The Cold Cure for Depression

cold water swimmingDay 19 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge. One of the best things about working in the mental health field is hearing stories of how people have learnt to cope with and manage their mental health. If you have such a story (or any story relating to mental health/wellbeing) I still have plenty of space left to fill!

Here’s a remarkable story from Paul, of significant pain and resilience. **WARNING** the blog briefly references instances of extreme violence. If this is likely to trigger your own PTSD symptoms, then please consider reading this when you feel safe and able to manage this effectively.

The Cold Cure for Depression

If I told you that within 10 minutes I could cure your anxiety and depression I would imagine you’d tell me to go and ‘jump in a lake’ right?

Anxiety and depression can come from many sources, here is my own unique road to pain:

  • Dad left when I was 6 and I became the main support for my emotionally weak mother.
  • Money was scarce and we nearly lost our home, I was on free school meals and I regularly wept at school when stressed.
  • Senior school was tough, I was bullied and had to use my fists to bring the bullying to an end. I was often suspended
  • I did not have a single school friend until I was 14
  • My mother’s boyfriend was an alcoholic psychotic. Regularly violent over three years, I was woken one night by my sister (aged 9) screaming whilst he attacked my mother.  Wearing nothing more than boxer shorts I fought him off to save her from being drowned. With a broken nose, covered in blood and bruises I debriefed the policemen I’d called.
  • No one accompanied me to court to testify against him for ABH. I received £50 compensation.


Sadly, like many abused women with their self-esteem is destroyed, my mother continued to see him – right up until he stabbed her.  This time he was convicted of attempted murder and served 18 months of a three year sentence only to pay us the occasional visit after his release until an injunction was put in place. This, as you can imagine, was the root cause of all my anxieties.  I developed what is now known as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and carried it for the next 25 years.

I tackled my anxieties with excessive exercise and with the occasional blast of anger, did pretty well for the next 20 odd years. Then 2 years ago the exercise just could not compensate for the next tidal wave of horror.   Over 24 months I was bullied at work, our child was crippled, I was made redundant and then lost over £50,000 whilst I tried to recover.

With years of excessive punishment for minor incidents and because I sought help from well meaning but untrained, un-monitored christian counsellors, I ultimately believed it really was ‘all my fault’. In October that year I felt I was drowning in pain and I went out to kill myself.  For some reason survival mode kicked in……I began to run, the endorphines took over and I arrived home determined to seek professional help.

Here was my formula for recovery, repeat these weekly until better:

  1. Physical exercise – regular and as enjoyable as possible for 45 mins+
  2. CBT and trauma therapy with a trained specialist (not your church friend)
  3. Regular social contact, probably doing an activity.  Not too much navel gazing here
  4. Saffron in hot water – used in the Middle East for depression for the last millenia
  5. Cold water swimming for instant relief

For that last obscure ‘instant relief’ option, search Google for: ‘Dr.Chris Van Tullekan’, ‘cold water swimming’.  There are videos and articles showing how he helped a woman who had been on antidepressants for 8 years.

I started with cold showers and then progressed to swimming in lakes and rivers once a week.  For the first time ever , I could go from being stressed out of my mind to ‘at peace’ within 10 minutes.

So, now if you told me to ‘go jump in a lake’, my answer would be, “Absolutely! Come with me you’ll find peace there.”

For more info. here’s a really interesting article in the Telegraph:

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