Tag Archives: depression

Bright light therapy requirements changing over time

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times on the site — the exposure length and timing of the bright light therapy I use to control carb cravings, insomnia, low mood, and zombie brain changes over the years. I used to need it only from October to April, for 30 minutes, and it wouldn’t work after 9 am. Then I switched to 60 minutes for quite a while, until it started to make me antsy. Now I’m down to 20 minutes, it won’t work after 7:15 am, and I seem to need it all year. I consider this further proof that some chicks are not meant to live further north than a palm tree.

Here are a few references I’ve used to figure out timing and “dosage.”

Other interesting info:

ANT - light therapy

Illustration: Remix by MRhea.

Wake therapy (staying up all night) for depression

After a reader pointed me to a New York Times article on chronotherapy — using light exposure and waking times to affect mood — I ordered one of the publications it referred to: Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders: A Clinician’s Manual for Light and Wake Therapy. The manual’s authors, three clinical researchers/professors in psychiatric neuro-stuff in Italy, Switzerland, and New York, have been experimenting with chronotherapy on hospitalized bipolar and depressive patients. They themselves do not use prescription drugs in their treatment, but their patients’ other psychiatrists and doctors often do, so the manual includes guidelines on how to incorporate meds into each treatment.

Among the many topics the authors cover — bright light therapy, melatonin, and generally futzing with a person’s circadian rhythms in multiple ways — they mention that they’ve found that their depressed patients often benefit from staying awake all night once or twice a week. Specifically, the second half of the night seems to be key — you stay awake from about 2 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. You can actually go to bed early and wake up at 2 a.m.

The therapy calls for a well-lit environment, moving around a lot to stay awake, coffee or caffeine if necessary, and eating whenever you’re hungry.

The authors say that “the clinical improvement after a single night of wake therapy is remarkable,” but some patients need two or even three nights in a week (not sure if they have to be in a row) to see results. However, a good response seems to be pretty long-lasting. Patients can maintain the effect using light therapy alone or occasional nights of wake therapy.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for non-Rx ways to treat mood disorders. It’s written in normal language and the authors seem to care a lot about their patients. They cover all kinds of depression, all kinds of treatments, and all kinds of combinations of treatments. They cover blue-blocking lenses and something called social rhythm therapy, which involves paying attention to your daily activities and how they affect your internal clock. (That reminds me of Seth Roberts’ discovery that his mood was noticeably better on days when he watched TV shows featuring large faces — that is, with the camera zoomed in, as on talk shows — in the morning.)

Here’s a link to the table of contents on the Swiss publisher’s website, although it’s weirdly formatted. You can get to the order form from that page, too. The manual was about $52, including shipping from Switzerland.

Wake therapy for depression adnuther.com

Nutritional therapy clinic programs for depression

A version of this post originally appeared on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyAn April 2011 Vogue article, “Bitter Pills,” mentions two U.S. clinics that focus on nutritional treatment for depression. (Read the article here.) The first is Recovery Systems Clinic in Mill Valley, California, which originally focused on treating drug addiction. I remember looking at it about 12 years ago when I was first starting my medical experiments to end my depression. I couldn’t afford the trip out there, though. The founder is psychologist Julia Ross, M.A., who is the author of The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure, both of which I have found helpful.

The other is the National Center for Whole Psychiatry in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The author of the Vogue article uses the words food and nutrients interchangeably, which is annoying, but who’s quibbling. I usually look askance at these types of articles because they end up touting the promise of some single, minor substance like blueberries or miso or cordyceps mushrooms, but here the author mentions many of the supplements/substances that I myself had the most success with.

Image: Remix by MRhea of detail of Edgar Degas’ “The Absinthe Drinker,” 1876. {{PD-art}}.

A non-prescription approach to managing depression: debauchery

A version of this post first appeared on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyReading Nancy Mitford’s bio of Louis XIV, I came across this description of Louis’ cousin, the Prince de Conti, who had the misfortune to outshine the King’s son and heir in just about every way. The King got jealous and threw roadblocks in de Conti’s career for the rest of his life.

