendency to bring your mood down. Whether these are people who unintentionally (or deliberately) hurt your feelings and make you feel bad about yourself, or if these are those people who overwhelm you with their never-ending, emotionally draining drama, try to reduce the amount of time you spend with people who often leave you feeling bad or emotionally drained afterwards. You don’t have to avoid friends and family all together who tend to make you feel bad, but at least set a time limit and stick to it.

• Find something or someone to care for. I read somewhere years ago (I can’t remember where) that people who have either a pet or a simple house plant that needs watering are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t have anything to take care of. Having something to take care of, or knowing someone or something relies on you day to day for survival can drastically improve your quality of life and can increase self worth.

There is Hope

For some people, I am sure, depression is debilitating. It can cripple our ability to function and hinder our desire to live a fulfilling life. Depression can leave us feeling hopeless, unworthy, guilty, and uninterested in life in general. It takes its toll both physically and emotionally. But, it does not have to be that way anymore. Every day we are bombarded by pharmaceutical companies with commercials for drugs that will “cure” our depression and that will change our lives for the better. What many people fail to realize is that just like any business, psychiatry and “Big Pharma” have one goal: to increase the number of people taking mood altering drugs in order to increase their profits. What many people don’t know is that antidepressants carry “black box” warnings which indicate that the drug that is supposed to be treating the depression can actually cause the people taking them to commit suicide. That very fact is what led me to get off antidepressants entirely and steered me in the direction of natural alternatives. What I found is that the natural alternatives I use have no side effects what-so-ever, and are far more effective (and far less expensive) than the antidepressants that were literally making me suicidal at times and emotionally numb at others. I truly hope that my message touches at least one person and encourages others to explore alternatives to the harmful pharmaceutical antidepressants. Now that I am no longer taking pharmaceutical antidepressants I am happy. I can feel excitement again. I no longer have deep spells of depression and suicidal thoughts. I am motivated again. I no longer battle with the side effects I felt while taking medications and my quality of life and my mood has changed drastically. I am finally free…

Recommended Reading:

The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A.

Creating Optimism: A Proven, Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression by Bob Murray, Ph.D. and Alicia Fortinberry, M.S.

Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber

Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman's Journey out of Depression (Part III-A of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

Disclaimer: And please keep in mind that though Ms. Chartier has a background in mental health and is very informed, citing all her resources, she is not a physician. Please consult your physician if you are dealing with depression or find a professional in natural remedies and homeopathy to help you. Thank you.


Part III-A
By: N. Chartier

Cardiologist, Physician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dr. Paul Dudley White once said, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” It sounds cliché, however, it is so true! Many of us don’t have the time to fit a five-mile walk in to our day, I certainly don’t, but I do make time every single day to get in some sort of exercise. Whether it be a relaxing walk around the block once or twice in the evening, an intense interval training session on the elliptical, or five minutes of bouncing on a trampoline, I always make time for a simple workout. The endorphins our bodies produce while exercising are a natural antidepressant. In this final part of this series, I will share how I was able to get off the medications that were robbing me of my feelings, and I will also share the natural remedies that I have integrated into a healthy lifestyle.

My Journey Getting off Antidepressants

I do so much to be healthy; I eat organically, exercise, and take vitamins. So why would I want to continue poisoning myself with medications that were literally making me sick? After I had my daughter, I began seeing my life (and my emotions) from a new perspective. I started to research alternatives to the antidepressants I was taking. I no longer wanted to be a slave to the medication. I was at a point where I felt it was safe to begin exploring the idea of weaning off the SNRI again. Additionally, I was fed up with my psychiatrist trying to convince me to increase my dose each visit when I knew I did not need it. I was less depressed taking only 75mg of the antidepressant than I was taking 150mg, which is the opposite of what one would expect, and a blatant indication that the SNRI simply was not doing what it was supposed to be doing.

I knew that I needed to wean off the meds slowly and chose to do so without my psychiatrist’s supervision (something I do NOT recommend doing. If you plan to wean off your current antidepressant, ask your doctor how to do so appropriately. If your doctor is not sure how, or discourages you from doing so, find a doctor who will help you wean off safely). I researched the web hoping to find a site with guidance on how to safely wean of an SNRI. I found a message board with an antidepressant forum: . I read through countless posts by people going through the same thing I went through. It was so eye-opening to read that others had the same withdrawal experience trying to get off antidepressants as I had. Amongst all the posts about other people’s experiences, were also posts about how to taper off the drugs and recommendations for what supplements help with withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, I bought the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A., a book dedicated to offering all natural and safe alternatives to improving mood and quality of life. I also borrowed a book from the library called Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber, which exposes how pharmaceutical companies create the need for a drug then rushes the FDA to approve it, and it explains how Americans are under pressure to medicate themselves. Armed with the information I learned from these resources and a few others, I began my journey towards living life medication and depression free.

After spending hours reading through years of posts by people on the forum discussing how they weaned off potent and addictive antidepressants, I decided to cut all my antidepressant tablets in half. Then I took half of those half tablets and cut them in to fourths and cut half of the fourths in to eighths. I started my taper by going down to three fourths of a tablet for two weeks, then half a tablet for two weeks, then one fourth for two weeks, and finally one eighth for two weeks. It was by far the most difficult two months of my life. I experienced painful withdrawals such as brain zaps, a strange sensation which makes your head feel like it is being electrocuted. My joints were so stiff and achy that I couldn’t stand up straight or walk first thing in the morning and after getting up from sitting. I had severe depression and crying spells over nothing. I was easily angered and suffering insomnia.

