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Will Meecham

Will Meecham

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About Me

My career as a subspecialty surgeon ended prematurely due to neck disease. This loss triggered considerable anxiety and depression, which I worked on for many years. I finally got much better after taking up meditation and working on an improved spiritual outlook. Now I practice medical acupuncture, focusing on pain and emotional problems. Before medical school I studied neuroscience as a biophysics graduate student, and the combination of neurobiology and modern physics now informs much of my philosophy about mental health and also my metaphysical views. I blog at http://willspirit.com and http://blogs.psychcentral.com/happiness.... (more)

How I Stay Healthy

Meditation. Exercise. Writing.

My Experience with Health Challenges

Depression. Anxiety. Spinal problems.

People suffering from depression and the clinicians who treat them are learning that symptoms diminish with spiritual practice. Many mental health clinics now offer meditation classes along with cognitive behavioral training, and therapists have begun to ask clients about transcendent beliefs. These developments promise to advance the struggle against depression, which until recently was treated in purely “mental” terms. By including the soul as a participant in our pursuit of mental wellness, we humanize psychiatric care.

Spirituality and soulfulness can be very helpful in recovering from depression, but not everyone feels comfortable with them. For one thing, conventional scientific institutions have cast doubt on mystical beliefs in general, and on the existence of soul in particular. Furthermore, spiritual growth gets confused with traditional religion, which many perceive to be out of touch with modern life. Can those leery of mysticism and/or religion still enjoy the benefits of spiritual practice?

Fortunately, they can. At least in the context of mental health, spiritual pursuits have little to do with faith in eternal souls, higher realms, God, or scripture. Instead, the healing comes when life begins to feel meaningful. Viktor Frankl has highlighted how we can recover from the psychological effects of trauma by making sense out of our experience: by finding meaning. More recently, the Positive Psychology movement has picked up a similar theme, encouraging people to embrace lives of purpose and high ethical standards.

In its most essential terms, spirituality is about reframing our history and realigning our priorities. One readymade way of achieving this is to practice a religion, in which case the tradition both explains how hardship edifies, and encourages right behavior.

But one can also reinterpret the past independent of any organization or belief system. All it takes is looking for the benefits that accrue from our disappointments and sorrows. By investigating in this way, we often discover that our trials have increased our maturity, deepened our empathy, and enhanced our appreciation of life and loved ones.

After starting to view life more wisely, and in further pursuit of spiritual growth, we seek ways to use our experience to help those who may not have progressed so far along the path of healing. As we connect with others, we begin to adopt higher standards of behavior, because we understand more deeply the pain caused by harmful acts.

Reframing serves to counter our negative appraisals and complaints about fate. Helping others transforms individual tragedy into collective effort. It also takes us out of our isolated orbits of pain and plants us in the center of human life.

In short, building a more positive picture of the past helps us regret less, and working to assist others helps us look forward more. With a new understanding and a new purpose, our personalities blossom. We escape negativity and fear, and embrace optimism and hope.

Can you imagine any better prescription for rising out of depression? This is genuine spirituality, with no requirement for mystical beliefs or religious doctrine. Searching for meaning and purpose heals and transforms, so that regret gives way to gratitude, fear melts into hope, and depression grows into maturity.

... (more)
Shared experience with Acupuncture 7 years ago

Many sectors of our health care system now recognize acupuncture as an effective treatment for a variety of physical and mental problems. Less well known is that the technique also works well as a support for spiritual growth.

There is more to wellbeing than physical and mental health. A person can feel unwell in a sound body. It is also possible to suffer without emotional turmoil, but simply from feeling purposeless and cynical. Some people enjoy spontaneous spiritual contentment and readily embrace their path in life, but many of us need to work to attain such equanimity. Acupuncture can help patients connect with their inner senses of unity, rightness, and love, which are the touchstones of spiritual health.

Spirituality gets discussed so often it has lost definition, but we know it when we find it. Whenever we feel peaceful despite tragedy, injustice, and chaos, we have found a deeper center. Whenever we realize our hearts will grow no matter what fate brings, we feel profoundly healed. This is the Health of Spirit.

A person can be gravely diseased in body and severely buffeted by circumstance, but remain at ease in that still, small refuge at the center of the storm, where divine light shines. The rational mind may seek to explain this abiding comfort: Is it the hand of God or a bracing mix of neurotransmitters? Logic cannot answer this question, but fortunately the words we use to describe Grace are less important than the peace we find when we accept it.

