Tag: depression

The Masks We Wear

The Masks We Wear

Masks We WearMoments come along every minute of the day when we get to choose whether or not we will be real or wear a mask. In fact, much of the time we may think we are being real but we’re really play acting. Putting on a mask, pretending to think and feel something we don’t really think or feel starts at a very early age. It starts so early that we are actually fooled into thinking it’s who we truly are.  We don’t need to blame ourselves for this. It’s human nature and all tied up in our survival instinct and the life and death need to be a part of the tribe. It keeps us alive, especially as children. Encoded deep in our DNA is our desire to love and be loved.  It’s likely what makes the real and honest part of it all so very tricky.

The master scheme would work out very well if we were born into and bonded with individuals who embraced the real us. For just about 99.9% of us it’s not the way it works. We are born into families who mistreat us, work diligently to change us, don’t care about who we are, or in other words are not the soul mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers – the ones who will provide the support and guidance we need to be ourselves. This kicks off a wild and necessary ride for many of us. Yes, necessary. We are launched into life with one hand tied behind our back and a foot in our back pocket. Then we’re told to go out there and knock ’em dead. Who and what gets knocked dead is us. The walking wounded.

We live lives that aren’t a reflection of who we are. We connect with people who allow us to continue to be the person with the foot in the back pocket and we allow them to be the person with both hands tied behind their backs. It’s a win-win. Well. Not really. No, not at all. Because it hurts the back to be tied up so. It causes us to limp and wobble and fall over without any limbs to catch us. Believe it or not, that’s the silver lining in the cloud. We trip, and wobble and fall down, again and again, until we either kill ourselves or figure out that we’re supposed to reach back and untie the ties; to free our built-in support system. Our feet, legs and arms are there for a reason. We also have a powerful inner guidance system, that is there to help us maintain our balance and navigate the treacherous waters of life.

We must take the first step, however.  It is up to us to make the choice to cut the ties that bind us, to make the effort to learn to use our navigation system, and to take the risk to make true choices when they present themselves. Little by little, choice by choice we learn. Falling down actually sets us free.

In order to take our mask off we have to know we have one, and the way we know we have one is through the pain we feel. Conflict, confusion, collapse. The three C’s.

Conflict – Indecision, anger, depression; “My true self fights with my mask self. I try to make myself be or do something that is not right for me. I work at a job I hate. I dress a certain way to please my husband. I wear my hair the way my mother used to like it. Simple examples. Or, part of me wants to be in this relationship, part of me doesn’t. And so, I stay…and stay…and stay. Why? Identity conflict. I’m part mask, part me trying to be me.”

Confusion – Living life in a constant state of confusion, not-sureness, uncertainty and/or fear. “Afraid or unwilling to look honestly at what’s  making me uncomfortable with my choices in life. I am unable to take responsibility for myself and my choices. I think it’s to follow a path of least resistance. It feels like I will be avoiding more pain by continuing with the status quo.”

Collapse – Giving up or giving in. “I don’t try anymore. I just do whatever I have to do to get by. I don’t feel or I go to bed and sleep away my feelings. I drown my feelings in computer games, alcohol, shopping binges, food. I’m just going along for the ride and no longer try.”

Conflict, confusion and collapse are all gifts. If we receive them in the Spirit in which they were intended, we will open ourselves to the process of transformation.

One of the very first gifts I received was the gift of depression. MORE TO COME

I STILL Honor You Robin Williams – July 21, 1951 to August 11, 2014

I STILL Honor You Robin Williams – July 21, 1951 to August 11, 2014

Robin WilliamsToo little has been said about Robin Wiliams’ suicide. Too little has been done to honor his life. I sense a world uncertain and confused about how to respond to his suicide, or how they “should” feel, and so they remain silent. Still caught in the archaic notion that depression and suicide are choices we make, sympathy, compassion and understanding are lacking. We are too often a heartless society, unable to rise above our baser instincts, our judgments, our egos.

Robin William’s death could have been a launch pad for vitally important and valuable conversations about mental health, depression, suicide, medically induced suicide, the emotional and mental aspects of illnesses such as  Parkinson’s and Dementia, how we allow advertising and drug companies to determine what is best for us, how doctor’s too often do the same. His death could have been an addition to his legacy, not an embarrassing post-script.

I was stunned by the lack of honor paid to this talented man and his incredible body of work at this year’s awards ceremonies.  When it came to the segment honoring those lost during the year, his picture seemed to be thrown in at the end, like an afterthought,  as if they were debating right up to show time whether or not to include him.  The fact that he died at his own hand seemed to somehow tarnish his legacy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the reasons behind his suicide were thrashed about as hotly on the internet as Donald Trump’s current insult to our collective intelligence are now? I didn’t see it, and I’m present here every day more than I often would like to be.  A few spoke up at the time of his death, like Dean Burnett’s article in The Guardian, Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish, otherwise the topic was dropped quickly; a lack of consensus perhaps, or a lack of understanding.