I learned from the message board that taking Magnesium Malate and high potency Omega-3 fish oil helps to alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. I went to the vitamin store and purchased bottles of both. Magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever. I took 1,250mg of Magnesium Malate up to three times a day depending on how I felt. It helped me tremendously with muscle and joint pain. I also took 1,200mg of Omega-3 fish oil with DHA which helped to minimize the severity of those annoying “brain zaps” I described earlier and also works as a natural antidepressant. After two months of decreasing my antidepressant dose and taking these supplements, I was finally free of antidepressants. I have been completely off antidepressants for three months now, and I have never felt better.

My “Secrets” to Living Life Depression-free Naturally

Truthfully, what I am about to share with you is not really a secret at all (although the FDA and “Big Pharma” would probably like it to be). The remedies I use to maintain my emotional health and well-being are natural, affordable, abundant, effective, and some of them are even free! For instance, the sun is free, and it is abundant and is one of my favorite “cures” for a bad mood or depression. The quotable Astrid Alauda stated once that “The sun is nature’s Prozac.” Each day, first thing in the morning, I open all of the blinds in my house to let in the sunlight. Some mornings, I get caught up feeding the baby and forget to do it right away, and I’ll catch myself feeling a little glum. Then I open my blinds and feel a world of difference in terms of my mood.

Unfortunately for many of us simply opening the blinds is not enough to help boost our mood, which is why I also rely on supplements to keep my anxiety and depression in check. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A. taught me which supplements work for certain mood categories. I rely heavily on this book, refer to it on a weekly basis, and highly recommend it to anyone; from those who experience the occasional blues, to those who suffer from more severe depression. The Mood Cure shares information about natural antidepressant remedies, such as SAMe, 5-HTP, St. Johns Wort, Tryptophan, GABA and Melatonin, and provides instructions on how to take these supplements as well as when to stop taking them. For the sake of keeping this part of the series from becoming too cumbersome, I will only go in to detail discussing the supplements I take:

5-HTP-5 hydroxy-tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid and is the precursor to serotonin. It is converted from tryptophan, a protein building-block, and is transformed in to serotonin by our bodies. It is also an important brain chemical that influences mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Sometimes we do not get enough tryptophan from the foods we eat (eggs, beef, poultry, turkey and dairy products) therefore, our bodies have a more difficult time producing serotonin, which can lead to depression. 5-htp is also useful for combating headaches, carbohydrate cravings, obesity, fibromyalgia and insomnia basically side effect free. Relief from depression can be felt within minutes of taking a 5-htp supplement. I take 100mg of 5-htp every morning, and depending on my mood and whether I am having trouble falling asleep, I might also take 100mg at night, too. You can purchase 5-htp in supplement form from any health food store or vitamin shop. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross. M.A. Pages: 26-7, 42-44 and 235-36.

GABA- Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an amino acid, or building block of protein, and is a “potent mood enhancer”, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.89). Taking GABA in supplement form has the same effect on the brain as taking a benzodiazepine because it is what biochemists refer to as an “inhibitory neurotransmitter”, a chemical which turns off the brain’s reaction to stress. Our bodies produce GABA naturally, but too much stress can deplete our natural supply of GABA leaving us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, I take one 750mg GABA tablet and feel relief within a half hour. GABA can also be taken before an event which you know might be stressful and will actually prevent the person taking it from becoming too anxious or stressed. If you find that you are getting really sleepy after taking GABA, you are taking too much of it. GABA can be found in health food stores and vitamin shops in the same section where you will find 5-htp, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and other mood enhancing supplements. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 89 & 90.

Magnesium- Magnesium is a soothing and relaxing mineral that protects us from conditions associated with insomnia, depression, stress, anxiety, anger, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, constipation, low blood sugar, diabetes, chronic fatigue, low thyroid, PMS, osteoporosis and also encourages serotonin production, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.195 and 234) There are so many reasons to take a magnesium supplement. I prefer to take Magnesium Malate, which is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, because it helps with pain in addition to working as an antidepressant. I take 1,200mg in the evening because I find that not only does it help relieve the back pain I feel at the end of a long day of carrying and lifting my baby, it also helps me fall asleep quickly at bedtime. Since muscular tension and pain are often associated with stress and depression, I believe it is important to make sure you are getting enough magnesium if you suffer from depression or anxiety. For more information about how magnesium can help relieve chronic pain, refer to Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 195-96 and 243.

Fish Oil- Fish oil supplements are loaded with the important brain protecting fat, Omega-3. Omega-3 fats help protect our brains, arteries, and digestive lining and are also extraordinarily effective antidepressants. And, the more omega-3 we have, the more depression-fighting dopamine our bodies produce. It helps to improve our mental and physical alertness, as well. Grass-fed beef, many types of fish, eggs and flaxseed are all great sources of heart-healthy, mood boosting omega-3 fats. I take 1,800mg of omega-3 fish oil with DHA and EPA every day. One thing to watch out for when taking/eating omega-3 rich supplements and foods is that you are not also getting too much of the bad mood omega-6 fats. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 149-50 & 197.


