Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Nov/Dec 2013
Dear Dr. Galardi:
I am a Junior at an Ivy League school in the Northeast. By the time you read this I will be back at school. By the time it gets published (if it gets published) God only knows where I will be. The summer is winding down and I am dreading going back to school. I feel like I am in a deep tunnel and I don’t see any light at the end of it. A year from now I will have graduated (hopefully) and haven’t a clue as to what to do with my life.
It all seems hopeless and pointless. The world is going down the toilet and unless I go to grad school there are not many jobs available. I know, you would think that because I am graduating from a prestigious institution I would have better connections, but I don’t. My parents are not rich. I am not a schmoozer so I don’t have a wide social network nor did I strategically choose friends I could use one day.
So, why am I writing you? I am writing you because I am not getting anywhere with my shrink. She wants to put me on meds. I say no. I read your column in her office and you seem to be more holistic so I thought I would ask you what to do to lift myself out of this depression.
So, doc, what’s up?
Dazed and Depressed
Well, the first step I see that is healthy is that you reached out to someone who’s a professional in spite of feeling disappointed with your own doctor. You don’t say how long you’ve been depressed. Perhaps she thought anti-depressants were in order because it has been going on a long time and therapy is not ameliorating the problem. I would encourage you to discuss your issues with your therapy with her directly.
Having said that, there are some other more natural anti-depressants you can buy over the counter. Amino acid therapy can be useful in some cases. Dr. Hyla Cass is a well-known psychiatrist who favors them over anti-depressants when possible. Her book Natural Highs can be a great resource as well as her website and products: http://www.cassmd.com
The other suggestion I have for you is volunteering your time. Studies done on college students who volunteer at least 10 hours a week showed a 75 percent decrease in mood disorders after three months. You also do not mention if you use substances to self-medicate. Alcohol and marijuana both can intensify clinical depression.
I would encourage you to eat foods that are organic and whole in nature. Food additives, caffeine, and sugar are all known to interfere in cognitive functioning. Further, I would encourage you to develop some kind of spiritual practice. Meditation has been studied and found to stabilize mood by regulating the pre-frontal cortex.
Lastly, when one finds oneself in a tunnel, it can be the precursor to a spiritual awakening if you can stay with the feelings that you are having in this void. The great mystic, St. John of the Cross called this time “the Dark Night of the Soul” and wrote extensively on it. You might want to read this book. When the ego begins to move away from identifying with the outside world for its sense of self, a kind of deadening takes place. What once brought sensory excitement does no longer.
The ego begins this journey home to reunite with the soul so that one’s sense of self is no longer created from the outside in but the opposite, from drawing on one’s core self for expression. Perhaps you are experiencing this now because you are not meant to jump into any job you can find when you get out of school but are meant instead to take time in the coming months before graduation to contemplate and reflect what has meaning for you now. Notice what in the course of your day brings your energy up. What subject matter, what people, what experiences, what food, what exercise, etc.?
Although you are experiencing this at twenty-one years old, your existential crisis is one many people feel at every major juncture in their lives when it is time to leave behind an old identity. Honor this time through inner reflection and ask to be shown a sign for what your next step is. It takes courage to surrender into the tunnel and trust that if you keep being open, an emerging will take place. Pay attention to your dreams as well. They can provide messages, too.
As they say in India, namasté.