Acupuncture stills the mind and opens it to larger horizons. The needles stimulate deep energies in the body, brain, and spirit. At times, a fuller realization of one's purpose, one's loyalties, and one's wholesome desires can result. The ordinary pains of life can be transcended as they are understood as enlightening lessons rather than meaningless torments. Tectonic shifts in perspective may occur.

Such earthshaking changes do not happen every day or for every patient. But acupuncture works a bit like meditation and prayer, awakening the heart and mind to forces latent in the human being. When a person is on the verge of a paradigm shift, acupuncture can be the catalyst to bring it about.

Many sectors of our health care system now recognize acupuncture as an effective treatment for a variety of physical and mental problems. Less well known is that the technique also works well as a...

...
(more)

People suffering from depression and the clinicians who treat them are learning that symptoms diminish with spiritual practice. Many mental health clinics now offer meditation classes along with cognitive behavioral training, and therapists have begun to ask clients about transcendent beliefs. These developments promise to advance the struggle against depression, which until recently was treated in purely “mental” terms. By including the soul as a participant in our pursuit of mental wellness, we humanize psychiatric care.

Spirituality and soulfulness can be very helpful in recovering from depression, but not everyone feels comfortable with them. For one thing, conventional scientific institutions cast doubt on mystical beliefs in general, and on the existence of soul in particular. Furthermore, spiritual growth gets confused with traditional religion, which many perceive to be out of touch with modern life. Can those leery of mysticism and/or religion still enjoy the benefits of spiritual practice?

Fortunately, they can. At least in the context of mental health, spiritual pursuits have little to do with faith in eternal souls, higher realms, God, or scripture. Instead, the healing comes when life begins to feel meaningful. Viktor Frankl has highlighted how we can recover from the psychological effects of trauma by making sense out of our experience: by finding meaning. More recently, the Positive Psychology movement has picked up a similar theme, encouraging people to embrace lives of purpose and high ethical standards.

In its most essential terms, spirituality is about reframing our history and realigning our priorities. One readymade way of achieving this is to practice a religion, in which case the tradition both explains how hardship edifies, and encourages right behavior.

But one can also reinterpret the past independent of any organization or belief system. All it takes is looking for the benefits that accrue from our disappointments and sorrows. By investigating in this way, we often discover that our trials have increased our maturity, deepened our empathy, and enhanced our appreciation of life and loved ones.

After starting to view life more wisely, and in further pursuit of spiritual growth, we seek ways to use our experience to help those who may not have progressed so far along the path of healing. As we connect with others, we begin to adopt higher standards of behavior, because we understand more deeply the pain caused by harmful acts.

Reframing serves to counter our negative appraisals and complaints about fate. Helping others transforms individual tragedy into collective effort. It also takes us out of our isolated orbits of pain and plants us in the center of human life.

In short, building a more positive picture of the past helps us regret less, and working to assist others helps us look forward more. With a new understanding and a new purpose, our personalities blossom. We escape negativity and fear, and embrace optimism and hope.

Can you imagine be any better prescription for rising out of depression? This is genuine spirituality, with no requirement for mystical beliefs or religious doctrine. Searching for meaning and purpose heals and transforms, so that regret gives way to gratitude, fear melts into hope, and depression grows into maturity.

... (more)

People suffering from depression and the clinicians who treat them are learning that symptoms diminish with spiritual practice. Many mental health clinics now offer meditation classes along with cognitive behavioral training, and therapists have begun to ask clients about transcendent beliefs. These developments promise to advance the struggle against depression, which until recently was treated in purely “mental” terms. By including the soul as a participant in our pursuit of mental wellness, we humanize psychiatric care.

Spirituality and soulfulness can be very helpful in recovering from depression, but not everyone feels comfortable with them. For one thing, conventional scientific institutions cast doubt on mystical beliefs in general, and on the existence of soul in particular. Furthermore, spiritual growth gets confused with traditional religion, which many perceive to be out of touch with modern life. Can those leery of mysticism and/or religion still enjoy the benefits of spiritual practice?

Fortunately, they can. At least in the context of mental health, spiritual pursuits have little to do with faith in eternal souls, higher realms, God, or scripture. Instead, the healing comes when life begins to feel meaningful. Viktor Frankl has highlighted how we can recover from the psychological effects of trauma by making sense out of our experience: by finding meaning. More recently, the Positive Psychology movement has picked up a similar theme, encouraging people to embrace lives of purpose and high ethical standards.