In Part III-B Ms. Chartier will share lifestyle changes that can dramatically improve your mental health, along with her conclusion and recommended reads. Don't miss it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Illuminated World of Rumi

I love Rumi, and I love modern technology. And together, the possibilities are endless. When I need some spiritual guidance or inspiration, I go searching for one of our most ancient poets on the World Wide Web. It's funny how that is.

Anyway, I came across some beautiful words and images. And to say that they are inspiring is an understatement. The words are the great Rumi's. The images were conjured up to embody his illuminated world. And together they are transcendent. And if you like this post, please check out my last Rumi post here: Words of Wisdom from the Illuminated Rumi. Please enjoy them all as I did...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm a Survivor!

Back in March, I was contacted by a very strong, gifted
woman. Michelle Smith has an amazing story to tell, and she tells it through her deeply touching poetry. If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, this is a post for you.

Reading her poetry brought tears to my eyes, and it especially touched me because my mother is an ovarian cancer survivor, but sadly my grandmother died of breast cancer when I was 13. I think we all have these stories, ones of triumph and ones of loss.

So please, sit back and be touched by this cancer survivor’s tale. And by all means, share her powerful words with the loved ones in your life that struggle with this horrible disease.

Michelle’s first poem, “Way Beyond,” is about her wonderful husband who carried her through her entire ordeal. Michelle’s second poem, “I am not BC,” is her personal battle-cry against cancer and her proud attempt to reclaim her identity during the process.


Way Beyond

He, a man I thought was detached
A man who spends his time in his head
One who makes little room for people or for fun
Turns out it is He who has been most present

A pillar of strength on his outside, pained and anguished on his inside
Watching his beloved’s body emerge from Frankenstein’s chamber.
Hoping that she can still find it in her to fight

He is her strength, her hope, her everything.
He carries her when she is weak
He feeds her when she cannot eat
He gives her good lines when she cannot think

And when she lashes out at him, He doesn’t blink
He loves her way beyond.

Copyright Michelle Smith 2009

I am not BC

I don’t want to say breast cancer, so I say BC
I don’t want to feel it, taste it, cry it
But I join the millions of brave women who have to
Who swallow their pride when they lose their hair, their femininity taken from them.
I join those who buy scarves, wigs, hats and prosthesis just to go through a day of normal.

I try to remember that the baldness is temporary, but it feels permanent;
I try to remember that I can reconstruct the breasts, but it will take forever;
I try to have the energy to make through the chemicals and pain; but I don’t feel as strong as I should.

I look for the beauty in BC and see it in the strength of the people around me;
And I look forward to a still day when I have energy and I remember who I am.
I am not BC

Copyright Michelle Smith 2009


About the Author:

Michelle Smith is a beautiful 51 years old. She is a mother of three daughters and a grandmother of six grandbabies. Yes, six! She’s been with her loving husband for 32 years. She is very unique, in that she is a second degree Reiki, an artist, a poet, and a social worker who works with teen parents.

Sadly, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2009 and had to have a double mastectomy to save her life on June 17, 2009. In the following months, she endured chemotherapy treatments until November of 2009 and is currently taking Herceptin treatments until July 2010 to fight the good fight. Michelle loves new challenges, and she has recently taken up the electric bass guitar and is living "in the moment," as she enjoys her friends and family…

And do you want to know the best news? Michelle is currently CANCER FREE!

The Unexpected Apology

In the past month, God has been working overtime to show me something.

As many of you know, I teach high school English and journalism. To say that working with teenagers is a challenge would be the understatement of the year. They are small adults, but much of their choices can be careless; their actions can be very hurtful. So, being your resident softy, I am often cut to the core by some of their decisions. I know I strive to look tough on the outside at my job, but on the inside, I am literally… mush.

There! I said it. Mush! M-U-S-H!

In one of my first years of teaching, a senior of mine on the yearbook staff really, really hurt me. I entrusted her with a lot. I invested in her. I connected with her, but when the chips were down, she fell apart. And in the aftermath, she quit the course without notifying me, and then proceeded to make some very hurtful decisions. I won’t go into details out of respect for her and the fact that once upon a time she was my student…

Well three years went by… and as time often does, it healed many of my wounds over those incidents, and to be honest, the experiences made me a much wiser teacher and tougher person when it came to the letdowns of my job.

So, I was staying late one day to clean my classroom and grade copious essays on the historical context of Harper Lee’s timeless novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. And to my surprise, I heard a little knock and saw a vaguely familiar face in my classroom door’s window…

It a moment’s time, events from a forgotten past came rushing back. I know my reception of this young woman, who was now 21, was a little reserved. I was nervous as to why she was standing in my classroom after all that we’d been through.

Right away, she began speaking. “I know you’re shocked to see me. I wouldn’t blame you after everything I put you through, but I came by today to tell you I am sorry for everything. A lot has been happening in my life, and I’ve been thinking about what I did to you for a long, long time, and I’m sorry.”

There it was. The words I only wished for three years ago. The words I accepted that I’d never hear. But I was hearing them all. And immediately, God softened my heart. My reserved posture became more welcoming, and my washed-out face from the shock regained its color.

She continued on, explaining herself, her mistakes, her sorrow. I could just stand there and listen, and when she was done, I was ready to respond.

“Sarah*,” I said, “Thank you for your apology. Of course I forgive you.”

