Author: Phoebe Hutchison
© 2016 Phoebe Hutchison Qualified Counsellor and Author of Honeymooners Forever, Twelve Step Marriage Survival Guide and Are You Listening? Life is Talking to You
Depression is an altered state of brain chemistry, that impacts a person’s mood, body, and life, in a detrimental way. It is a result of a life imbalance. When we resolve the life imbalance, and give the person tools to have power over thought, grieve well, and become connected to their life again, the imbalance, and the depression, become a thing of the past. When a person is coping well again in most areas of their life, depression symptoms usually subside.
Allow me to shed light on the signs of a depressed person, give you a glimpse inside their world, and outline contributing factors for depression. This should equip you, and your loved one, with the strategies to improve your relationship, and lives, despite depression.
Living with a depressed family member is full of challenges; some people feel cheated by the changes in their loved one’s actions and attitudes, others feel heartbroken and many become emotionally disconnected, eventually fracturing the relationship. As a relationship and crisis counsellor, I’ve helped many couples and individuals whose lives were impacted by depression… and I’ve witnessed many clients recover from depression.
What are the signs of a depressed spouse or family member?
Has your loved one changed and become negative, often pessimistic, about almost everything? Has he or she become quieter, emotionally withdrawn, simultaneously becoming unavailable for many family activities? Have they cut down on socializing, seem disinterested in work, family, school, or life? Have they increased emotional eating, drinking of alcohol or drug taking? Has your partner or family member become moody and easily angered? One client said, ‘My husband seems to be a shell – as if he has no soul,’ and another client said, ‘He’s no fun anymore; he’s just not the same person he was five years ago, before the depression.’ One woman said about her son, ‘He’s always angry.’ One man said, ‘My wife is constantly sad, and hardly talks, yet she has so many great things in her life… It doesn’t make sense.’
These sentiments are common. While the contributing factors in depression vary from person to person, the way depression appears ‘from the outside’ is strikingly similar.
How does it feel to have depression?
The daily walk with depression is a crippling one; relationships with family members, friends, colleagues, and life in general, all become more difficult and painful. The depressed person usually feels oppressed, and caged in, either by self-imposed restrictions or perceived (or real) external limitations placed on them.
In most cases, unresolved grief and loss is at the core of depression. For men, it is often a loss of a relative or friend, job loss, or loss of a healthy status in the primary relationship. For women, it is often a loss of a child, miscarriage, feeling trapped in the primary relationship, or not following their passions. For children, it is often the loss of autonomy; feeling as though they are powerless, and have little choices in life, combined with negative thinking and emotional overwhelm. For everyone, depression can lead to a feeling of no hope, which is a major contributing factor in suicidal thinking.
The depressed person lives in the shadows of self-condemnation, anger and frustration. As they over-focus on their defeats and weaknesses, causing their self-esteem to plummet, they compare themselves with others unfavorably – adding more bricks to the wall of isolation around them. This anger at life eventually points inwards, and prior goals seem unattainable. They often become pressured by most obligations, leaving them feeling ‘stuck’, struggling to make decisions, and fearful of the future. Many people with depression also suffer anxiety as well.
What are some of the side effects of depression?
This lack of fulfillment, and a feeling that life is ‘bland’, often becomes the catalyst for an escape. In marriage, this may be a ‘mid-life crisis’ or an affair; creating a change, then a temporary spark. In children, teenagers, or adults, this need for escape from the negative mind could lead to addictions, such as: self harm, food, dangerous behaviour, alcohol, or drugs. However, these methods often add to a devastating backlash of increased alienation from loved ones, fueling self-disgust and confusion, making matters worse.
All these habitual negative, repetitive thoughts create an avalanche of sad emotions, impacting the body. As depression sets in, restless sleep, reduced sex drive, appetite changes, aches and pains, and fatigue, are common place. Feeling numb and disassociated from life, it is common to hear a depressed person say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ and ‘I don’t know what I want.’ The motivation is greatly impacted, leading to a greater sense of hopelessness, and self-dislike.
How can you help your depressed spouse or family member?
