by Shari Rhodes

Depression is a debilitating illness that strikes about 25% of women and 10% of all men at some point in their lives. Research is indicating that these figures are on the rise in the Western Countries. Common symptoms can include feelings in hopelessness, helplessness, dejection, despair, isolation, misunderstanding, anger, disconnection and low self-esteem. Many people can feel confused and unmotivated. Their dreams and ambitions seem suddenly unimportant like nothing has meaning or purpose. Many people challenged by depression can feel a deep sense of emptiness as if they have lost their identity or sense of purpose or inspiration. There is no reason to live. There is no point to the life game. It’s all empty, useless and meaningless. Why bother when nothing will ever change.

Many people dealing with depression feel like they are sucked inside a black hole and can't find a way out. They find it hard to push out into the world, socialize and share their feelings. Sometimes they feel overwhelmed by the world, their relationships and responsibilities and don’t know how to change their sense of reality. This black mood can be encompassing and all consuming with negative self-deprecating spinning thoughts, self-beat up and a marked lack of self-confidence. The person can become their own worst enemy suffering inside a silent war zone of their own, wanting to sabotage and tear themselves and everything down around them. Many people with depression can’t stop the pain and feel so hopeless, they feel parlayed or even suicidal and feel the only way to end the pain is to end their life. Inside the hole, the pain seems like it will never end and the blackness will take over negating everything that is good.

There is still a lot of judgment and misunderstanding about mental illness and mood disorders in our society. People who are not in the medical or the counseling profession or who do not have first hand experience dealing with depression may not understand what its like inside the “black hole”. For some people, there is still the message to get over it. Others may say, “put on a brave face, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop being a drama queen and pull yourself together” as if depression can be controlled. However depression is a medical condition that is not easily controlled.

There are many triggers that can bring on depression. Often depression and other mood disorders can have a genetic basis and run in families. A gene can be passed down the genealogical line that can be a precursor to low levels of serotonin (most common for women) or dopamine often in the frontal lobe (most common for men). Just as we see alcoholism, heart disease, breast cancer and other medical conditions that can be hereditary, so too is mental illness.

There can also be a neulogical basis such as having low levels of neurotransmitters or catecholamine in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenalin, acetylcholine and betaendorphins. Sometimes the re-uptake and dispersion of these chemicals at the neuroreceptor sites can be sluggish and the chemicals don’t get utilized properly. At the synaptic pathway these neurochemicals can spill out into the bloodstream without being properly utilized by the neurons or passed on by the dendrites and sent to the areas they are needed. As a result, the precious stores become depleted and the person will feel down.

In medical science, there is still no absolute way to know where these neurochemical shortages or depletions are and what synaptic pathways are being affected. It’s like unraveling a needle in the haystack. This is why psychotropic medication or antidepressants such as the SSRIs and MAO inhibitors are not always effective in treating depression. Everyone’s brain is different in terms of nerve transmission, how the neurochemicals are stored and the location where the depletion is occurring. Sometimes the effectiveness of neurochemical processing and utilization can change in different regions of the cerebrum. How we process these vital neurochemicals is not always the same. There are millions of synaptic pathways, neuroreceptor sites and dendrites, the fault can be anywhere and can shift places and change.

Environment factors can also contribute to depression. Life events challenge us all from time to time. Especially with the current economic recession and the rising cost of petrol, food and housing, many of us are feeling stressed trying to survive, pay bills and simply keep it all together. Research indicates that a prolonged external stress or trigger that cannot be easily figured out or rectified can cause a depressive episode. Key traumatic events such as a divorce or breakup, an accident, illness or loss of a loved one, no money, losing a job or any major life change can trigger depression. Some of us feel stressed and down being alone and not finding the right partner. Others may feel depressed by being in an intimate relationship and having too many conflicts resulting in a no win situation and an endless cycle of frustration with no resolution. With any of these challenges, it’s easy to get bitter and jaded and feel disheartened, disillusioned and frustrated about life.

Often we have a picture of how we think life should be versus what it is. When the disparity between reality and our hopes and dreams becomes too great, we fall down. Some of us may feel discouraged thinking its too late, I’m too old, unattractive, there is not enough money, I have a family to raise, I don’t have the energy, resources or intelligence to follow my dreams. Some of us come to a place or recognition that life simply is not what we thought it would be and that can threaten to break the spirit and the will to go on.

