Menopause Symptoms

Post image for Is Clinical Depression a Chemical Imbalance, a Disease, or Learned Behavior?

No one is more acquainted with depression in perimenopause and menopause than I am.  In fact, no one is more acquainted with depression in general than I am.

I grew up destitute in an impoverished home filled with alcoholism, unspeakable abuse, and violence.  A dark, heavy, oppressive cloud of sorrow, sadness, and desperation filled every room and crevice of the little green, shingled house on South 5th Street.

We had very little furniture, few clothes, and barely enough beds for everyone to sleep.  There were no toys, no ex-curricular activities, no music lessons, no dance lessons. We had so little food that mayonnaise sandwiches and potato peelings dug out of the trash, sometimes served as lunch or a snack. My mother’s bitterness and anger was a daily reminder of how desperately poor and lacking we were.

My father, a raging alcoholic, spent what little money we had on booze and hanging out in the “honky-tonks.” When he wasn’t in jail because of some barroom brawl, he was home beating on my mother, or my sisters and me. All of my childhood memories are swathed with crushing despair and enveloped in the dark depression that hung in the air, threatening to swallow you up at any given time.

My father was completely disabled by depression.  Of course, the alcohol, also a depressant, didn’t help. But it was the only tonic that could dull the aching memories of his own impoverished childhood, and wash away the pain of the gaping emotional wounds left by the brutality and violence inflicted upon him as a small child, at the hand of his own mother. He did eventually become sober.  But he lived the remainder of his life a broken and sad man.  The stoop in his back, the sagging of his shoulders, and the heaviness in his heart, were all a testament to his belief that he was a lousy-no-good-failure as a father, a husband, a provider, and human being. My father hated himself so badly, he believed that even God couldn’t stand him.

depression-hurts

By the time I was 18 years old, I too had learned the way of a heavy and despondent heart. A substance abuser and drug addict myself from the tender age of 12, my life was a wreck. Suicide seemed like the only way out of my pain. Thankfully, I failed. But having another shot at life still didn’t free me from the clutches of depression, which continually loitered around the door to my heart for decades of my life. Knocking. Knocking. Knocking.  Always calling me back to the familiar and oddly comforting place of despair and despondency. Falling into the suffocating quicksand of depression was always just a few dark thoughts away. And I knew it.

Eventually, I began to understand how depression worked in my life. Self-help books, psychology books, medical books and the medical studies I read, gave me a lot of insight into what happens in the brain during depression. But none of them offered any fail-proof solutions on how to slay the dragons of depression. I had to figure that out on my own.

I categorically reject the psychiatric medical definition of depression as a disease. There may be some of you who would like to take me to task over that statement. And I’m also certain that more than a few medical professionals would as well. But, I don’t believe anyone owns the definition of depression. And since it is something that I’ve personally struggled with my entire life, I feel I am as qualified as anyone to give an opinion on what it is, how it affects people, and especially how it affects women in perimenopause. 

Depression and the Propensity Toward Chronic Depression is Learned Behavior

I accept and believe that depression results in a chemical imbalance in the brain. The medical studies on how the brain responds neurologically during depression are abundantly clear.  In fact, an entire multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry – antidepressants – has been built upon the science of depression.

I also believe that chronic depression can cause profound and long lasting changes in one’s neurology and even physiology. But with the exception of depression in perimenopause and menopause which is caused by hormone imbalance and low estrogen,  I believe chronic depression, is a learned behavior. That is to say, I believe that the propensity toward depression is first learned, and results in a chemical change in the brain.  I do not believe it is a chemical imbalance first, and then depression.

It’s important to note, however, that when I speak of depression, I am not talking about certain periods in one’s life where there may be loss, such as death or divorce, and as a result one grieves and is depressed as a part of the grieving process.  I’m talking about a lifelong struggle with depression, clinical depression if you will, which is not necessarily tied to any specific event or loss.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that all of the years I have struggled with depression, are the direct result of how I was raised, and what I observed and absorbed from my parents in the toxic and highly dysfunctional environment they created in our home. I learned how to be depressed through observation. The violence and abuse in our home crushed me mentally and emotionally.  As a result, I developed faulty thinking patterns which created a mental environment that made me susceptible to a life of chronic depression.

