What Causes Depression: Creating Vigorous Balance (pt. 1)
The question of what causes depression has lead to many different perspectives and treatments. In my own journey, sinking and raising out of the black hole, I have experienced a profound difference in my normal level of daily functioning; both internally and externally. Inside, I have learned how to feel good, stable, and experience more enjoyable thoughts far more frequently. Which, in turn, has lead to me behaving completely different than I did a decade ago.
There are different opinions for the causes surrounding depression that can be attributed to the definition and inherent subjective nature of the condition. According to the American Psychiatric Association, (what is depression) it can include the following attributes.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
⋅Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
⋅Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
⋅Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
⋅Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
⋅Loss of energy or increased fatigue
⋅Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
⋅Feeling worthless or guilty
⋅Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
⋅Thoughts of death or suicide
⋅Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.
On the recent passing of my 38th birthday, I found myself reflecting on my past. I tried to remember how I felt and comprehended life throughout my depressed and withdrawn teenage years, which regularly included all of the symptoms listed above. These experiences continued into my twenties and worsened by my choices to regularly try and escape reality through instant mood changers, particularly alcohol, pseudo-junk food, gambling, and online porn.
I say worsened as, while the above coping behaviors provided brief shots of dopamine and elevated mood, the cumulative effect made each moment of each day less enjoyable. My body weight ballooned to 249 lbs (my normal weight now is around 200-205 lbs), and my attempts to treat my declining thoughts and feelings through pharmaceuticals. These eventually lead to being prescribed five drugs including a heavy dose of lithium. My blood pressure was terrible and trying to use medication for that created awful tension headaches (as if my head was in a vice). I distinctly remember my doctor telling me I would have to use a cocktail of drugs for the rest of my life if I wanted to feel well and function as an adult. He was right, the person I WAS then did need those, however the person I have become requires ZERO medications….
The question of what causes depression and how to treat it was not being answered by these interventions. One day I called my doctor’s office to inquire about my lithium blood level. I felt terrible, my thoughts were eerily slow, reminiscent of the spinning wheel of death we see on a MacBook, and all I wanted to do all day was lay down and sleep as long as possible. Which in those days, consisted of 12-14 hours, usually following a binge of pseudo-junk food. I was told by the office staff that they would find out, but “the doctor wants to up your daily dosage of lithium.” DONE. I politely thanked her, inside however I was furious. Furious at myself, my doctor, Life/God/The Universe for being miserable – all I felt was anger. That would be the last day I took prescription drugs.*
*If you are currently using anti-depressants or other medications to manage conditions I DO NOT advise you to cease using them. Medications are a tool, and while I have yet to meet someone that did not improve a health condition from an intentional consciously constructed diet and strength training program; it is safer and wiser to discuss a change of course with your doctor and construct a plan to wean off meds while building your most vigorous lifestyle. Addressing the root cause(s) of what causes depression will ultimately lead to the best outcome though. I can show you the most efficient and effective path a strength and nutrition overhaul can provide, all this must be in adherence with your medical plan. For those who may have health providers unwilling to be a part of such a plan, find a new provider asap and let it be known of your intentions to transform your health. In the end, each of us must be the strongest advocate for creating our optimal health and life.*