Is it depression, or burnout?
This is a question that I am researching and have recently become more and more convinced of how easily depression could be misdiagnosed (and wrongly medicated), when if fact, burnout (and adrenal fatigue) is actually what is going on.
I cover more about my theory on this in my latest Huffington Post publication.
For the purpose of this blog, I will cover why these could be similar conditions so that you can choose what path and direction to take in your recovery and healing.
A little back story about me and my journey.
At the age of around 16, I was ‘diagnosed’ with depression, and developed an eating disorder around this time.
Fast forward to many years of struggle, and inner pain, toward emotional freedom, and spiritual alignment, I see what I went through very clearly as a call from my soul.
At this young age, of course, I took what the doctors said as truth (mostly) except I refused to take medications since they made me feel terrible, I intuitively knew that this was not the path for me.
I was eventually hospitalized (twice), and spent many years after believing there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
At the core, I believed I was broken.
Fast forward into motherhood (at the age of 19) I was diagnosed with PPD (Post Partum Depression).
Many times from the age of 19, I have experienced ‘episodes’ of what would be labeled as ‘depression’.
Although, the real deeper reasons I was struggling so much were still smoldering underneath. Waiting for me to reach complete burnout in adulthood in order to fully deal with them.
This is why I see burnout as a wake up call. It truly was for me, and it for most clients I work with who reach this state.
What is different now, is that when this dark energy of depression arises within me, I STOP and I listen. I release all judgement of myself, and accept what is coming up.
What am I depressing and not looking at?
I tap into my soul-power. I meditate more, I pray more, I journal more, and I triple my self care.
I look within to see what needs to shift, what boundaries are being crossed, where I need to speak up, step back, let go, or make a change,
I wait for the deeper message.
I now see these dark times as part of a human experience. And I ask for the lesson.
The Deep Inquiry
What am I not paying attention to? What needs to change? What’s no longer working for me in my life? How am I not living in alignment with who I know I am and with what I want to create in my life? How am I living beneath what I know I am truly applicable of being? Where am I betraying myself? Where am I feeling inadequate? Where am I not loving myself? Where am I not stepping into my power?” What feelings am I suppressing or ignoring?”
And…as a hilarious quote I once read said “Before you diagnose yourself with depression be sure to that you aren’t surrounded by idiots”. There is some truth here.
Who we hang around has a lot to do with our health, and well being. So, examining our relationships is part of this process.
Yes. Depression as the messenger.
And..as I truly believe, all illness is the messenger.
It is the symptom of a greater issue.
I was just reflecting the other day about how far I have come, and how it’s been years since I have felt depressed. This is huge, because I used to carry it around with me daily.
Usually depression is an emotional block, old unhealed trauma, and ‘depressed’ emotions we have buried within our body-mind.
My experience with Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue felt like the longest episode of constant depression I had ever had, mixed with mind numbing fatigue that left me exhausted pretty near 24/7.
What’s fascinating is that if you look at the list of symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and compare them with burnout (Adrenal Fatigue) they look almost identical in so many ways.
*I am referring to depression that is mild to moderate in nature. If you are having suicidal thoughts, or are self harming in any way, this is a situation where psychiatric evaluation and treatment is necessary. If you have continual thoughts of self harm, this is a different level that requires specialized care, and is outside of the scope of what I am speaking of here.
When I was at my worst, I still always had it within me to keep reading books about healing, going to see counsellors and energy healers, I wrote in my journal daily, tried to eat my best, and got some exercise. I refused to just give up no matter how hard it got.
Even though it was a struggle, I could still do the essentials of what had to be done, while striving to heal and get better.
There are cases where depressed or mentally unwell people end their life, and I have unfortunately been brushed with this harsh reality through a recent family tragedy, so I am not saying that mental illness doesn’t exist, and I am not making light of severe cases in which medication may save a person’s life. There is a spectrum, and I am not attempting to make light of more serious issues.
While depression and burnout both need to be treated with a holistic approach, and both have an emotional root cause, more extreme cases may not respond to these interventions alone, and may need to opt for medication to stabilize their mood while they are working on the other areas of their health and lifestyle.
Medication alone can not heal. It is a bandaid, and is best used alongside of other healing modalities.
There is absolutely no definitive data that proves that depression is due to a chemical imbalance, and there is absolutely no way (as of yet) for clinicians to test for low serotonin levels. Instead, they play around with different levels of different types of chemical medications to determine if this is the case.
It’s pretty much as if they are saying, “if the pills work, it’s low serotonin. If they don’t work, we will keep tweaking and prescribing until we get rid of the symptoms”.
But, can they tell us for sure what all of these chemicals are doing to our body, and our brain chemistry? Nope!
This is why each person has to weigh the risk for their particular situation. I am not telling you to go off any medications you may be on, since that could create dire consequences. You must not abruptly stop taking these medications without medical supervision. I am also not saying that medications don’t help some people, since there are those who seem to benefit from them.
What I am suggesting, is that you do your research, and try other routes first.
As a psychotherapist and holistic counsellor, I work intensively with clients over an 8 week period who want to deal with the root cause of their depression and burnout symptoms the natural and holistic way, whether they are on medication or not. If you are ready to do something to heal for real, you can book your free consultation here.
So, with all of that said, here is a quick reference for you to see that depression and burnout can look very similar! Watch for slight difference in the comparison of these signs.
Signs of Depression:
Emotional: Apathy, sadness, crying, low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of joy, loss of interest in hobbies/interests, desire to isolate and avoid people, shame, guilt, anxiety.
Physical: Digestive issues, headaches, sleep issues (trouble falling asleep and night waking), changes in appetite (either decreased or increased), low energy, fatigue, changes in weight (loss or gain), chest pain (usually linked to anxiety and panic)
Signs of Adrenal Fatigue (Burnout):
Physical: Digestive issues, Changes in appetite (often increased and includes emotional eating), headaches, low energy and fatigue, changes in weight (usually weight gain, rarely weight loss), lack of motivation, lethargy, sadness, apathy, loss of interest in doing what you used to love, desire to isolate and be alone, and, of course, depression and anxiety.
These lists are not exhaustive, but are intended to give you a snap shot of how these two ‘conditions’ could be one and the same. Or at least the cure lies deeper than a prescription.
But more so, I am saying that both depression and burnout are signs that something deeper is going on.
Are you ready to step into your vitality, and have the tools to shift out of low mood and low energy?