A love letter to my depression

ImageI have suffered from depression since I was a young child. Depressive episodes would come and go. Each episode was a little deeper, a little longer, a little harder to come out of.

The pain of my depression was terrible. With mere words, I cannot begin to describe the despair. Thoughts of suicide were as soothing as a lullaby, yet I felt that I was already dead to the world. I was hollowed out, disconnected from life. When I did feel anything, it was sorrow, anger, anxiety or shame. Oh, I felt such shame for being so broken.

Deborah Shields, a woman who only knew me through an online chat group, was the first person to actually name my condition. She plainly told me in a private message “Heutzie, I think you are suffering from depression.” I was furious. Startled. Busted.

And I am forever grateful to her.

Once Deborah named it, I couldn’t deny that something was “not right.” I went to my doctor. I got a prescription for antidepressants. I stared at that bottle for days, giving it the stink eye, refusing to take the pills, refusing to believe I had a mental illness.

But the bold truth is I do.

My brain chemicals don’t work the way they’re supposed to. I take antidepressants, which are wonderfully effective for me. And like any other disease, I manage the illness. I have an open and regular relationship with my doctor. I exercise. I eat whole, healthy foods and cook from scratch. I get enough sleep. I limit my alcohol intake and I quit smoking. I accept help and talk through problems with friends or professionals (my swans). I keep my life balanced.

My depression, so long a part of my life, has made me who I am and who I am is splendid.

In Canada, May 5 to 11 is National Mental Health Awareness week. The US gives the topic the entire month of May. Good on them!

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I don’t know…

This is a blog about simple wisdom from savvy women. But being aware of the things I don’t know is also worthwhile. The more I learn about life the less I realize I “know.” I don’t even know what I don’t know!

The awareness of my own ignorance keeps life open and full of possibilities.

Painting by Glen Tarnowski

Painting by Glen Tarnowski

I thought I knew there was a God (just one) and that there was life before life, and life after death. I was sure that karma, reincarnation, ghosts, spirit communication et al all were real. As it happens, I do still believe in all these things, but do I know these things exist? Do I know what happens when we die? No. I take these things on faith. My mother’s gravestone says “Gone to see for myself” and that sums up the situation rather nicely, in my opinion.

I don’t know what other people are thinking or what motivates them. A lot of the time I don’t even know what I’m going to do next or why.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today, tomorrow or ever. Life is unpredictable. It can blindside or delight in the space of a heartbeat.

Knowing that I don’t know much means I can comfortably let the world and the people in it run their own lives without feeling the need to meddle or change everything or everyone. It’s a state of being that’s simultaneously humbling and liberating, and there is deep peace in accepting that life is full of unsolvable mysteries.

This moment is the moment

One morning a few weeks ago, near the end of one of the most bitter winters in living memory, I was walking to my chiropractor’s office. I go to his office once a week – the only time I take that route.

Along the way, I pass a community garden marked by a white picket fence. That morning, the shadow of the fence undulated in blue lines across a gleaming, fresh snow drift. I considered stopping to take a photo of the fence, the shadows, the brittle, diamond-like snow reflecting the blue sky.

But it was so cold. I didn’t want to stop and take off my mittens in the frigid temperatures or take the time to find my phone. “I’ll get that picture next time,” I told myself.

Image

A photo that I didn’t take from
http://www.beyondthefieldsweknow.org

But there wasn’t a next time. There was never another week where the snow was that fresh and cold AND the sun shone AND the light was right.

Just in case I hadn’t gotten the message clearly enough, the Universe reiterated it for me last Sunday when I went to a drumming recital. At the end of the session, class and audience were invited to take up a drum or other percussion instrument and jam together. It was an amazing, collective experience. Afterwards, one of the leaders noted “The music we just created will never exist again.”

I’m glad I was fully in that moment.

Each spot of time is unique. Be in it. Absorb it. Appreciate it. This moment is the only moment and will never be again.