I told her that she was very brave for coming here to tell me this. I told her that I respected her courage and candor. We talked for a bit more, and then she left.

And I was left with total peace...

When people hurt us we want to hear “I’m sorry.” We want them to own up to what they’ve done. And most often, those words come late, or they don’t come at all.

Can we be okay with this? Can we move on?

This past month, I've learned two things on this subject. 1) If the apology never comes, I must find a way to forgive anyway and 2) If the apology doesn’t come in a timely manner, perhaps hours or days after the injury, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming at all. We must be patient with the people that hurt us because their apology is often the result of their own personal journey and evolution. Apologies, sincere ones at least, can’t come when our enemies are in their original state. They must come after the fact.

And we, being the ones harmed, must take the higher road and recognize the limits of our enemies. That’s a jagged pill to swallow, I know. It's not easy to accept because we want so badly for justice to prevail in the very moment we determine it should show up. We have a strong sense of what's right and just.

But forgiveness is more powerful than justice. Forgiveness is a tool that allows us to let go. It gives us the strength to show mercy and love by freeing the person who did us wrong if we choose to do so. Forgiveness, as I once read, is a gift we give ourselves.

So for me, I know that I need to remember that no matter how badly I am hurt by someone—and in the past couple of months that’s been a lot—I have the power to forgive, and I have the wisdom to understand that though the apology is delayed or never even comes, I can still forgive for myself.

I have to be honest: normally I am the one teaching my students, but this time it was a former student's unexpected apology that taught me a thing or two about life.

*name of student was changed

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

POETography: Observations

click on image to enlarge

POETography is when you post what you're thinking in words, phrases, stories, or poetry about the photograph above. It can be whatever comes to your mind. It can be a personal memory...

So what do you think? Comment here or at our Facebook page (!/pages/The-Universal-Soul/175779326361?ref=ts) with your thoughts, words, or poetry.

As before, I've will post my response in the comments section to get the ball rolling. Check it out and post your own... Don't be a stranger! ;)

Last Month's POETography:

April's POETography:

March’s POETography:

February's POETography:

January's POETography:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman’s Journey out of Depression (Part II of III)


In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series. If you are just joining us, please read Part I here: A Journey from Darkness to Light.


By: N. Chartier

“Depressed? Of course we’re all depressed. We’ve been so quickly, violently and irreconcilably plucked from nature, from physical labor, from kinship and village mentality, from every natural and primordial antidepressant. The further society ‘progresses’, the grander the scale of imbalance. Just as fluoride is put in water to prevent dental caries, we’ll soon find the government mandating Prozac in our water to prevent mental caries”- M. Robin D’ Antan

Disclaimer: Drug types are used rather than brand names of the actual medications in order to protect the drug companies.

I began suffering severe anxiety attacks after I graduated college and dealt with it the only way I knew how; drinking after work and on the weekends, crying while getting ready for work each day, and faking it. I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was suffering on the inside so that I wouldn’t have to talk about it because I was tired of being asked, “What do you have to be depressed about? Why do you worry so much?” It was as if I wasn’t justified in feeling the way I did. Through work and through my education I learned that worrying becomes a “disorder” when it starts affecting your daily life and when you start rearranging your life around your anxiety or worry. I definitely fit in that “disorder” category.

I finally received my insurance six months into my career and immediately began searching for a psychiatrist in my area who accepted my insurance plan. Once I found one, I scheduled an appointment right away. I was told I would be seeing an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) named Betty. I questioned whether I should be seeing the actual psychiatrist. However, I was informed that ARNP’s see most of the patients in the practice and that I had nothing to worry about.

The day of my appointment came, and I arrived as nervous as ever. But I was eager to meet my ARNP, Betty, and find out how she could help me. She spent approximately 15 or 20 minutes asking me general questions about my life, my anxiety, depression, work environment and relationships. I explained that I had been having panic attacks and that my anxiety had impacted me to the point that it was extremely difficult to leave the house. She looked at me and said, “You’re depressed. I can see it in your eyes. You look sad.” Puzzled, I looked at her with all due respect and questioned, really?

I had never thought of myself as a “depressed” person. I knew I was a neurotic, anxiety-ridden mess, but rarely depressed. I explained that I only get depressed after I spend hours worrying over nothing. Betty told me about a popular Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor or SNRI, and told me it combats depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She also told me success stories about other patients who took this particular SNRI and really sold me on it (without, of course, telling me any of the bad things, like side effects). In addition, she gave me a prescription for a benzodiazepine (benzo) used to treat the onset of anxiety on an as needed basis.

I left her office excited to finally have the solution to my problem in hand. I drove to the closest pharmacy to have my prescriptions filled. Right away, I took one of the half-milligram benzo tablets and then read through all of the warnings and instructions on both medications. I decided I would start taking the SNRI the next morning. Little did I know that by starting these medications, I was headed down a path of isolation, major depression, suicidal ideation, “needing” several additional medications, and a trip to the emergency room.

The first month taking the medications was great. I had less anxiety, and I was actually excited about meeting my neighbors and going out again. Unfortunately though, the relationship I was in ended around the same time I went back for my second appointment. I was suffering situational depression, something completely normal, but was told to deal with it by taking more medicine! My ARNP doubled my dose of the SNRI from 75mg to 150mg, doubled my dose of the benzo, plus added another anti-anxiety medication. I had only been taking the medications for a month, and I was told it takes about 6-12 weeks for the medications to achieve their therapeutic effect, so I had hope my mood would improve with time.