The Mind-Body-Mood Solution

This post is not intended to promote products.  But, it also wouldn’t be be complete without my sharing this book with you. The Mind-Body-Mood Solution, by Dr. Jeffrey Rossman, PhDmindbodymoodcommunicates perfectly what I’m trying to say here.

In the Prologue, Dr. Rossman details growing up in an environment where he also witnessed debilitating and crushing, clinical depression throughout his entire family.  Both sets of his grandparents and his own parents suffered from chronic clinical depression.  Eventually, he also”learned” how to be depressed.

I love this book because it gets to the real heart of what chronic and clinical depression really is.  It certainly rings true with my own experience, and I’m willing to bet that some of you will hear some familiarity in the pages of the book as well.

The Mind-Body-Mood Solution  teaches readers what causes depression and how to break free of it through a drug-free process which can provide lifelong relief and freedom from depression.

I personally believe that in order to kick chronic depression to the curb permanently, there must be a lifelong commitment to realizing that the mind and the thoughts we harbor and nurture, are the key to breaking free.

I say lifelong, because frankly, if you’ve struggled with depression for the better part of your life as I have, you realize it’s not a once-and-done kind of proposition.  You have to get committed to freeing yourself from depression much like you would from drug addiction or alcoholism.  It’s imperative that you acknowledge and accept the power depression will have over you if allowed. Therefore, you must structure your life, and learn to guard your thoughts so that you do not allow yourself to fall back into the thinking patterns which take you down into the dark pit of depression.

power-of-thoughts-quote

Food, exercise, and exposure to light are also crucial in breaking free of depression as well, and I plan to explore all of these elements.  But, for now I want to spend more time sharing my personal experience, and explore more in-depth, the power of our thoughts, and most specifically, our internal dialogue with ourselves.  Until we recognize the power of our thought-life in depression, we will forever be a slave to it.

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MironovaEGT+, Heart Health & Me

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Did you know that every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a heart attack or a stroke with debilitating or deadly consequences? For someone like me this is a bellwether clarion call. And for many reasons. First, my family history. My father suffered several strokes which eventually led to his full disability, and […]

February 17, 2016 CONTINUE READING →

Soy May Prevent Osteoporosis in Menopausal Women

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I’ve been beating the drum for soy as a remedy for hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopause for a very long time. Primarily because during my own perimenopause years when my hot flashes and night sweats were at their worst, drinking two 8-oz glasses of soy milk helped keep them totally at bay. To […]

January 21, 2016 CONTINUE READING →

Hormone Therapy in Perimenopause: The Truth behind the Women’s Health Initiative Study

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In 2002, the now infamous Women’s Health Initiative study sent the medical professionals prescribing hormone replacement therapy for their patients in menopause, into a bona-fide tail spin.  Terrified of putting their patients at risk for coronary heart disease, stroke or breast cancer, physicians abandoned HRT all together, advising their patients to do the same. Few […]

October 12, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Books for Your Perimenopause & Menopause Library

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Getting through perimenopause is an adventure all its own.  Navigating mood swings, hot flashes, and every other cockamamie symptom that seems to come out of nowhere, definitely requires that you eat your Wheaties®. In addition to good health care options, I’m also of the opinion that a good library of books on the subject can be […]

September 14, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

High Doses of Vitamin D do Not Improve Bone Health for Menopausal Women?

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An article posted at Medical News Today.com cites a randomized clinical trial study, conducted to test the effects of low-dose Vitamin D supplements versus high-dose supplements in reducing the risks of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Other studies have indicated that women in their post-menopausal years (beyond actual menopause) are more susceptible to osteoporosis (thinning of the […]

September 11, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Dried Plums for Your Bones in Menopause!

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Science Daily  cited a study on plums as medicine for osteoporosis, giving new hope for women who fear becoming dried up, wrinkled prunes in their golden years – sorry, I just had to say it. Researchers from Florida State University and Oklahoma State University conducted a study, funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, […]

August 10, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Are Pelvic Exams Still Necessary for Menopausal Women?

