Loneliness and Sickness — Interesting Study


Considering the topic of my last blog post finding this article was very interesting. I’ve often wondered how much of an impact depression and loneliness has on general health and recovery. While the idea of positive mental attitude when ill has been around for a very long time, it was refreshing to see a recent study.

I don’t necessarily think that the study and its methodology aren’t without fault but I think people who are already experiencing loneliness could perceive illness as another indicator of isolation. For me in some ways I view the solitude and depression when I’m ill as just another layer that affects my ability to interact with others. Either way it’s an additional reminder that I have to be more mindful of my health than perhaps some other folks.

Routine and The Pros and Cons

Fighting your way out of depression is multilayered and one of the habits I had to form revolved around a few basic things.  Among the more ugly side effects of depression is a loss of self worth and often the loss of desire to keep ones self clean. In my case shaving became the last thing I wanted to do. Showering became a chore in itself.  I knew I had to shake this and as a result I worked on two specific routines for my morning.

(Photo by Vraxx)

In the past I had been a chronic Keurig user.  The routine was the same every morning, wake up, plonk a K-Cup, start my day and log into my PC. Following my divorce I no longer had a Keurig machine and no desire to buy anything that bulky.  I turned instead to my old, oft forgotten AeroPress. I switched from an ‘instant’ coffee to going retro, hand grinding my beans and forcing myself to make a proper cup of java.

This started me down reviving another habit, this time centered around grooming. In the past, especially as depression began to take over I’d resort to using my electric razor.  While fast and mostly effective much like the Keurig it shortened my ‘active’ time and made me very complacent. Now, I reverted back to the old days of a double edged safety razor and a shaving soap and brush. It didn’t happen overnight, a good month or so and I had gotten used to it. Luckily for me an Art of Shaving had opened up at the nearby mall.

Activity kept me from sinking too far and forced me out of bed. While it may not seem like much even a short 15 minutes of routine that can you make into a positive habit helps a lot more than one might think.

Diet/Health and the Complexity of Depression

Full disclosure, one of the reasons I had a really hard time confronting my depression is that through college I studied psychology and neuroscience. As the saying goes, doctors make the worst patients.  I quipped about this during a session that I’m glad my therapist tolerates me. Arrogance and hubris on my part made it difficult for me to recognize the signs of depression I had over the past few years.

The thing is clinical depression is a multilayered problem. There are the psychological aspects but there’s physical manifestations too. I loathe pills and I can’t stand gyms.  A combination that really set me up for a pretty easily downward spiral.  Immediately following my diagnosis I began trying to revamp my diet.  Less fats, more yogurt and fruits.  I also began vitamin supplements that targeted getting my neuro chemical health back up to par.  As with any supplement be sure to engage your physician.

What’s worked for me thus far has been a combination of Omega-3 (Fish oil), vitamins B6, C, D3, K2 and a serotonin production aid (5-HTP). The overall effects were meant to help stabilize mood and improve serotonin production. 5-HTP is still a hot button item with critics and advocates from both sides. I can say that folks have experienced a slight uptick in heart rate so be mindful if you have extremely high blood pressure.

While I still struggle to really improve my exercise routine (mostly just walking) the supplements helped get me back to a point where I felt my brain could actually cope along with the mechanisms discussed in therapy. If there is one mindset item I hope folks take away from my blog it is this.  There’s no such thing as a one-size fits all answer.  While I’ve focused mainly on CBT, supplement/diet for folks with severe depression or deeper triggered anxiety a psychiatrist visit may be in order. No matter what no one can really ‘fix’ you it’s a team effort. Therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist can try to get you tools to use, but it still boils down to working through that path and seeing how it goes.  While it’s hard sometimes, especially for those of us who suffer from anxiety, when a treatment course isn’t working, you have to provide feedback there too.