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Monday, March 26, 2012

Understanding Depression

Depression is real!
Depression is a disease just like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Depression sucks the life out of the person suffering from it.
Depression also affects those that are close to him/her.
Depression is misunderstood by most!
My intent in writing this post is to help explain the lonely and frustrating experience of a person living with depression, discuss the various causes and types of depression and possible treatment options.
I'll also discuss the stigma of medication and the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

I started writing this post back in November of 2011 and it has taken me this long to finally complete it. 
This is an extremely long post but I've split it into smaller sections so that it's more palatable.
One might need to read it more than once to digest all the information provided here.
I hope you find it useful.
Q: What causes a person to feel depressed? 
A: There is a spectrum/ range of the types of depressions, onsets (what causes it) and severity of symptoms.
There is short-term depression and long-term depression. 
These are NOT the official diagnostic terminologies from the DSMIV Manual. 
The DSMIV Manual is what psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other health-care professionals use to determine a diagnoses.
The terms I am using in this explanation are to help you understand the overall puzzle of depression with the various puzzle pieces.
Short-term depression is usually caused by a critical event such as:
- the death of a loved one
- experiencing a breakup (relationship, divorce or even a close friendship)
- experiencing a traumatic event/incident such as an accident, abusive situation (physical, verbal, sexual abuse), war or a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, etc.
A person who endures a critical event might experience a short-term depression state that may last anywhere between 6-8 weeks.
Usually during this period, he/she will go through the 5 Stages of Grief as per Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.

The 5 Stages of Grief (not always in this particular order) are:
1. Denial - This is when an individual doesn't want to believe that the person is gone/dead or that a relationship, or their life as they knew it, is over. 
 So they continue to pretend and act as if nothing has changed. 
They don't want to and are not ready to accept the reality that life is different now due to the occurrence of the critical event.

2. Anger - In this stage, the individual begins to realize that the critical event has occurred and they are angry about the fact that it happened. 
They might verbally lash out at those trying to to help him/her make peace with the critical event.
They might express their anger toward God or their Higher Power.

3. Bargaining - In this stage, the individual attempts to make "deals" with God or their Higher Power.
They might agree to "change their ways" in exchange for the undoing of the critical event.
They might agree to do something different just so that things can go back to the way things were prior to the critical event.

4. Depression - In this stage, the individual starts to realize that no matter what "deals" they agree to, there is no undoing what has already occurred. 
This is when they start to feel sad, hopeless, lonely, and depressed.
 Some might cry excessively during this period, 
while others might resort to isolating themselves from others.

5. Acceptance - After a few weeks or months of being depressed, the individual finally begins to accept the reality of their life post the critical event. 
They make peace with it and begin to move on with their life.
They start to recreate a new "normal"and continue their journey in life.
But it is important to note that a person can go back and forth between these stages at any time.
Then there is"Long Term Depression". 
An individual might be genetically predisposed to depression due to having a family history of depression or other mental illnesses.
A person who is predisposed to depression does not necessarily have a cause that triggers depression.
They might just start to feel "out of it", "tired", "fatigued", "angry", or "anxious" due to no logical explanation.

Yet in other individuals, depression might manifest itself due to the occurrence of a critical event such as being sexually molested, experiencing a traumatic event, or even experiencing a hormonal change due to pregnancy in women.
Now within "Long Term Depression" there are 2 distinct types of Depression.
The two types are either: 
1. Extreme sadness 
2. Extreme sadness with anxiety.

1. An individual with "Extreme Sadness" might demonstrate/experience the following symptoms:
 Extreme sadness, hopelessness, being exhausted all day and loss of interest in daily life. 
This person has difficulty finding pleasure in life and feel overwhelmed with the day to day responsibilities of life.

The person who feels sad may also feel very lonely, hopeless, frustrated, tired, sleepy, and might get easily irritated with others around them.
They might either have an increase or decrease in their appetite.
Its important to note that one of the first things a person living with depression does is they stop taking care of their personal hygiene and they isolate from others.
They might not brush their teeth or shower for days. 
They might hang around the house in their pajamas.
They lose interest in making themselves look presentable.
They're simply too tired.

