“My cousin Beth cured her depression with yoga and juice cleanses!”
“Go Beth!” *feels like a failure*
If your friend opens up to you about their depression (or any mental illness) the best thing you can do is listen. You want to help and that is wonderful. A great way to start is to listen compassionately and let them know you are there for them. (If it is serious, make sure they get medical treatment.) Don’t rush to try and fix it. Don’t change the subject because it’s a tough topic. Just be there and listen.
I know I said don’t recommend yoga- I’m kind of kidding, but honesty, they’ve probably tried yoga and millions of other ways to get better. They’ve probably downward dogged until they turned blue trying to feel better. Do you think it would be odd to recommend someone with a broken leg or diabetes try yoga and quit their medical treatment? Well, although there is a misconception that mental illness is different and people can just toughen up, it’s not different.
When friends and new age spiritual gurus (without medical training) advise friends and readers to try yoga, affirmations, a new great book, acupuncture etc instead of their medication it is irresponsible and potentially very harmful. (Potentially fatal) It also makes the person feel shameful about having to rely on medication and the last thing someone with depression needs is an extra dose of shame!
Do I think medication is overprescribed? Yes. Do I think there are normal blues we all go through that shouldn’t lead to medication and can be helpful in leading to growth in a person? Yes. Do I think people with mental illness who cannot function on a day to day basis without medical treatment should try yoga instead? No. That is a big, huge absolutely not.
I was first diagnosed with depression/anxiety in my late teens. I didn’t really have any sort of feeling about medication and so when my doctor prescribed it, I took it. Second medication we tried and I was myself again. I was back to normal. It didn’t fix everything and I wasn’t super happy- I was just a regular person again. I’m a writer, composer, artist and I worried about my creativity disappearing. It didn’t and now I could actually do my work! 👏🏽😍
I had always been into all natural, hippie, alternative health and as I read books by spiritual new age people (who will remain nameless 😁) I worried that I shouldn’t be putting “chemicals” into my body. They preached that too many people were using evil pharmaceuticals to get through dark nights of the soul, which they should fight through to evolve as a spirit (and a bunch of other weird stuff) Don’t get me wrong- ask anyone who knows me- I’m incredibly spiritual- I do yoga and I wear all nature deodorant that makes me smell like sage and body order. I drink chia seed drinks, eat tempeh and do affirmations (I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it- people like me!)
That being said- when I went off my medication multiple times to try natural therapies and to be more spiritual, that was a BIG mistake. The people who were telling me to do yoga INSTEAD of continue with medical treatment were doing me a disservice. The new age spiritual gurus were being irresponsible. I ended up trying everything you can name off medication to be ok again- acupuncture, hypnosis, affirmations, begging God, tons of prayer, meditation, tons of exercise, tons of talk therapy and all the CBT and (other acronym-therapies you can think of) sitting with the pain like a Buddhist, saying it isn’t real like a Christian scientist, getting my brain chemicals tested by a holistic doctor and trying to take amino acids to fix them, and more weird things (if you can think them- I probably tried them) I always went back to the medication and it always worked and made me able to follow my dreams, have awesome relationships and live life to the absolute fullest. Even though I was happy to be stable again the voices of friends and spiritual gurus telling me not to take medication made me feel an inner sense of weakness and shame. I decided when people told me not to take medication and to take St. John’s Wart I would just nod and smile. I stopped opening up to people about being on medication (which is fine- we can keep private!)
I made peace with the fact that have to take medication and I am in such a better place with it. Please think before you rush to recommend smoothies to your depressed friend. Just be there.
*im not giving medical advice because I’m not a doctor.