Five Helpful Treatments to Improve Anxiety and Depression
I've dealt with mental illness for years in the form of anxiety and depression. For the majority of that time I've tried to deal with it in the typical Western Medical way - prescription medication & Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT). For me, antidepressants worked as a lifeline when I was so desperate I couldn't take care of myself. They helped me get to a place where I could help myself, but any more past that and they didn't help me much. They would make me flat, and only treat the symptoms, not the problem (as most medication does). For some people it is necessary to be on medication to be a functioning human, but having tried it I know it's not a good fit for me.
Same with CBT - I found it would help a little, but my issue was never being aware of what was wrong with my thoughts or behaviours. I know when my thoughts are distorted or my behaviours maladaptive, but being aware of that never got to the root of WHY they were like that. CBT focuses on recognizing distorted thought patterns and challenging them, and in doing so changing harmful behaviours. It doesn't really get into where in my story the thought patterns are being born. So CBT was again treating the symptom for me but never getting at the core of the issue. Plus it's fucking exhausting analyzing and challenging every single thought - when you have a mental illness, basically every thought is distorted. It's also more of a scientific/results based form of therapy, which just isn't my jam. Because of that, the anxiety was always there and always an issue.
This time around I'm taking a more alternative, spiritual route in dealing with the mental illness. The anxiety is always still there, butI find when I'm keeping up with daily spiritual practices it is more manageable. Unfortunately, I've also got some pretty bad depression going on at the moment, but these are some of the alternative therapies that have helped me stay alive and start recovering again.
This post is the first we'll be doing in a series. Today I'm sharing what has worked for me, and over the next few months I'll be sharing articles from others who have either used alternative therapies to deal with their own struggles, or who help heal others using different forms of treatment.
Holistic Healing Session with Steph of Numinous Holistic Healing
By using Reiki and her psychic abilities, Steph goes in and balances my chakras, cuts cords, releases blockages and connects with my spirit guides to deliver me messages. This is often my first step when I'm trying to recover from depression - all it involves on my end is me taking a nap, and whatever she does is often enough to give me a nudge to seek out the other therapies that help me feel better. Often the info she relays from my spirit guides helps me make sense of what I'm going through and gives me hope to keep going.
Shamanic Healing with Kael Klassen
I'm not even sure how to describe what Kael does - to me, it's just pure magic. My sessions with her have literally saved my life. She has helped me find my spirit animal, cleared away lifetimes of baggage and pain, and helped me get at the root of what is troubling me in this lifetime. She has helped me understand why I've gone through some of the things I have, and clarified some of what my work is in this lifetime. Even if you aren't struggling with mental illness, I can't recommend going to see her enough. The level of insight she has given me into what's going in my life behind the scenes has been invaluable.
This is a new one for me. This therapy works with aligning your spine and bones to make sure blood and oxygen is flowing properly. It's like a chiropractor, but with almost no pressure and no cracking. If your body is not in perfect alignment, you likely are not getting enough oxygen and blood to the brain, which plays a role in anxiety and depression. Neuropsychology was never really my thing, but I do know that if your body is not in balance, there is no way your mind can be healthy. This gets at the core of the physical side of things. I see Dr. Kathy Teal at Integra Naturopathics, and absolutely love her.
Rather than use prescription antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, I have been working with more natural substances. I use a chocolate-reishi-rhodiola tincture from Pranic Forest when the mental illness becomes overwhelming. For serious panic attacks, rather than ativan I use the Holy Smokes "Dream.Time" blend or medicinal marajuana. I use other herbs from the Light Cellar as needed, like reishi, astragalus or hawthorne. Kori Leigh also has a new segment on her site with "Calm the Fuck Down Elixirs" which are tailored to help your mind, body & nervous system relax (plus they're delish).
With herbs it is unbelievably important to work with knowledgable practitioners to make sure what you are taking is safe for you. After all, these are still forms of medicine, and can have negative or dangerous side effects like any other medication.
Narrative Therapy (& a Therapist that "Fits")
I still do therapy regularly. The difference is I now have a therapist that works with narrative therapy rather than CBT. This form of therapy works with the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. It goes back to the root of where our thoughts come from, and works to change how we see our lives as a whole. The therapist I see also works at a woman's collective, so we approach therapy through the unique lens that women experience life through. As women, we inherit generations worth of shame and worthiness issues. They are so deeply ingrained in us that it seems normal, and influences everything we do. So not only am I working through my own stories, I am working through the stories I inherited and the roles I was forced into simply because I am a woman.
The most important thing about my therapist is she accepts all aspects of me, especially the spiritual parts. She not only accepts them, but works them into my therapy. As someone who holds more Pagan than Judeo-Christian beliefs, this has not been my experience with any other therapist (talking about spirit guides, energy and past lives has elicited some concerned looks from others). That unconditional acceptance and support has helped immensely as I try and recover.
Disclaimer: this post is in no way advising or telling you what to do. I am simply sharing the things that have been working for me in case someone out there is searching for more. Please work with your own health care team and research if these options will help or work for you - mental illness is as unique as we all are, so what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to make sure your treatment plan actually works for and fits who you are individually; these are just some other options that are out there.
Gorgeous artwork by Lauren Brooke Sanchez. You can find more of her artwork here.