An individual with "Extreme Sadness with Anxiety" still experience extreme sadness, but in addition might experience the following symptoms: Anxiety,  repeated thoughts about what might or might not occur.
This individual's mind might feel like it's going 90 mph.
They are unable to turn their thoughts off and thus are unable to rest, relax and even sleep.
They get frustrated with those around them and often lash out at them.
This person is grouchy and unpleasant to be around.
They are almost like a hamster running on it's never-ending wheel. They want to feel better but just don't know how to get off the wheel of sadness and anxiety.
Possible Treatment Options

 A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and regular exercise go a long way in helping create endorphins to make a person feel better.

But this may not be enough for a person living with depression. 
An individual living with depression might simply lack the energy or motivation to make healthy eating choices or work out.

Therapy and/or counseling always help but is not always enough for all.
A person going through Short Term Depression will definitely benefit from counseling/therapy. 
The therapist/ counselor helps the individual, process the incident and the feelings experienced as a response to the incident.
The individual with the therapist's help, is able to move past the incident and make peace with it.

A person living with Long Term Depression will definitely benefit from counseling but they might also need to be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication along with a healthy lifestyle.

It is sad that even in 2012, there is a stigma attached to taking 
anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Individuals taking the medication might feel judged by others and feel that they are somehow inadequate or broken because they need to take a "happy pill" as some refer to it.


Let me ask you a few questions:
Would we tell a person diagnosed and living with diabetes to NOT take their insulin and other medication?
What about a person who has high blood pressure?
Would we ever suggest to them that they should just "think themselves into getting well".
How about a person living with cancer?
 Would we suggest to them that they just pray themselves to good health and not take any of the recommended treatments options.

See how ridiculous this sounds?

Not this is how one sounds when they suggest to a person living with depression that they should just "be happy". 
Long term depression causes a chemical imbalance in the brain that needs to be balanced by taking medication made specifically for it.

There is nothing wrong with an individual living with Long Term Depression. 
But they do have a disease that needs to be treated.

As far as prayer goes, I strongly believe in the power of prayers. But prayer cannot replace medication.
A person living with depression might not feel much like "praying" or doing anything else. 
That is normal!!!!
This is a symptom of their depression.

There are also other natural alternatives such as Ginkgo Biloba which are said to help with mood disorders such as depression/anxiety.

Also, an individual living with depression MUST be under the constant care of a psychiatrist while taking medications.
Our bodies change and respond differently to the medications over time.
Also, initially we need to figure out which medicine is right for us. There are numerous medications available and the psychiatrist is the only one who is qualified to prescribe the medication, adjust a dose or wean you off the meds.

Quick explanation about the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist:
A psychologist has their PhD in psychology and are trained to do counseling with their patients.
Similarly, social workers, mental-health professionals, marriage and family therapists are all trained to counsel individuals, couples or families.
BUT a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating mental illnesses  and disorders with medication.
Therefore, it is extremely important that an individual needing medication be under the direct care of a psychiatrist or their family doctor.

Issues with medications:
- It might be a process to figure out the right medication and dose for a specific individual. 
Also, as time progresses, the medication or dose might need to be increased, decreased or changed depending on the patients response to the medication.
Thus, monthly visits are necessary to discuss the effectiveness of the medication and to explore other options if need be.

One of the biggest mistakes made by a person taking medication is that they stop taking the medication cold-turkey.
For example, a person is depressed, goes to the doctor and gets a prescription, takes the meds for a few months or years and start to feel much better.
In fact, they feel so good that they simply forget how "depressed" they really were. 
They might start skipping doses and notice that they still feel "good" so without the doctor's knowledge or permission, they simply stop taking their medication.
This is the WRONG thing to do!
Because a person taking meds builds up the meds in their body. 
When they first stop taking the meds, they feel good because the stored/built up medication is being used by the body to maintain an equilibrium.
As the stored medicines are exhausted, the individual will experience a "crash". 
They will experience even stronger symptoms than the first time they were depressed or anxious.

A individual taking medication MUST  continue taking medication for as long as need it.
If they decide to stop taking the meds, they need to do so in consultation with their psychiatrist or family doctor.
The suggested plan is to wean oneself off the medication over a period of time instead of just stopping completely.
Medication improves one's quality of life!!!

