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Archive for the depression Category

My Dark Ages: Years that have Shattered, Tested and Transformed Me (Part One)

free to use man and dog walking in snow

The following is the first of three related blog posts.

On this, the last day of  2013,  I am reflecting on the past three years years that have  proven to be the most painful and challenging of my adult life my very own dark ages.  These have been years that have both tested and shattered me.  Years that I have needed every bit of wisdom and skill accumulated over a life time to pick up the pieces of my broken self.  Years that broke my heart and beat me down.  Years that I would never ever want to face again, years that had I been forewarned about, I would have run from screaming.

Why am I about to share such a huge part of my personal life here in this blog?  Because of an email that a young woman sent me.  An email that contained so much despair that it kept me tossing and turning last night until the wee hours of this morning.  She ended her email by writing that while she appreciated my wisdom and compassion, she knew that I couldnt possibly understand, and though I had worked hard and deserved all of the wonderful gifts that my life contained, I had not had to face anything like what she was confronting now.   She concluded that some things that happen to us simply demolish us, leaving us without hope and in total darkness.

I wrote back to her explaining that I know all too well about fumbling hopelessly in the dark along an uncharted path which offered inadequate shelter and no exits.  During these past three years I’ve  endured pain so heavy and dense that even now it can literally take my breath away, have suffered so intensely that my body has still not recovered, and have fought to control a rage so consuming that I sometimes fear it will  burn me alive if I fail to break completely free of it.  Living has hurt, hurt desperately.  And much of what I have lost can never, ever be recovered.

I will share some of what these past three years have contained in my next two blog posts, as I am only now beginning to truly fathom how they have shattered, tested, taught and transformed me.  I am sharing this painful part of my life in order to connect with, reassure, and honor all of those who have lived through or are suffering through their own period of pain and darkness.  They are my sisters and brothers and I am holding them close in my heart as I write

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I Love Your Story Still.

cowper Titania sleeps
Ive been neglecting this blog as I continue to work on my book, Dancing in the Dark: Lessons from our Darkest Nights. And because I still cant seem to manage to create a new entry today, I want to share a piece that I wrote several years ago.  Although it isnt new, I feel it flowing after all of these years still straight through my heart.

You sit before me now, head down, while your face seeks shelter in your hands. I failed, you confess, sounding hollow and broken. I attempt to comfort and reassure you. When you finally look up at me, Im not seen, and not heard. Youre so lost inside of your pain and disappointment that my words cant find you. I cant find you. And so we sit silently beside one another for a time, both feeling inadequate. Youre hurting so much right now, feeling lost and more than a little sick inside. In my silence, I try to communicate to you that youre not alone. Im here. Right beside you. And I still believe in you.

Later, I decide to write you a letter one you can carry in your pocket to remind you of my caring. A note to read when youre more open to my message. I know it wont take your pain away or magically transform your beliefs, but maybe it can hold a seed, one that might eventually emerge from the rich and fertile ground in which I so lovingly planted it.

And so you failed. And this failure wounds you so profoundly that its penetrated deep into your psyche.  It may have even become an integral part of who you believe yourself to be today.

Today, you look into your mirror and see a failure. I look into your eyes and see the wisdom born of pain. And it hurts, this learning. I know. I know. Ive felt its sting before. Ive been thoroughly haunted by my own mistakes, miscalculations, and self-judgement. Ive fallen too. Again and yet again.

Just like you, I forget during those moments when my folly is first discovered what I know. What we both know. Defeat isnt the theme of our unique stories, it isnt what defines who we are, where well go or who well become. It only reminds us that were not alone. That we share the legacy of all human-kind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and gets wounded in the fall. Failure, my dear, dear, friend, is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it.

In a commencement address delivered at Moorpark College in 1989, James D. Griffen remembered John Kennedy OToole, a young writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces. Imagine what it would have felt like to him to achieve this coveted award. How successful, how triumphant, how wonderful he would have felt. I say would of because well never know how he might have felt. Hell never know. We can only imagine on his behalf, because he never lived to claim his prize. After being rejected by seventeen publishers, he committed suicide. What a strange term, to commit suicide, when the act is above all else, a lack of commitment.

We must all hold fast in the darkness, for regardless of the blackness which may surround us light always eventually illuminates our path. Always…

Experience fully the pain of your failure. You must, bless you. I know you must. But when your body and soul grows weary of the sadness, the recriminations, the what ifs (and they will), accept the compensations, (however modest) that accompany your misfortune. Learn the lessons that follow behind them. Theyll serve you well. Youll be wiser, stronger, and more prepared for the rest of your journey if you take them with you. Rest now if you need to. Grieve if you must. And when youre ready to collect them, let me know. Ill gladly help you gather them up.

