Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bipolar Wellness Walker (Part 1)

When I’m depressed, exercise is one of the last things I feel like doing. Years ago I asked my psychiatrist (who I saw for four years) whether exercise would help alleviate depression. He said, “There is no evidence to support that it does.”

Of course, he has since been proven wrong. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center studied 156 depressed patients 50 and older and found that after 16 weeks, those who exercised showed significant improvement compared to those who either took medication alone or those who combined medication and exercise.

In a six-month follow-up study, Duke psychologists found that depression returned in only 8 percent of the patients in the exercise group, versus 38 percent for the drug-only group and 31 percent for the drug and exercise combined group.

And Dr. Robert N. Butler, President of the International Longevity Center at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City, said, “If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be the number one anti-aging medicine and the number one anti-depression medicine.”

Still, for those of us who suffer from depression, motivating ourselves to exercise when we can barely get out of bed, isn’t easy.

During one of my worst depressive episodes--it lasted a year--I tried swimming—which I have always found to be the very best exercise when I’m feeling low—but it was impossible to sustain because my brother, who had the only swimming pool I had access to, refused to let me use it after I was remiss in returning the pass-key to the communal pool in his gated community. Unbelievable, huh? Talk about an absence of brotherly love but that’s a different story.

During most depressions, I always try to walk but it’s usually surprisingly difficult. Given that it’s easy to do, doesn’t require any equipment, and I can do it alone, when I’m well, it’s impossible to imagine the obstacles.

But those of you who have suffered severe depression may be able to relate to my best “trying to walk when I was depressed” story.

(to be continued)

P.S. The graphic is by Czech artist Veronika Holcova.

3 comments:

Marie said...

Susan,
I have found in the past that exercise is a good thing when you are depressed (maybe I should try it). Excecise releases certain brain chemicals which make nerve cells balance better.

zawadi said...

I wanted to stop and say that you have a very nice Blog and thank you for educating more people just by speaking about yourself. I am trying to heal by talking with others who are coping and maintaining a "normal" life. Sometimes even blogging about it is hard lol.
There are so many things going on inside my head it never seems to come out with any order.
I am still learning how to cope and write.
Thanks for Blogging about this Subject.
Best of Luck
zawadi

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Zawadi,
You're welcome. It does take time to figure things out. A really good site for you to check out is One Year of Writing and Healing. It's written by a doctor of integrative medicine, who's a friend. She offers great advice and provides a wondrful book list.

Susan