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Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

WHEN YOU FEEL YOU CAN’T GO ON
I’m sorry that you’re hurting so desperately right now. I know how painful the seconds, and minutes, and days can be, how long the nights are. I understand how very hard hanging on is, and how much courage it takes.

I ask though that you hold onto one day at a time. Just one day, and slowly this despair will pass. The feelings you fear you’re trapped in will serve their purpose, and then fade away. Difficult to imagine isn’t it? Almost impossible to believe when every cell in your body it seems cries out in agony, desperately in need of comfort. When it feels like the only thing in the whole world that can touch your pain and banish it is beyond your grasp. And after all this time, the assurance that you will heal has become an empty, broken promise.

Just let one tiny cell in your body continue to believe in the promise of healing. Just one. You can surrender every other cell to your despair. Just that one little cell of faith that you can heal and be whole again is enough to keep you going, is enough to lead you through the darkness. Although it can’t banish your suffering, it can sustain you until the time comes for you to let your pain go. And the letting go can only occur in its own time, as much as we would like to push the pain away forever.

Hold on. Hold on to appreciate the beauty of the earth, to feel the songs of the birds in your heart, to learn and to teach, to laugh a genuine laugh, to dance on the beach, to rest peacefully, to experience contentment, to want to be no other place but in the here and now, to trust in yourself, and to trust your life.

Hold on because it’s worth the terrible waiting. Hold on because you are worthy. Hold on because the wisdom that will follow you out of this darkness will be a tremendous gift. Hold on because you have so much love and joy waiting to be experienced. Hold on because life is precious, even though it can bring terrible losses. Hold on because there is so much that you can’t now imagine waiting ahead on your journey – a destiny that only you can fulfill. Hold on although your exhausted and your grasp is shaky, and you want more than anything to let go sometimes, hold on even though. Please hold on.

So much in life can be difficult, even impossible to understand. I know, I know… So many of us have cried in despair, “why?” “why?” “why?,” and still the answers and the comfort failed to show. Survival can be a long and lonely road, in spite of all those who’ve stumbled down the path before you. And it can be a treacherous, torturous journey – so easy to get lost, and yet impossible to avoid even one painful step.

And the light, the light at the end of the dark tunnel for so long cannot be seen, although eventually you’ll begin to feel its’ warmth as you move forward. And forward you must move in order to get through the hell of remembering, of despair, of rage, of grief. Keep looking forward please. Rest if you must, doubt your ability to survive the journey if you have to, but never let go of the guide ropes, although when you close your fingers around them, your hands feel empty, they are there. Please trust me, they are there…

When you’re exhausted, when all you have to count on is a weakened, weary faith, hold on. When you think you want to die, hold on until you recognize that it’s not death you seek, but for the pain to go away. Hold on, because this darkness will surely fade away.

Hold on…Please hold on.

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My heart aches since learning of Robin Williams death. Depression has stolen yet another bright and beautiful soul – one whose life work has offered up so many lessons – to live an authentic life, to love with our whole being, the distinction between curing and healing, what it means to be a father, to see the world anew each day, that life is truly a miracle, to follow our dreams, that sometimes when you win you lose, there is unimaginable power that lives within our stories, that death is not the enemy, to seize the day, and so much more…
Robin’s death is a grim reminder that depression is a liar and that we can never afford to underestimate its power to convince even the brightest and the best of us that there is no reason to hope, and that there will be no better tomorrow. It informs us that reaching out to those in our lives who are despairing can literally be a matter of life and death and that “having it all” doesn’t guarantee happiness.
We’ll miss him….

The Warning Signs of Suicide

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I recently discovered the work of spiritual teacher, Jeff Foster, who suggests that depression is an invitation to awakening and observes, “It’s interesting that the word “depressed” is spoken phonetically as “deep rest”. We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own (false) story of ourselves. It is an unconscious loss of interest in the second-hand – a longing to ‘die’ to the false.”

Depression, asserts Foster, calls us to rest and to heal. Depression invites us to claim our authentic selves, and honor our deepest truths.

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From my perspective, one of the wisest and most beautiful observations made about change and transformation was that of Rita Ghatourey who wrote, “The most sacred place dwells within our heart, where dreams are born and secrets sleep, a mystical refuge of darkness and light, fear and conquest, adventure and discovery, challenge and transformation. Our heart speaks for our soul every moment while we are alive. Listen… as the whispering beat repeats: be…gin, be…gin, be…gin. It’s really that simple. Just begin… again.”

