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What if depression is not so simple?

Local woman's theory of black mind mirrors new research

November 26, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

Graettinger native Lisa Fernholtz told her story of mental illness a year ago to the Estherville News. Last month, her symptoms of bipolar disorder were termed by her doctor to be in partial remission. Fernholtz is expected to be in a state of wellness for the long term.

"I still have to be vigilant, and I still have to do the things that encourage staying well," Fernholtz said.

Fernholtz said she credits her remission in large part to making major changes in her life including separating from people who made her emotional health difficult, and her new venture.

Article Photos

Estherville News illustration by Brittany Hecht

Fernholtz has purchased a bar called the Last Chance Saloon in Peterson, Iowa, and the apartment above it. The apartment was previously occupied by people who were cooking methamphetamine. To complete the renovations, Fernholtz had to cover up in a hazmat suit while taking out walls and cabinets and cleaning up the harmful drug residue.

In this time of metamorphosis, Fernholtz has also delved into what may have been behind a series of suicides in the greater Estherville area, or to Estherville natives since the summer of 2018.

The Centers for Disease Control released figures in June that stated Iowa's suicide rate has risen 36.2 percent since 2000.

Nearly two-thirds of Iowa's counties have no mental health prescriber i the county. The CDC found it difficult to pinpoint the cause of the rise in suicide. Not everyone who died from suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition. The CDC said relationship problems or loss, substance misuse, physical health issues, and job, money or legal issues contributed to death by suicide nationwide.

Fernholtz said all of these causes point to a lack of community, of connection, and to a state she calls "black mind," even when the person has love and healthy connections.

Fernholtz said, "I guess it is natural, but as someone who lives in a black mind, from my perspective and mindset it is not a long distance from my daily mind to what drove people to make the choices they made. Of the people I know who made that choice, there is not one of them that I can look at and not understand why they made the choices they made."

In his groundbreaking research, author Johann Hari discovered in his own depression and that of many others that the theory of broken synapses that could be repaired with medication did not tell the whole story.

Hari discovered through interviews with experts around the world and with social scientists who say the way we live today has everything to do with the rise in depression, anxiety, and death by suicide, that nine factors have contributed to the rise in depression and suicide:

1. disconnection from meaningful work;

2. disconnection from other people;

3. disconnection from meaningful values;

4. disconnection from childhood trauma;

5. disconnection from status and respect;

6. disconnection from the natural world;

7. disconnection from a hopeful or secure future;

8. and 9: the real contribution of DNA and brain changes.

Hari's book, "Lost Connections - the real causes of depression and unexpected solutions," (Bloomsbury, New York 2018) arose from Hari's own experiences with antidepressants doing little to assuage his anxiety and despair, and from researchers whose work has borne out that antidepressants themselves do little to make anyone better.

Fernholtz said, "When I say I have a black mind, that is what I see in my head when I close my eyes. I do not see happiness, I see the black and fight the thoughts that flood my mind every second of every day. I think if one looks at victims of suicide, one major commonality is the sense of self hatred and the need for self destruction. If there is a way to take any choice and use it to hurt myself, I do it without even realizing it."

What separates a black mind from a passing dark mood, according to Fernholtz is this: "A black mind is also a mind that is incredibly difficult to shut off. I do not say something to myself in my mind once; it is on a continuous loop in my mind, very loud, until the next thought takes over. It never stops. For example, when I forget to do something trivial I think to myself, on a loop, 'how stupid are you Lisa? Is there anything you can not screwup?!' People have always wondered why I prefer my music as loud as possible; I cannot hear the noise in my head if I have the music loud enough. Part of the reasons why I love going to concerts; it is my ultimate escape from myself and a chance to relax for once. A black mind also immediately goes to the worst case scenario immediately before considering that there could also be a good thing going on."

In upcoming Monday issues of the Estherville News we will delve further into the potential discoveries of causes of depression and solutions, talk to local experts and others about way to reconnect to meaningful relationships and work, to nature, to the elements of life that act as a protection against depression and anxiety.

 
 
 

 

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