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To Appear Tearful or About to Cry

In receiving a steady stream of questions from all over the globe, there are times when I notice developing trends in human health issues. Sleep deficiency from cell phone addiction is one that I noticed a few years ago. Today, I have this sense that depression has become the most worrisome health issue for those living in developed countries.

Some call it social media depression - feeling down about one's life because of constant exposure to flashes of happy moments on other people's Facebook or Instagram accounts.

Others call it the plague of the worried well - those who aren't in danger of dying from starvation or exposure to harsh elements, but feel that lack of fulfillment and genuine connection with others make life unbearable.

And then there is a significant segment of our population whose brain chemistry has been altered and made more prone to having suicidal thoughts by recreational and prescription drugs, and sadly, many said drugs are initially prescribed for depression, anxiety, or both. These days, I rarely find that a person is taking just one prescribed drug for depression; it's far more common to be on two, three, even a half dozen psychotropic drugs. Abilify with effexor or xanax, anyone?

I don't mean to be flippant or to make light of the seriousness of depression. It's the number one cause of disability in our world, and suicide from mental illness - most commonly depression - is the second leading cause of death in young people today.

I don't have sure-fire answers or solutions. But I do have a few observations to share. As a society, it seems that we've come to believe that struggling and feeling down, even despair, are symptoms of disease. For example, to appear tearful or about to cry is actually considered by the psychiatric community at large to be a symptom of depression.

Thinking back, the times in my life when I have sobbed uncontrollably were essential to my growth and capacity to be of value to others.

I think it's pretty clear that we're not supposed to be constantly happy. We are supposed to struggle a lot, to have doubts and worries, to cry when we're sad, to be lonely when we don't feel mutual fondness with a loved one. If we don't know what these states are, how are we to truly appreciate times of joy, triumph, financial security, belly laughter, and loving connection with others?

If we regularly numb our pain, we also numb our capacity to be fully present for moments of happiness, celebration, and camaraderie.

If we don't work diligently to develop useful skills and to be of service to others, can we feel truly fulfilled? For me, herein lies the simple principle that governs our existence: life is most meaningfully lived when we are learning, growing, and of service to those who wish to do the same.

My feeling is that there are no shortcuts to anything of lasting value in life, that there's no amount of money or a relationship that will give us what we are ultimately seeking.

Beyond the pages of Hollywood scripts, things don't always play out like they did for Jerry Maguire and Dorothy Boyd. Or Noah and Allie. If we go into a relationship looking primarily for the other to complete us, take care of us, or even to make us happier, we are likely setting up for disappointment. But I digress. Back to depression.

I used to regularly have patients come to our residential fasting clinic with the goal of re-setting their systems so as to taper off of a cocktail of drugs, and more than any other class, anti-depressants were the hardest to shake. Two, three, even four-week water-only fasts were helpful in shifting momentum for some, but for others, little changed in outlook and quality of life.

If you've read this far because you'd like to know what I've found to be helpful to those who have been able to liberate themselves from chronic or recurrent depression, here are the essentials that stand out:

  • Strong incentive to live with a different mindset.

  • Less alcohol and caffeine.

  • Less sugar and foods made with heavily refined carbohydrates.

  • More healthfully prepared nutrient-dense foods with an emphasis on foods rich in healthy fats. To name just a few: leafy vegetables, organic eggs, avocados, olives, healthy oils, nuts, seeds, cold-water fish, meat from consciously raised or wild animals, summer or hard squashes. And whenever there are cravings for carb-rich foods: fruits, minimally processed grains, legumes, and root vegetables.

  • More physical activity and regular perspiration.

  • A regular practice of prayer, meditation, or breathing exercises.

  • Regular effort to improve at something, to experience progress.

  • Actively seeking to empower others or simply brighten the day for another living creature.

  • Nurturing authentic connection with others by being genuine, vulnerable, and giving in spirit. Giving materially as well when it's possible, needed, and isn't burdensome to the recipient.

I can write with conviction that adopting some or all of the steps above consistently leads to positive change. But perhaps most importantly, I've found that those who feel more peace have learned to embrace times of sadness and even hopelessness as natural and even necessary valleys. When we allow ourselves to be with what we are feeling without self-rebuke or a mind-numbing or altering agent, we allow the beginnings of a new scar that will eventually serve us and those around us well.

A dear uncle of mine took his life in his 40s, leaving behind a large clan that loved him, including three young children. A physician friend who had many millions and three children under 10 chose to end his life just shy of his 40th birthday. From where I stood, both tragedies occurred without warning.

