Today, I was hard pressed to find a mighty reason for gratitude, instead I realized that there was always the ever-present gratitude for solutions to keep life simple. I started the day posting the previous day’s gratitude post, which I’d written but forgotten. My January was becoming a series of stumbling stones and I was feeling my foundation crumbling.
I wasn’t alone, my email was chock full of blogs I follow dealing with depression. Whatever the cause, whether it be seasonal, old traumas, childhood damage or just a part of our DNA, January was turning into a mire for more people than just me. Of course, those blogging were also sharing their hard-learned toolbox of how to extricate oneself from the muck. When I went to look for a duty free image, I found a page that described a “The Shifting Mire as the central bulk of the Swamp of Sorrows west of the Pool of Tears.” The image of the Shifting Mire was painfully familiar and brought back memories of slogging through my own pool of tears.
Depression is a frustrating state. You slip into it slowly, like the surf and it takes you like a riptide. I was caught in a riptide once and immediately felt a generous calm, I knew I was in mortal danger but I also remembered the instructions for surviving. Let it take you away and gently angle your swim parallel to the shore until you are released. I did exactly this and found myself paddling to shore a few hundred feet South of where my sister and boyfriend stood. I spent days in awe of the power of this elusive force and it was quite easy for me to find comparisons to depression. It was a few weeks after my mother’s suicide and my grief had joined forces with my old friend depression.
But, I had my toolbox. I was reluctant to open it. There is a feeling of betrayal in wanting to get through grief. Of course, there is the common message in all suicides: “Well, you’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” Yes, we were sorry and disappointed. Since, I had worked very hard over the previous years to forge a relationship with my mother, her suicide did not contain the bottomless sense of guilt others might have felt, I was sorry I hadn’t been able to recognize it and convince her otherwise. So, my first tool in my arsenal fit in well, I allowed myself to wallow:
- (1.) To lie in bed and cry –to soak a pillow with my tears.
To cry and cry until I started giggling at the absurdity of my tears. I do not mean an absurdity of my grief, but of the tears. I felt in my heart that my mother was truly where she wanted to be and that she felt too damaged to be repaired. Of course, she was wrong. I believe there is no damage to the soul that can not be mended in life.
- (2.) Exercise
It need not be anything dramatic, simply walk. It is amazingly curative.
- (3.) Get some sun on your face
Whether it’s summer or coldest day of winter, sun will do wonders. Our bodies are able to absorb all the sun we need in the winter via the face or hands. A walk outside on a sunny day will start the subtle gears turning.
I read somewhere that depression is a normal and protective response to life’s pain. It allows you to adjust and adapt to a loss, be it a death, loss of a job, loss of a home; a loss will dredge up familiar memories. Sometimes your mind responds too quickly to a loss and you do things that can not be undone. Depression prevents us from waging wars, exacting revenge and losing perfectly good friends; of course, other people’s response can result in losing their friendship but then were they really friends?
In the 90’s, my doctor suspected I had cancers, both breast and uterine. I worked in a cancer research hospital at the time and thought I was doomed. Six months after the surgery proved all was benign, I fell into a deep depression. My doctor sent me to a psychiatrist who assured me it was all normal. I sighed and he laughed. I was not at all happy with this exchange of reactions. But, he explained that during my husband’s illness I lived in a prolonged constant state of depression. It actually allowed me to stay and do what needed to be done, rather than flee and abandon my responsibilities. So, faced with cancer again, this time my own, my brain responded “Ah, we’ve travelled this road already and we know how to respond.” He further explained that now is the perfect time to retrain my brain to not respond to familiar trauma by getting depressed. He helped me assemble my toolbox and it’s served me well, albeit I sometimes slip so easily into the shifting mire that I don’t immediately recognize it.
So, if you are someone like me or a zillion others on planet earth, for whom depression is a reality, work on your toolbox. It won’t be the same as mine or anyone else’s but knowing you have one ready is a lot like having a charged fire extinguisher. You don’t expect a fire but it’s wonderful to be able to put one out!