Some partners tell their loved one to ‘harden up’ or ‘get over it’, which only exasperates the situation. Ideally, if your loved one has depression, you can assist them by encouraging them to see a doctor for possible medication and a psychologist or counsellor for therapy. Keep talking to your spouse, keep listening, avoid nasty ‘put down’ comments. As depression is not just ‘in the mind’; it is physical as well, be gentle and assist where you can in practical ways around the household. Being empathetic is important, but knowing helpful strategies is essential.
I have a tool in my 2nd book, Are You Listening? Life is Talking to You, that I encourage you to use, called The Crisis/ Life Balance Wheel.
Ask yourself the following questions about your loved one (related to 8 vital areas):
- Thought Patterns (Are their thoughts mostly positive or negative?)
- Self Esteem (Do they have strong self-esteem?)
- Past Grief and Loss (Are they frequently emotional over a past loss or physical or emotional trauma?)
- Emotions (Are their emotions mostly positive or negative?)
- Brain Chemistry (Are they eating well and exercising at least 3 times weekly to improve brain neurotransmitters?)
- Support Networks (Do they have friends they regularly socialize with?)
- Passions (Are they regularly enjoying passions/hobbies?)
- Lifestyle/Career (Do they enjoy their daily activities and are they suffering any financial stress?).
When using this Crisis/Life Balance Wheel for assessment, I ask the client to give me a Coping/Not Coping, response, which I translate to tick or a cross. (In my book, I offer strategies for these eight vital areas). When working with depression, It’s all about firstly identifying, then strengthening, areas where a person is not coping well.
What are the signs of suicidal thinking?
Tragically, a person who is not coping in five or more of these 8 x areas is likely to be experiencing suicidal thinking, so be brave and ask them if they have had any suicidal thoughts. If they have had suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately and give them Lifeline phone no. 13 11 14 in Australia). Other signs that your loved one may be suicidal may include: feeling hopeless, useless, or saying their goodbyes, giving away possessions, putting legal affairs in order, or talking about dying frequently.
How medicine and therapy can help?
What causes depression? Science suggests that depression is related to an imbalance in the levels of the following neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, and that depression can be hereditary.
So, does depression cause the imbalance in these neurotransmitters, which has a negative impact on the person’s life OR does the life imbalance cause the imbalance in the neurotransmitters, which causes the depression? It is very much like the chicken and the egg – which came first?
Your doctor can assist with antidepressant medication, which often works well in improving the balance of neurotransmitters. However, we need to work on two levels:
- Keep these brain chemistry levels correct.
- Equip the depressed loved one with strategies for better coping with their relationships and life.
Many of my hundreds of counselling sessions have involved a client with depression. When you know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to help yourself, you can make a huge change in your own, and your loved one’s life. If your loved one has depression, they are drowning…so give them a life line by being supporting, loving, and empathetic, and guide them to get help.
Keep talking, keep listening and keep the connection strong between you and your loved one. Now that you know more about what your loved one is going through, and that depression is an illness, not a choice, this should help you remain empathetic. With therapeutic strategies, lots of love, hope, and support, you should be able to help your loved one improve their life balance, so they can become connected to you, and life, again… which is the direct opposite of depression.Learn More
Author: Phoebe Hutchison
Know what the causes are, and what you can do, to avoid, or cure, depression.
Almost twenty years ago one of my close friends also took his life after not coping with depression. I could not save my friend all those years ago because I didn’t understand depression. However, now as a crisis counsellor and author, I work weekly with clients who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and some have suicidal thoughts. And after five years research (for my latest book), and counselling many clients with depression, I believe I finally UNDERSTAND this illness.
Most of society is focused on the SYMPTOMS of depression, and not the CAUSES.
In conjunction with prescription medication prescribed by a doctor, and any existing mental health plans, I believe we need to go deeper; to the core of depression and address the UNDERLYING issues that contribute to, and are sustaining, the depression.
Most people have heard that depression is a ‘mental illness’, believed to be based on chemical imbalances in the brain… But what causes these chemical balances?