In its most essential terms, spirituality is about reframing our history and realigning our priorities. One readymade way of achieving this is to practice a religion, in which case the tradition both explains how hardship edifies, and encourages right behavior.

But one can also reframe reinterpret the past independent of any organization or belief system. All it takes is looking for the benefits that accrue from our disappointments and sorrows. By investigating in this way, we often discover that our trials have increased our maturity, deepened our empathy, and enhanced our appreciation of life and loved ones.

After starting to view life more wisely, and in further pursuit of spiritual growth, we seek ways to use our experience to help those who may not have progressed so far along the path of healing. As we connect with others, we begin to adopt higher standards of behavior, because we understand more deeply the pain caused by harmful acts.

Reframing serves to counter our negative appraisals and complaints about fate. Helping others transforms individual tragedy into collective effort. It also takes us out of our isolated orbits of pain and plants us in the center of human life.

In short, building a more positive picture of the past helps us regret less, and working to assist others helps us look forward more. With a new understanding and a new purpose, our personalities blossom. We escape negativity and fear, and embrace optimism and hope.

Can you imagine any better prescription for rising out of depression? This is genuine spirituality, with no requirement for mystical beliefs or religious doctrine. Searching for meaning and purpose heals and transforms, so that regret gives way to gratitude, fear melts into hope, and depression grows into maturity.

... (more)

People suffering from depression and the clinicians who treat them are learning that symptoms diminish with spiritual practice. Many mental health clinics now offer meditation classes along with cognitive behavioral training, and therapists have begun to ask clients about transcendent beliefs. These developments promise to advance the struggle against depression, which until recently was treated in purely “mental” terms. By including the soul as a participant in our pursuit of mental wellness, we humanize psychiatric care.

Spirituality and soulfulness can be very helpful in recovering from depression, but not everyone feels comfortable with them. For one thing, conventional scientific institutions cast doubt on mystical beliefs in general, and on the existence of soul in particular. Furthermore, spiritual growth gets confused with traditional religion, which many perceive to be out of touch with modern life. Can those leery of mysticism and/or religion still enjoy the benefits of spiritual practice?

Fortunately, they can. At least in the context of mental health, spiritual pursuits have little to do with faith in eternal souls, higher realms, God, or scripture. Instead, the healing comes when life begins to feel meaningful. Viktor Frankl has highlighted how we can recover from the psychological effects of trauma by making sense out of our experience: by finding meaning. More recently, the Positive Psychology movement has picked up a similar theme, encouraging people to embrace lives of purpose and high ethical standards.

In its most essential terms, spirituality is about reframing our history and realigning our priorities. One readymade way of achieving this is to practice a religion, in which case the tradition both explains how hardship edifies, and encourages right behavior.

But one can also reinterpret the past independent of any organization or belief system. All it takes is looking for the benefits that accrue from our disappointments and sorrows. By investigating in this way, we often discover that our trials have increased our maturity, deepened our empathy, and enhanced our appreciation of life and loved ones.

After starting to view life more wisely, and in further pursuit of spiritual growth, we seek ways to use our experience to help those who may not have progressed so far along the path of healing. As we connect with others, we begin to adopt higher standards of behavior, because we understand more deeply the pain caused by harmful acts.

Reframing serves to counter our negative appraisals and complaints about fate. Helping others transforms individual tragedy into collective effort. It also takes us out of our isolated orbits of pain and plants us in the center of human life.

In short, building a more positive picture of the past helps us regret less, and working to assist others helps us look forward more. With a new understanding and a new purpose, our personalities blossom. We escape negativity and fear, and embrace optimism and hope.

Can you imagine any better prescription for rising out of depression? This is genuine spirituality, with no requirement for mystical beliefs or religious doctrine. Searching for meaning and purpose heals and transforms, so that regret gives way to gratitude, fear melts into hope, and depression grows into maturity.

... (more)

People suffering from depression and the clinicians who treat them are learning that symptoms diminish with spiritual practice. Many mental health clinics now offer meditation classes along with cognitive behavioral training, and therapists have begun to ask clients about transcendent beliefs. These developments promise to advance the struggle against depression, which until recently was treated in purely “mental” terms. By including the soul as a participant in our pursuit of mental wellness, we humanize psychiatric care.