Robin Williams’ death was ruled a suicide. That is the black and white of medical science. It’s not the whole story. It never is. News reporting didn’t seem to want to go the distance. US Today reported:

The official cause of Williams death, released Friday by the Marin County coroner, was ruled a suicide by hanging, with no evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs in his system and only therapeutic concentrations of prescribed medications.

 

Williams had long battled alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, but in November 2013 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to his widow, after noticing a tremor in his left arm and difficulty moving on his left side as early as 2011.

 

Now a redacted pathology report from the autopsy on Williams’ body has been made public and it mentions Lewy body disease, a newly recognized disorder similar to Parkinson’s.

My mother-in-law who died a little over two years ago, and who was born on August 11th, the  same day on which Robin Williams life ended, was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She was given powerful doses of medication that created a vast array of difficult side affects, including anxiety, depression, and hallucinations. Several years into treatment the doctor said, “Oh, sorry, my mistake. You don’t have Parkinson’s.”

We need to question our medical practitioners with increasing frequency and regularity about the drugs they are prescribing, too often without respect for the consequences.  We must continue to be pro-active in our health care, questioning, reading, researching and evaluating in addition to seeking the advice of a professional. We need to stop being so agreeable and willing to accept whatever the multi-billion dollar drug industry prescribes for us, because the drug companies, more often than not, are dictating what doctor’s are prescribing and/or inducing us to ask for them.  They convince us with their expensive advertising that we need their product, much like McDonald’s, and the ill effects may be just as inauspicious.

DoubtfireIn addition, we need to continue to look harder at the underlying causes of mental illness. It is not always a difficult childhood, a trauma, a confused identity alone that leads to depression and suicide. These things may only be the precipitating factor behind a biological imbalance, or vice versa; a biological imbalance that may be corrected by diet, supplements, or remedies other than the chemicals prescribed by drug companies.

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have served their purpose and continue to do so for many, during a time in history when they were the best option available to us. Now, however, research is reaching further every day into the body/mind connection. Let’s start listening to their findings and following common sense at least as often as we follow big business and advertising.

Lewy Body Dementia, the disease Robin Williams actually had, causes hhallucinations, visuospatial abnormalities, and other psychiatric disturbances. As mentioned above, Parkinson’s medications can cause these types of problems as well. Should he not have been monitored more carefully?

Robin Williams’ life was a gift. I hope one day I will be able to watch Mrs. Doubtfire without a deep sadness lurking behind each laugh; or Hook without wishing this vibrant life was still dancing across the screen. I don’t think I will ever force myself to decide which of his movies I love the best. Each expressed a piece of him.  How rich a life he lived; how very much of himself he gave in the process. We should all live so boldly. In light of such a life,  does the end really matter? I honor you Robin Williams.

 

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

 

It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures. ”   Carl Jung;  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

Much of my life I spent locked in the cage of a deep and pervasive loneliness. It did not matter that I had friends, family or people around me. I struggled with this abiding isolation, helpless to make it go away. I berated myself for not “doing” the right thing, or “attracting” the right people into my life. Why when I married my best friend and was surrounded by children and friends that loved me was I still assailed by loneliness?

Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí
Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí

As I grew older, my parents died, my children left home, my husband and i were living with the consequences of a life time of destructive patterns of interaction, was I found myself in a “dark night of the soul”, as described by St. John of the Cross in his poem and treatise by that name – Dark Night of the Soul (Dover Thrift Editions). I saw nothing but endless isolation ahead, and death. I knew that I had to face my fear of being alone once and for all. I knew that I had to face it alone. That was all I knew, and it was terrifying. I believed there had to be a different answer to the problem than I had heretofore found and I became determined to find it.

Coming through a dark night is never easy, but it is always life and spirit altering. In my dark night I discovered a connection to myself and to my soul that now sustains me in a way nothing else was ever meant to do. I understand that now. One cannot escape loneliness through action or connection to others. One must heal the emptiness inside that separates us from ourselves. Only then can we gain true intimacy with others. It sounds simple, It is not.

