04 Jul Become Active in Your Healing With Natural Approaches to Addiction and Depression
As a successful therapist of several years, Cameron had come to believe that any issue could be brought to light and used to create greater wellness. She was keen and insightful and often her clients made remarks such as, “You see right through me.” In spite of Cameron’s insight into others, however, she somehow lacked the ability to see clearly and resolve many of her own underlying troubles.
Being newly married and giving birth to her daughter had allowed Cameron to believe she was “doing everything right,” but the stress of too many clients, difficulty with her mother’s health, and a sense of frustration about how best to be a working mother, left her feeling exhausted and sometimes irritable. She attempted to suppress these feelings by triggering dopamine release in her brain through shopping, eating sweets and engaging in romantic affairs. Even though she knew these liaisons were unethical, potentially damaging, and guilt-inducing, the impulse never seemed to abate.
After several years of contending with feelings of guilt about her addictive behaviors, Cameron found she was depressed. Everything she knew about depression and how to help people suffering from it came into question. She decided that pharmaceutically medicating herself—while an important approach and sometimes a necessary one—would be a furtherance of the behaviors she had been doing to mask her feelings. She didn’t want another way of drugging the problem; she wanted to heal it.
“If you watch how nature deals with adversity, continually renewing itself, you can’t help but learn.” – Bernie Siegel
Cameron knew that she needed to go inward and root out the cause of her addictive behaviors and her depression. She began to see a “therapist’s therapist” who did nothing more than provide a safe environment of non-judgment and support so that Cameron felt free to examine her past and her present and the emotional issues she’d been refusing to acknowledge for too long. She discovered, somewhat to her surprise, that the sadness she felt about several miscarriages was masking the anger she felt about not being supported in her relationships, going back to the critically formative relationship she had with her father. Once she saw how anger had become suppressed and turned into depression and the need to seek dopamine excitation, Cameron was able to not only acknowledge that anger, but begin to release it.
As a professional in the field of mental health, Cameron had seen the many ways one’s moods and overall mental health could be affected positively by dietary and lifestyle changes. She made it her purpose to discover whatever lifestyle changes would help her to heal and she committed to them—something she’d been previously unable to do. Cameron began to examine foods and the ways they affect the psyche as much as overall health and decided to try a macrobiotic diet. The foundation of a macrobiotics is balance—eating as many locally grown, organic vegetables as possible, cooking and eating healthy foods as free as possible from chemical additives, and switching to a mainly plant-based diet, although fish and occasional “healthy meats” are permitted.
Cameron changed the way she shopped for food and became focused on meals that immediately improved her sense of well-being and that made her family healthy. Giving up a meat-based diet was not hard for her, but relinquishing her addiction to sugar took more mindfulness. After having successfully detoxed from both sugar and caffeine, Cameron discovered that not only was she feeling less depressed, she also suddenly had more energy and fewer health concerns: her eczema cleared up; her scalp, hair, and nails became healthier; and she no longer experienced indigestion or canker sores.
Swimming and Yoga
Swimming in the salt water pool at her gym became a regular exercise endeavor. While in the water the first time, Cameron had what she called a “full-body memory” of having been a child, loving to swim, and experiencing happiness and connection with her father because he also loved to swim. She decided that water was healing for her and dedicated to swimming at least three times per week.
Another exercise practice Cameron reinvested in was yoga. She knew that not only could yoga help her strengthen and tone her muscles, help her achieve greater flexibility (physically and emotionally), but that it was as beneficial for the mind as the body. She took up an asana yoga practice and dedicated herself to stretching and mindfully breathing every morning and evening. Yoga helps train the mind as much as the body by encouraging the practitioner to notice and accept whatever arises, be it discomfort, pain or emotion. Cameron believes yoga helped her achieve weight loss, improve muscle tone and begin to generate a profound sense of serenity.
On the Subject of Serenity
It is no accident that the notion of serenity is so closely related to addiction recovery; seeking and finding serenity allows us to become more emotionally stable, more honest and to feel with deep gratitude the positive aspects of our lives. Cameron knew that whenever she was not feeling serenity, she needed to investigate its causes—be they external or internal—and to change her relationship to those things which created in her a sense of imbalance. This honest approach allowed Cameron to become more fully aware of her perceptions and reactions, and it alerted her before she mindlessly reached for sugar, caffeine, or the high that comes from romantic intrigue.
Cameron was in the perfect position to recognize that we are, in fact, able to heal ourselves. Choosing to do so gave her a greater sense of accomplishment, happiness, peace of mind and even improved her counseling practice. She believes the positive changes she made allowed her to more fully connect with a sense of purpose and with the clients she serves.
If you are dealing with addiction or depression, consider some of the ways you can become active in your own healing and begin to incorporate them into your life. It’s never too late to develop a whole body and mind!
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