Several weeks passed while I continued on the medications. I quickly reached a point of not being able to care about anything. I became more depressed, and the medications numbed my ability to feel happy. It inhibited my sense of control and my ability to care about myself and the things that were always important to me. By November of that year I was too depressed to go see my family for Thanksgiving and instead stayed alone in my apartment in Naples, which was SO out of character for me. My depression was getting worse but I could not understand it because I was taking a heavy dose of an antidepressant plus two anti-anxiety medications.

I went back to see the ARNP and told her that I was having horrible spells of deep depression; it worse than anything I had before starting the medicine so she added a second antidepressant medication to my regimen. I was now taking four medications, but guess what? My depression kept getting worse. I went through bouts of depression mixed with what I would call my baseline mood, which was a “blah” sort of state of going through the motions. I wasn’t happy by any means. I wasn’t sad in between my spells of major depression either. I just wasn’t ME. I only existed as time passed me by.

A point in time came when it was becoming too expensive to keep up with my medications each month so I asked about a more affordable alternative. Plus, the SNRI obviously wasn’t working. Betty prescribed a different antidepressant, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, or SSRI, and gave me a weaning schedule for the SNRI. I would slowly taper off the SNRI while integrating the SSRI. The morning after my first day only taking the SSRI, I was in the emergency room. I had severe withdrawal from the original antidepressant and a bad reaction to the new one. I was physically and psychologically tortured, and I wanted to die. I don’t know if I would have lived through it if I didn’t have my roommate take me to the hospital.

The psychiatrist from Betty’s office came to see me at the hospital and put me right back on 150mg of the original SNRI, and I was monitored there for five days. The meds were so sedating that at one point my blood pressure read 70/37! After this experience, the reality set in that I might have to take this medication for the rest of my life.

The months came and went, and I continued to take my psychotropic cocktail as instructed. I functioned as best as I could. I had bouts of severe depression unlike anything I had prior to taking medications. Instead of seeing the nurse practitioner, the Psychiatrist decided she would start seeing me now for my appointments. My appointment times got shorter. Meaningful questions about how I was feeling were fewer. My appointments became about the psychiatrist trying to convince me to increase my dosages. I began to wonder what stake she had in me taking more medication. Nearly two years later I would find that out when I read the book Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber. But, prior to that point, I continued to take the meds and my health began to deteriorate.

In addition to an increase in depression severity, I also developed a number of health problems. I was diagnosed with Vertigo. I had night sweats, restless legs, tremors, exhaustion, memory loss, stiff muscles, a tight jaw, increased suicidal thoughts and ideation, a loss of the ability to find pleasure in anything, the inability to feel sad when appropriate, and so on. My hands shook so much that I couldn’t hold a drink without spilling it half of the time. I was no longer myself, and my family was noticing.

About a year after I tried to wean off the SNRI for the first time, I found out I was pregnant. I immediately stopped taking the benzos and began to wean off the antidepressant, again, under my Psychiatrist’s supervision. Within 3 days of not taking it, I was forced to start taking it again because the withdrawal symptoms were tremendous and unbearable. I couldn’t eat. I was having “brain zaps.” I could not concentrate. My joints ached. I began to do research and scheduled another appointment with the Psychiatrist. I was told that withdrawals can actually be worse on the unborn baby than taking the medication, so I continued to take a low dose throughout my pregnancy. Thankfully, my daughter was born healthy but the guilt I felt for taking the drug while pregnant was immense. My doctor wanted to increase my dose back to 150mg after my daughter was born in order to prevent post partum depression, which I wouldn’t agree to because I wasn’t depressed. It was at this point that I began to see psychiatry as a business, and I began researching natural alternatives…

My Crazy Dream

There’s something about being forced to be still. Alone in bed. Alone and still. It’s really quite phenomenal how quickly you start to hear your own voice, and how you start to recognize it. And how you start to piece all your thoughts and feelings together.

It’s phenomenal how quickly your walls come down when you’re just reading, thinking, and writing. When you’re alone...

Tonight, I am typing, and right now what I am writing is a secret from the entire Universe. But in time, I’ll edit these words. I will determine if they are fit to share, and in a day’s time, you—whoever you are and wherever you hail from—will be reading them. And what you will be thinking and doing when you receive these words will remain a complete mystery.

You may become bored and stop reading right here. You may be nodding your head because you know exactly what I mean when I speak about the power of solitude. Or, you may be along for the ride because you just happened to stumble across this place.

My mind is a whirlwind at the moment. I think every age brings new hurdles to soar over (or perhaps crash into), but where I am right now is surely a tall and endless set of hurdles, all of which demand major decisions before I leap over them. It seems the decisions of your twenties can be so definitive. In that decade, people may choose to become college graduates and set out to do their life’s work, whatever their nascent self thinks that work may be. And then in time, twenty-somethings look to find love and make that love last… perhaps forever. And finally, they may decide on parenthood and relocating, both of which leave their old life far behind... perhaps forever.

There’s so much to worry about. So many choices that can’t be undone or redone.

And where am I on the decision-making spectrum? Well, I am a paradox. I am one part undying realist and one part romantic idealist. My college degree proves it, really: English Education. Need I say more? I couldn’t choose my path, so I picked English for the romantic in me, and education for the annoying realist that demanded I be employed in my field fresh out of college.