I believe MANY things contribute to these imbalances.
I look at the client’s life holistically, and assess these 8 specific areas from The Crisis Wheel (see my book, Are You Listening? Life Is Talking to YOU for more information) to get to the core of the depression:
If you or someone you know has depression, ask these 8 simple questions:
- Thought Patterns:
Are they predominantly positive or negative?
- Self Esteem:
How do you see yourself, in the roles you play? Is it overall positive or negative?
- Past unresolved grief/loss/trauma?
Is anything keeping you from living in the present? Fear of the future?
- Emotional status:
What is your most common emotional status? Is it positive or negative?
- Brain Chemicals (exercise/nutrition/prescription and non-prescription drugs):
Do you eat well and exercise frequently?
- Support Networks (family relationships, partner, friends):
Do you feel supported, loved and appreciated? Do you have enough friends? Do you need some relationship strategies?
Are you following your passions? Do you allow time for YOU in your life?
- Lifestyle stressors (career / finances):
Do you work at a job you enjoy? Are finances getting you down?
I then give strategies for the specific areas that are in need of help.
These strategies (all included in my book) include: transforming the subconscious patterns, natural ways to improve brain neurotransmitters, self-assessment, conflict management, assertiveness training (as most people with depression are also oppressed!), psychological therapies such as CBT, mindfulness, grief therapy, gestalt, person centered therapy, understanding and processing emotions, anger management, techniques to minimize fear, changing attitudes to money, fine tuning intuition, rapidly changing negative thought patterns, increasing self-esteem… and much more!
If you are struggling in five or more areas in The Crisis Wheel, suicidal thoughts are likely, so changes need to be made FAST. I find my methods fast, effective and my clients and readers are thrilled with the transformations; usually within weeks!
Here are two small videos, if you want to learn more about my new book, Are You Listening? Life is Talking to YOU, which is jam packed with strategies to help people cope:
The Book Outline – Topics: http://youtu.be/3gYZTH7MDPI (2 min)
Book Trailer – Overview : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlSsRHr28P4 (1 min)
* Please SHARE this INFORMATION so more people with depression can experience HOPE and CHANGE – It is my goal to reduce world-wide suicide rates, by helping more people to cope with life and it’s challenges*
Too many people are taking their lives. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. I have seen these strategies work, time and time again.
Some recent feedback from readers:
‘Finally, I can see that depression doesn’t need to be a life sentence.’
‘People think I’m crazy (because the ideas are unconventional), but I DON’T care, because I am finally happy.’
Another reader, who was suicidal, said, ‘I hardly feel those sad feelings anymore.’
Make this life, YOUR LIFE, be the best it can be. Take YOUR POWER back!Learn More
Better understand the causes, impact, and solutions, of anxiety.
© 2016 Phoebe Hutchison
I’ve lived with anxiety; I previously had panic attacks. I understand the helplessness, the frustration, and feeling out of control, not to mention the numb face, the blurred vision, and confused thinking. Nowadays, as a crisis counsellor and author of two self-help books, I help many clients with anxiety. I know you can improve. How? I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it. You don’t have to be trapped in this state forever… but you DO need to seek help.
Symptoms of Anxiety:
Your heart races; you get the sweats… Your mind is uncontrollable, often racing or forgetful; it’s difficult to concentrate. Your adrenal glands are often at full speed, and you are reacting with ‘fight and flight’ too often. You feel like at any moment you could malfunction or explode, so you avoid many situations and people. Your emotions are often out of control; the panic overcomes you, and with it you may feel disconnected from your surroundings, dizzy, sick in the stomach, or have chest pains. Your sleep and appetite are disrupted, leaving you feeling unwell and fatigued.
Impact of Anxiety:
This anxiety may impact your work, relationships, belief in yourself, and trust in life. Many people with anxiety ‘self-medicate’ or attempt to escape, with drugs or alcohol. Sadly, drugs or alcohol further add to the neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. You feel mental, but you are not! You are a victim of circumstance. You are still suffering from the past intolerable situation that has become deeply ingrained in your subconscious. (Most people don’t understand you… I do. There is help).