Carl Jung discovered this as well. He discovered and articulated our need to discover the “powers of our own natures” and to live from within our own creative powers, using our own rich and magnificent resources. We have far more inside of ourselves and at our disposal than most of us ever imagine; more than most of us can even conceive, particularly when we are locked in the fear, dread and scarcity mentality of our culture. To discover our inner strength, the bubbling fountain of life energy that is ever-present to us, it is necessary to disconnect from anything that pulls us away from it and from that which draws our attention to false solutions and weak excuses. Only then, will we discover the richest part of this life we are now living.

Have you experience a “dark night of the soul”? Have you experienced deep and abiding loneliness? What did you discover there?

Unraveling Ourselves

Backwards Thinking

 

A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

Father's DayFather’s Day is a day, created by a culture whose moral, ethical and spiritual foundation is a times questionable, and yet we are sucked in by it. How many of us are feeling guilt today because we don’t feel a generosity of spirit towards our fathers? Or, sad because our fathers were taken from us too soon? Or, a hole in our hearts because we did not have a father? Not everyone has a Hallmark Father’s Day. I would guess most do not, and yet, we feel somehow that there is something wrong with us when we experience negative feelings on this contrived holiday.

My father died fifteen years ago, but our relationship never got off the ground. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t experience discomfort from the lack of love in my early life. This emptiness, however, has been a gift to me. It has driven me deeper and deeper over the years into an exploration of the inner life; to a richer understanding of psychological and spiritual growth. I have more compassion for those in pain than I might otherwise have had, and a powerful desire to walk with those who suffer through their pain and toward the light.

Our discomfort in life is our signal to take a deeper look inside of ourselves. When we feel the nudge of anxiety, fear, sorrow, or depression, it is our cue that something needs attention. Although we are not meant to dwell in our discomfort, I do believe it is a useful tool for opening our wounds to the light of truth, and in doing so heal the past so that we might live more fully in the present. Our journey in life is to learn from our pain and discomfort and to set it free, in order to create space in our hearts for something better.

I have no real reason to feel sorry for myself because my father was emotionally absent. I know that now. If you feel uncomfortable with Father’s Day, and the memory or thoughts around your relationship with your father, be compassionate with yourself. Use your discomfort as an opportunity to go deeper, to grow in your understanding and acceptance of what was, and most importantly to find the real you, the ember of truth and wholeness that lives within you still. Each of us carries an ember within us of love and truth. It may be buried beneath years of hurt and despair, many of us have built walls a mile thick around it in an effort to protect ourselves from the pain, but it is still there. It will always be there. It is just waiting for us to remove the debris that covers it and blow on it gently until it erupts into a flame.

Replace your pain today with a prayer of gratitude because even in the midst of pain and sorrow there is eternal hope. It is our birthright.

Depression – Fighting the Battle

Depression – Fighting the Battle

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Cineraria

There is no way to measure the pain of depression. There are no blood tests, x-rays, or questionnaires to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not an individual is suffering from depression. There are educated guesses. There are circumstances suggesting the possibility and likelihood of its presence. How much suffering can be endured is relative to the individual in all illnesses, but depression has a way of going unnoticed, of being looked upon as a behavioral or character flaw, not only by outsiders looking in but by the sufferer as well.

Depression is a nebulous disease. It creeps on us going undetected and managed through force of will and determination. Those with long-term depression often have not known anything other than a dark state of mind. They don’t know they’re suffering unless, or until, it becomes too hard to handle or their lives are turned upside down by poor decisions made by a depressed mind. It’s a tragic disease. It’s a disease that significantly alters the course of an individual’s life. And yet, there is no effective diagnosis and no guaranteed treatment or prevention.

Depression is widely treated with medication and therapy.  Almost anyone can walk into their doctor’s office, tell their physician they’re feeling blue and can’t seem to snap out of it, and be given a prescription for antidepressants — especially women — especially those over fifty. I have a problem with this. We’re a quick fix society that loves a fast, easy solution to problems. I’m pretty sure there is no such thing when it comes to treating depression. There are too many variables. There are too many physical, emotional and experiential dynamics at play.

Popping a pill doesn’t address unresolved issues. Therapy doesn’t address diet and exercise. Like most things, I’m a fan of addressing the whole person when it comes to most things. We’re way too complex creatures to toss a pill at a problem and call it a day.

TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION

  • Prescription Drugs – use is on the rise and prices are getting cheaper. Effectiveness is always up for discussion. They work great for some, not so much for others and not at all for a few.
  • Therapy – a valuable addition to the arsenal. Finding the right therapist is crucial. I always recommend interviewing potential therapists and choosing one with whom you feel comfortable and understood; someone who speaks the same language. This takes work, but it’s worth the effort and saves time and money in the long run. Researching types of therapy can be an added plus. More on that later.
  • Exercise – Research has shown repeatedly that exercise boosts endorphins and energy and effectively fights depression. It also combats stress which also can be a factor in depression.
  • Diet – Food allergies and sensitivities can create a physiological environment for depression or worsen an existing depression. Working with someone who understands and knows how the body reacts to a variety foods and circumstances can be very beneficial, a Naturopath for instance. Research has begun to show the ill effects sugar has on our bodies in general and it may in fact, exacerbate depression.
  • Body Work – Everything and anything we do to improve our health and well-being can help counteract depression. Massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, sauna, etc.
  • Spiritual Practices – Meditation, guided imagery meditation, prayer, mindfulness, reflective reading, etc.
  • Education – Learning something new opens the mind to new ways of thinking and re-directs our thoughts along more constructive pathways. Habits of thought are insidious and take a concerted effort to change. Therapy is one avenue, but reading and studying can also be helpful.
  • New Experiences – Depression tends to cause us to shut down and close the doors to our lives. A new experience  may be like a breath of fresh air that lifts the spirits. This, of course, would depend on the depth and nature of the depression.

SEEK HELP AND SUPPORT FOR DEPRESSION

The bottom line is that if you suffer from depression, chances are good that your quality of life suffers. Seeking treatment and support is absolutely a must. It is not something one can manage on ones’ own. It just isn’t. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner relief can be found. That being said, trusting your instincts and being your own advocate is important. If something feels right or works, do it. If it doesn’t, leave it alone and go on to another option. Do consider a variety of simultaneous treatments. We are, after all, very complex creatures!

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HOW TO RECOGNIZE DEPRESSION IN THE ELDERLY

One More Hour of Peace

One More Hour of Peace

c33ce167d791d319f9af4a186ee0272bOn the mend from dental work performed last week, I’ve been  feeling a bit blue and lethargic. The gloomy weather hasn’t helped a bit! This morning, after three days of antibiotics I felt just enough better to force myself into motion. It’s difficult to know for certain whether it’s better to rest, or to move. I decided it was time to find out, so I took off for a long walk with my eagerly awaiting companion. He too was long overdue for some sustained motion.

It was  absolutely the right move. Walking, even on misty, cold days restores my soul and adjusts my perspective on life. Breathing in the moist air fed more than my soul! It seemed to vacate the cobwebs in my breathing apparatus and fired up my imagination.

Our imagination is so essential to the healing process. It expands our world view and allows us to see beyond our pain and whatever it is that is plaguing us in the here and now. Trauma forces us into a dark cave. It shuts us off to possibility. As wounded individuals, the fear and pain that is too often our constant companion takes over our imagination and turns it into a manufacturer of worse case scenarios of the highest order.

In order to thrive after trauma, we must take control of our imagination and point it in the right direction. Those who suffer the most as a result of abuse and trauma may just be the ones with the most powerful imaginations! If this is so, and I believe that it is, then the future bodes well for them as well, as when they are able to unleash this power in a more promising direction, the joy will be as high as the pain was deep.

It is difficult to understand sometimes, particularly when we have had a life long habit of trauma induced negative thinking, that we can harness our thoughts and use them to pull us out of the darkness. While it is important to understand our trauma from a psychological perspective, to grow in self-esteem and self-love, it is equally important to begin practicing a different way of imagining every chance we get.

For example, I recently submitted a few articles for publication to an agent that admittedly was a bit above my “pay grade” – but one can dream, can’t one? To make a long story short I received a rejection letter.  I wasn’t surprised and yet it triggered a spiral of negative thinking. My monkey mind went to work on me…over time! Of course, it didn’t help that I was fighting an infection and  was physically  off my game, but the fact remains it all added up to my overactive imagination turning on me.

It is in these moments, precisely in the midst of a downward spiral, that we must learn to grab hold of our imagination by a force of will and yank ourselves back from the brink. It is a choice. It doesn’t feel like one, but it is.  The trick is to catch ourselves in the act and then break the cycle. The more we are able to do this, the better we will become at doing it, and ultimately the better control we will have on how our past trauma impacts our present lives.

Going for a walk this morning was just one more step in breaking the power that trauma and abuse still has on my life. My choice to walk not only changed but it also interrupted my thought flow, it opened me up to the powerful imagination stimulus of nature. that readily available gift that always reminds me of all that is life-giving and sustaining. It grounds me in a way that nothing else does. As I walk my thoughts go, out of habit, without effort I fall into a more receptive mode. I listened to the damp woods, the trees, the rocks, the rushing stream and was able to take in their message, their gift, their strength. I was able to reconnect with my own positive imagination and I returned home renewed and restored, one more battle won, one more fear conquered, one more hour of peace.

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