My crazy dream was to write and become a published author. Why crazy, you may ask… Well because my realist self did the research and learned that only 1% of submitted novels are accepted and published! Yep, my dream in life, my calling, had a 1% chance at survival. So my second dream, which I see as my vocation now, was to teach. So here I am… teaching. It’s the second closest thing to who I really am, and it is quite fulfilling most days. But when you're craving rocky road ice cream and you open the fridge to vanilla… Well, you know what I mean.

I am a teacher secondly because I will always be a writer first, although when I write I do find myself trying to help others by sharing my silly episodes and spiritual “aha moments.” So perhaps the writer and teacher in me are more connected than I first realized…

Well tonight, at this late hour, at a point when all my walls are down, I am confessing to you that I am going after that crazy dream. I’ve made a decision, and now I simply have to run the hurdles. I hear a whisper in my ear and a pang in my gut that I can’t shake, and they tell me that even though I’d have a better chance surviving a triple-bypass, I am going to be a writer… one that actually publishes a novel and makes a living doing it.

Crazy? I know! But it’s who I am first, and if it takes a lifetime of misses or years of unaccepted work, I feel in the life of my blood that it was what I was born to do.

THIS, right now, is the first time that I have ever declared that those are my sincere intentions. I was afraid to say it to anyone for years because I’ve always thought they’d roll their eyes or wait in anticipation for my failure. I worried they'd talk about me when I left the room and giggle at my naïveté.

But you know what? I DON’T CARE.

I always thought, hey maybe my writing is terrible and no one’s got the guts to tell me. Maybe I am delusional. The world doesn’t need another writer! What will I say that hasn’t already been said? I created a masterpiece of perfectly realistic reasons why NOT to write.

But you know what? I DON’T CARE.

If I fail, at least I know I got in the race, and I didn’t stand on the sidelines watching all the other runners glide over their hurdles. In a way, I guess this blog is one way I put myself in the race subconsciously… because when I started it, I was very fearful. I thought, what if no one reads it? What if I am posting to no one? What if people literally write mean things or tell me I can’t write? Well, none of those pesky “what ifs” were true, and that’s why I hate them so much and why my “realist-self” and I are not on speaking terms.

Making this blog was my way of getting in the race, and posting this admission—or really declaration—is my way of jumping one of those many hurdles. So I guess tonight I could say, “One hurdle down, and ninety-nine more to go!” as I make a go at that 1% chance, at that crazy dream.


*Disclaimer: I know this post is random, a bit unhinged really, but I want to take these lines to thank all my readers out there for helping me find some courage to chase after my crazy dream.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"I Sing the Body Electric..."

“I sing the body electric... [and] if anything is sacred, the human body is sacred” -- Walt Whitman

"Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other." -- Henry David Thoreau

"From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." -- Ephesians 4:16


I’m sick. I’m stuck in bed. And I’ve been stuck in bed for two days!

For most of us, we can’t remember the last time we were stuck in bed for two days. Modern life keeps us moving so fast: Go here! Go there! Do this! Do that! There’s nary a time when we lay in bed—completely still—looking around, calming down, and slowing down.

So with all this laying around and little to do but think… I got to thinking.

I noticed that it’s not until I am really sick or injured that I start to pay real attention to the state of my body. Don’t get me wrong; I do my best to eat right and workout, but in those acts I typically don’t think much deeper than, I am doing this because it’s good for my body. I don’t neglect my body, but I sure do take it for granted at times. I just assume its going to work for me.

Marcel Proust once wrote that, "It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body."

What about my body? What about yours? We’re miraculous. We’re complicated. We’re intricate. But the sad fact is this: we’re not paying much attention to our bodies (well, most of us).

Our heart beats blood all over our being so that we may live. Our legs are strong and tireless, and they carry us to every corner of the world. Our eyes are tiny but infinite; they see everything and beyond (if we let them). Our skin is durable and protective. It carries scars as a reminder of a lesson learned. Our lungs are deep and strong, and they endlessly filter air and goodness through our bodies… sick, awake, asleep…

So even though I’m sick, and my body is a bit incapacitated at the moment, I have to take a moment to marvel at it. I have to tell it “thank you” for the long string of healthy days when it did not ache, it did not stop, and it did not let up. It worked for me quietly and loyally while I was busy living my life.

Thank you to my arms for being strong and for giving me the ability to hold who I love. Thank you to my mouth for allowing me to taste all the extravagant flavors of food there are in this world, and a great thanks to my eyes for guiding my entire body in all things and everyday. Thank you to my heart for beating and never stopping and for orchestrating 28 years of vitality. Thank you to my mind, of all things, for giving me my abilities, my thoughts… and my beautiful memories.

You never fail me. You never ask for much. You always carry me.

So the lesson learned today for me? Well, are you familiar with that little promise “in sickness and in health?” I am pledging now, to my body, that I will sing its praises in sickness and in health. I will do more to care for it. I will do more to thank it. I will spend more time caring for its insides, rather than fretting about its outsides. I will stop picking at the flaws—how silly I was—and instead, I will look for the things to love.