Causes of Anxiety:
At the heart of most anxiety is trauma, even from ten or twenty years ago. But the impact of the trauma is deeply ingrained in your subconscious, causing a fear based belief system which has changed your perception of life and impacted your speech, behaviour, and reality.
What are some possible reasons for your anxiety?
- Childhood abuse (Physical, Verbal or Sexual)
- Witnessing a traumatic incident
- Being involved in a car accident
- Negative thinking (habitual)
- Abusive relationship (Past or current)
- Diagnosed Conditions: Depression, OCD, PTSD, Personality Disorders, Bi-Polar, etc,.
- Acquired brain injury or Large blow to head
- Past heavy drug or alcohol abuse
- Past Bullying
- Past trauma when you felt powerless – Event or Natural Disaster
Impact of Trauma:
When traumatized, you will often have flashbacks, sleep disruption, nightmares, avoidance of people and places, anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and maybe thoughts of suicide.
When you have significant trauma, your body replays the traumas like a record player that is stuck – your trauma plays over and over. As a consequence, your body gets trapped in the world of triggers. You may frequently find yourself becoming hypervigilant, fearful, jumpy, on edge, and of course, angry. It doesn’t take much, and you are like a volcano erupting. Standard counselling techniques may not be enough to end this torment. Your anxiety may be the result of years of trauma, or it could be a part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, where you have been in a ‘life death’ situation. Maybe you didn’t view an event as serious, but your mind/body are still having trouble resolving and processing this. You need an expert in trauma; or someone who is trained in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or someone who works on three levels: Mind, Subconscious Mind and Body. (More on this later).
What can you do to help yourself right now?
- LISTEN TO AND CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS
With over 70,000 thoughts per day, this is going to be a challenge. You have been programmed by friends, family, teachers, and life, to see yourself and life a certain way – either negative or positive. You are also programming yourself every day. It’s vital to listen to your thoughts, to ensure you are not criticising yourself or having making incorrect assumptions about circumstances. You may need help, using CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) with a counsellor or psychologist, to improve your thoughts, to ensure you don’t get into the habit of ‘black and white’ thinking, etc., which just inflames anxiety.
Aim for at least three 30 minute brisk walks per week, to improve the balance of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. These are key in improving you sense of well-being. Also, when you exercise, you are actively reducing cortisol, which is a stress hormone that makes anxiety worse. In addition, exercise creates endorphins, which is nature’s way of making you feel great, and emotionally more resilient.
- GIVE YOUR BODY REST
Anxiety causes an overload on many of your organs, your nervous system, and your adrenal glands. Try listening to music or using meditation to slow down or distract yourself from erratic thoughts. Take time out daily, just for you, to focus on relaxation, your hobbies, and rejuvenating. Support your overwhelmed body, to stay well and avoid illness that is common from anxiety. Rest the body, and the mind will follow.
- EAT HEALTHY AND REGULAR MEALS
Quality carbohydrates and proteins are key to improving your serotonin levels, ensuring you have continued strength, and that your blood sugar levels are more consistent. Many people with anxiety skip meals, and don’t eat well, adding to the overload on the body.
- SIT IN THE SUN
Aim for fifteen minutes daily in the sun. This is great to help you absorb vitamin D, and make you more relaxed. Being kind to yourself is key to changing your life. When you start with small steps, these can become big steps.
- LIVE FOR YOU
Constantly ask yourself, ‘What do I feel like doing right now?’ Too many people live for others, leaving them feeling controlled or overwhelmed. When you feel unheard, disrespected, or manipulated, this sense of powerlessness only adds to your fatigue, and contributes to anxiety. Take your power back.
- ASK FOR HELP
ealthy emotional boundaries are important in improving our emotions. If you need help, reach out for help. Anxiety is exhausting, and you may need help in many areas of your life, while you are transitioning.
- STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF
You didn’t ask to be traumatized, did you? No-one asks for anxiety. This happened TO you. It’s not your fault, but you can get help. You are not inadequate; you are suffering. You usually can’t fix this alone. Reach out for help.
