Monday, May 4, 2009

An Herbal Week

For the third or fourth time since launching The Pursuit of Happiness I'm going to try to take this blog in a new direction. On a more or less weekly basis I'm going to pick a ______ and Depression theme and produce four or five entries about it. Why? I'll get into that at the bottom of this post.

This week I'm going to get into herbs and depression. Obviously the big herb in depression therapy is St. John's Wort. I have discussed SJW, especially my experiences with it, ad nauseam in the past. Tomorrow I'll cover it a bit more thoughtfully. Then later in the week I'll get into other herbs that directly or peripherally can be helpful for those suffering from depression.

Personally, I'm a big fan of herbs. I first got into them when I a) fell in love with pesto and b) priced fresh basil in the grocery store. Suddenly an herb garden with lots and lots of basil made a lot of sense. Now I keep a fair sized herb garden with oregano, chives, sage, arugula, rosemary, three types of basil (sweet or Genovese, columnar and African blue), mint and a few various others that change from season to season.

This all began a few years before my diagnosis of mild depression. When that happened and my therapist tried to take me straight to medication I instead turned to my herb garden. I knew about St. John's Wort but had never grown it nor did I want to. I thought that I probably couldn't produce a consistent enough dosage for it to be effective.

But my diagnosis specifically was mild depression brought on by social anxiety. I still wonder if that is BS b/c the drug she wanted me to take was actually for social anxiety and I'm the suspicious type. However it felt right because I was pretty sure I was depressed and I've been socially anxious my whole life; don't need a diagnosis to know that!

So I read up on the herbs that I already happened to have and made a list of the ones that were said to be helpful against depression as well as relaxing or useful against anxiousness. Anyone who's suffered from depression knows that even temporary relief is blessed, one reason that I think depression can lead to a lot of addictions.

I harvested all of the herbs on my list - five or six, I think it was - and mixed them with about an equal amount of green tea. The stuff tasted like muddy feet but it really did make me feel better. I was working at an office at the time and would come home and lunch to a cup of the tea. It always left me feeling relaxed and, not happy, but content. The effect usually lasted two or three hours.

So that plus the previous entries about SJW have been my experience with herbs and depression. We'll get into more specific discussion about this through the rest of the week.

Why am I doing this?
OK, for anyone still reading and for my regular readers who are probably the only people interested in the why of my new _______ and Depression series.

I'm doing it specifically because I'm out of money. I've been working at home, freelancing for three and a half years now. As everyone else in the world is saying, the economy finally got me. I'm having a much harder time finding clients, my savings have dried up and my taxes were a lot more than I expected.

So I'm trying to turn some of my hobby and navel-gazing sites, like this one, into money makers.

Now, my motivation may be crass but it is one of necessity. Even so, my voice here will remain the same honest, confessional voice that it always has been. Hiding behind anonymity gives me the freedom to be much more honest than I can in anything else that I do.

So, to my loyal readers, I say thank you for the support and comments that you have left on this blog and sent to me personally. I hope that you will continue to read and you enjoy the new direction.



H.H. the Dalai Lama:

The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy.

SP said...

I deeply appreciate what you've written. I've experienced depression and had a bad time with psych medication. The herbal supplements I now take are very good for stress and anxiety; there are no unpleasant side-effects.
Meditation techniques have also been very helpful in my own recovery. I love the thought Barbara's shared in her comment.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced depression too. the meds just make you feel numb and ...nothing. nothing at all.

I found this book to be very powerful: said...

It seems to me that some people have a general malaise (often times they are genetically predisposed to this) and an outside trigger may or may not help spur on their depressive episode. Some people need medication to numb the severe pain, and for some the numbing is too much--they need steps to get out of the depression, or need more mild numbing agents (perhaps teas or relaxation techniques) to help in the really down periods. Some people can work through their issues with self-help techniques, others may need to talk to friends or mental health professionals. Some respond to meditation, exercise or practices that combine the two (yoga, tai chi etc.) Other may find that herbal remedies help their depression, or maybe its the cultivating of these herbs (for those who garden) that helps to lighten their mood--if only temporarily. A treatment plan for depression is highly personalized and can take many forms depending on the individual. It is important to try different modalities and remember that health (and happiness) is a journey, not a destination.

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