For example, when I was being treated for PTSD from a car accident (which is trauma! And therefore involves the body! and therefore can’t be dealt with exclusively with a cognitive aka mind-based treatment!) I had two separate psychologists tell me that Exposure Therapy, which is based on CBT principles and techniques is the only treatment for PTSD.
First of all, that’s just not true. Secondly, CBT has a low success rate with PTSD. Because of that misinformation, I had to undergo a challenging and traumatic exposure treatment and incomplete recovery, which led to a terrible resurgence of PTSD a year later… that I am still fighting to overcome. My greatest success so far? Working with my body (where I believe trauma is stored, experienced, and must be processed), instead of against it, using somatic-based treatments — those that include the body.
EMDR, a more body-inclusive, or somatic, therapy, is significantly more effective and has much more research behind it… in spite of that, EMDR is still considered ‘fringe,’ perhaps because it is based on the idea that we are far more than our minds, and that much of what we are cannot be explained by materialism-based science.
For many, especially veterans, overcoming PTSD is a matter of survival. Exposure therapy is terrible to go through, and my traumatic experience with it isn’t isolated: many PTSD sufferers experience worsening of symptoms with exposure therapy, often at serious risk to their lives.
Let’s Get Physical: It May Not ‘Just Be Your Mood’ After All
While serotonin deficiency may not be responsible for your despair, there are other, often overlooked physiological conditions that can manifest like mood disorders — feelings of overwhelming sadness, anxiety, and depression included. Many doctors simply aren’t familiar with these diseases, aren’t sure how to diagnose them, believe that they are really rare, or don’t have time to take a thorough enough case history to truly understand what’s going on with you.
It’s always better to rule out physical problems that might have easy solutions. I encourage you to ask your doctor to screen for thyroid dysfunction, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue/dysfunction, fibromyalgia, vitamin B deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, candida overgrowth, and auto-immune disorders like celiac disease. All of these can be misdiagnosed as depression! And when they are, they drag on. That’s not what you want.
Healthy, Happy, Whole: The Life You Deserve
Many emotions arise in the body. Meditations that allow you to become compassionately aware of your body and the sensations you experience can therefore improve the understanding, processing, and overcoming of challenging emotions, and even mood disorders. (This is part of why the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, and Mindfulness and Wellness Coaching, are so effective!)
Remember that awful feelings happen to everyone. They don’t indicate weakness, and the way forward may not be to ‘cure’ them, so to speak; often, the only way through bad feelings is to honor them, give them space, and truly feel them. This has a cathartic, exorcising effect, and avoids the feedback loop of feeling sad that you’re sad, or anxious about being anxious. Once you’ve felt the feelings through, right to the bottom, they pass away. They lose their charge. They disappear.
And then you’re free.
Often, the most powerful tools for overcoming a mood disorder and creating a balanced, joy-filled life have nothing to do with your doctor. Exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, and spending time outdoors can all contribute to the happy life that you deserve. Only you know what you truly need.
Sometimes, these disorders and feelings are a message, telling us that there is something that we need that we aren’t currently getting. Sometimes, even severe mood disorders can be less illness and more spiritual emergency… or emergence. It may be that your spirit has an important message for you about changes that need to be made in your life.
If it feels like your soul hurts, or your depression/anxiety is ‘untreatable’ by conventional means, that may be what’s happening to you. Check out A Wholistic Guide to Feeling Like Shit to learn more about this. If you want to support in exploring ways to create the life you want, check out what I have to offer as a Mindfulness and Wellness Coach, or get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my Facebook page. I’m listening. <3
If you are in crisis, please call a doctor, crisis line, or trusted loved one immediately and tell them that you need help. You are worth it. Things will get better.
From the heart,
Originally appeared on Kathryn Hogan