Spirituality and soulfulness can be very helpful in recovering from depression, but not everyone feels comfortable with them. For one thing, conventional scientific institutions cast doubt on mystical beliefs in general, and on the existence of soul in particular. Furthermore, spiritual growth gets confused with traditional religion, which many perceive to be out of touch with modern life. Can those leery of mysticism and/or religion still enjoy the benefits of spiritual practice?

Fortunately, they can. At least in the context of mental health, spiritual pursuits have little to do with faith in eternal souls, higher realms, God, or scripture. Instead, the healing comes when life begins to feel meaningful. Viktor Frankl has highlighted how we can recover from the psychological effects of trauma by making sense out of our experience: by finding meaning. More recently, the Positive Psychology movement has picked up a similar theme, encouraging people to embrace lives of purpose and high ethical standards.

In its most essential terms, spirituality is about reframing our history and realigning our priorities. One readymade way of achieving this is to practice a religion, in which case the tradition both explains how hardship edifies, and encourages right behavior.

But one can also reinterpret the past independent of any organization or belief system. All it takes is looking for the benefits that accrue from our disappointments and sorrows. By investigating in this way, we often discover that our trials have increased our maturity, deepened our empathy, and enhanced our appreciation of life and loved ones.

After starting to view life more wisely, and in further pursuit of spiritual growth, we seek ways to use our experience to help those who may not have progressed so far along the path of healing. As we connect with others, we begin to adopt higher standards of behavior, because we understand more deeply the pain caused by harmful acts.

Reframing serves to counter our negative appraisals and complaints about fate. Helping others transforms individual tragedy into collective effort. It also takes us out of our isolated orbits of pain and plants us in the center of human life.

In short, building a more positive picture of the past helps us regret less, and working to assist others helps us look forward more. With a new understanding and a new purpose, our personalities blossom. We escape negativity and fear, and embrace optimism and hope.

Can you imagine any better prescription for rising out of depression? This is genuine spirituality, with no requirement for mystical beliefs or religious doctrine. Searching for meaning and purpose heals and transforms, so that regret gives way to gratitude, fear melts into hope, and depression grows into maturity.

... (more)
Commented on How can acupuncture help me? 7 years ago

Most people feel calmer and better centered after just one or two acupuncture treatments. Aches, pains, and other bodily discomforts are likely to lessen early. But depression is a form of depletion, and it takes time to replete the body's energy. If one experienced absolutely no change after three treatments, it would make sense to question whether to continue. On the other hand, if the body felt a little better, and the mind a little calmer, but depression persisted after the same amount of time, it would be worth going ahead with acupuncture for a longer period.

Most people feel calmer and better centered after just one or two acupuncture treatments. Aches, pains, and other bodily discomforts are likely to lessen early. But depression is a form of depletion,...

...
(more)
Shared experience with Depression and Acupuncture 7 years ago

I would echo Peter Shark's observation that acupuncture works more reliably, or at least more promptly, for anxious/agitated depression than for low moods presenting as apathy and withdrawal. But another effect of acupuncture, beyond any alteration of mood, is its ability to bring greater harmony into the bodymind system. Sometimes what gets labelled as depression and behaviorally expressed as apathy is really a kind of rejection of grief and the ordinary pain of life. In particular when combined with meditation, acupuncture can make such states more tolerable, without necessarily decreasing the underlying sorrow.

I would echo Peter Shark's observation that acupuncture works more reliably, or at least more promptly, for anxious/agitated depression than for low moods presenting as apathy and withdrawal. But...

...
(more)

Before resorting to a psychiatric diagnosis, you might want to consider how much these mood swings are interfering with your life. Many very successful and creative people have alternating high and low periods (read Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched With Fire for more on this). Technically, many could be diagnosed with a mental illness, but should they be? The tendency toward high and low moods becomes a significant problem when life is affected by inappropriate or dangerous behavior, suicidal tendencies, social withdrawal, and so on. But not everyone who feels euphoric sometimes and depressed other times experiences much negative impact. And even those that do can often learn to be more accepting of their mood states, and less inclined to act them out. Although some people clearly suffer from mental imbalance that looks very ill, the psychiatric system has become much too quick to diagnose people who deviate from the norm as mentally unhealthy. Maybe they are just different.

