Healing in a health pandemic

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Let me share a secret about me that many of you may not know or have only suspected.

I have been suffering from moderate to severe depression since 2006. There have been times when it was so bad it took all of my focused effort just to get out of bed and go through the basic motions of the day. I have seen numerous psychologists, psychiatrists and even a neurologist. I’ve been on many of the major antidepressant medications with little or no effect.

Most of those drugs have left me feeling emotionally flat. I feel neutral most of the time and can easily dip deep into negative feelings such as sadness or anger. On rare occasion I can feel brief spikes of positive feelings, but they’re short-lived. Most of the time I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

No more!

Something extraordinary happened to me in April and May while I was on furlough from my job during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

I got better. I dare say I’ve been healed.

Only time will tell for sure, but at the time of this writing I feel great. I owe it in large part to a relatively new treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS utilizes focused magnetic pulses to awaken parts of the brain that become inactive in depression. Not only is there a chemical imbalance in the brain when depression strikes, but there is a part of the brain that physically slows down or shuts down. The magnetic pulses stimulate this part of the brain and in some cases develops new neuropathways that allow the emotional center of the brain to operate the way it is supposed to.

At first I thought this was some kind of new age hocus-pocus, but it has had U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval since 2008 and a lot of positive testimonials.

Prearranged before I had any clue that I was about to be sidelined from my job, I was scheduled to begin TMS treatment on April 6. The treatment required 36 sessions lasting about 20 minutes each. I went each weekday for six weeks and then tapered off the last three weeks. I was really stressed at how I was going to fit this into my busy schedule when God cleared my calendar with a furlough.

I did my treatments at Greenbrook TMS in Richmond under the care of Dr. Aqeel Hashmi. Actually, I had very few interactions with him. Each day I was treated by technician Coty Bishop, who was very jovial and friendly. I really appreciate his professionalism and encouragement.

TMS was only a part of what I did for my health in those two months off, but it was about the only thing with measurable results. I was tested weekly about my mood and the charts show very significant improvement. The difficult part for me is figuring out how much of my recovery is from TMS and how much is from everything else I’ve been doing.

My journey began back the day before Thanksgiving when I started on a keto diet. Not only have I lost more than 35 pounds so far, but I’ve been eating healthier than I have at any time in my life. On top of the improved diet, I’ve also been walking one to two miles a day. I helped my son Colton with his hiking merit badge for Scouts and we did three 10-mile hikes, a 15-mile, and a 20-mile hike.

I’ve also taken advantage of the time to get adequate sleep at night. It’s incredible what an extra hour or two a night will do for you.

When you factor all these things together, it’s no wonder that I’m feeling so much better and am much more energized. I highly doubt all of this would have happened if it were not for the pandemic putting my job on hold. This recovery is something I’ve hoped for and prayed over for a long time. I honestly believe the timing is an act of God. I believe my good mood and improved health are the product of all these things working in concert with each other. Each part is important and plays a vital role.

I offer this testimony in hopes that it will encourage someone else who is dealing with depression and struggling to get by. There is hope! I can’t reclaim the 14 years depression took from me, but I can plan on a future with peace, joy, and happiness back in my life and you can too!

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