And for those of us whose lives are quaking, and those whose hearts are being urged to begin again, here’s an interesting, informative, and even comforting talk.

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First let me say that I am fully aware that psychiatric medications can save lives. My concern is not their existence, but their abuse. All too often people in emotional pain are prescribed medication by their physicians without even the suggestion that there are other treatment options. For example, If your doctor has prescribed an antidepressant, did he or she also mention exercise, diet, counseling, psycho-education, support groups, exposure to natural light, journaling, etc.?

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Each Day is a Gift

Photographer: Kristen Fowles

The following is the first of three related blog posts.

On this, the last day of  2013,  I am reflecting on the past three years — years that have  proven to be the most painful and challenging of my adult life — my very own dark ages.  These have been years that have both tested and shattered me.  Years that I have needed every bit of wisdom and skill accumulated over a life time to pick up the pieces of my broken self.  Years that broke my heart and beat me down.  Years that I would never ever want to face again, years that had I been forewarned about, I would have run from screaming.

Why am I about to share such a huge part of my personal life here in this blog?  Because of an email that a young woman sent me.  An email that contained so much despair that it kept me tossing and turning last night until the wee hours of this morning.  She ended her email by writing that while she appreciated my wisdom and compassion, she knew that I couldn’t possibly understand, and though I had worked hard and deserved all of the wonderful gifts that my life contained, I had not had to face anything like what she was confronting now.   She concluded that some things that happen to us simply demolish us, leaving us without hope and in total darkness.

I wrote back to her explaining that I know all too well about fumbling hopelessly in the dark along an uncharted path which offered inadequate shelter and no exits.  During these past three years I’ve  endured pain so heavy and dense that even now it can literally take my breath away, have suffered so intensely that my body has still not recovered, and have fought to control a rage so consuming that I sometimes fear it will  burn me alive if I fail to break completely free of it.  Living has hurt, hurt desperately.  And much of what I have lost can never, ever be recovered.

I will share some of what these past three years have contained in my next two blog posts, as I am only now beginning to truly fathom how they have shattered, tested, taught and transformed me.  I am sharing this painful part of my life in order to connect with, reassure, and honor all of those who have lived through or are suffering through their own period of pain and darkness.  They are my sisters and brothers and I am holding them close in my heart as I write…

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I’ve been neglecting this blog as I continue to work on my book, “Dancing in the Dark: Lessons from our Darkest Nights.” And because I still can’t seem to manage to create a new entry today, I want to share a piece that I wrote several years ago.  Although it isn’t new, I feel it flowing after all of these years still straight through my heart.

You sit before me now, head down, while your face seeks shelter in your hands. “I failed,” you confess, sounding hollow and broken. I attempt to comfort and reassure you. When you finally look up at me, I’m not seen, and not heard. You’re so lost inside of your pain and disappointment that my words can’t find you. I can’t find you. And so we sit silently beside one another for a time, both feeling inadequate. You’re hurting so much right now, feeling lost and more than a little sick inside. In my silence, I try to communicate to you that you’re not alone. I’m here. Right beside you. And I still believe in you.

Later, I decide to write you a letter – one you can carry in your pocket to remind you of my caring. A note to read when you’re more open to my message. I know it won’t take your pain away or magically transform your beliefs, but maybe it can hold a seed, one that might eventually emerge from the rich and fertile ground in which I so lovingly planted it.

And so you failed. And this failure wounds you so profoundly that its penetrated deep into your psyche.  It may have even become an integral part of who you believe yourself to be today.

Today, you look into your mirror and see a failure. I look into your eyes and see the wisdom born of pain. And it hurts, this learning. I know. I know. I’ve felt its sting before. I’ve been thoroughly haunted by my own mistakes, miscalculations, and self-judgement. I’ve fallen too. Again and yet again.

Just like you, I forget during those moments when my folly is first discovered – what I know. What we both know. Defeat isn’t the theme of our unique stories, it isn’t what defines who we are, where we’ll go or who we’ll become. It only reminds us that we’re not alone. That we share the legacy of all human-kind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and gets wounded in the fall. Failure, my dear, dear, friend, is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it.

In a commencement address delivered at Moorpark College in 1989, James D. Griffen remembered John Kennedy O’Toole, a young writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Imagine what it would have felt like to him to achieve this coveted award. How successful, how triumphant, how wonderful he would have felt. I say “would of” because we’ll never know how he might have felt. He’ll never know. We can only imagine on his behalf, because he never lived to claim his prize. After being rejected by seventeen publishers, he committed suicide. What a strange term, “to commit” suicide, when the act is above all else, a lack of commitment.

