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Antidepression

There was this friend of mine. I can't remember how we originally came to know each other, that must have been more than ten years ago. We never met in person, but we had good discussions with e-mail and then in facebook. What connected us was our concern for environmental issues (and frustration about adults failing to react, we were young people who wanted to save the planet for future generations, instead of ruining everything in the name of private greed.) and later on we were talking more about depression. I have always had pretty clear idea where my depression comes from - I was analyzing and reflecting things already as a small kid, and I can remeber many of my observations, emotions and thoughts, onwards from age of four. I could trace my depression developing, there were bad things happening and leaving their mark. But things were different for my friend - there were no bad memories, childhood was pretty OK, but still there were many same symptoms than I had.

I think I've been struggling with depression for most of my life. And I'll soon turn 40, but I still believe that it possible to recover. I have been lucky with meeting some good professionals when consulting the official health-care system. (As a side note, later on I was discussing with the best doctor I've ever met. It was not an official situation, but more like normal e-mail discussion. And the doctor was complaining about the system which makes budget cuts one after one, and the working conditions of healthcare professionals are deterioating, and it is not easy to find good professionals willing to work in such conditions, and a lot of time and money is wasted because of low resources, and patients develop worse problems while waiting to get to next treatment, and they have to wait for a long time because of low resources... so it is a vicious circle, low resources cause more problems for people, and people need more expensive treatments, and more momey is spent, and more budget cuts are needed, and the working conditions get worse... The doctor said that they would need proper resources right in the beginning, when a patient walk in full examinations and proper treatments right away. Spending more money on the basic resources would overall save more money in the long run. But are the decision makers listening to this kind of speech? Sigh.)

Well, this friend of mine bit kind of a complained that there was a lot of inefficient treatments, and nothing seemed to help. Emotional pain was there, no matter what. My plan was to go meet this friend for the first time in our lives, as I believe that actual presence is so much more powerful than just e-mails. Just to share this feeling of "yes it hurts, but step by step it is possible to recover." Yesterday I received a message saying that my friend isn't alive anymore. Didn't ask for details, as that doesn't matter. What matters is the great flow of The Universe, the beauty and the mystery of life (and death. In a way, they are the same, like ebb and flow are both just sea water in motion.)

At first I thought that I won't write anything about this, that I want to honour my late friend in silence. But after a warm sunny day I felt that maybe I should just write some general thoughts about depression. I think depression and related issues are fairly common, and especially in chronic cases there isn't yet full medical understanding of causes and effective treatments. I'm not an expert in the field, although I have nearly 40-years of firsthand experience and sometimes I've been reading a book or an article about all this. Also, it is 3 am in Finland, I should be asleep by now, but I wanted to write something. So let's get started;

Apart from budget issues, I think there also are problems with traditional dualistic world-view. In our culture there are still many ways of seeing the body as a mechanical machine, and the mind as a immaterial soul with free will. It is unclear how these two are connected, as they are seen as totally separate layers of existence. For example, if a lot of population gets fatter and fatter, the society begins to think that what it is in our lifestyle which causes fattening, and what should be changed and how to achieve that. But when more and more people get depressed, it seems that we still think that there is something wrong with those depressed individuals. Are there official major efforts to re-arrange something in our society and lifestyle so that there would be less depression? I haven't heard of such projects, on the contrary our politicans are talking about how individuals should do their best instead of whining. Depression is seen as something internal, and depressed people are treated back to normal so that they can once again work and pay their taxes. But what if depression is not just an internal fault of an immaterial soul? What if it is more like an natural reaction to certain social circumstances? If you play baseball indoors, it is pretty likely that sooner or later you will have a broken window. And if it was a common practice in our society that everybody is supposed to play baseball indoors, then what should be done? Keep on fixing the windows, or change something in our cultural conventions?

So do I mean that depression is not a fault in an individual, but a problem caused by the surroundings and the social sphere? Not always. As there is a wide variety of depression, with different kinds of symptoms, mechanisms and causes. So it would be oversimplified to seek for a single cause for all the depression there is. Also, I believe that it is not always just the social influence or bad and traumatic memories. It can also be something you just biologically inherit, in which case it is not your traumatic memories, but maybe traumas of your grandparents, which still affect your bodily functions. How is this? It is understandable that a heavy traumatic experience (like war) leaves a mark on a generation, but it shouldn't alter the DNA? Well, no, but on top of DNA there is also epigenetic coding which alters the way DNA is read. There are scientific studies showing how traumatic life events cause epigenetic changes, and that some of these changes can be passed on to offspring. So, there seems to be a biological way of passing on ill effects of unresolved traumas. I belive this partially explains why some people get more easily depressed, and some are more resistant. And some are born with depressive mood.

