Me and My Shadow

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
—–CS lewis

IMG_1113That applies to self-love, too. I am my most vulnerable when I try to honor and love myself. I was nattering on a couple of days ago here. Picking myself up off the kitchen floor (figuratively, I wasn’t really on the floor) has been a supreme effort. The weight of depression I suffered under for a couple of weeks was due to a lot of things but most importantly it was one of the most loving gifts the Universe has ever presented to me. I needed to feel this depression and find tools to work my way out of it back to my usual baseline.

I’m no stranger to depression. I was medicated for years and managed with the help of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, bodywork, sheer will, and a great therapist change my brain chemistry. Please know I’m not downplaying the experience of depression for others. I’m not discounting the dangerous state of depression. I am not criticizing medications used in treating depression. I was very fortunate the way I’m wired I could change my brain chemistry. And yes, I’m still prone to depressed states. I hate them, too. In the midst of depression, I flagellate myself for weak-mindedness and failure. (That’s the depression talking)

I suffer from SAD and it’s not unusual for me to feel depressed in January. That’s why I usually go to Mexico in February. But it didn’t work out this February and I’m delaying my trip away from winter by a few weeks. This trip to Mexico had become ritual for me. Despite a wonderful trip planned in March I feel a bit of loss. Stir in a little financial insecurity; add short days, cloudy skies, artic temperatures and you have a big morose stew of depression. It doesn’t help that I live alone and work from home. I am isolated and when I’m depressed I isolate.

The twelve days I was depressed felt like twelve years. I haven’t been this depressed in sixteen years and it scared me. So on day eight I offered up a beggy prayer to the Universe for some answers and some directions and tools because I didn’t want to be depressed. I missed me.

The answer I received was: “Love yourself, love the depression, allow this to happen and tell people how you feel.”
Telling people how I felt made me even more vulnerable in my depression. But as I talked about it I received love, support, and wise advice. As I felt the depression and allowed myself to experience it in the present moment I learned powerful lessons and the nuts and bolts of meditation.

My lover offered this wise advice to me and it’s a recipe for combating depression:
• Do something for someone else: acts of service
• Watch your diet: no extremes. Don’t over eat or under eat or drink alcohol
• Do something creative
• Journal
• Exercise
I stopped going to the gym during our insane cold snap and I knew this was the first line to pumping up my serotonin levels. But I’ve gone back to the gym and I feel immeasurably better. Getting to the gym has led me to improve my diet that went to complete empty carb Hell during the holidays. Isn’t it amazing that changing my diet back to a balance of protein and carbs has helped? Journaling has led me to several epiphanies (Deserving those raspberries was one of them).

I’ve also learned a few lessons from reading uplifting/self help articles and participating in a webinar about heart breathing.
Heart breathing: breathing out the negative stuff i.e. self-judgment, anger, hurt…and breathing compassion for yourself or others. Trust me this has worked like a charm. Almost as good as the gym. Through this breathing I have thanked my depression because without my SAD  these articles would not have led to a very important shift in my heart:
Lori Ann Lothian’s moving piece about father of her children’s life-threatening illness and how she discovered “nothing is ever wrong”.
Kathy Gottberg’s article showed me how my strident need to be “right” is an issue of control which is where my attachment to outcome is rooted. If I can move past my need to control outcome and perhaps this time around in my 54th year on the cusp of my 55th maybe I’ll believe the memo that says: “the Universe has delicious plans for you, even better than the plans you desire to manifest.” My heart breathing class also led me to this place with the simple advise, “Don’t be attached to form but rather attached to resonance.”

Remember how I mentioned—in the previous post–I hadn’t done anything courageous just for me in the last fifteen years. Well I did it. I allowed something dark and negative in my life to teach me lessons I needed to learn.

Thank you depression.

*I must stress this meditation on my own depression is not meant to minimize the experience or the pathology of depression. If you are depressed get help. Please.

About Laura

When my nest emptied I moved from the big city to a little big town to tend to a ramshackle yellow house on the edge of town. These are my Yellow House Days.
This entry was posted in at the heart of things, Just me, winter. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Me and My Shadow

  1. A brave, inspiring post that I trust will give hope to others who are struggling with the beast.


  2. joyweesemoll says:

    Glad that you found a path that worked for you! I was depressed in the fall and realized that I had deliberately tamped down my optimism in the face of crises in my world (I live in St. Louis County). It felt uncaring to be optimistic when people around me were in states of grief and rage. Turned out, for me, the opposite of optimistic is depression. Who knew? It was a good thing to learn about myself. I’m learning to reach for optimism for my own mental health while not, always, choosing to express it when it might damage the mental health of those around me.


  3. Carolann says:

    I know how serious depression is – my mom suffered from it too. I thank God every day I don’t. What an inspiring post indeed.I know someone who needs to read this so passing this along. thank you!


    • Laura says:

      Thank you for passing it on and I hope it helps. The recipe my boyfriend gave me has been extremely helpful. It’s very commonsense advice I wish I had thought of.


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