Living Around the Blues

When the people around you suffer.

Snake Oil and Wrinkle Therapy

The sometimes outlandish ''cures" proffered in the treament of Depression

Botox Appears to Ease Depression announces a newspaper headline. The doctor who made the claim observes, "Maybe the frown is not just an end result of the depression; maybe you need to frown in order to be depressed."

Is that all it takes then? To lift a mood so catastrophically compromised it can result in hospital admission? Innoculate your expression against misery and irritation? How simplistic. It offers false hope and trivializes a sometimes life-threatening condition that directly affects an estimated 19 million Americans.

It smacks too much of Smile! Chin Up! (frown out, presumably?) to be taken seriously.

John Diamond, a British journalist who died of cancer and who recounted the story of his illness in a book, Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations, describes the numerous alternative therapies that the sick and dying feel compelled to resort to in a bid to beat their illness when conventional medicine has - apparently - failed.

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It smacks of desperation. Of course it does. And it's completely understandable: that a person would go to what are, when regarded rationally (a view point that is denied those trying urgently to hang onto life), utterly absurd. (Especially if they're dismissed as nuts, for God's sake!). Why would a diet of grated carrot and beetroot save a life where chemotherapy and radiation and the best brains in the field of oncology have failed?

Depression isn't so different. And the ‘'cures'' touted are no less outlandish.

Mum has employed in her fight against Depression, over the years, conventional drug therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, fish oils, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy (indeed a whole gamut of talk therapies) and assertiveness classes (as if learning to say No! loudly and emphatically would keep Depression at bay). She could have employed hypnotherapy, light therapy and magnetic therapy (the ones on your fridge, by the way, won't do the trick) had her energy for therapy per se not begun to, understandably, pall a little.

But we keep going. She keeps taking her meds. I keep updated with the research. Google obliges by delivering emailed alerts to my in-box each morning bringing to attention the latest developments in the treatment of Depression. Sometimes hopeful and plausible. Sometimes far-fetched, the stuff of science fiction. Sometimes unorthodox, so that they make me gasp in disbelief.  Or laugh. Like today: Botox? For Depression? (And then like an outraged adolescent I react: Oh puhleeeese!) Chocolate? Come on! That's not news; we all know chocolate lifts a mood. Momentarily. Until you look down in disgust and dismay and realize you've eaten a whole family sized bar of Fruit and Nut yourself, at which point you're filled with self-loathing (and Cadbury's Fruit n' Nut, of course). Nicotine? Steady on. Oxygen Optimizing through Deep Breathing? How can you when you're tight-chested with anxiety? Clearing brain plaque. Did you even know you could accumulate plaque there? Thought it was just the stuff you flossed from your teeth? Gardening cures Depression, I read (and whilst I don't doubt that getting out to weed a bed or pick some peonies will lift a mood, I remain unconvinced it will shift real-life, full-blown, properly-diagnosed clinical Depression). And, perhaps most middle-ages madcap of all: self-flagellation: Russian scientists recommend the following course of the whipping therapy: 30 sessions of 60 whips on the buttocks in every procedure ...

But occassionally, when the worry and the frustration and the futility of my place in all this threatens to overwhelm I come close to abandoning sense - as Diamond accurately anticipated the desperate amongst us do - and am tempted to place faith in eccentric answers to Mum's deadweight problem.

Cure your depression in three minutes boasts an online advert.

Three minutes?

Three minutes!

It's taken Mum three decades and she's still battling.

Three minutes sounds too good to be true. Especially when I read that the promise can be secured with the purchase, for $97 only (all major credit cards conveniently accepted), of a video instructing her how to rid her life of Depression and antidepressants.

So whilst I understand the lengths we are driven to to seek a cure, and whilst I have little doubt that erasing lines wrought of age and tiredness and stress lift a person's spirits. I doubt very much that they dislodge the demon Depression which manifests itself much deeper than just beneath the surface of the skin.

 

 

 

Anthea Rowan is a British journalist based in Tanzania.

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