But how does DNA affect our mood? I think there are several bodily organs and functions contributing to regulating our mood and energy level. Like the endocrine glands and the gut flora. I don't know for sure, but I'd guess (epi)genetic codes affect the functioning of these, and also the very development and structure of brain. So does this mean that some or many cases of depression are purely biological, and we can just go looking for a chemical to wipe out depression? No need to go to therapy, no need to talk about your emotions, no need to ask if something need to be done to social and cultural things causing depression? I don't quite think so. First or all, even if you could just physically fix the window, you would have to do that time after time - as long as you keep on playing the baseball indoors. And then, I often think the other way around: if it origanlly is some powerful (negative) experiences which cause epigenetical changes, then surely it must be possible to have positive and healing effects with powerful good experiences?

Actually, I'd guess this is one of the mechanisms why shamanistic healing, rituals and energy healing might work - something happens which helps your body to heal the epigenetic code. And that changes not only your mood, but also your bodily functions like endocrine glands activity. I think we can't fully separate what happens in our mind and what happens in our body - there are many processes where the body and the experience / perception are together, just the same process seen from outside or inside. I think our current medicines and therapies fail in some cases if they try to treat only the body or only the mind (Have you ever tried to fix a window from inside only, leaving the outside broken? A silly idea, we can't even imagine how that would be possible. A windowglass has two sides, and they can't be separated. So does a human. Seen from the outside there is the surface of the body, seen from the inside there is the surface of the experience. And deep down these two merge into each other.)

I'd guess that in many cases of depression what is essential for recovery is the deep feeling of being understood, being seen and accepted and cared by another person. But if the another person looks at your body and only sees a machine, then you are likely to feel misunderstood and alienated. And sometimes the same with your mind, and it can happen even in the solitude of oneself. I mean, if we treat ourselves as if our minds were completely immaterial souls, we are likely to feel somehow alienated from the carnal world, treating our bodies and daily lives as something external, like instruments to be manipulated. So, to accept and to meet oneself and the others, it might be helpfull to find a reconnection of body and mind.

So, in case you are suffering from a chronic depression, and no amount of therapy seems to help, it might be that the problem is not with your mind, and not with certain chemicals in your brain. It might be that a big part of the problem is already coded into the way your endocrine system works, guided by epigenetic coding, affected by deep tensions in your muscles. And often it doesn't help if these are treated as parts of a machine. It might be better if you find some deep and strong, or light and funny, mundane or holy experiences which are able to touch the flesh of your mind, to transform and to heal your physiological bodily workings. (Or, at least, looking back my own history, I feel that every major healing process I've experienced has come together with deep bodily sensations, like tremor in muscles, warm waves in stomach, obscure strange feelings of endocrine sytem boosting up etc.)

Oh well. It is four o'clock in the morning. Time to go sleeping for a while. Ah, and I'll post a picture a friend of mine took a week ago. Just because the garden bath is one of the things which works as an antidepressant for me =)

Photo by Satulia Saarilehto
Photo by Satulia Saarilehto
tags: 
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Comments

I don't want to sound like nosy *****, but who is Satulia Saarilehto? :)

She is one of my wonderful friendly neighbours. She is taking photographs for her coming exhibition - pictures of all kind of families. I agreed to participate with my animals. We arranged kind of a family portrait. And after that I asked her to take a bathtub picture, so I don't need to use a self-timer.

Satulia lives in a teosofic commune of about thirty adults. For income they do practical work like painting houses, and then they arrange art exhibitions, theatre plays and lectures. Such a nice colorful neighbourhood we have!

That is so sweet of you saying that you "arranged a family portrait" with your animals! I would love to see that portrait with all your friends.

Also, i just started reading Marquis de Sade's Justine (which i love until now) and i thought that i would love to hear your opinion about his writings and even about the man if you find him or his work interesting. But mostly i want to hear your opinion about his writings i think! :)

Well, actually we couldn't get all the animals together in one picture. That would require a little training, as the sheep were scared an ran away as soon as I brought the horses...

I haven't read De Sade, but if I do then I'll post my opinion :-)

Another great post, quick question though: How is Hukka juoksee pronounced? I really like the meaning behind it, just wish I knew how to say it haha.

A quick reply: It is pronounced "hukka juoksee" =) oh, maybe I'll post a short audio clip when I feel like recording one.