We must all hold fast in the darkness, for regardless of the blackness which may surround us – light always eventually illuminates our path. Always…

Experience fully the pain of your failure. You must, bless you. I know you must. But when your body and soul grows weary of the sadness, the recriminations, the “what ifs” (and they will), accept the compensations, (however modest) that accompany your misfortune. Learn the lessons that follow behind them. They’ll serve you well. You’ll be wiser, stronger, and more prepared for the rest of your journey if you take them with you. Rest now if you need to. Grieve if you must. And when you’re ready to collect them, let me know. I’ll gladly help you gather them up.

So what’s the moral of this story? Your story? It’s not a story about loss, deficiency, and flaws. It’s a story about lessons learned, overcoming, moving forward and onward, and most importantly – it is a story about hope.

Some of my most cherished tales have touched my heart and at the same time they have made me weep. And though I’m sad for you right now, I want you to know my weary friend, that I love your story still…

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http://youtu.be/7HDFEbsGRlA

Are you wondering what you can do to overcome depression in addition to psychotherapy and medication? You may want to watch the video above which features Stephen Ilardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, sharing his research findings regarding how life style changes can significantly reduce symptoms of depression. You’re probably in control of much more than you realize.

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Perhaps one of the greatest reasons I was drawn to become a psychotherapist is that I’m a lover of stories. Storytelling isn’t only an ancient art form and a means through which information and wisdom is shared, it can also be a powerful source of inspiration and healing.

In a speech entitled, “Politics as Spiritual Practice” Larry Robinson, former Mayor of Sebastopol California observed, “Stories tell us who we are and where we belong. They give meaning to our lives and to our suffering. In an age of fear and uncertainty, people are hungry for a story which shows us a way through the current darkness…Story has the power to bring soul back to the world.” And so from time to time, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite soul full stories with you.

Gifted poet and speaker, David Whyte, was visiting Brother David Steindl-Rast one evening after a very long and stressful day at work. Whyte had been struggling with whether or not to leave his job and pursue his calling as a poet full time and shared with brother David that he was absolutely exhausted.

I picture the two Davids in a warm and dimly lit room, wine glasses held loosely, and a book of Rilke’s poems resting on a low table between them. The poet’s broad shoulders are slightly slumped, his dark head bent and his wise and loving friend is leaning in slightly towards him as he very gently shares the following, “You know David, the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.”

Whyte tilts his head and shifts his position slightly as something not yet definable stirs quietly within him. “The antidote to exhaustion isn’t necessarily rest,” he repeats slowly. “What is the antidote to exhaustion?” Now it’s Whyte who is leaning forward, entirely receptive to the gift some part of him already knows is on its way.

“The antidote to exhaustion,” brother David responds, “is wholeheartedness.”

And while it was not me who asked the question, not my own exhaustion and depletion that called brother David’s response into being, it is my own soul that stirs in response. “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

Yes.

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Recently I was appreciating the photographs of a woman whom I admire tremendously – pictures of her garden, the ocean, a number of stunning landscapes, an osprey nest, and an eagle in flight. As a child she was the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, tortured by the kind of cruelty and ugliness that can break hearts and shatter souls. And yet, as an adult she has spent a great deal of time both capturing and creating beauty. I was reminded as she shared her photography with me of psychologist, Rollo May, one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement.

As a young man May fell victim to a debilitating depression. Many years later, when asked by writer and film maker, Phil Cousineau, what had saved him during that dark and painful time, Rollo replied, “beauty.”

In his book, “My Quest for Beauty” May wrote of wandering aimlessly in the hills of Greece where one day he stumbled into a field of wild poppies and had the following epiphany, “It seemed that I had not listened to my inner voice, which had tried to talk to me about beauty. I had been too hard-working, too ‘principled’ to spend time merely looking at flowers . . . it had taken a collapse of my whole former way of life for this voice to make itself heard. . . What is beauty? . . . Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases one’s sense of being alive.”

I am thinking about my remarkable photographer friend and about Rollo May when I visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. After a long and difficult week, I lie down beside the waterfall in the rhododendron garden among the ferns, hostas, bees, and beautiful blossoms. I welcome the beauty, allow myself to become intoxicated by it, lost in it. George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.” And so I send my love out into the garden. I listen. It begins to speak…

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