“…as the years dragged on uselessly and his hopeful youth was succeeded by a disillusioned middle age, the Prince de Conti became embittered and gave himself up to debauchery.”

Which led me to wonder: why don’t mental health professionals ever suggest this? What depressed patient wouldn’t want to hear his therapist say, “We’ve found that wallowing in all the vices at once has had promising results. Do give that a go.” Sure, it’s expensive, destructive, and if you’re doing it right, immoral and criminal, but that’s how I feel when I pay my monthly health insurance bill anyway. At least this way there’s some fun in it.

Translating this ancient tradition into modern-day practice is not without challenges, however. Patients considering this mental health solution should weigh these drawbacks carefully:

1. A significant cash outlay is required. The Prince de Conti’s expenses will not be unfamiliar to his debauched 21st-Century counterparts: gambling debts, opium, spirits by the barrel, 15-course meals, bail, trollops, legal fees, property damage claims, and the inevitable blackmail payouts.

2. Without coachmen, it is much easier to inadvertently kill people. The debauchery game has changed significantly now that one is expected to drive one’s own conveyance home after evenings spent in dissipation and depravity.

3. Strangers will butt in. Where in simpler times a family member might entreat the local minister to intervene in one’s carousing, nowadays attorneys, judges, and Child Services are usually involved.

4. There is the matter of wench identification and procurement. In the Prince’s day the respectable debauchee found his wenches at taverns or the cheaper seats at theaters. I am not sure what the current approximation is: perhaps the type of gal who shows up at the bar of whatever hotel the Yankees are staying at.

5. The template for the female debauchee has, alas, yet to be perfected. The Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957) came close: she strolled through Venice stark naked, served opium at tarot-readings, painted her house servants gold, and fished the occasional dead party guest out of her fountain. But she was also rather obviously off her rocker. Perhaps the great appeal of Angelina Jolie in her single days was the whisper of a hint of a secret hope that she was debauched.

6. Guilt is not an option. The debauchee’s commitment to perversity, turpitude, and sin must not waver. One cannot succumb to feelings of shame or regret for mortifying one’s family, scandalizing one’s neighbors, and appalling one’s friends. There is no crying in debasement.

Image: detail of portrait of François Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, Anon., French school, 17th century. {{PD-art}}.

Things that still mess up my mood

August 13, 2017: My theories on this subject have changed. Until I can get my act together to update this content, please see this post.

This was adapted from a post on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

I’ve written elsewhere about how I threw off the yoke of my decades-long depression about 15 years ago, but a few things still trip me up. Some are culprits familiar to most sufferers, but some were a bit of a surprise.

Insufficient calorie intake. If I undereat for more than two days in a row, my mood will fall. A day of normal eating corrects it.

Vicodin. I don’t know what I’ll do if, heaven forfend, I’m ever in a long-term pain management situation, because even a modest dose makes me feel lousy the next day. Demerol, however, is lovely.

Dehydration. This happened twice, both times during the summer in my un-air-conditioned sweatbox of an apartment. I finally realized the extent of my cluelessness when my laptop coughed, flashed a blue OVERHEATED message, and died.

Large amounts of antagonists to zinc, B vitamins, or magnesium. If I take a whole lot of something that competes with one of these nutrients — for example, my experiments with intravenous thiamine — I’ll have to take supporting supplements to keep my mood from falling. (Another sign that my B vitamin status is suffering: I start dropping things a lot. Weird but true.)

The wrong contact lens prescription. I once spent about a week in lenses that were, say, five percent too weak and became increasingly unsettled until one night at a pub I discovered I was almost despairing at not being able to see the other pub-goers’ faces clearly. I’ve met plenty of people whose eyesight, corrected or not, is worse than mine, so maybe it’s not the exact 20/20 that’s important but that the prescription is what you’re accustomed to.

Watching television. I stopped watching TV in college, because most of it sucked and the moronic commercials drove me nuts. Fifteen years later, I turned the TV on out of boredom while housesitting and felt miserable the next day. Further experiments indicated that content or time of day were not factors, and that the effect was noticeable after about 25 minutes of watching. A poll of my friends revealed two people who had similar reactions, although they reported anxiety, jitteriness and spaciness, not low mood.