People try to be helpful to a person living with depression. 
They offer suggestions and ideas to make the person feel better.
But the reality is that these people often annoy and irritate a person living with depression because they simply fail to understand the disease.
If you suspect someone is depressed, encourage them to go see a psychiatrist or family doctor.
Do encourage them to go work out with you but don't be too pushy.
Be supportive, be loving, be non-judgmental!
Be willing to just BE present with a person living with depression.
Give them their space!
And respect and acknowledge their journey with depression.
There is so much to say on this topic but I'll stop for now.
I pray that you find this information helpful.
Wishing you Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Navroz Mubarak - Happy New Year!

According to the Islamic calender, March 21st is our New Year. 
So I thought I'd share a recipe that has become one of my favorite recipes for the New Year.
I did not come up with this but received it a few years ago.

New Year Recipe 

Take 12 whole months. 
Clean them thoroughly of all bitterness, hate and jealousy.
 Make them just as fresh and clean as possible. 

This is Mr. Peacock from our neighborhood! Here he is just strolling down the road!
Now cut each month into 28, 30 or 31 different parts, but don't make up the whole batch at once. 
Prepare it one day at a time with the following ingredients. 
Mix well into each day 1 part of Faith, 
1 part of Patience, 
1 part of Courage 
and 1 part of Work. 
Here he is checking out my car!!! He is too funny! 
Add to each day, add 1 part Hope, 
1 part Faithfulness, 
1 part Generosity 
and 1 part Kindness.

 Blend with 1 part Prayer, 
1 part Meditation and 1 Good Deed. 
Season the whole with a dash of Good Spirits, 
a sprinkle of Fun, 
a pinch of Play 
and 1 cupful of Good Humor. 
Here are Mr. and Mrs. Peacock. Ironically, it's the male peacock that has the beautiful feathered tail. The female in comparison is rather plain and simple looking.
Pour all of this into a vessel of Love. 
Cook thoroughly over Radiant Joy, 
garnish with a Smile, 
and serve with Quietness, 
Unselfishness and Cheerfulness.
 Makes one pleasant year!   
A happy New Year! 

- anonymous


Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,

Monday, March 19, 2012

A few special moments with a butterfly!

A few days ago, I was in my garden, talking to my roses and my other plants. 
Yes I do actually talk to them. 
No, I'm not
I enjoy the gifts they so unconditionally offer to me and I just naturally return the favor!
I tell them how beautiful they look as they're blooming and how lovely they smell.
I encourage them to grow nice and strong and compliment new growth.
I marvel with childlike delight as I bear witness to my garden.

As I walked toward the blackberry plant, I noticed this beautiful, Monarch butterfly resting on the leaf.
She (I assume its a girl) had her wings closed and for a minute I thought she was dead.
I slowly leaned in and whispered on her wings but she didn't react.
So I mustered up the courage to gently brush my index finger against her wings and to my surprise, she opened up her wings and showed her beautiful spots.
The following video is only 34 seconds long but it captures my moments with a butterfly!

Love and Light,
From one sufi to another


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Rose Garden.

I have had many hobbies and passions over the past 15 years. From baking, painting garage sale furniture into something beautiful. warm, cozy and country, stamping, sewing, beading, gardening, art journaling, cooking etc get the idea. 
Roses from my garden!

The last time I gardened was back in 2001 when I was pregnant with my second son, Zayn. Then he was born and soon after the divorce happened and life just took off in a completely different direction from graduate school to rediscovering and redefining myself. 

But a few months ago I was inspired to finally start a rose garden. I have wanted a rose garden for as long as I can remember but it was just not the right time until now. 

So after many trips to Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and my local nurseries and investing a small fortune, and plenty of hours digging and planting, (and paying our landscaper to dig and plant when it became too much for me), I have a rose garden!!!
And I LOVE IT!!!!

Here are a few roses from my garden!

A beautiful rose bud that bloomed into the gorgeous flower below in just a few hours.

And she smelled as heavenly as she looks!

Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

An incredible evening!

Here is another post I wrote back in Dec, 2011 right before I left for India.
Had an amazing evening just the other day!
It was my birthday dinner! No it wasn't my birthday but it was my birthday dinner! 
My birthday is in March.
My soul sister Marcia insisted that I let her take me out to dinner for my birthday in March of 2011 before my next birthday sneaks up on us in a few months.
So I agreed....we had dinner at this quaint French restaurant in the Gables...

