Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

I haven’t written a blog entry in over a month, the longest I’ve ever gone without writing. Sadly, inessential activities (like this blog) have been overshadowed by my mother’s cancer and my daughter’s illness, and the lion’s share of my life energy is being poured into sustaining hope and tending wounds.

The trajectory of my mother’s illness is too final and predictable to contemplate, while the weight and course of my child’s suffering is crushing and unknowable. It seems that we have set upon one of those night passages that Sue Monk Kidd observes can “blister the spirit and leave us groping.”

As I tentatively feel my way through a murky shadow land, I remind myself that the whole of my life is still abundantly blessed with love, and sweetness and light even as it requires me to be stronger and wiser than ever before – demands that I do/think/feel more than I have ever done/thought/felt before. Even though it insists that I. must. become. more.

Julia Cameron reminds us that “creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.” For over two decades as a psychotherapist I’ve witnessed so many transformations that were initiated by heartbreak and cultivated in darkness. And while there have been times when I could hardly bare to look into the depths of despair and suffering, I am especially grateful for them now, each and every one of them, because I have seen with my own eyes and heart what we are capable of surviving, overcoming, and becoming. Because I have seen, I can believe.

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“There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.”
Author Unknown

Being a proponent for strength based therapies for the past twenty years, I was extremely receptive when positive psychology was first introduced to the world. Like so many therapists, I’d experienced that terrible sense of hopelessness that periodically emerged during my early years as a therapist as I and my client become entrenched in the muck of pain and pathology. There in my light filled office, muscles tensed and heart heavy, gazing into the eyes of someone whom I had come to care deeply about, I all too often came perilously close to developing tunnel vision. I had witnessed the pain, listened compassionately, and carefully gathered up the shattered pieces of a broken story, while failing to truly see the
epic tale before me

I had come close enough to not only touch the wounds, but to hold them closely, and yet I had allowed precious and essential aspects of my client to move beyond my immediate reach – all of those experiences, lessons, wisdom, and unique strengths and gifts that my client possessed which absolutely guaranteed a successful (though never without risk or pain)passage.

When I learned to adapt my lens so that I could readily shift my focus back and forth between pain and possibility, pathology and promise, I not only improved my effectiveness and enhanced my vision – I discovered an inner voice. This voice has sustained me through many difficult, frightening and even heart breaking journeys with clients, and while this voice still expresses self-doubt and even despair, it is never without hope. And with hope in tact, we can go on. I can go on.

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When we encounter times in our lives that disorient us, frighten us, or wound us, we generally view them as unwelcome interruptions or unfortunate detours that have been inflicted by some outside force, or are the result of our own misguided actions. Seldom do we recognize that the discomfort that we’re experiencing may in fact be originating from a very deep and wise place inside of ourselves that is calling to us. Calling for us to stop and to listen, to explore the meaning and purpose of our lives, and to assess whether our actions and choices reflect what is best for us and in us. A voice that calls us to answer the question, “is the path that I am on now one that will constrict or enlarge me, hollow me out or deepen me, distract me or teach me, harm me or heal me?”

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Far too often therapists and physicians fail to diagnose bipolar disorder. According to the research, about one in three people diagnosed with major depression may in fact have bipolar disorder. The video featured above, “Behind the Mask of Depression” does a good job of differentiating bipolar disorder from other disorders that it’s frequently mistaken for including anxiety and depressive disorders.

Here also are some links to articles that address this issue:

Strategies to Reduce Misdiagnosis of Bipolar Depression

Bipolar Disorder Misdiagnosed as Depression:
Researchers Pinpoint 5 Factors That Can Help Improve Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

The Misdiagnosis of Bipolar disorder

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In “How We Choose to be Happy,” Rick Foster and Greg Hicks describe a process they call ‘recasting’. In order to learn how to recast:

1. Identify a problem that you’re currently struggling with
2. Next, ask yourself the following questions in regards to the problem that you’ve identified:
• What am I feeling?
• Have I allowed myself feel all of the emotions that might be associated with the problem I’m currently facing?
• In spite of how hurtful this problem has been, what have I learned about myself or others as I’ve struggled with this problem? What have I learned about my life in general?
• Has this problem led me to make any positive changes in my life?
• Are there meaningful changes that I could make in my life that would make me more effective in dealing with this problem or happier overall?
• If this problem is unlikely to change, how can I improve other aspects of my life?

Take your time as you answer these questions, you may even want to come back to them more than once before you consider this exercise complete. Recasting provides you with greater perspective and will help illuminate the lessons that are invariably contained within any challenge that we commit to responding to thoughtfully and consciously.

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Despite the poor quality of the introduction, this lecture by Andrew Solomon, author of , “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” (based on his own struggle with major depression) is well worth the time it takes to listen.

Following is a quote from Solomon’s book:

“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”

On the PBS special, “Depression: Out of the Shadows” Solomon observes,

“I always say that the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and that depression has to do with finding all of life totally overwhelming…

…clinical depression really has to do with the feeling that you can’t do anything, that everything is unbelievably difficult, that life is completely terrifying, and a feeling of this free-floating despair, which is overpowering and horrifying…

…So that’s the real message of hope, is that you can get better. And when you do get better, not that you’ll look back on it with great longing, but you may look back on it and think, ‘I learned a lot by going through that. And I’m a better person because I did it.'”

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In an article entitled, “Men’s depression is different — and Dangerous,” Tom Keenan addresses what Harvard psychotherapist Terrence Real identifies as “a silent epidemic in men,” chronic depression.

In his article Keenan points out that:

  • A man’s depression tends to manifest differently than a woman’s. He is far more likely to act out his pain rather than talk about it. Common ways that depression in males is acted out include but are certainly not limited to workaholism, substance abuse, aggression, and irritability.
  • Men are less likely to seek help and more likely to commit suicide.

The following are resources available on the web that I often recommend:

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