During depression, many people turn to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and other mood altering substances to try to emotionally lift up, relax or escape their feelings. However these substances have an opposite effect by wreaking havoc on the neurochemicals in the brain, jacking the nervous system, blood sugar and cortisol levels and then causing a plummeting affect soon afterward. Though cocaine and speed can over stimulate the nervous system with too much adrenaline, the depletion afterwards actually lowers serotonin and dopamine. The stimulant Methamphetamine (speed, crystal meth, cocaine, P) can have some long-term side effects such as kidney failure, lung disorders, brain damage and depression. By over stimulating the release of dopamine, it can cause violent, aggressive behavior and depression. Long-term use of alcohol, which works as a sedative and is processed by the liver, can also cause depression. As alcohol passes into the bloodstream and then to the brain, at first the person feels relaxed and confident, but after a few more drinks, looses coordination and reaction time. As a result, depression can occur. The same is true with marijuana. After smoking, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and plasma, which can be stored in body fat for up to several months. Long-term use of marijuana can also lead to mood disorders. Though these intoxicants can feel pleasurable at first, continued use can cause depletions of vital neorochemicals resulting in many of us feeling wasted, exhausted, strung out, toxic and depressed.

However many people dealing with depression are extremely bright, intelligent, intuitive, creative and sensitive. Often they feel so much energy in the outside world and within themselves, they feel overwhelmed and overloaded. They can feel the issues and feelings of those around them and not know how to shut themselves off and protect themselves from unwanted energies. Just going into public places can feel like too much. It then becomes a boundary issue of how to turn off and not feel so much. For some people dealing with depression, it’s important to create a safe space for a time out to rest, nurture and regroup. Spending alone time in nature or by the sea can be really nourishing. It’s also important to be creative and express all that intense emotional energy that is being internalized inside. It’s important to create an outlet to express that energy so it doesn’t build and overload the body, to move the energy and get outside, exercise, walk, do yoga, dance, weight training, run and get the blood pumping. It’s also important to find ways to creatively express what’s inside such as writing, singing, drawing, building or designing something that connects you back to you.

It is challenging to manage depression on our own. During the major episodes, it is important to reach out for support and talk to a doctor, psychiatrist, health practitioner, partner, family or friend. There are many resources available to support depression in New Zealand such as counseling, support groups, CADS, The Cat Team, The Help Foundation, Lifeline, twelve step programs, The Seeker House, Man Alive, The Women’s centre, Massage, Acupuncture, energy work, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hypnosis or NLP. It’s important to reach out and talk to someone, rather than bottling up feelings, cutting off and feeling alone. Dealing with depression, it is important not to lie in bed. On the backside, it is too easy to stay in the black hole and spin endlessly in the doom and gloom. Often the picture intensifies as we keep thinking about our issues and difficulties. Make the decision to get up and move the energy.

Do something creative or exercise (great for serotonin!) Do something you enjoy. Spend time with a friend. Have fun. Mix with people. Seek help outside yourself. Don’t lie in it. Take action. Do something practical, possibly a task around the house. Research. Find out as much as you can about depression. Get the facts. Keep a journal. Find out what is upsetting you. Make a list of things to do that you enjoy. Draw your depression. What does it look like? What are the triggers? Does it have a pattern? Look at what makes you tired and what inspires you? Take a look at your life. Ask yourself, “What is my depression about? How can I change this? What do I need to include in my life to make it better? If I had six months to live, what would I be doing and creating? Do I have too much stress in my life and if so, what do I need to change to create more free time to look after myself? Am I doing what I enjoy? What juices my soul? How am I feeling physically? How are my hormones? Do I need iron? Do I need to do a blood work up to see that all my organ functions and mineral levels are in balance? Having a mineral imbalance, a toxic liver, low thyroid function or low blood sugar can all contribute to depression. Ask yourself how is my diet? Am I consuming too much coffee, sugar, junk food or alcohol? Am I driving myself too hard and working too much? Am I pushing my adrenals and nervous system too hard? Where do I feel the pressure? Am I sensitive to the weather patterns and lack of sunshine (seasonal affective disorder)? Do I need a vacation, to spend more time outside or order a light box? How is my relationship? What do I need to do to make it better? It’s important to bring in others for support. Depression can be a lot to hold for your partner.

The truth is we are all in this life together. We are not alone. Many people suffer from depression. When we reach out and share ourselves, it helps others to do the same. It’s about coming out of hiding, offering each other support and having the courage to be who we are. When we are honest about our feelings, it gives others permission to express their personal truth, and in this authentic sharing, we feel less alone. The key to depression is expression and connection. It’s about being seen and acknowledged for the beautiful souls that we are. We are important. We do make a difference. We all have a place. The depth of feelings and perception at the centre of depression is often the vital juice of inspiration for dynamic creation. It’s about turning that energy outward in creative expression. When we allow ourselves our full emotional expression, even from that dark place of depression, it can help us make a bit more sense of our journey and find deeper meaning.

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Shari Rhodes has been an international Intuitive Reader for the past 30 years. She is currently a citizen of both the United States and New Zealand. Shari’s purpose is to support people to grow and move forward in a positive direction with greater clarity, self-empowerment and self-confidence. She offers readings, workshops and public talks. She is available for sessions in person or over the phone at (027) 6295469 You can email Shari at,, or visit her website at