Imagine this: You are planning a boat trip across the water. You prepare your boat, load your supplies, pick a destination, and set off. Everything seems well at first. The sky is clear, the sun is bright, and the day is beautiful. There are other travelers in their own boats. Some are heading in the same direction, so you start chatting with them across the water. Some seem friendly enough, so you invite them over for a visit. You have a good time.
This goes on for a while; sometimes other people might come to your boat, occasionally you visit theirs. Some days there are a bunch of people hanging out together. The weather isn’t always perfect, some days are sunny, and some have rain showers. Some days are windy, some calm. Some days are warmer and others cooler. The water can be choppy at times and smooth at others, but the journey seems to be going well.
How to deal with the water in the boat that slows you down
One day you wake up and notice that your boat is sitting a bit lower in the water than usual. You look around and see that there is water in your boat. You think back and remember that there was a storm yesterday, so you figure that must be the reason and continue on your way, but your boat continues to sink lower and lower. The water level in your boat is getting higher and higher. Your boat starts going slower and slower. You are no longer making good time on your journey, and you are at risk of maybe not making it at all.
Something needs to be done to keep your boat from sinking, but what? You consider your options: You have some extra materials; you could build the sides of your boat higher. You might try to construct an awning to keep out the rain. You think about bailing out water to try to get it out of your boat. You consider throwing some of your supplies overboard to make your boat lighter. You could stop having other people come over to your boat, so they don’t weigh you down. Maybe you should have more people come to your boat to help with bailing water… There are so many possibilities. Which should you choose? Which answer is correct? Should you do some of these things? All of them? Something else? How can you keep your boat from sinking?
Fix the cause, not the symptom
Sometimes when you are in the middle of a crisis, making the right decisions is hard. Panic takes over, and you grasp at the first thing that looks like it might make sense. But that is not necessarily the right thing to do. You need to take a breath and ask yourself, “Why is there water in my boat?”
There are many different reasons that a boat could be taking on water. If you have spent the night out on the water, you know that like anywhere else, there is dew in the mornings, is that where the water is coming from? Is it from rainstorms? Is water splashing over the sides? Is water seeping in from somewhere? Are there cracks in the boat? Holes? Rotten boards? Is it from someone else? Is someone splashing water in the boat? Dumping water in? Is someone drilling holes in your boat?
This is your brain
Imagine that this boat we are discussing is your brain. The water represents things causing your brain to be weighed down: trouble sleeping, negative emotions like depression and anxiety, cognitive symptoms like trouble with concentration, memory, and focus, and even physical issues like stomach problems, weight changes, and general aches and pains.
How is this water, all of these symptoms, getting in?
Just like the different ways water can get into a boat, these symptoms can come from various sources.
Everyone goes through storms in life. Stress from work and home can add rainwater to your boat. Are you sailing in rough waters and having water splash over the sides? Are the people near you inconsiderate and inadvertently splashing water into your boat? Are you spending time helping others bail water out of their boats and accidentally bringing water back with you? Do the people you invite into your boat dump their problems/water into your boat? Is someone rocking the boat, causing water to splash over the sides? Or is the problem deeper? Is there a problem with the boat itself? Does your boat need a patch job? A plug? A complete overhaul?
You need an expert if you don’t know why water is getting in your boat.
It would help if you had someone who could look at your boat from bow to stern. Someone who can analyze what’s going on in your life that is allowing the water in.
You need to be careful whom you ask for advice. You need someone who can look at the whole picture, not just a part of it. You may have heard the expression, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.” This is true for healthcare professionals as well. If you see your general practitioner and tell them about your symptoms, they might give you a sleeping pill and something for your stomach. Will that patch the hole completely? If it’s not the proper treatment, water will still get in. A therapist will help you build up the sides of your boat to help you avoid water splashing in, but is that where your water is coming from? A psychiatrist may give you a medication that is supposed to tar over all of the cracks in the seams, but is that the right thing? Did you spend enough time with them so they could find that some of the planks are rotten?
Make sure you get a complete evaluation from someone who will take the time to find all the water sources. There may be several, and they may have different priorities based on your circumstances. One person may need medication to fill the hole first before they start bailing water. Someone else might be so low in the water that they need to toss some things overboard for a time to get them floating higher while their boards are being replaced. Another person might need to steer their ship away from the storm before it can be determined if there are any holes.
Brandon has been a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Institute for Advanced Medical Research (formerly the Atlanta Institute of Research) and Dr. Sambunaris & Associates for almost two decades. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, he is passionate about helping individuals who struggle the symptoms of a chemical imbalance in the brain. When not at the clinic, he and his wife stay busy chasing after their two sons and loyal companion Ruby.