A very thought-provoking post; I confess I had seen mental traits as learned rather than hereditary, but I see that perhaps there are more elements to it than that.
It is so easy to forget that body and mind are connected, what with all of the white noise that everyday life can become.
I find your posts refreshing; and while I am just a faceless lurker on the interwebs, I really appreciate your sharing of thoughts. They are extraordinarily refreshing. So thankyou. ^^

Yes, of course our life experiences and learning affect the development of personality and mental traits. And I guess that in most of the cases disorders like depression are triggered by life experiences. But there also seems to be a inherited factory, which in some cases is the main reason of depression. In a classical view genes were seen as unaltered by life experiences. But recent studies of epigenetic coding are indeed showing ways in which traces of life experiences are stored on top of DNA. So, my point is all about stepping over the dualism. Even our genetic inheritance is not "purely biological", it is affected by the emotions, thoughts, memories and unresolved traumas of our ancestors. (No, I'm not to say that genes would determine all of our psychological build - they just contribute towards certain traits, and the rest is learnt. So it is always interaction of all the different layers of existence)

But, yeah, at least in western culture we have a long tradition of body / mind and matter / soul -dualism, so it isn't always easy to understand how these layers are interconnected. Maybe I'll post more about that later on =)

It does seem logical that there would be a 'baseline' of sorts, from which our personalities are based, which would be inherited. After all, there are many psychological traits that are so ingrained into our psyche that they override all other thoughts or reflexes at the time. Given that something like that can be inherited, it seems almost menial that personality traits could be inherited, also.
That really is quite fascinating; that life experiences can influence our DNA, even if it is just to a small extent. For some obscure reason, I find that strangely liberating. And slightly terrifying, also. So when people say that one passes their troubles onto their children.. That can be taken quite literally, in some cases.

I'd really appreciate if you'd share your thoughts on the matter, and I think I would really enjoy reading an entry about that personally, at any rate. ^^ I don't often get an opportunity to discuss these types of things. Not that I have much to offer to the conversation. At all. xD

Here my academic background kicks in : to be precise, DNA is not altered during life-time. But on top of DNA there is epigenetic coding, which affects the way genetic information is used. And some of this epigenetic coding can be passed on to next generations. The liberating part is that new, strong, positive experiences can alter that epigenetic coding, so we are not completely stuck with the genetic information we inherited from past generations. Yup, I'll write more later on =)

Ah, okay, that makes significantly more sense. I didn't think DNA could change, but teachers seem to absolutely adore telling us things that are not true simply to reaffirm what knowledge we need to get good grades. Unfortunately that can be very demoralising for those who learn for the sake of knowledge rather than for the sake of a slip of paper at the end.
On the bright side, this had enabled me to think very flexibly. So epigenetic coding is not part of the DNA itself, but another component of a cell, similar in structure and role to DNA that details how the information encoded in DNA is used? Does it affect how the DNA itself is read, or how the mRNA transcribes the information?
... Sorry for the questions. You can ignore them, it is completely fine. ^^
So one could argue that if one makes others happy throughout their life, they are furthering the mental development of their prospective offspring. That is funky. It's always lovely to be reminded that happiness can overrule past sadness, if only for a while.

Good questions, thanks =) I hope I find time and concentration to reply with a new blog entry... Now, just quickly; If I understand correctly, epigenetic code works bit like a coating layer on top of the main DNA, and that layer carries either inhibiting or activating markers. (I'm not completely sure if there actually are activating markers, or if the same effect comes just by absence of inhibitive markers.) I haven't studied in that detail that I could understand how this actually works on level of RNA and protein synthesis. Maybe I should read more =)

Here's a short post about some empirical studies on parental care and epigenetic effects: http://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2010/11/11/licking-rat-pups-the-genetics-of-nur...
(these studies are focused on single generation only. But I remember reading another set of studies showing that some of the epigenetic code of parents gets passed on to the offspring.)

Just stopped by to say that you are a great guy, with a fascinating way and philosophy of life :) I started with Unreal World (found it in some list of great indie games in the web), later I felt like searching for the authors of this great game I loved, and stumbled with your blog. From time to time I allways come here to read your posts and see the nice pictures. It is one of the few blogs I try to follow. You are a very nice person, all the best for you :)

Warmest regards from Portugal

Oh, thanks for the nice feedback!

