" I take embodiment very seriously; and, of course, depression is a full-body experience and a full-body immersion in the darkness.
And it is an invitation — at least, my kind of depression is an invitation — to take our embodied selves a lot more seriously
than we tend to do when we’re in the up-up-and-away mode."
- Palmer J Parker
I listened to last weeks podcast on On Being, twice. It is an old episode, reworked and redone for today's world and it speaks to me so vividly.
I had my first bout of depression in the winter of 2011. It came out of nowhere, hit fast and was accompanied by panic attacks. One minute I was putting my stuff away, as I had just walked in the door from work, and the next minute I was sure I was having a heart attack. I was alone. I was scared. And luckily, a fiend who lives near by, was home to help.
I prayed it was a one time thing, but it wasn't. And soon I found myself on medication. My particular type of depression is situational depression, caused by one of more events in my life, which caused me stress.
The medication helped with the panic attacks and I relaxed a bit. At this point I did not have any major signs of depression, but sadness lingered under the surface and I was confused. I made some changes to my lifestyle that I felt would help. For one, I quit my job and spent more time with my husband, who was working out of town on the other side of our state. We rented a small house and I spent almost three years with him. I was hopeful and muddled along, took my meds and thought all was well. After being away from our home for three years, I decided to move back, while my husband continued to work.
I tried coming off my meds and was fine for a few months and then I crashed. I thought I knew the underlying cause of my sadness, but I had never really done anything, other than taken medication, to get to the root cause. So I went back on the meds and started seeing a therapist.
The things that came out in our sessions were beyond my comprehension and I stopped seeing her. According to her there were layers of behaviors, feelings, thoughts, pain and habits built into this life of mine and I had no clue they were causing me problems. I had always felt I was a strong, confident woman.
I was beyond sad and barely functioning. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to see people, or go out. I didn't want to cook, or garden, or do any of the things I had always loved doing. I could not concentrate to read and spent much of my day watching the entire seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls. No one was home during the week for me to worry about, and I could put on a good act when I had to, to keep up appearances, but I also knew this was not a life.
The one thing that kept me going was my camera. I had started a 365 project in 2013 and was still at it a few years later. I made myself take that photo every day. I knew something had to change so I took some online classes and tried different avenues, seeking out anything that might make a difference and help me move beyond the darkness.
One class I took was taught by a sweet friend I had met in an online self portrait class. She offered me a test spot in her new class Coming Home to Yourself. She had a blog I enjoyed and was an amazing woman who I had admired for a long time. So, I jumped at the chance. I had always thought I paid attention and appreciated the small things in life. But this was different. I learned to slow down and be gentle with myself. I started meditating. I learned I could start again, any time I wanted or needed to if I fell off, and that there were no strict rules, or a right or wrong way to be mindful.
Slowly, little by little I started to live again. I started seeing a different therapist who helped me find my voice and helped me understand I have a say in my life. She helped me sort though the arsenal of tools I had gathered, in vain and desperation, to make my world happy again. She helped me pinpoint what worked and what was just not for me. She helped me guide myself back home to me.
I started thinking about things like judgement and boundaries. I learned how to say "Let me think about that for a bit." or "No, that won't work for me." and saying them without guilt or remorse. I started seeing kindness as the cureall for almost anything and learned to turn that kindness around on myself.
Today my depression is not cured. I still have bouts, which can envelope me in darkness right out of the blue. However, they don't last very long. I still take medication, although I take a very low dose now. I no longer see my therapist but practice mindfulness and mediation daily.
I find I can easily get overstimulated and so saying, "No thank you", comes in handy now. My world is small but mighty and my depression does not scare me any longer. In fact, I credit it with helping me slow down to really see my world. I credit it with helping me sort out what is meaningful and important in my life. I credit it with helping me learn how to speak my mind and my heart with conviction. I know now how truly beautiful light and love are because I sit in that darkness at times.
My depression lead me home. It also took me down a path of deep spirituality and growth. It lead me to my camera and a life of mindfulness and spirituality that comforts me and sings true within me now.
I credit so much of this growth to my friend and teacher Joy. Her classes are taught with clarity and kindness. They come with daily reminders and tiny little practices that easily fit into even the busiest everyday life. She opened up a world to me that was there for the taking, but hidden under all the noise and messiness of life.
She is offering a new class in June, a live one, that I am beyond excited about. I encourage you to take some time to poke around her website. You will find so much goodness there. You can also find her photography, which is full of beautiful light and wisdom on Flickr.
wishing you love, light and gratitude,