Treating Depression: Releasing the Spirit
- June 9, 2021
- Posted by: Dr. Martha Lucas
- Category: Uncategorized
A Case Study
Submitted by Martha Lucas, Ph.D., L.Ac.
Treating emotional conditions is one of the strengths of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Though most of us are not psychotherapists, we have very unique tools to help people who are suffering through “disorders” of the Spirit. We understand the Spirit, the Shen … we know it’s home. We can explain it to people in a commonsense manner so that it’s not a mystery. While taking someone’s pulse we can see his or her history of depression; we can draw it and show it to them in their pulse picture. Explaining how the energy of depression affects the flow of their Qi through the pulse positions gives them a fairly clear picture of their emotional and energetic situation. Teaching patients how Qi flows, how the organs support each other, and how emotional imbalances change a healthy picture is an important part of my practice.
I’d like to share a case study of depression to demonstrate the power of acupuncture and herbs in getting someone’s life back on track. It is an example of how our medicine can help patients feel “more like myself and able to move on with my life after years of being immobile”. I’ll call the patient “Jill”. Jill, 58 years old, was referred to me by her daughter-in-law who had come to me for fertility treatment. She told Jill that acupuncture worked for infertility so why not try it for depression. During Jill’s initial visit, she cried through the entire interview and medical history questionnaire. She was taking 450 mg a day of Welbutrin for about the last 5 months and had taken antidepressants on and off for about 20 years. Yet she spent most days sad, crying, and basically homebound. On taking her pulses, I could see that she has a fairly long history of depression. I was talking with her as I was taking them and said that it felt to me like her depression was fairly old, perhaps going back to when she was a young adult. I further explained that her Qi was completely blocked between the middle and upper jiaos so that her heart, her Spirit, her Shen were not receiving the kind of energetic support that they need to help keep us serene and happy. I explained that that was one of the issues that I would be resolving using acupuncture. At this point she told me that she had been married to an alcoholic for 36 years, that she had lived a lie all of those years, and that he had suddenly died two years earlier. Bingo! Years of stifling your self, years of “living a lie” as she described it, and years of stagnating your Qi rather than feeling your emotions. That continued blocking of the flow of emotions and the flow of Qi can cause depression.
We talked about bit about how antidepressants work in energetic terms. I explained that antidepressants prevent the Qi emotions & feelings from getting to the sensory or feeling level in the pulse. That’s their job: they stop you from feeling sad. The problem is that they may also block other emotional feelings or energies and so the person becomes “flat”. They don’t have any real downs but they don’t’ have any real ups either. So the antidepressants do a job; they prevent you from feeling too sad so that you can get on with your life. This “window” gives us practitioners of AOM an opportunity to work to rebalance the patient so that he or she can be more emotionally whole and, if they desire to do so, work with their physician to stop taking antidepressants. This is something that Jill definitely wanted to do. She felt the 450 mg a day of Welbutrin that she was taking wasn’t working and wanted to stop taking it.
I told her that the treatment plan was to put her on an herbal formula which is one of the formulas that I had found by far the most effective formula I have found for depression. I would also expect to see her at least twice a week for acupuncture for 2 weeks and then we would reassess how often she needed to be seen. During that first treatment I needled Kidney 6, 16, and 27 to help bring old stuck energy up to the Shaoyin to recycle out (in other words help bring it up so it could be processed), Liver 14 and Lung 1 to help open the chest and allow Qi to flow, Ear Shenmen and Sympathetic, Heart 7, Du 20 and Du 24 to help calm and nourish the Shen.
Her next visit was two days later. She reported that she was still crying fairly often so I increased her herb dosage. I had expected her to still be crying because part of the goal of the last treatment was to bring old stuck emotions to the surface to be processed. The formula is built to help with that processing as well as to nourish the Shen. The acupuncture prescription for this visit included the same points with the addition of Ren 12 and 14 to build her digestive Qi and further open the chest for processing. Three days later was her next visit where she said that she had had a really good Friday and Saturday but Sunday was kind of up and down. Wow! To go from continuous crying to having some good days and then an up and down day was a really good result in a short period of time. Her pulses were responding to the “opening” work by allowing some Qi, just the littlest flow, into the Heart position. The combination of using the acupuncture and herbal prescription to release energy was doing its work – helping Jill process emotional energy rather than stuffing it. On the fourth visit she reported that she felt like a “different person” …. she felt as though she was being more of whom she thought she was than this person who was consumed with sadness. At this point we decided to extend her treatments to a week apart. She was so pleased because she had a trip coming up to visit her son and granddaughter and she really wanted to be stable for that visit.
This case demonstrates how knowing where depression shows itself in the pulses, how its position in the pulses allows you to see its history, and how creating a new point prescription each time that matches the pulses can lead to fairly dramatic results. And, don’t forget the herbal prescription. The correct prescription is hugely important in offering the patient the necessary support. This sort of plan allows the patient to feel more “normal” sooner so that he or she can move forward with life in their healing process. Once we can see the “history” of the mental emotional condition, we can rectify it using appropriate acupuncture points, herbs, and other supportive therapies that are within our medicine. “Normalizing”, balancing a pulse can indeed “normalize” the patient to the point where life can be lived rather than continue to fade away in a sad, dark room.
Martha Lucas, Ph.D., L.Ac. is an instructor and practitioner of Oriental Medicine. She teaches courses in Cosmetic Acupuncture and Pulse Diagnosis. She can be reached at DrMLucas@AcupunctureWoman.com or at her seminar offices, 303-349-2932.