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If you have your ear to the ground in the medical field, then you may have noticed a shift in attitudes among healthcare providers, who are beginning to question the wisdom of routine wellness procedures.  Women’s health is an area which is of particular interest and specifically, routine gynecological pelvic exams for menopausal women who […]

August 5, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Estrogen, Uterine Polyps & Me

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UPDATE: A reader left a comment pointing out that this article wasn’t entirely accurate.  She herself had undergone a procedure to have uterine polyps removed and informed me that hers were so deeply embedded in her uterus, that there was no possible way for a routine gynecological exam to discover them. She also noted there […]

January 30, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Children, Menopause & A Mother’s Heart

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  This is a reprint of a post I wrote approximately 3 years ago when I was blogging for Estroven during the Sleep Challenge Campaign.   It was back to school for my newly minted teen daughter this week. After one very busy summer, she packed it in and headed back to the classrooms for […]

January 3, 2015 CONTINUE READING →

Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid For Chronic Pain

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If you are a woman in menopause and suffer with generalized achy muscles, bones and joints, unless you’ve been diagnosed with some sort of arthritis, or perhaps even Lupus or MS, chances are the likely culprit is chronic inflammation in the body. Yes, it is true that arthritis, Lupus, and MS cause inflammation. But, there are other […]

April 10, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Symptoms of Perimenopause Symptoms of Menopause

I thought it would be appropriate – and helpful – to follow up on a recent post I did on the difference between perimenopause and menopause and provide a list of the symptoms associated with each. Though the terms are often (and I’m guilty of the same) used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Perimenopause is a transitional […]

November 17, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Perimenopause or Menopause? Get it Right!

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Sometimes I feel like going on a one-woman crusade to change the language we use when we talk about hormone imbalance – i.e.,perimenopause versus menopause. I will admit, I too am guilty of using these two words interchangeably. But the truth is, they are two entirely different experiences, and frankly, should not be discussed as if they are the […]

October 20, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

When Did Menopause Become a “Disease?”

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Menopause as a disease, or as it is often called by feminist scholars, “medicalized menopause” entered the medical lexicon in the 1930s and 1940s. Yes indeed, ladies. What was once thought of as a natural, biological process signaling to women the passage into mid-life, has become a “disease” thanks to one very small group of […]

August 30, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

What’s the Best Exercise for Bone Strength?

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This is not an article I have written.  However, it is an excellent article so I’m posting an excerpt and linking to the actual source at the NYT I’m not a sedentary person. In my 30s and 40s, I was a runner, and for decades, I played singles tennis three or more times a week. […]

August 8, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Sexuality in Menopause & Post Menopause Years

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There is absolutely no pun intended, but, my last post on loss of libido in menopause turned out to be one very “hot” topic. I posted it on my Facebook page and the ladies went wild. Some of them lamented the loss of their libido while others were just “fine and dandy” with not having sex post-menopause. Personally, as I always […]

July 26, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Transdermal Bioidentical Estradiol: Defending My Decision

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So, I figured I might have to defend my decision to consider using a transdermal bioidentical estradiol. But, I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. No sooner had I written my post last week, when I received an email (albeit a cheerful one) from a lady who identified herself as a “wellness coach.” She had […]

April 15, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Menopause: The Ultimate New Year

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Christmas is over and the New Year has finally rolled around again – my favorite part of the holiday season, actually. I see Christmas kind of like Mardi Gras, or bachelor and bachelorette parties.  The great, big, last hurray before you have to knock-off all those shenanigans and begin anew. For Mardi Gras loving Catholics, […]

December 27, 2012 CONTINUE READING →

Fibromyalgia & Menopause: Body Logic Responds

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Continuing with my discussion on fibromyalgia and menopause, I wanted to post the question I presented recently to Body LogicMD regarding the connection between menopause and fibromyalgia. Given that 80 to 95% of all fibromyalgia patients are women, according to the East Tennessee State University researchers, and that a large number of them are also […]

November 28, 2012 CONTINUE READING →