In school, we study a lot of different subjects in order to get a well-rounded education that helps us to understand the world around us from different perspectives. Yet when it comes to our mental health, it’s easy to to narrow our focus and come at the issue from one very specific direction. Treatment providers can certainly contribute to this by emphasizing one particular approach over all others. Working in the field of psychiatry, I’ve certainly encountered people who see meds as the be all and end all, but this sort of tunnel vision is by no means unique to the medical system. There is also the opposite approach that is fervently against standard medical approaches, which can be equally problematic.
What if instead we took a holistic approach to mental health, coming at it from as many different angles as we could? There are many treatment modalities that do not have to be mutually exclusive. Certainly medications and certain types of psychotherapy have a strong scientific evidence base, but there are many alternative strategies that can be incorporated into a holistic approach that not only targets illness but aims for wellness. I will elaborate more on these other strategies in future posts, but for now I’ll just say that the more tools we can add to our toolbox the better off we are.
Knowing whether a particular treatment is likely to work in a given population is useful on a broader level, but the science isn’t quite there yet to know what specific treatment will work for a specific individual. We can’t know what will or won’t work for us until we try it. For example, I’ve found that, despite being a huge proponent of psychotherapies such as CBT in my professional practice, in my personal experience it just hasn’t felt like a good fit for me. Does that mean there’s something wrong with CBT? Absolutely not; it’s just not a piece in my puzzle at this point in time.
My current wellness plan includes:
- medications: two antidepressants, lithium, an antipsychotic, and a stimulant
- naturopathy: L-methylfolate injections, omega-3 fatty acids
- anti-inflammatory diet
- massage therapy
Medications play an important role in managing the way that my depressive illness manifests, and I am lucky to have found a med cocktail that makes me feel more like myself and doesn’t cause a lot of side effects. Still, targeting the symptoms of my mental illness with medication is not enough; I need to do more to work towards mental wellness. The holistic plan I’ve arrived at makes me feel like I’m targeting mind, body, and soul and working as hard as I can at getting better.
What are the ingredients in your wellness recipe? What pieces of the puzzle might be missing for you?