- SEE YOUR DOCTOR
See your doctor and ask for the Mental Health Plan, so that you may get FREE (or subsidized) 6-10 sessions with a psychologist who specialized in trauma and anxiety. The doctor may recommend medication to improve an imbalance of neurotransmitters in your brain, such as Serotonin or Dopamine.
- GO DEEP – GET PROFESSONAL HELP FOR YOUR TRAUMA WITH A SPECIALIST
Following are three techniques that can help reduce trauma, by working not just with thoughts…but working with The Mind, The Subconscious Mind and The Body. These ‘deep’ methods have caused many, (including myself), to experience profound healing and change. Feel free to Google or YouTube these techniques, to learn more and find the psychologist/therapist in your area that specializes in one of these three techniques:
(Founder Peter Levine): Learn to heal trauma by working with a somatic trained therapist to regulate emotions and body, in the here and now.
EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization
(Founder Dr Shapiro): Learn to heal trauma by re-processing the memories in the subconscious, by working with a therapist trained in EMDR.
(Founder David Grand): Learn how the eyes and subconscious work together to find the spots of trauma in the subconscious, then release and re-process these emotions and trauma by working with a therapist trained in Brainspotting. www.brainspottingaustraliapacific.com.au
Healing the past I want you to really enjoy your life and experience more peace, control, and happiness, without daily panic and anxiety. My second book, Are You Listening? Life is Talking to You, has helped many feel re-connected to life again. It all starts with you… I want you to have the best life possible, and for that reason, I spent five years writing this book – for those in crisis. Twenty years ago, I was in crisis. With these tools, and with a little help from a trauma expert, healing is possible.Learn More
Why Addicts Need Love
© 2018 Phoebe Hutchison
Working with people who have addiction is by far the most complex of all counselling. Why?
When I sit with someone who has an addiction, they usually have so many other complications; whether
it be food addiction, sex addiction, or drug and alcohol addiction. The addict usually also has anxiety, depression
and/or relationship issues, as well as self dislike and financial struggle.They often feel helpless, angry, and trapped
in this cycle.
Most of these people started life with trauma, instability, neglect or abuse in their childhood. From this, their
brains and nervous systems developed differently. Their reward pathways respond differently. And when they finally
find ‘that thing’ that gives them the escape, pleasure, or the peace, their unstable nervous system and brain feel
stable – they become ‘hooked’, and life becomes a ‘hell roller coaster’ of pleasure, pain, escapism, avoidance,
disconnection and shame.
Drugs or alcohol start as fun for most people, but … the man who spent years partying with friends, now sits
alone smoking cones in his bedroom at his parent’s house… in his fifties. The pretty girl at high school is now in her
forties, injecting herself with heroin, with a scarred face, no work, and suffers chronic anxiety and depression,
claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and struggles to leave the house.
The partes and the fun ended decades ago, and now these lives are like warzones.
Often the addiction starts in their formative years, even as young as eight. The addiction becomes so integrated
into their identity that it becomes a part of how they see them self as they grow, develop and socialize.
I view addiction as a pair of invisible crutches that a person uses to help them through a tough time.
However, they are often unable to release the crutches without professional help, and as a consequence, they
do not heal all the invisible wounds.
Addiction is the warzone that causes scars and turmoil in: self-esteem, thought patterns, unresolved grief,
emotional vulnerability, poor nutrition and low fitness, social isolation, avoidance of hobbies and passions.
The addict is often not happy with themself or what they do in life.
So how can we help someone who is addicted?
I believe professional help is needed for this complicated area. An empathetic and capable addiction
counsellor will work with the client to ensure that first of all this person has the help they need for them to feel
more stable, loved, confident and more engaged in life. Once the client has many coping strategies, and he or
she can begin to see hope for the future. The counsellor can then help this person rebuild their life from the ground up.
When the addict is able to see themself in a more positive way, when they can have more positive thoughts,
they will start to repair their life and move closer to being able to ‘let go’ of their addiction. The healing comes
before the release.
