Depression, rumination and compassion

I recently read an article in the New York Times about depression. The author, Johan Lehrer, discussed a new theory in which depression is thought to have an evolutionary purpose, gaining insight. The crux of the theory is that people who are depressed ruminate and rumination involves highly tuned analytical thinking. So even though some depressed people have a hard time functioning within society, they are hyper-focused on working something out, at least according to this theory. And eventually, they may come to some understanding about their situation or about themselves.

In 1973, the year I was born, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave a talk in which he talked about the energy of depression:

“Well, try to relate to the texture of the energy in the depression situation. Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it. I mean, basically depression is extraordinarily interesting and a highly intelligent state of being. That is why you are depressed. Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression. Whatever is in it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact I think depression is one of the most powerful of all energies. It is extraordinarily awake energy, although you might feel sleepy.” More

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Every moment is so precious

A few weeks ago, Sally Massagee told CNN’s Anderson Cooper about how it was for her during the time in which she was had a mysterious disease. For four years, she did not know what was wrong with her body or if she would ever recover from the disease. Sally sought treatment from many doctors at Duke University Medical Center before she was accepted at the National Institutes of Health Unexplained Disease Program. She went through yet another week of testing, but this time it was not in vain. The doctors found that there were abnormal proteins in her body that were triggering her muscles grow uncontrollably. Sally’s tremendous overgrowth of muscle made it extremely difficult for her to even move her arms. Dr. Sanjay Gupta added that the muscle overgrowth could have eventually crushed her ribcage and organs. More

Water – source of life

Blog Action Day 2010 is today!!

I remember thirst well. It is hard to forget something that gripped me for weeks of my life. During three hospitalizations for severe Crohn’s colitis flares, the doctors gave me orders not to drink or eat anything for several weeks. They were worried that even a small bit of food or water could cause my severely inflamed colon to burst, which would have been life-threatening. Nurses had hooked me up to bags filled with intravenous fluids to help me avoid dehydration. But these fluids never quenched my thirst. My disease was severe and I always felt dehydrated during those hospitalizations. If I was lucky, the doctors had also allowed me to receive parenteral nutrition, which was a nutrient mix delivered to my body intravenously. Usually, the doctors allowed me to receive parenteral nutrition after one week of not eating anything. The only water I was allowed to drink was a tiny sip with my medicines. More

Blog Action Day 2010

Determined to Heal will be participating in Blog Action Day 2010, which is October 15, 2010. The theme this year is “water.” The blog post will be about water and its importance in health and well-being for all people throughout the world.

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Trying out Zen medicine

In December 1997, I was a graduate student in a doctoral community psychology program at Georgia State University. After the end of my first semester I became quite ill and I was bedridden during the whole winter break of three weeks. I was going to the bathroom upwards of 15 times a day and seeing blood in my stools. I had fevers every day. That was when the doctors first diagnosed me with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). At the time, they said that I had ulcerative colitis, but this diagnosis was later changed to Crohn’s colitis.

Corticosteroid medicines, which suppress the immune system, and “Asacol,” a medicine for IBD, helped me to achieve remission temporarily. But the corticosteroids had a down side; they made me feel restless. I felt wired 24/7 from these medicines. My mind was often racing and it was particularly difficult for me to fall asleep and stay asleep. More

IBD or Cancer?

A question from one of the IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) support groups on Facebook went something like: “Which would you rather have, IBD or cancer? Someone said that cancer is easier put into remission than IBD and IBD never goes away.”

My response:
Whoever said, “IBD never goes away,” is wrong. The docs can’t find any signs of it in my body and that has been the case for 5 years now. Nothing is permanent. That person was probably having a hard day with IBD and my heart goes out to him or her. I think that everything we “get” gives us an opportunity to grow and increase our awareness, compassion, and love. The specific kind of ailment is not all that significant in the grand scheme of things. We can die and suffer from lots of different ailments, not just IBD or cancer. I did have a couple of brushes with cancer, which were not life-threatening. I also had a few severe flares of IBD that were life-threatening years ago. I got to face the existential issue of “I am going to die someday,” which made me more appreciative of everything that I normally took for granted. The experiences I had with heavy suffering from severe IBD opened my heart. I’m glad that all signs of IBD are gone from my body and yet I am also grateful for what IBD taught me — how to care for myself and have deep compassion for others.

Tips for IBD patients

Someone newly diagnosed with IBD asked me for tips on dealing with it today. Here was my response. These are things I did that helped me to cope and to heal from Crohn’s colitis. I have been in remission for over 5 years. These suggestions may not help everyone with IBD.

1-Practice mindfulness. It can help you to relax your nervous system and to develop more self-awareness. It can also help you to cope with difficult emotions. You could try at least 20 minutes of deep relaxation and meditation every day; it made a difference for me. Our nervous systems can easily become imbalanced through stress, which may worsen IBD. Stress doesn’t cause IBD, but it can exacerbate it. See: Psychological Stress in IBD: New Insights into Pathogenic and Therapeutic Implications, The Impact of Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction on IBD and Effects of Mind-Body Therapy on Quality of Life and Neuroendocrine and Cellular Immune Functions in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis. Know your stress triggers. Managing my stress meant making lifestyle changes to reduce stresses in my life. Stressful jobs always exacerbated my symptoms. In the past five years or so, I have effectively managed my stress and doing so has also helped me feel overall improved well-being. Another blogger, Bob, healed from Crohn’s colitis and credits meditation as being key in his healing process. Bob’s blog: I healed my Crohn’s colitis. Mindfulness meditation and relaxation are not quick fixes and they may not help everyone with IBD to reduce the suffering that goes with living with IBD. More

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