The other day a friend told me about an article she had read in Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, about The lonely elderly. (I have translated it for you here and you should be able to click on the link and download the Word Document) The writer Ole Bjøralt, who is a commentator for Aftenposten and who just happens to be 80 himself is of course in a prime position to say what he says. However, depression is not unique to the elderly, it happens to individuals of any age. I thought this was a particularly good time of year to bring it up, since the approaching holidays can be very hard for many who for whatever reason feel they have nothing to look forward. They may not have any family around or any family at all or feel they have friends to reach out to. It is a time of year they may feel that everyone else around them are happy, just not they.
Depression is part of the group of illnesses involving the mind. It is an illness that has often been looked upon as something of a curse or affliction that people felt they needed to hide, perhaps even looked upon as a weakness by others. Most people will know this is just not true, it is an illness that can and should be treated, that needs compassion and kindness. Fortunately treatment of depression and other illnesses of the mind have finally, just recently been recognized as worthy of insurance coverage, though not yet for those in the Medicare population.
For the older generation, there may be another layer. Lack of access to treatment whether because treatment is not covered or for lack of income or because the depression is not recognized, can make things especially hard and isolating. This part of our population is often less active, friends start to die, perhaps spouses and/or significant others also, one may no longer be able to live alone, gets isolated at home or in a nursing home, can no longer drive or the family lives too far away to visit regularly or a host of other things. They may feel that everybody elses life is on a speeding track that goes ever faster while the older person’s track is rapidly winding down. But again depression does not happen just to the aging person. Experts agree that the likely cause is a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
There are of course a host of effective treatments available for depression. The first step is to get an assessment from a healthcare professional to weed out any underlying illnesses that may present themselves with similar symptoms. After that actual treatment may consist of medication and also talk therapy or because the many medications can have unpleasant side effects and may take 2-3 weeks before reaching full potency, one may alternatively choose Chinese Herbal Therapies of Acupuncture. A thoroughly trained Chinese Herbal Practitioner will be able to put together a formula that addresses the whole body, the stagnation of internal Qi, that can present itself additionally with lack of energy, sleep disruption, anxiety, gastric irregularities and a host of other symptoms that may be present. This type formula generally works quicker and very rarely cause side effects.
But treatment for depression should not really end there. There are things that the person suffering from the depression should do for themselves, even though they may not feel they have the energy to do so. It is an important stepping stone on the path to recovery or at least managing the illness. It is important to move and move as much as you can. Moving helps break the internal stagnations, so do get up in the morning and get dressed even if you don’t feel like it. Do get help for sleep issues. Do exercise, go to the gym, go for a walk or take a bike ride or swim, Tai Qi or Yoga or….., even if you don’t feel like it. Try meditation to help go within and to still those negative and repetitive voices. It is equally important to eat a healthy diet and it is important to reach out and maintain social connections, even if you don’t feel like it. And finally it is important to maintain a regular daily schedule of work and rest and recreation even if you don’t feel like it.
The very last of my roses
Even if you can do only one of these things per day, start with what you can manage to complete with the eye on doing more tomorrow.
Here is a recipe for a French Onion soup I made the other day, what an ultimate tasty comfort food it is. Try it out. Your mind and body will be happy. Otherwise, if you suffer from depression consider eating smaller meals, perhaps more frequently of fresh and/or freshly prepared foods. Lots of cooked/steamed/stir fried greens, including those with a bitter quality; kale and collard, arugula, dandelion, alfalfa, endive, romaine, watercress, amaranth, quinoa, etc. Do use some herbs, but avoid overly spicy foods. Also some, not too much good quality protein and some whole grains. Avoid too much sugar, too many refined grains, any processed foods, junk food or fried foods, greasy foods. These just make the internal Liver Qi stagnation worse and make you feel worse in the end. Instead look through the recipe section there is surely something to make you want to eat.