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The Road to Recovery, Part 1

Updated: June 2016

Recovery from any major illness, injury or depression is like climbing your own personal Mount Everest. It seems impossible, you can't see more than a few feet in front of you and it is lonely.



If I had a shortcut I would shout it from the rooftops. I searched extensively for the "one answer" and it wasn't to be found. Instead, I found 10 things I had to do in order to get well. These weren't the only things that helped, but these 10 were the things that had to happen in order to survive the process and ultimately heal.

It is important to note that you are a much better advocate for yourself when you are not depressed and will get well so much quicker once you are out of depression. Of course, that's part of what makes it such a terrible condition because so many patients experience depression either because of their injury/illness or as a side effect of their medication.

Author Sandi Bacom wrote "when one door closes another opens, but it's Hell in the Hallway." It's true. When people tell you another door will open, no one talks about how long until that door opens or how long you will be stuck in the hallway.

Well-meaning family and friends will want to encourage you but not realize it is a process you have to move through. You might experience very few who will have the patience to walk the journey with you because it is very difficult and discouraging for loved ones. They feel powerless to help you.

What's most important - when you are depressed you are not going to want to do any of these things - but you must.



Below is the list of 10 and then a brief description of why each matters:

1. Eat an inflammation-free diet

2. Create a social circle

3. Be in the moment

4. Develop structure/routine

5. Meditate

6. Accountability partner (non-family)

7. Read/watch positive media/literature/affirmations

8. Spirituality

9. Body movement

10. Support group

The sicker you are then the stricter you must follow this. Consider it your job. Once you are on the road to recovery you will be much more physically, mentally and emotionally resilient. You'll be able to make leaps and bounds in your health and healing. But for those who are barely crawling, this is where you start.

1. Eat an inflammation-free diet

There is no "mind over matter" if you are biochemically ill. You can't just wish to be well while consuming food that causes inflammation and damages your digestion which impacts your mood and immune system.

For the short answer, eliminate sugar and grains. For a few possible diet plans read my nutrition posts. For a complete, custom approach, see your Functional Health doctor.

I can't emphasize enough, if you are really sick, commit to the necessary dietary changes. Don't worry that it will be "forever"...see #3.

2. Create a social circle

This is really tough when people are sick because they tend to isolate - but that is the exact opposite of what you need - it will only make you sicker.

Even if you have to make new friends, do it! It will get you outside of yourself and even a moment of laughter is amazing medicine.

If you think you are too sick or depressed to be good company then start in a soft gentle place - go to support groups, 12 step meetings...hang with the other "broken people." You'll be surprised at the variety of people you meet and you will find you aren't as broken as you thought.

If you've been really sick or depressed for a long time then you might be awkward at first, so it is nice to have a non-judgmental place to "practice" reentering the world.

Then expand to walking groups, book clubs, yoga classes, city rec classes, volunteering...anything to get you around people and holding a conversation. Keep at it, be patient and the true friendships will develop. It's worth it and it's a life saver.

If you already have a big social circle and you aren't isolating, that is wonderful. Ask for what you want and also try to spread out those needs among several people. Even the most devoted friend/family will become exhausted trying to prop up a sick/depressed person. Try not to take it personally, just call the next person on the list.



3. Be in the moment

When it's "Hell in the Hallway" it is really common to ruminate over the door that just closed (the past) and get caught up in the "what ifs." When you aren't doing that, then you're panicking about the other door that hasn't opened yet (the future) and trying to problem solve.

By the way, it is really difficult to effectively problem solve when you are sick. Even worse for those who are depressed because you see everything through the veil of depression and that is not truth.

The answer is to "be in the moment" - just pay attention to the hallway, notice the paint on the walls, get interested in where you are.

Join a 12-step group, read about Buddhism/Zen or practice mindfulness to really learn the amazing benefits of being in the moment. Get out a coloring book and some markers, dig in your garden, cut up vegetables, count ceiling tiles...You can survive the next minute. You are safe for the next 60 seconds. If you are sick or in crisis, sometimes that is all you do - survive the next minute.

4. Develop structure/routine

If you are really sick, then this may be very basic - and, as said before, the sicker you are the stricter you must follow it. Until you are well on the road to recovery you need to forget about spontaneity and being casual. It doesn't matter if your family doesn't get this, it is your lifeline.

If you aren't sleeping then you develop a sleep-hygiene program and follow it religiously. If you are depressed then you may have a schedule geared toward getting you in the shower on a daily basis. If you have recovered and are attempting to reenter the world at full speed but don't want to relapse, then your self-care regime must be regularly followed.

5. Meditate

So much has been discovered about the healing benefits of meditation - this is a must do - even if you hate it. Personally, it took me a year to be able to meditate for 5 minutes. Now I love it and can easily do an hour and not want to stop - LOL!

An easy way to start is with a meditation app on your phone. I use Headspace. If this is new to you - or dreaded - then a structured approach is best.

Do your own research to learn of all the benefits. I will tell you that not only does it "rewire" your brain and calm the body - but the lessons you learn during your meditation practice will begin to "leak" into your everyday life. That is a good thing. Sick or depressed people often mentally abuse themselves and meditation is one of the keys to ending that viscous cycle.

Please click HERE to jump to the next article and continue reading details about the last 5 on the list.

Serving Hands-On Healing,

Dr. Zachary




#depression #Top10list #RoadtoRecovery #laughter #holistichealth #inflammation #nutrition #functionalmedicine #mindfulness #socialcircle

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