My early relationship with mental health is one of judgement and misunderstanding. I say this in the hope that we can all admit to our collective misunderstanding of mental health. For those that carry the weight of a mental health diagnosis or are challenged by different brain disorders, the common misunderstandings and judgements cannot be resolved quickly enough.
14 months ago I came to understand the severity of mental health in a way I never thought possible. My 4 kids and I lost my incredible husband to his battle with a brain disease called depression.
People that know me professionally know how incredibly passionate I am about health and wellbeing. As a chiropractor, kinesiologist and at the time of my husband’s death, Masters candidate in physiotherapy, I know the body, it’s workings and causes of physical disease tremendously well.
I admit with a deep humbleness now, as a doctor, I never fully understood or even really considered the impact and reach of those whose challenge is not in their low back or neck, but their brain.
14 months out from the darkest times imaginable, I have had the incredible honour of having people share their mental health struggles with me. One particular thought has stayed with me; “A deep depression is a place you cannot imagine unless you have experienced it yourself. It is a place no other person can fathom and it is a place no person should ever have to visit. It is the darkest of nightmares, of course you look for a way out.”
In the past 14 months I have dramatically changed the approach I take to practice. I have come to understand the interconnectedness of all of life’s events, traumas, physical and mental challenges in a totally different light.
Health, full spectrum health, not just a pain free back, not just a gut that functions properly, not just a brain free of depression and anxiety but FULL SPECTRUM health, cannot exist in our current medical framework. Traditional medicine is typically a piecemeal approach. A risk factor approach to only ONE diagnosis and treatment is short sighted and ineffective. A common treatment for depression is a medicine called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It assumes serotonin, or lack of it, is the cause for depression. To be clear however, most people that start on an SSRI have not had their serotonin levels tested or assessed before beginning treatment!
As the cost and reach of mental health continues to rise, more and more well performed research looks to different causes of depression. One paradigm shift in thinking that is incredibly exciting, relates not only to depression but to almost all chronic disease. Inflammation can be observed in the depressed brain just as it can be observed in cardiovascular disease, most cancers, and autoimmune disease. To be clear, I am suggesting that research is now showing that depression has an inflammatory component, possibly further reaching than previously considered.
Functional chiropractic looks specifically at how to reduce the burden of inflammation on the entire body. Experience has taught me that I cannot look at low back pain, knee pain or hip pain in isolation. I cannot work with a patient in chronic pain (inflammation) and not address their gut health, their detoxification capacities, their genetic tendencies, their mental wellbeing. When a patient is in a partnership of health creation/optimization, we first establish what that individual needs, then we build care that is empowering, systemized and tailored to that person.
I am an huge advocate of this approach to mental and physical health. I have seen first hand the incredible changes that can occur in a person’s health using a functional approach. I have also seen first hand what happens when we sweep mental health under the rug, and don’t address its root causes.
There is another way. Functional medicine is now helping millions around the world. I recently had a patient remark that she “couldn’t believe how thorough” her exam and assessment were, how personalized the approach is…..What are you waiting for?
Dr. Claire is a functional chiropractor practicing at Two Rivers Health. Book your 15 minute complimentary meet and greet to discover how functional chiropractic can help you address the foundational causes of your health challenges.