There has been much news about the side effects of antidepressants, but I believe there is a deeper health issue that needs to be recognized.
I clearly remember the day my mother passed away. I was just starting university. A friend put their arm around me and comforted me. The tears were ready to flow, but at the time I feared that if I let go, I would fall apart. I made a conscious decision to numb out my feelings. Fast forward to 10 years later and I was a computer programmer, isolated, and experiencing chronic depression. I was easily upset, often near tears, and fearful of expressing myself.
Sometimes temporary support for challenging times is needed, just as one would use crutches and a cast to help mend a broken or injured leg. At various times in my life, I tried an antidepressant only to find that side effects were intolerable and when the medication was stopped, the troubling feelings returned. Metaphorically speaking, the leg hadn’t mended.
The turning point was falling in love – because when it ended, it triggered a cascading release of tears. This time, I made a decision to feel, let go and release what I had been holding onto for so long. What surprised me was that crying actually helped me get better! As I let go, I felt releases of energy, a lifting of the clouds, and clearer thinking. People commented that I was more present and more comfortable to be around.
My personal growth and journey of self discovery came from hard work and facing painful emotions that eventually gave way to mental health and joy. Through the natural wisdom of mind, body, and spirit, my body did what it does naturally – heal! Many people don’t realize that tears and laughter are a natural part of the body’s healing system. There are more than 70 chemicals in an emotional tear. They are not present when you cry when cutting or peeling an onion. When you cry, the body is physically cleansing itself.
So what is the deeper health issue that antidepressants do not address? I believe it is the numbing of the emotions that occurs. Life brings challenges that need to be worked through and healed, leading to lessons learned and life experience that we can pass on to friends, family and children. But what if the lessons are never learned-if the emotions are never healed? Have antidepressants become the new medically sanctioned form of denial, numbing and avoidance?
The journey through a depression can be an important life process of self-examination, pulling ideas and beliefs apart, and re-assembling them in a new manner giving way to new meaning as well as self and global understanding. Through tears, laughter, friendship, and healing arts such as art, music, singing, writing, journaling, and tending our garden, we can open ourselves to new perception. These are the natural antidepressants of the body-the expression of emotional energy through creativity.