So whats the moral of this story? Your story? Its not a story about loss, deficiency, and flaws. Its a story about lessons learned, overcoming, moving forward and onward, and most importantly it is a story about hope.

Some of my most cherished tales have touched my heart and at the same time they have made me weep. And though Im sad for you right now, I want you to know my weary friend, that I love your story still…

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Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Depression

http://youtu.be/7HDFEbsGRlA

Are you wondering what you can do to overcome depression in addition to psychotherapy and medication? You may want to watch the video above which features Stephen Ilardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, sharing his research findings regarding how life style changes can significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Youre probably in control of much more than you realize.

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Safire Rose On Letting Go


I have been in Florida for the past month and plan to remain here with my mother until she dies. I find very little time for writing these days, for little else actually other than caring for her and my father. I am firmly planted here by my mothers side although my thoughts and heart wander quite regularly back to Maine where my husband, daughter, grandchildren, friends, and clients go about their lives. I send them love and hold them closely in my heart. There is a great deal of both holding on and letting go happening in my life right now.

The following is a poem by Reverend Safire Rose sent to me by a wise and wonderful woman whom I feel blessed to know. I hope it touches you as it has touched me.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

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David Whyte, Brother David Steindl-Rast , and the Antidote to Exhaustion

Perhaps one of the greatest reasons I was drawn to become a psychotherapist is that I’m a lover of stories. Storytelling isn’t only an ancient art form and a means through which information and wisdom is shared, it can also be a powerful source of inspiration and healing.

In a speech entitled, “Politics as Spiritual Practice” Larry Robinson, former Mayor of Sebastopol California observed, “Stories tell us who we are and where we belong. They give meaning to our lives and to our suffering. In an age of fear and uncertainty, people are hungry for a story which shows us a way through the current darkness…Story has the power to bring soul back to the world.” And so from time to time, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite soul full stories with you.

Gifted poet and speaker, David Whyte, was visiting Brother David Steindl-Rast one evening after a very long and stressful day at work. Whyte had been struggling with whether or not to leave his job and pursue his calling as a poet full time and shared with brother David that he was absolutely exhausted.

I picture the two David’s in a warm and dimly lit room, wine glasses held loosely, and a book of Rilke’s poems resting on a low table between them. The poet’s broad shoulders are slightly slumped, his dark head bent, and his wise and loving friend is leaning in slightly towards him as he very gently shares the following, “You know David, the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” Whyte tilts his head and shifts his position slightly as something not yet definable stirs quietly within him. “The antidote to exhaustion isn’t necessarily rest,” he repeats slowly. “What is the antidote to exhaustion?” Now it’s Whyte who is leaning forward, entirely receptive to the gift some part of him already knows is on its way. The antidote to exhaustion,” brother David responds, “is whole heartedness.”

And while it was not me who asked the question, not my own exhaustion and depletion that called brother David’s response into being, it is my own soul that stirs in response. “The antidote to exhaustion is whole heartedness.”

Yes.

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How Rollo May Survived his Nervous Break Down

Recently I was appreciating the photographs of a woman whom I admire tremendously – pictures of her garden, the ocean, a number of stunning landscapes, an osprey nest, and an eagle in flight. As a child she was the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, tortured by the kind of cruelty and ugliness that can break hearts and shatter souls. And yet, as an adult she has spent a great deal of time both capturing and creating beauty. I was reminded as she shared her photography with me of psychologist, Rollo May, one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement.

As a young man May fell victim to a debilitating depression. Many years later, when asked by writer and film maker, Phil Cousineau, what had saved him during that dark and painful time, Rollo replied, “beauty.”

In his book, “My Quest for Beauty” May wrote of wandering aimlessly in the hills of Greece where one day he stumbled into a field of wild poppies and had the following epiphany, “It seemed that I had not listened to my inner voice, which had tried to talk to me about beauty. I had been too hard-working, too principled to spend time merely looking at flowers . . . it had taken a collapse of my whole former way of life for this voice to make itself heard. . . What is beauty? . . . Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases ones sense of being alive.”

I am thinking about my remarkable photographer friend and about Rollo May when I visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. After a long and difficult week, I lie down beside the waterfall in the rhododendron garden among the ferns, hostas, bees, and beautiful blossoms. I welcome the beauty, allow myself to become intoxicated by it, lost in it. George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.” And so I send my love out into the garden. I listen. It begins to speak

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On Darkness, Despair and Hope

I havent 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 mothers cancer and my daughters 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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Why I Incorporate Positive Psychology into My Therapy

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, Id 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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A Question to Ask When Your Life Hurts

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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Behind the Mask of Depression

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 its 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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