Weirdly, watching the same content on DVD, even for six hours at a time, had no effect. From this I logically concluded that either the commercials themselves, or broadcast television’s specific wavelengths, inject some sort of mind-control energy into our brains, which would jibe with my theories about Disney movies and Kit Kat bars. Eventually I did some more formal research, but the studies I found linking TV watching and depression focused on program content, physical inactivity, or the disruption of our circadian rhythms from the bright screen as causes. That didn’t explain my DVD immunity.

I had more luck finding corroborating studies when I looked at it as a multi-tasking issue, and the commercials as repeated distractions. Perhaps my brain can only be interrupted so many times.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It took me a while to figure this out because in high school in the Midwest my mood was such a constant disaster that I couldn’t discern any patterns in it — like sticking your head in a tornado funnel that’s just sucked up your subdivision and trying to spot your house — and after graduation I went straight to Southern California. Back in the Midwest years later, I thought I’d ironed out the whole depression thing, but the first winter knocked my mood back about 50%. I also ate everything in sight, lay awake all night, and was a zombie all day. I got myself a lightbox, which back then looked like a piece of airport runway equipment, and after a week was back to normal. (A few years ago, though, I noticed that light therapy no longer works if I do it after 8 a.m., whereas for years it worked as long as I did it by 9 a.m.)

Moronic assumptions about depression

I originally started down the alternative medicine path out of desperation for a cure for my decades-long, god-awful depression. (Here’s my April 2011 post about how I got rid of it over a period of two years with a diet change and by correcting nutritional deficiencies and thyroid and adrenal wackinesses.)

Adding to the burden of depression and mental illness is having to deal with the very large percentage of the population who cannot relate to experiences they haven’t had themselves.* Like feeling effing horrid all the time. So you learn not to tell anyone about it. For a year two friends and I wrote about our experiences with this and other frustrations of the illness on our (now-defunct) blog Blessed Depth. Here’s a list we compiled of assumptions about depression that tick us off. I’ve added one more at the end.

“Happiness is a choice.” Happiness is not the opposite of depression. The opposite of depression is Not. Being. Depressed. You can be non-depressed and still be miserable.

“Everyone has bad days.” …Which they know will end tomorrow or next week. Depression doesn’t end.

“You have to try harder” or “Nothing will be handed to you.” I had to work harder than a normal person will in his entire life just to get up in the morning, and I did it for years. We’re talking about completely different scales of effort.

“Lower your expectations.” Because you’ll be so much better off when you abandon your goals and accept your fate as a mere onlooker of real life, peasant!

“Count your blessings.” Kiss my ass.

“You don’t act/look depressed.”
Acting depressed is not socially rewarded, and social exclusion doesn’t help much of anything. And why should I have to act a certain way to meet your expectations? Shall we bring back sumptuary laws, too, so you can tell how much money I make based on the clothes I wear?

All your health problems are due to depression, even if you’ve recovered from it. This kills me. My mood has been relatively fine for years but I still suffer from insomnia, brain fog, and fatigue. Here I’m editing my original Blessed Depth entry: It’s been a long time since a doctor questioned my assertion that the depression is gone (I always tick it off on the medical history forms), but occasionally the few lay people who know of my history will insist that those symptoms are proof that I’m still depressed.

I have said this before and I will say it again: depression doesn’t CAUSE anything. It is a symptom that often occurs with a bunch of other symptoms.

Depression is a mysterious illness that can only be understood, evaluated and treated by trained professionals. This is bullshit. Doctors frequently know little more about depression than what they’re told by their pharma sales reps. By observing your reaction to your diet, your environment, stressors, season changes, etc., you can make some interesting correlations. Even a negative reaction to something is a clue. The problem, of course, is that when you’re really depressed, just tying your shoes is too tedious too bear, never mind performing any sort of long-term self-experiment whilst exercising strict adherence to the scientific method.

In fact this can be an insurmountable obstacle, which is why I’m all for prescription drugs — or whatever works — if they can get you to a better-functioning place.

*…although I suspect some of these people are depressed themselves but are too — sheltered? stupid? befogged? unworldly? brainwashed? — to know it.