Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: October, 2016

Afraid to be afraid

I have been doing a bit of research about depression. From my own experience, depression can be debilitating and a great cause of shame and self-deprecation.

There are many levels of depression, from a minor bout of a day or two; to a severe bout of chronic depression lasting several months. In my teens and early twenties, I endured several major bouts of depression – usually over the loss of a “true love” but sometimes just due to anxiety and self-loathing (or was the self-loathing brought on by the depression? The old chicken or the egg enigma).   However, those were not my only encounters with depression, I’ve struggled my whole life. It is only recently that I have started to really delve into the actual conundrum that is depression – the gray cloud that can set you on your haunches for days or weeks at a time.

Depression – a state of feeling sad. : a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. (Webster)

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “In 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.”

A “major depressive episode” is defined as: “A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.”

What does any of that mean? Only that a lot of us experience depression. It may help you to know that depression is a means of dealing with our everyday fears, anxieties, and loss: our daily stress. Depression can be useful to us – if we learn how to use it to its’ full potential.

“Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable.

Analysis requires a lot of uninterrupted thought, and depression coordinates many changes in the body to help people analyze their problems without getting distracted.

Many other symptoms of depression make sense in light of the idea that analysis must be uninterrupted. The desire for social isolation, for instance, helps the depressed person avoid situations that would require thinking about other things. Similarly, the inability to derive pleasure from sex or other activities prevents the depressed person from engaging in activities that could distract him or her from the problem. Even the loss of appetite often seen in depression could be viewed as promoting analysis because chewing and other oral activity interferes with the brain’s ability to process information.

But is there any evidence that depression is useful in analyzing complex problems? For one thing, if depressive rumination were harmful, as most clinicians and researchers assume, then bouts of depression should be slower to resolve when people are given interventions that encourage rumination, such as having them write about their strongest thoughts and feelings. However, the opposite appears to be true. Several studies have found that expressive writing promotes quicker resolution of depression, and they suggest that this is because depressed people gain insight into their problems.”

How do we learn to use depression in the way it was meant to function? Here are some thoughts:

Stop running from it. I tend to fear that gray feeling. I am afraid that if I sit still too long, it will bowl me over and leave me in a pit of despair for weeks on end. Instead of running, be still. Let your mind ruminate. If you are like me, it will start out in a frenzy – going to and fro between the different hitches but eventually, if you sit long enough and still enough, it will start to put things into order.  (Writing, as part of the process, does help…)

Sorting, sorting, sorting. How much of the fear is real? What part of the anxiety is within my control? What steps can I take to reduce the anguish?

Feel. Just let yourself feel. Just for these few moments. (That’s what you’re really running from – having to feel). We are afraid to be afraid. What if we cry? What if we are angry? What if we lose someone or some thing? What if we are NOT worthy? What if we disappear?

As the tears fall, as the heart aches, as the fears reach their zenith; the air clears, the lungs expand, the water circles the drain and dissipates.




You will be amazed at how much you can love another being. Daily.

Giving birth is an amazing experience. One minute they are a large protrusion in your midsection and the next, they are breathing, crying, moving, expanding like a life raft with a pull string. As women, we experience it differently than the men in our lives – the attachment began the moment we missed our period and KNEW there was a life, felt the ping.

It isn’t just the “feeling” of attachment – it is the nausea, the hunger, the heartburn, the ache, the weight gain, the mood swings. At first, you can’t wait for your belly to “show”. Then, it gets so big, your balance is off and you bump into things like a over-sized bumper car. Your breasts feel enormous, which is nice for awhile but, eventually, they feel awkward and bulbous. Your feet swell, your arms fall asleep at night, and all the while, your belly is a jungle gym of activity – kicking, punching, rolling and pulling gently on your heartstrings.

During childbirth, you are so attuned to your body, waiting, watching, feeling every little twinge. Wondering if this is “normal”, if something is wrong, is it okay to pee (is there some kind of net in the toilet just in case?). In some ways, it feels like your body is turning inside out, walking feels odd, lying down feels onerous. Your mind is racing and you want this to be over but, then again, you don’t because then there will be a baby. A baby who will depend on you for food, shelter, comfort. You will be responsible. Responsible for rearing a citizen, a human, your offspring. Your mind screams, “Not yet, not yet, I’m not ready!”.

Nature takes over. With each contraction, the body endures the dance. There is sweat and tears, anger and fear, joy and trepidation. Don’t push…push. Deep breath…pant. Roll over…hold on…knees up. Breath, breath, breath. Oh, see, there’s the head…

And with those words, there is a “flush”. Your mind clears. There it is. Lying on your stomach. All wrinkled and puffy and pink. Hair matted, body straining at the cold and surprise of birth. You recognize the cry – even though you’ve never heard it before. The smell is familiar. At first touch, there is a small quiver – as the current reconnects between you.

You will be amazed at how much you can love another being. Daily

The dream

She was in a car behind us. There was dirty floodwater everywhere, threatening to take out the bridge. As we crossed, I looked out the rear window at her car. I could see her through the windshield, she was about 6 years old with long hair and was wearing a light purple dress with a white collar – certainly not old enough to drive. As she started on the approach to the bridge, the water covered the road and the dirt began washing away. I could see her car start to drop in the swirl of water and mud. The car was about to sink out of sight. I said, “Keep going, keep going” and, finally, the front wheels found purchase – she pulled out of the eddy and made it to the bridge. I woke up – out of breath and with tears in my eyes – so grateful that she made it, even though I knew it was just a dream.

The girl in the dream was my oldest daughter. She’s not 6 years old, but the little girl in the dream is an age that I remember well. She was just starting school, full of piss and vinegar and already well on her way to being a hard-working perfectionist as a student – even in first grade! She had a round face and was a smart – and bossy – little girl. She loved purple.

She is older now, the mother of two young boys and teaching at a college. She is going through some difficulty right now and I worry about her. I have no doubt about her strength. Time and again, she has proven that she can accomplish great things. But no mother ever wants to watch her children in any kind of struggle.

So much of this struggle is beyond her control and, therefore, well beyond mine. She is in a battle, a fight for what is right in her life. She has to learn to bob and weave, even though it isn’t her choice to be in the ring. It is difficult to keep the gloves up when so many blows are, indeed, below the belt. Relying on the referee is hard to do when you aren’t certain they will see the devious nature of your opponent or the scheming for a victory – flouting rules and common principles of integrity.

All I can do is stay in her corner, pull up the little stool and a towel when the bell sounds – tell her she will win if she can just keep going. She WILL make the bridge and she will be safe and dry on the other side.