Had this delicious filet minion with BĂ©arnaise sauce which was absolutely melt in your mouth delicious!!!!

Marcia had the lamb chops which she loved!!! They served it with a side of "French fries", a delicious patte of zucchini, a slice of grilled tomato and carrot shavings.

We were too full for deserts but we did indulge in cappuccinos.

We then walked a couple of blocks to this beautiful bookstore called, 
"Books & Books" which is one of the 
few independently owned bookstores.

This is the entrance with tall bookshelves on each side full of magazines and comfortable seating. 
There is an outdoor coffee shop (i think) or a bar with additional seating.

The checkout area is this gorgeous room that reminded me of a traditional old English library as seen in the likes of "My Fair Lady" and "The Sound of Music" with floor to ceiling built in bookshelves.

Marcia, checking out books.


Surprisingly, I don't really care for libraries...they tend to be dreary and depressing!
This bookstore is absolutely one of my favorites of all times...

I had more pictures of the children's area which is absolutely ADORABLE!!!! but I lost them all a few months ago.
Either way, I'm glad I can share this with you today.
So, if you ever come down to Miami, you must go check out this fabulous bookstore in Coral Gables.

Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Life is like a play - Act I, Act II, Act III

Have not posted in a has been busy...
India was beautiful and incredible and the pictures are simply breathtaking, but for a few reasons, I just can't seem to be able to work on anything from India...
so i've just been avoiding blogging altogether...
but I was reminded by my dear friend Marcia that I did not necessarily need to blog in a chronological order...
so i won't...I am officially tip-toeing out of my box...

I found this post in the draft form from back in November of 2011...
Although it's incomplete, I think, I still wanted to share it with you...
I hope you enjoy it...

I write what I know.

I write what I've lived.

I write what I've learned.

I write what I feel.

I write what I believe.

Here is what I know...Life is like a play with different acts.
Act I is about...
- being physically born
- growing up to be a teenager
- figuring out who what we want to to when we grow up
- completing school, going to university,
- finding a mate and getting married which brings us to...

Act II is about...
- assimilating life as a husband/wife
- hanging out with a new group of "married" couples
- getting established / moving up in one's career
- starting a family
- having babies: diapers, nursing, baby food, bottles, pacifiers, baby board books, trips to the pediatricians, sleepless nights, teething, ear infections, terrible twos, Barney, Sesame Street etc etc
- raising the kids and putting their life ahead of ours
- kids graduating high school and going away to college

Act III usually begins when the kids leave the nest and go away to live at the university of their choice.
The parents are then left to redefine their life as a couple without the children.
Its a time to rediscover our own dreams and goals again.
Its a time to reconnect as a couple.

Act IV is about enjoying your children as adults and celebrating their many successes (if you're lucky) or bailing then out as adults.

Act V...well I think it's about growing old, giving back to the community, enjoying the grandkids...again, I think, because I'm not quite there yet.

In a perfect life, we follow these acts in chronological order but life is seldom perfect. Life, in fact, is messy, complicated yet beautiful.
Things like divorce, death, accidents, getting fired, losing one's assets, be it physical or spiritual are all curve balls designed in my humble opinion by divine design and by our own master planning to help our soul grow and learn.

Here are a few more pictures from India taken of everyday people going about their everyday lives...

Off to work or to run a quick errand...She is clearly either a house maid or a shop girl.

Transporting all that on his bicycle...

no description needed...

This woman was selling the sling purses...we had a good conversation and also met her 11 year old son. More on that perhaps in another post...

The little corner stop where one could pick up anything from fresh eggs to cigarettes.

Bananas anyone...and the school girls in the back were heading for extra tutoring on a  very early Sunday morning.

This picture cracks me is a man wearing a banyan aka wife-beater wth a blue plaid lungi, holding his tiffin aka lunchbox while he crosses the busy streets of Mumbai, while on his cell phone...

Another example of how useful the human head is! :)

Just 2 friends on their way home perhaps...The one on the left is clearly a Muslim girl wearing a burkha while the other one may or may not be a Muslim. 

I hope we all are blessed to experience  the V Acts of Life.
Love and Light
From one sufi to another,