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Can the Black Dog be Shoo’d Away with Diet and Exercise?

Dear Robin:

I am a 33-year-old professional, never married, no kids.  My hope is to get married and have a family someday but I’m not in a rush and that might be because I suffer from intermittent depression and sometimes it can be pretty awful. My childhood was not the best but I’ve been working with a therapist for the past 18 months and we are really making strides.

My problem is I met a man I like a lot a few months ago.  He knows about my depression and has been supportive up until a few weeks ago when I told him my doctor and therapist were recommending I try an antidepressant to alleviate the onslaught of depression and maybe even stave it off.

He is a health and fitness nut and very opposed to me taking a medication.  He has been pretty vocal about it and now I’m getting annoyed because I am feeling judged so I haven’t started the medication yet.  He claims if I just work out more and eat organic food I’ll feel much better but that seems a little too simple for me.

If this was your boyfriend, what would you do?

KT

(Readers: my internet was out all morning so I did a 6+ mile trail hike in Forest Park.  Upon my return, the internet was back.  Sorry for the rerun but I can’t control Comcast!)

Dear KT:

If this were my boyfriend, I’d remind him his lack of a medical degree precludes him from giving me medical advice.

The Black Dog of Depression

The Black Dog, as Winston Churchill called it: that dark, sad, hopeless depression that can creep up slowly and settle in like a persistent coastal fog or jump you as quickly as a thief in a dark alley.  The weight of this Black Dog on your belly can range from merely annoying or distracting to eradicating your will to live.  

How those of us visited by the Black Dog choose to delay or greet his arrival (yes, the Black Dog is male) and handle his stay is our own personal matter and those decisions should be made in concert with our health care professionals, not a guy who thinks spin class is going to leave both your sweat and your existential angst on the gym floor.

I agree with Mr. Organic Gym Guy that a healthy diet (organic or not – it doesn’t matter) and a regular exercise routine can positively influence the pervasiveness and severity of your depression, but I’ve read enough to know that for some sufferers, that isn’t enough.  You told me you are a healthy weight, eat reasonably well, and work out 4 times per week. I think you are doing fine in those areas, KT.

When you gave me more background on your childhood I was taken aback by your original description of it as “not the best.”  That’s a bit of an understatement. 

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You were in three separate foster homes from the age of 6 until 18 and suffered severe trauma in two of them. You don’t remember your parents and both are now dead.  You have no siblings, at least as far as you know.

And despite all that, you managed to graduate from high school and get a scholarship to college.  You then earned your way through graduate school and have an impressive job, own your home, and you are a leader in a local group that provides emotional and financial support to disadvantaged youth.

Simply put, KT, you impress the ever-loving shit out of me.  

The work you are doing with your counselor and in your community is bold, brave, and obviously having some healing effect upon your soul.  However, if it isn’t enough and you think medication may be helpful, make your decision based upon your own research and your consultations with your doctor and your therapist.

You told me your boyfriend is a sales executive.  In other words: not a counselor and not a physician.  If you want to take advice from him on how to sucker people into buying a product go for it, but don’t let him make your medication decisions for you.

By the way, is he a Scientologist?  If so, please run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

Best of luck and please check in with me again.  I find you to be a remarkable and inspirational woman.

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It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down; 
It was not night, for all the bells 
Put out their tongues, for noon.
It was not frost, for on my flesh 
I felt siroccos crawl,
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.

And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,

As if my life were shaven 
And fitted to a frame, 
And could not breathe without a key; 
And I was like midnight, some,

When everything that ticked has stopped, 
And space stares, all around, 
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns, 
Repeal the beating ground.

But most like chaos,–stopless, cool,
Without a chance or spar,–
Or even a report of land 
To justify despair.

-Emily Dickinson