To honour my uncle, friend, and others who travelled on their own to a point where they felt there wasn't a path to brighter days, I encourage anyone feeling despair to consider the normalcy and even necessity of struggling and feeling down at times. If you can't shift your momentum on your own, if at all possible, please seek professional help from a compassionate mental health care provider who understands the impact that our daily choices in food, thought, and activity have on our well-being and ability to endure times of struggle.

If you have any thoughts you'd like to share on this topic, please consider posting to the comments section below. By openly discussing our emotional struggles, we help destigmatize mental health illness and open the gates to healing and conscious living.


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Very relevant and useful.
Thank you for this article!
5 stars

Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions on dealing with painful emotions. I would add getting outside near plants, animals, and water daily... too many of us are removed from nature's healing energy. Thanks again, for helping many people to help themselves heal and grow and live life fully. ❤️

Thank you for your insights on this subject, Dr. Kim. My husband and I are both living through a bout of depression at the moment. It comes, it goes. Once we see we are back in "victim mode" it does not linger long because neither of us wish t remain there. A friend of mine shared this story to me. "An old man was sitting on the porch. Laying next to him was an old hound dog. The dog was wailing and making a lot of noise. After a while a little boy came up to the porch and asked the old man, "Is that your dog?" To which the old man replied, "Yea". The little boy asked, "What's wrong with him? Why is he making all of that noise?" The old man stated, "Oh, he is laying on a tack and it is sticking him." The little boy asked, "Why don't he just get up and move?" The old man replied, "He will when he gets tired of being stuck by that tack." As you said, it is a process. Recognizing the root helps and it takes time to let it rise to the surface. Practice makes it easier and quicker. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Karen

My understanding is that depression has it's roots in wanting things to be different than they are. When we try to make
things different, the way we want them to be, and when we fail, we become even more depressed; the harder we try and fail the more depressed we become. Our mind starts having negative and self doubting thoughts which deepen
our depression; we become pessamistic about ourselves and life itself. The most effective way out of depression that I have found is deeply moving into acceptance of life as it is and of oneself as one is.

I appreciate your comment and take it to heart! Over the last few years I lost my dear mother, my best friend who was my brother, I am divorcing due to abuse, was in three accidents with chronic pain now. I feel like the devil himself is targeting me.
Many drastic changes in my life now.
So I must accept how my life is now. That's it! I have been trying to fight how my life has turned out, but I need to stop . Thank you!

Thank you for such a thoughtful article. I heard somewhere that depression is anger turned inward. To me it signifies that something must change in our lives, or rather WE must change something. I believe it partly happens when we are living out of alignment with your soul or souls purpose. I find it a difficult time but a valuable teaching tool. Yes, it makes sense that all of the nutritionally DEAD food and drink today has no energy of life in it. I believe everyone at one point or another experiences depression. I find getting out of a rut helps; try learning something new, take a class, do something that you are afraid of or that has held you back. My fears hold me back unless i master them...namaste', rachel

Dr. Kim, I have followed and done quite a bit of reading about depression, its causes, and what we can do to heal ourselves. I don’t personally have continuous depression but like most humans have been depressed at times. Thanks for this article because it is the best I’ve ever read on this subject with the perspective that sadness is human, not a disease. Chronic sadness requires attention yet I’ve noticed that the drugs prescribed to those with depression could sometimes alter the mind in a negative way and push a depressed person over the edge. Hopefully those who need help get the right help to live a balanced life without being in constant pain. Thanks and best wishes!

Sometimes those in need of the most mental help are such providers - a sad but true statement. I have found a good friend much less damaging than a stranger who may have their own agenda they impose upon a vulnerable human. I have walked into offices and been told to “find my own kind” comsidering I am American that must mean something about my appearance. I write all this because I know how easy it is to wrap up advice in envoiraging “ getting help” this is unfair to those also who cannot afford to shop and have no family and friends to fall back upon. My point in writing was to say how alone I am how alone I feel and not having an emergency contact number leaves me in fear each day with no empathy because I am “ attractive” yet cannot find a husband because men do not approach. Also people do not understand how terrifying it is to go back to nothingness where no one recognizes you. Your blog and sharing your life and world with strangers has helped me a lot. nyc is a very difficult place to form relationships its unfortunate I cannot move. aThank you for inviting me to write otherwise I would have felt too ashamed. Thank you for bringing comfort to my world. Most people cannot talk to me without asking me where are you really from idk how they would feel if they were told they did not belong in the only home and culture they knew and stared at like they have six heads but not tell the person its because they are beautiful-god forbid thats taboo- and live in my shoes - your blog and instagram make me believe there are people who accept me as another human on the path and its this acceptance that is most healing - your sincerity thank you