In my job as a drug and alcohol counsellor, I have helped clients into full recovery from: crystal methamphetamine (ice),
marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol, and I have been thanked by these clients for ‘giving them their life back’. I am simply
guiding them, and giving them the tools, for a fulfilling life, and in many cases, doing trauma release work. Essentially,
though, the client is doing the work – which is changing mind, body and soul.
When we heal… and when we love what we do, who we are, and when we have hope for a better future, we no
longer need to keep escaping with addiction.
Once we work through the grief, the trauma, the horrors of what we have been through, the beautiful soul underneath
is free to simply enjoy life and be present in each moment. No ‘long term’ drug addict truly wants to be a drug addict.
I don’t believe that long term addicts enjoy being addicts. The habits of addiction can be stopped. Once an addict sees
themself with love, the healing journey begins. A drug and alcohol counsellor is not someone there to tick the boxes.
A drug and alcohol counsellor, in my opinion, is a counsellor who is worthy to help heal the most complicated in all
human suffering… The addict.
I sneak into your life, and you believe that I am your friend, a safe place, that I’ll numb you or make you feel amazing. I’ll give you energy so that you can do things that you can’t do without me. I promise you that I’ll be there, so we can soar together through the highest of highs. I am reliable; I deliver. I am there whenever you need me.
But I’ll steal your soul, take away all that’s important to you while you are not looking. I’ll turn you into an angry, unstable, and abusive person. I’ll hijack your brain, and I’ll make you obsess about me. Instead of food, sleep, people… you’ll prefer to sit alone with me.
I’ll turn you into a liar too. You’ll lie to others to hide our relationship, and you’ll lie to yourself, saying I’m good for you. As you waste away in your body, you’ll tell yourself that you’re not addicted to me; that you can stop any time you want. You think I’ve been there through all the good times in your life, and I make life fun. However, I have simply hijacked your brain, and am nothing more than a brain chemical cocktail that your neurotransmitters and reward pathway have become accustomed to.
When we met, you were in your teens, and we had fun together. We’d go out, we’d party hard, the times we had were unbelievable. It’s over 20 years later, and those highs haven’t really been there have they?
I don’t give to you, all I do is take, and if you’re not careful, I will take your friends, family, finances, job, and I may take your life. Once upon a time, I made you feel invincible, yet now you hate yourself because of what you’ve become… because of what I make you do. I give you obsessional thoughts and cravings and make you feel out of your mind, sometimes even psychotic. With me, you may do things you will regret, such as cheat on your partner, rape, bash, steal, degrade or even prostitute yourself.
The more you hate yourself, the more you turn to me. I create a divide in your soul. You can see glimpses of a life without me. Yet, the time that I give you, in peaceful bliss, numbed out or high, is so small compared to the hours and hours you have to suffer waiting for us to get together again. I give you more pain than pleasure. I constantly lie to you, I’m inside your head, in your brain. I don’t care about you. It doesn’t worry me that you could end up living in a shack, with no money for food, or become homeless. You are on a rollercoaster of emotions. Yet, I tell you over and over, that this is life; other people are to blame, it is not you, as we are a team.
I am one of the cruellest things on this earth, yet I can be purchased in a bottle but just $40, or from a dealer for less than $100 bucks. Our relationship can end, but we may need professional help. We are complicated! You can do it! Millions have recovered. You don’t need me. You’re 100% better off without me. I won’t even miss you. I’ve got millions of other people’s lives to destroy.
When you stop lying to yourself about us, we can go separate ways. Neuroplasticity will change the structure of your brain, and receptor cells will drop off. Most of what I’ve stolen from you will return. You’ll have more friends, money, better relationships with your family, you’ll be able to work better, stop lying to yourself, and most importantly of all, you’ll start to like yourself again. You will feel whole, but you will have to learn how to cope with your emotions, rebuild your relationships, set new goals, and much more, to recover from me, a liar called Addiction. Once you like yourself enough, and you get help, you will experience amazing healing. I will become a distant memory, and you will be the driver in your life again!
© 2020 Phoebe Hutchison