Sometimes I think that writing the blog is bit like sending a message in a bottle - you know that the message won't get a big audience, you never know who is going to read the message, where and when. You just hope that someone will be delighted to find a bottle with a message in it :-)

Continue sending those messages in a bottle, they are reaching some shores :-) From cast away to cast away: it is nice to find a friendly bottle from time to time in our little island :-)

I will! I'm hatching yet another philosophical post before going back to more diary-like entries. Unluckily, this one seems to be bit tricky - I'm still thinking of good examples and fictional stories to illustrate some philosophical points... Well, in the meantime here is a video message in a bottle, sent by foreign adventurers who visited my place this summer; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8XFkWi9xOE

Amazing!! Thanks for sharing! I have already watched the video 3 times. You live in a wonderful place. That river (I love rivers) is as masterpiece of nature. In a way, you live my ideal life. A quiet place, next to a big river (I always lived by a river, can’t image living without one), huge virgin woods, surrounded by friendly animals, space to grow some vegetables and fruits for my subsistence and a wood house/cabin (in Portugal houses are all in cement, always dreamt about one in wood), and being a freelancer behind a pc for some cash (writer, web developer, and indie games) and anything creative. That is my ideal life. I’m 27 years old, work in a quiet place, but when I have enough money to buy a peaceful land, I dream about being able to do it and jump. Let’s see if I can live the dream someday :)
I’m introverted and like silence and some solitude, but I am afraid of people and some trust issues (I panic a little when socializing sometimes, and find excuses to leave), so I do not attract a lot of people around me and have few friends. So the only side of my dream life that scares me, is by living in a more rural place, with some distance from cities, I fear of finding myself more isolated, and smashed by loneliness. You seem to attract a lot of people around you, you are a great guy (even an introvert like me find you fascinating to socialize with), but me, as a person with a small number of friends to visit, I fear that by living alone in a more distant place, without people around, I fear I will be more lonely. I like loneliness 70% of the time, but don’t know if I would support it if it reaches 100%.
Time will tell :) If I find my way and get my dream place some day, you’re invited to visit :D

I was 34 when I bought my house - all the best wishes to you: if you can save some money, I see no reason why you couldn't reach your dreams =)

Also, I have had (and still have in a slighter degree) that kind of problems with socializing. But over the years I have learned to better deal with it. And the more I have learned to openly talk about my internal weaknesses, the easier it feels to be with people - it seems that it has helped me to find people with whom I feel comfortable. Also, many of my friends are here partly because they sense that it is easy to be around my place - here nobody needs to prove anything, I'm not judging nor attacking people's personalities, yet I'm doing things my way and always telling my opinion honestly.

So, yeah, who knows - maybe during the years you can also find a small bunch of good people who would like to sometimes visit your place when you find one =) Or then you can just sometimes escape the solitude and go out seeing people. All in all - I think it is very wise of you to see the possible problems with loneliness - it is a real issue which needs to be addressed in a way or another.

And thank you very much for the future invitation =) My world is rather slow-paced, so please do remember me even if it takes five or ten years to find your place.

(oh, to be precise, in the video that body of water is not actually a river, but a lake which just narrows to a lagoon-like bay. I keep my boat near the strait which connects the bay to the bigger lake.)

In five or ten years I will still be reading your blog and playing Unreal World, how could I forget one of the creators of this game I love? :) I'll still remember you don't worry, any time doors are always open in Portugal =)

Thank you for your kind reply and helpful insight as always. I love your blog. When I feel down sometimes I come and read through old posts I have not seen yet. From the thematic of depression, philosophy, Nature, creativity, music, videogames, inner search, friendship etc I find a lot of empathy :-) Above all you had the courage to live and build a life you dreamed with. I respect and admire that a lot, since I have not yet had the opportunity and guts to build that life closer to nature, myself and creativity (working on that). In truth I am still searching for what I dream about in life, I have no idea at the moment (besides my love for nature). I hope that till 34 I find my place in the world like you =) I imagine that it is not as easy as it sounds by just reading the good parts in your blog, I imagine you still have to struggle and work hard in your everyday life to find your way and happiness, but the feeling of fighting for what you love (that transpires in your posts) changes all the scenario and points in the right direction in life :)

I believe that in the following years I'll be able to jump to my dream place (nothing complex, just a beautiful forest close to water), just need to save some money and find a place close to a lake as beautiful as the one where you live (wonderful place!) :) Then I just need to build a boat and life will be perfect (rowing is the most relaxing thing in the world) =) I have built one some time ago, but it leaked a lot and rotted in winter, next time it will be waterproof =)

Just one question (if you don't feel comfortable to answer I understand, feel free): changing your style of life and moving closer to a more natural way of life, far from the "civilized" world, as greatly helped with your depression and happiness towards life? Or do you still struggle with it the same way? The feeling of isolation doesn't fuel your depression, or in the other hand calms it?