I will be sure to praise my body and its creator every chance I get because although every body is different, every body is beautiful. And we must never lose sight of that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Law of Humility

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.” --Gandhi

“What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God” -- Monica Baldwin

“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.” --2 Philippians 2:3


You might already know this. In fact, I am almost sure you do. So please, be patient with me as I figure it out…

In this life, we will be humbled. Right?

The fact is certain, as I am sure you know. Now, we may not know the place, the circumstance, or the date, but we can all rest assured that a good humbling will come our way… at least a few times before we leave this experience called life.

So the question is not will we be humbled? The question is how will we welcome humility?

In this life, we will be humbled… by way of choice or by way of force. The Universe has a perfect way of knowing how to bring us to our knees… right back down to the soil that nourishes us all. It knows how to strip us of all our pretensions. The Universe (God) finds us, it locates a place that requires growth or the place that is flawed, and then it brings humility into that space.

It seems that so many people run about, committing unspeakable acts and speaking to others in such disregard, as if they believe they will be the first person to avoid the great experience of humility. I see them, and I only pray they find humility sooner than later. The greater the ego, the greater the fall. And the longer one refuses to live with humility, the more difficult their lessons will be...

In fact, we all know they’re living in a compromised state, one that leaves a soul malnourished. And in time, they will hit the wall, a wall that was placed before them just so that they may be rid of their arrogance or engrossed ego… just so that they may experience the humility they ran from all of their lives.

I hope none of us are the people who are blinded by their ego. Personally, I know it's a daily struggle to act in humility. Sometimes screaming my head off seems like an easier alternative.

But if we know that the Law of Humility is true, then we have some very powerful, beautiful decisions to make. We must ask ourselves, will I welcome humility by way of my choices, or will I run from it until the Universe has its way, and it is forced upon me? There is grace and wisdom in accepting humility every day in every circumstance by our own volition.

It may not be easy to choose humility in every challenge, especially when we know we are in the right or that we have the upper-hand. But then again, feeling strong emotional attachments to being “in the right” or “having the upper-hand” leaves us enslaved to our egos. Somehow, we have to be cognizant of these feelings, acknowledge them, and then finally find a way within our spirits to walk away from them. After all, when did being right or having the upper-hand ever spare us the agony of a wronged encounter or remove the painful memory of those experiences? So, if we know we will be humbled, why not choose humility rather than choosing the brick wall? Why not choose our higher selves, rather than allowing our egos to rule the day?

In striving for humility, we are able to glean from a situation what was supposed to be learned because we are open and aware. If we are wronged, we should raise our level of consciousness, not our fist. If we are lied to, we should find a way to forgive, rather than keeping score. If we are blessed with wealth or good looks, we should thank and bless the source of all goodness, instead of glorifying ourselves.

Because in the scheme of things, preserving and refining our souls is the business we should be up to our knees in…

Humility will find us all. But will we have the courage and discipline to accept it with open arms?

In close, I will leave you with the sage words of Saint Augustine: “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues, hence in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman’s Journey out of Depression (Part I of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

By: N. Chartier

"Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday." ~Author Unknown

I think it is safe to say that at some point in our lives, we all worry about something. We worry about how we are going to fare on tomorrow’s big test. We worry about whether or not we turned the stove off after scrambling eggs for breakfast before rushing out the door to our jobs. We worry about retirement and whether we will have that nice-sized nest egg we all hope for. Then, we worry if our house will burn down because we left the stove on. Or if one of our loved ones will be killed in a car wreck on his or her way to work today. Then we panic. Our hearts pound. We can’t breathe. We begin to sweat profusely. An overwhelming sense of impending doom strikes us. Our mind races like a bullet train speeding through a maze of tunnels with no destination in sight and no sign of stopping…

Okay, did I lose some of you there? Not all of us worry to the extreme I just described. Of course some worrying is normal. It is what keeps us performing well on that important test. It is what reminds us to check the stove before we walk out the door to start our day. But, when worry turns in to a debilitating, destructive pattern it becomes a “problem” like it did for me.

I have ALWAYS had anxiety. I just did not always know it. As a child, I would stay awake all night worrying that a masked monster would break in to my bedroom window and kidnap me right out of the safety of my bedroom. Often, I would stay awake the entire night. Some nights, I would quietly tip-toe down the hallway and across the living room over to my parents’ room where I would curl up on the floor next to their bed and try to fall asleep. You might ask yourself, “Where is all this fear coming from? Why is a child suffering from insomnia?” And why should a child be worrying about being kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night and being murdered?” Yes, murdered.

I was a child believing in my heart of hearts that I would be snatched from my room at night and murdered by a sick serial killer. Was it a story on the nightly news I heard that planted the seed? Was it remembering that I heard my mom talking to my dad about a little girl who was kidnapped from a sleepover and that her body was later found in a trash can that was keeping me awake at night? I believe that the media was a big part of what contributed my childhood anxiety. Additionally, I believe some of us are more prone to being anxious than others. It is only now that I am an adult that I can look back and say, “Yes, I was an anxious child. Yes, I suffered from insomnia.” No one really knew that except me (I kept my fears my secret). Some might chalk these behaviors up to being influenced by normal childhood phobias and fears. We all knew the one kid in the bunch who couldn’t watch certain cartoons or movies because they were too “scary”. But what about the one child that no one suspects has anything wrong, but who rarely sleeps because of an impending sense of doom? I will tell you. She grew up to be a woman diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That woman is ME.

Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, once said, “Psychiatry is probably the single most destructive force that has affected American Society in the last 50 years.” I could not agree more with this proclamation. It is not my purpose in writing this to “bash” Psychiatry or to denounce any of its practices. My sole purpose is to share my personal experience with depression, anxiety and with psychiatric treatment. Although, some of what I say here may offend or surprise some of my readers. That is not my intention. I simply want you to know how psychiatry negatively affected ME and how my rage towards what psychiatric drugs has done to my life pushed me in the direction of searching for natural mood cures.

In this blog series, I would like to share my experience with you and share those natural cures with you that I have researched, tried and have found to work for me. Further, I must also explain that although I worked in the mental health field for just a month shy of three years and have a minor in psychology, I am knowledgeable on this subject (I’m not pulling information out of my rear-end!), but I am by no means an expert. So please, I invite you to sit back, make sure to have a pen and paper handy (you might want to jot down some information down later) and read MY story…

Try to imagine that feeling you had right before you gave your first speech either in elementary school or in college. Can you remember trembling a little? Can you remember not being able to sleep the night before? How about feeling sick to your stomach? Was your heart racing? Sweaty palms, perhaps? Now imagine being jolted out of your sleep during the night or in the morning when your alarm clock starts blaring. You’re sweating. Your heart is racing. And suddenly, an overwhelming sense that something TERRIBLE is going to happen sweeps over you. You are not sure what, but you are absolutely sure either the world is going to end today or that something horrible is going to happen to you or to someone you love. But, why? No one told us that something bad is going to happen today. The sky is not falling. The Grim Reaper is not standing at the edge of our bed with his scythe, ready to sweep us away to our demise. We just woke up feeling it. This is how I woke up feeling every single day. It was not always like that for me. I mean, it was not that way my entire life, but rather daily for extended periods of time, then other periods of time I would wake up feeling what you might call “normal.” Without getting in to too much detail and going too far back in time (we would be here all week), and for the sake of this blog, I will begin telling of my experience starting in December 2006...

December 16, 2006 marked one of the most memorable and satisfactory days of my life. On this date, I was honored and proud to walk across the modestly decorated stage at the Leon County Civic Center to accept my Bachelors Degree from the Dean of Criminology at Florida State University. I was proud that my hard work had finally paid off and even more proud of the fact that I already had a job interview lined up down in Naples, FL on December 19th. I celebrated my commencement by accompanying my at-the-time boyfriend and my dear friend, Jason, to a BT concert the following night in St. Pete. I was happy. I was proud. And I had no idea what chaos would lie ahead in the not-so-distant future…

So, allow me to fast forward a little bit now. I got the job in Naples on the spot and was told I would start January 16, 2007. I rushed to pack all of my belongings from my two-bedroom apartment in Tallahassee all while scrambling to find a new apartment in a city six hours away, and not to mention shopping for suits and heels for my new career. It was a busy and hectic month, but I was excited. And I was, of course, nervous. The move went well. We found a really nice apartment in a part of town not far from my office and I jumped head first in to my newfound passion- helping people with mental illness navigate through the legal system. Little did I know, I too, would soon be a psychiatric consumer.

Maybe it was the stress of moving and life taking such a drastic and sudden turn towards “adulthood.” Maybe it was the fact that my job entailed facing rapists, murderers and child molesters one-on-one while checking my personal biases at the jail cell door. Perhaps it was the fact that the relationship I was in was crumbling. Or the fact that I felt that simply earning a Bachelor’s degree alone was not good enough. I was confused. I was lost. And most of all, I was anxiety ridden and becoming really down on myself about it. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was beyond tired. I was exhausted. I would go right home from work and go straight to bed.

At work my colleague would introduce me to the various professionals I was required to coordinate my cases with, but I would stand frozen in fear. Silent. Only muttering a shy, “Hello… Nice to meet you,” or something of the sort. Soon I began to have panic attacks on the elevator in the courthouse. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I have claustrophobia? But what I had going on physiologically was more than claustrophobia. I started to lose weight because of the stress. I was waking up in the morning absolutely sick to my stomach at the very thought of getting out of bed to start the day. The moment my alarm would blare, the anxiety kicked in. Then I would get depressed because I was anxious. Many mornings I would cry the whole time while getting ready for work. Once it was time to put on my mascara, I would have to force myself to stop crying, put in a few drops of Visine, and then muster the strength to continue getting ready so I could make it to work on time.

I kept thinking to myself that I just had to keep it together on my own until my health insurance kicked in. Once I had insurance, I planned to visit a psychiatrist.

Little did she know, her journey was just beginning...


About the Author:

Nihcole is a Florida native and a Florida State University graduate with a Bachelor’s in Criminology. She worked for three years as a Forensic Mental Health Specialist helping adults navigate through the legal system who are suffering from mental illness and who are incompetent to proceed or not guilty by reason of insanity on their felony charges.

On October 16, 2009, she received the greatest gift of all: her daughter Madalyn. She currently lives in Naples, FL, with her daughter Madalyn, boyfriend Richard, two dogs and two cats. She is a stay at home mom and is planning to return to school this fall in order to work towards a Masters in Occupational Therapy. She strives to live an organic and green lifestyle and spends a lot of time researching healthy eating and natural alternatives to conventional medicine. She enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, reading, swimming in the pool with her daughter, and spending sunny days on Naples beautiful gulf beaches.

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