I speak from experience, as someone who once took numerous psychiatric medications to control mood swings, and now stays comfortable with none. The trick (which meditation teaches) is learning to understand one's moods and to resist translating feelings into impulsive behavior. A tendency toward moodiness, comfortably managed, is not an illness. Often, it can be a source of inspiration.

Before resorting to a psychiatric diagnosis, you might want to consider how much these mood swings are interfering with your life. Many very successful and creative people have alternating high and...

...
(more)

It would depend a little on his or her theoretical background. There are at least three distinct types of acupuncture practiced in the US. But all traditions agree on certain points. For instance, Chinese medicine does not view the body as separate from the mind. There is only one bodymind system, and depression would be seen as merely one symptom in a larger complex of dysfunction. How that 'depression' would be treated would depend on the patient's other symptoms as well as his or her character type. A common depression syndrome is associated with liver Qi stagnation, and presents with underlying chronic irritability or periodic rage. In this case, treatment would be directed at the liver and its associated meridian. Other examples include depression with a worried or obsessional flavor (due to spleen dysfunction) or exhibiting a fearful, paranoid aspect (relating to kidney weakness). Each of these would be likely to associate with specific bodily symptoms (e.g., muscle tension in liver stagnation, stomach issues in spleen dysfunction, fatigue in kidney weakness). Each would therefore require different treatment. The therapy would always be directed at the 'whole person' and never just at the isolated symptom of depression. Along with acupuncture, some acupuncturists might prescribe herbal remedies. Qi gong exercises can also be very helpful. Dietary recommendations are sometimes included. Unlike standard psychiatry, which barely looks beyond the patient's thoughts and moods, at its best Chinese medicine keeps a broad perspective both in evaluation and treatment.

It would depend a little on his or her theoretical background. There are at least three distinct types of acupuncture practiced in the US. But all traditions agree on certain points. For instance,...

...
(more)

For many of us, depression and anxiety form two halves of the same problem. A simplistic but valid model says that depression involves regret about the past, while anxiety represents fear of the future. Either way, difficulty with acceptance underlies the psychic distress.

Any activity that increases one's ability to accept the human condition will therefore help. Few of us received enough love, support, and safety growing up. Every one of us has made mistakes and hurt others. We all face uncertain futures that could well be tragic. For many reasons, some people end up crippled by these realities. Root causes include poor role models, hypersensitive responses due to past traumas, and the endemic strife fostered by modern society. There are many ways one can work to increase acceptance of life's difficult truths.

A good treatment model in the therapeutic realm is ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; one can learn much just from reading the many good books on this method. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent technique for increasing tolerance of discomfort and uncertainty. Aerobic exercise releases tension and builds confidence. Also, take a look at EFT: Emotional Freedom Techniques. Numerous videos about this deceptively simple and odd-looking method can be found online; many people have found it remarkably helpful for both fears and regrets.

Your desire for natural treatments is commendable; medications are of course available, but if the problems can be lessened through action rather than medication one ends up feeling empowered and accomplished: exactly what helps one feel less afraid of the future and less discouraged by the past.

For many of us, depression and anxiety form two halves of the same problem. A simplistic but valid model says that depression involves regret about the past, while anxiety represents fear of the...

...
(more)

Without saying I agree with everything he says, in his book 'Anatomy of an Epidemic' Robert Whitaker makes a strong case for the possibility that psychiatric medications actually increase rather than decrease problems. Although he concedes that drugs help in the short run, Whitaker presents a lot of studies to demonstrate that when taken chronically psychopharmaceuticals increase the very symptoms they are supposed to treat. So one explanation for why we see so much depression these days might be that so many people are now maintained on anti-depressants.

It is quite true that non-drug treatments have come a long way in recent decades. Mental health departments often suggest meditation, acceptance practices, Yoga, exercise, thought refinement, etc. All these are great. But I am not certain that medications can truly be considered a major advance. They do dampen extreme symptoms in acute crises. Unfortunately, their use is not restricted to those situations and many, many people end up taking drugs for years with little or no evidence of long-term effectiveness and substantial reason to suspect harm. We all know people who got better for awhile after starting medication, then drifted back into depression, but now can't stop the antidepressant medications because of withdrawal symptoms and/or profound mood problems. Many of these end up on disability. They add to the ranks of the chronically depressed despite supposedly effective medical treatment.

Without saying I agree with everything he says, in his book 'Anatomy of an Epidemic' Robert Whitaker makes a strong case for the possibility that psychiatric medications actually increase rather than...

...
(more)