Q: Will my depression ever lift?
A: Yes it will but it may require time and a number of relapses before the depression fades significantly. The more understanding and knowledge gained through therapy, then the quicker the process of recovery. The symptoms of depression are linked to our stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, pumping round the body caused by the fear response. Claire Weekes describes it as ‘depletion’ because the body is exhausted by the fear response and needs time to recover and replenish emotional reserves.
Q: My depression is due to circumstances and not fear?
A: In one sense circumstances (physical or emotional trauma) can cause nervous exhaustion and the symptom of depression, but, what perpetuates depression is fear of fear and not the original (sometimes ongoing) circumstances. This explains why some people can have terrible things happen in their lives and cope reasonably well, whereas, others can really struggle due to the added symptoms of fear. It is important to try to resolve difficult circumstances but if this is not possible it is still possible to recover from the fear of fear and its symptom of depression. Try not to sit around brooding on problems because unless you solve them all you’ll never get well.
Q: How do I cope when the depression engulfs me and I can’t see a way out?
A: We all have our different ways of coping with the dark tunnel, black hole or cloud of depression. What they all have in common is the memory that depression doesn’t last forever. The key to coping is to remember that these feelings never last forever and always fade. They are always temporary. Action is much better than contemplation when you feel low. Being occupied helps lessen the physical and emotional pain of depression. One should try to identify with the sensations that occur with depression and each time should try to recognise and find the fear at the core of these feelings. It can be a comfort to know that fear is driving the depression and that it will subside. Depression always subsides if we let it!
Q: Is there anything positive about depression?
A: Yes, I think there is something we can gain from the pain of depression. Coming through depression makes us a much more integrated person. It gives us a chance to experience one of the broad ranges of emotions of which human beings are capable. Once we have experienced depression there is little left to fear in our nature. If we accept depression as a rite of passage instead of a problem to solve then we join the ranks of the many who have given the world wonderful cultural developments and creative ideas while going through this emotion. I don’t want to make a virtue out of depression but the attitude towards depression in certain cultures differs somewhat to ours and even our own culture in the past has been one of acceptance and even celebration of this difficult emotion. Just as we wouldn’t wish to deny ourselves feelings of happiness, depression holds its rightful place in the range of emotions that we are capable of experiencing. To my knowledge no one has ever remained stuck with feelings of happiness, which illustrates that every emotion is temporary and subject to change.
Q: Does depression mean I’m abnormal?
A: When someone has a spell of chickenpox are they abnormal? Of course not! Depression is a normal response to nervous exhaustion. It is a symptom of a system in our body that is misfiring and out of control. When the body is threatened with an infection there is a period during in which it has to throw everything at the infection in order for the body to recover. We suffer various symptoms during this process and until the body heals the infection and symptoms will continue until we reach equilibrium. This analogy can be used to explain why certain people with nervous exhaustion experience the symptom of depression while the body restores equilibrium.
Q: Should I take/stop medication?
A: That depends on whether you find it too difficult to cope without medication. Many people don’t take medication but everyone has to make this decision for themselves after discussing it first with their doctor. Current research indicates that SSRI’s help a few people with major depression but are no better than placebo for those with minor depression. Exercise, meditation, yoga and talking therapies have been demonstrated to help those with all levels of depression. Recovery can sometimes feel unbearable and at times it can be helpful to seek pharmaceutical relief even if this offers only a placebo effect but it’s important to remember that we are capable of pulling through the most difficult suffering using our own resources. I believe that the vital ingredient in treatment is the principals outlined in the Claire Weekes method and that a good therapist will help the patient implement these correctly.
Q: Can I think my way out of depression?
A: Yes & no! Some cognitive behavioural therapists believe that our thinking creates our emotions. If we think differently we feel differently. But it’s not as simple as that with nervous exhaustion. No amount of thinking will automatically switch off the fear reaction when we are suffering from nervous exhaustion. This is because our fear is a manifestation of a natural physical reaction known as the fight or flight response and we have lost the ability to switch off this reaction. We need to relearn how to quieten our response to this natural physical reaction. The only way to do that is to face the feelings and symptoms it arouses in us with acceptance so that our body can learn not to feel afraid of the fight or flight response. As we learn to face and accept our physical symptoms we begin to end our fearful thoughts about them and the symptoms become less important and fade away. We need to re-learn how to change the way we react to fear even when our thoughts remain fearful. When we face and accept our fear using the Claire Weekes method at core it will fade away along with the symptom of depression.