I grew up in the countryside, and only spent some five years living in a city. So I for me my current situation doesn't feel like such a dramatic change in lifestyle. OK, most of my neighbours here in the countryside sure are leading more modern way of life, but they don't look down at me.

Well, but all in all, it has been a long process of recovery. Moving to countryside didn't immediately make me feel better. But, for me one essential root of depression was this feeling of being disconnected from my own life - the feeling that things go and I don't have control of them, all the dreams and wishes inside me just don't make any contact with my surroundings, so there is nothing left to do but just to forget my inner soul and do what the mainstream society wants me to do - slowly struggling my way towards practical life, where I'm actually doing things I love, has been one driving force in the process of recovery. Every berry picked, every fish caught, every night by small campfire tells me that "here I am, this is my life, I'm alive and free to be who I really am." And then it of course helps a lot when some of my good friends come for a visit, or I go see them.

Yes - for me it is a process. Again, this morning I woke up feeling bad in some eerie way. Without any reason, without any shape and form, just an unreal feeling of inner emptiness. So familiar - I didn't panic, just spent a slow hour drinking morning coffee and then headed to the nearby city to see my son and my friends. They day slowly and smoothly made me feel better again. And I remind myself that this is how it goes - if the first 25 years of my life were somewhat traumatic, the best thing I can do is to allow myself to take all the time it needs to recover properly...

(And to put it more clear: Nowadays I couldn't imagine moving into a city. Too much noise, too many flashing lights, too much straight lines and sharp edges. Oh I love it here where natural sounds sing a lullaby.)

Thank you for sharing that Erkka. Speaking about personal feelings, mood and depression is not easy for the majority of people. It's not easy for me, I always tend to a neutral dialogue about myself, hiding my inner me from others. But the way you speak so openly about it, about yourself, I love that, and I think that is an unique thing that changes all about you: I never see a depressive Erkka, I see at all moments a courageous, strong man, a fighter that faces his problems openly, and is working towards solving them, building a great way of life, being a great example :) Whenever I read your blog I see a great example and it improves my mood a lot :) I know that you face depression and all kinds of problems in your everyday life, but the way you face them, and all your honesty and transparency talking about them, I think that is great, and can be a nice step towards solving and getting free from them, I admire that.

I don't have idea if I have depression or what kind of it, because that is just a word and I don't know what it really means. But I know that I face something with the shape of it at the moment. Reading you is always inspiring and positive :)

I also lived in countryside the majority of my life, but never had a place of my own. Only lived in a city recently for 3 years (at the moment not anymore), but never liked it there, too noisy, too artificial, too claustrophobic and unreal, not a place for me. At the moment I'm in a point of my life in which I have stopped on the road, watching the bifurcations, and don't know what route to follow. But living like you, in a place of my own on the country next to a river and closer to nature, certainly will be a happy route for me in the future and I can imagine myself that way. Time will tell :)

Sorry for the delay in answering you kind words. I have read your answer the day you posted it, but postponed answering, waiting for a better time, but the better time never came. So, sleepy and tired, I answer now - maybe there is never a better time than now, at all times in everything in life. Just wanted to say thank you, and keep writing :)

No problem with a delay - I like it when things take their time. Contemporary world is sometimes so hectic, and I feel that it would be more natural to go bit slower at times =)

I agree, "depression" is just a word, and it can mean many things. I'm using it just for convenience - just to have a simple word to refer to a bunch of vague issues... Hmm, maybe I should write a separate post, reflecting back on different phases of my own process, trying to give words to different aspects of "depression-related-stuff" I've been going through. As I belive that sometimes it is helpful for others to read someone describing similar feelings.

That is a great idead for a post! It is true what you say, I believe that through others we know ourselves better. I never knew how to use the word "depression", because I never knew if what I feel is in fact the same others feel as depression, or at what kind of intensity and duration a depressive mood can be labled depression. In fact I allways neglected what I feel, and lived with this "mood" as a natural part of myself. But it was more or less a year ago that these feeling increased and made me consider I have something with the shape of depression. Or at least inner dificulties I need to pay attention to and learn to deal with. I started noticing them for the first time not as something natural in myself, but as needles in my soul that I need to deal with.
I'll be waiting for the new post from this side of the monitor (but like you said "I like it when things take their time", so no pressure, and only if someday you feel like writing about it mate) :)

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