Treating Depression Holistically:
It Takes More Than a Pill to Heal From Depression
If there is one thing that I learned from my depressive episode, it is this—that it takes more than a pill to heal from depression. When I tried antidepressants, either they did not reduce my depression substantially, or I could not endure their side effects Thus, I had to explore other ways to treat my symptoms.
I am not alone. According to a government study published in 2006, Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disorder even if they receive the best possible care. Thus, other treatment modalities should be combined with antidepressant therapy.
It makes sense to treat depression holistically. Since depression is a disorder of the body, mind and spirit, then it most be treated using a body-mind-spirit recovery program. As Dr. Andrew Weil states:
"To optimize the function of the healing system, you must do everything in your power to improve physical health, mental/emotional health, and spiritual health…One must see the whole picture of health, and understand the importance of working on all fronts”
An example of this integrative approach can be seen in the way we treat heart disease. If you went to a cardiologist and wanted to know how to prevent a heart attack (or to recover from one), he or she might prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication and tell you to eat a low-fat diet, exercise three to four times a week, and cut down on the stress in your life.
In a similar manner, depression should be treated holistically--i.e., on a variety of levels. In working to find ways to achieve my own emotional balance, I identified five levels of self-care --physical self-care, mental/emotional self-care, social support, spiritual connection, and lifestyle habits, as shown by the diagram below.
Healing from depression can be likened to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. For the puzzle (and ourselves) to be whole and complete, all of the pieces must be in their proper place, as shown in the diagram below.
If you wish to learn more about these individual five areas of self-care, you can click on the links below, or click on the self-care drop-down-menu at the top of the page.
As you read through these self-care activities, you will see that there is nothing new or radical in what I have suggested. The plan is a simple common sense approach to living a healthy and balanced life. But simple does not mean easy. Developing and sticking to good habits requires persistence, discipline and diligence (ask anyone who has quit smoking). But the dedication is worth it. Having spent too many days in the dark house, I do not wish to return; and I am confident that neither do you.
There is one final point that I would like to emphasize. No matter how many episodes of depression you have experienced, you are not your illness. The label "depression" does not define who you are but how you are suffering. If you start to believe that having depression makes you inherently defective, remind yourself that you are a normal person responding to an abnormal condition. Your spiritual essence transcends depression and cannot be touched by it or any illness. As the great 20th century visionary Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
Above all, try to be at peace with your condition. Some people have diabetes, others heart disease; you get to deal with depression. By applying the strategies described in this web site, you can take small steps to improve the quality of your life. Remember, life is not always about fairness, but about how gracefully we learn the teachings of our unique path. Best wishes on your transformational journey.