The Courage to Love

Despite all the emphasis of giving drugs to depressed people, many recover from depression with time on their own, while others receive help from a variety of sources, including therapy, family, and religion. Depression is a loss of hope. . . . The restoration of hope is key to overcoming depression and hope can come from many sources. The alternative to antidepressants is all of life: romantic love, family, friends, community, nature, and religion all help people overcome depression. Scientific studies show that everything from a new pet to an exercise program, as well as the passage of time, can relieve depression. Dr. Peter Breggin

Here is Part Three of Mike's recovery story. He gave me permission to post it because he feels it will be helpful to others. Read part 1 of Mikes's story


This is Mike. At the end of Part Two, I was 39, pretty much symptom free, and just a regular guy. Each stage of my life, there were issues to deal with. Somehow I got through.

Before moving on to the big life changing things that happened when I was 39 years old, permit me to dwell just a little longer on the first half of life. There are a few more comments I would like to make.

As I reflect back, I realize that there were some other things that helped me get through (without being labeled and drugged, deteriorating, becoming chronic and perhaps developing some permanent side effects).

One thing that worked in my favor was that there were two tiers of issues. There were lots of obvious external issues that everyone was always fussing over. And these external issues kept both everyone else and myself busy and (though I didn't realize it at the time) held them off from digging into and messing in the more intimate ones.

The external stuff--like school bullying and teasing, my parents' divorce, a childhood speech impediment, being obese and poor at sports, getting tonsillitis all the time--these and other things kept me and everyone else preoccupied.

If everything on the outside had been just fine, I might have had everyone focusing on the inside. Here's a story that might illustrate the point I'm trying to make.

When I was in my 20's I got some soreness from exercising that didn't go away. So I went from doctor to doctor to get symptom relief. Some antibiotics were tried and didn't help. One doctor said "exploratory surgery. " Another doctor examined me with rough handling. The rough handling doctor diagnosed it (after a grand total of a five minute office visit) with a label and said that surgery was needed.

Remember, it was just a little soreness. But I guess at that time I was just like everyone else--I kept demanding that someone do something--so I guess the rough handling surgery guy was just trying to satisfy the customer.

Anyway, my gut instinct was that he was wrong and so decided to just live with my sports injury soreness. Within half a year it just went away and never came back.

A year or two later I heard a doctor on the radio take a call from a caller who described symptoms exactly like I had. The doctor said it was an inflammation, usually caused by exercise, and would eventually go away. Right on, doc!

Just think what might have happened if Dr. Rough Handling had done exploratory surgery on me. I might not even be here today.

In a similar vein, if trial and error ("let's see if this works") had been used on the mental and emotional issues I grew out of, who knows what might have gone wrong.

I read a really good book (Will Medicine Stop the Pain? Finding God's Healing for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Troubling Emotions). The author, Dr. Laura Hendrickson, says she has heard so many tragic stories tht began with some lady innocently mentioning that she felt a little down. She's put on an antidepressant. She gets worse or develops psychosis or mania from the meds, and then is put on an antipsychotic drug, a benzodiazapine, then maybe an anticonvulsant (used as a "mood stabilizer"). There is weight gain and other side effects, and then she starts hearing voices that tell her she is ugly and everybody hates her. She ends up worse off than before.

So thank goodness, attention was directed to my parent's divorce, my speech impediment (which I overcame), my overweight (which I overcame), and my falling in with the wrong crowd. Time, hard work and eating right, a little speech therapy, and a change in schools--and I was restored to normal weight, articulate speech, and good grades (and a 4 year academic scholarship).

In the meanwhile nothing experimental, heavy handed, misdiagnosed or trial and error ("let's try this and see if it helps") was done to me for my moods, anxiety or obsessive thoughts (which went away).

Another thing that helped me get through were autobiographies--especially when I was in my 20's. There was one in particular--I think his name was Alexander King--he wrote a 3 book autobiography or collection of memoirs, wherein he pretty much let it all hang out. But he looked philosophically on his ups and downs, and he had some advice about romance and relationships.

He was realistic and had a sense of humor. I read it several times. Here was a guy who wasn't famous or anywhere near perfect, but he had something worthwhile to say, and had some tips for a younger guy about life. It gave me hope.

Finally, I want to mention television, radio, music and movies. Yes, they helped me get through, recover and become fully functional and happy, without drugs or individual or group therapy.

There were so many television series that made me laugh, taught me something, occupied my mind, and gave me something to look forward to. There is no use trying to list them all. I'll just list a couple as examples: Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Charley's Angels, Mr. T., The Jeffersons, Good Times, Three's Company, Columbo, Star Trek, Dallas, and Mission Impossible are just a few that come to mind. I identified with the hero or protagonists and loved to see them overcome obstacles.

I won't say much about movies, but there were some uplifting ones (like the Karate Kid) and some funny ones like The Jerk, and some inspirational ones like The Magnificent Seven that were helpful.

And music--what can I say. Lots of rock and roll classics, disco and soft rock that were frankly inspiring to a young guy. The songs were about regular guys who had issues but would move forward, and if they hadn't already found romance, it was just around the corner. Again, a sort of hope.

I don't think that people appreciate just how important talk radio is for regular people. It makes you feel like you are a part of what is going on. It's entertaining, stimulating, timely, educating and fun.

And I don't mean just politics: I mean health talk, sports talk, garden talk, shrink talk, relationship talk, fitness talk, entertainment talk, and dining talk. Because it's radio, it activates and involves the imagination in a healthy way. There is also all night talk--great for those of us who wake up during the night and can't sleep, for night owls, people working graveyard, or for truckers.

When I was lonely--yes, lonely--I loved to listen to talk radio. I remember there was a talk show host in San Francisco (where I lived at the time). He had AIDS and his life wasn't that great, but he was philosophical and upbeat. I loved listening to him because he was honest and not phoney--just a regular guy with some issues like everyone else.

Incidentally, I wonder how may people are just plain lonely and get diagnosed with major depression or dysthymia, given psychotropic meds and begin a downward slide into polypharmacy and permanent disability.

Looks like I'll have to save the life transforming spiritual journey for Part Four.

Read the other 10 installments of Mike's story.

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