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Posts Tagged depression

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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When A Loving Heart Breaks

cowper Titania sleeps
To a wounded angel.

Youre so brave, so strong, so beautiful,

and you can fly so high…

Im so often in awe of you, did you know that?

And please believe me when I tell you

that I cherish you every bit as much

when youre stooping

as when you soar…

And right now, crumpled to the ground,

with your wings folded down around you,

I think I love you even more…

Everything happens for a reason,

good people have told you,

and youve done your very best to believe them.

This philosophy offers such comfort and peace.

And in retrospect, when looking back upon my own life,

for the most part, it rings true.

So much that was painful or disappointing

later proved to serve me.

And I know with all of my heart

that your own pain, one distant day, may serve you.

But I cant offer up that everything happens for a reason to you.

My throat closes around those words the moment they occur to me,

and bitterness rises up to meet them.

How can there possibly be a reason for innocent children

to be tortured physically, sexually, emotionally or spiritually?

Whats the reason for the breaking of a tender heart?

The reward for the shattering of a soul?

There is no reason that I can accept,

and Ive long since given up my quest to acquire one.

I refuse to promise that the agony that you suffer now

will surely compensate you later,

and that youll be the better for it.

As a therapist, Ive looked into too many pain filled eyes.

Eyes that reflect such grief, such regret, such sorrow

Eyes that ask WHY? WHY? WHY?

And you know what?

There never was a why that I found acceptable.

Not a single explanation that was ever good enough for me.

And so my weary angel,

I come to you emptied of answers.

I cant take away your WHY

and replace it with an explanation.

I wish I could.

I want so very much to take your pain away.

Although I cannot take away,

I come to you with a modest offering.

One so small, that Im humbled as I hold it out to you.

Its a small stone with one word engraved upon its surface.

The word is AND.

You were hurt so very badly

AND yet in spite of the hurt, youve grown.

You were deeply wounded

AND still you survived.

You were exposed to the worst in human behavior

AND yet youve always tried to give your best.

Your voice was silenced

AND still youve heard and responded to the pain of others.

You were touched by evil

AND youve chosen to embrace goodness.

You were betrayed

AND still you seek to trust.

Youve been vulnerable and exposed

AND still youve sheltered lost souls with your wings.

Your agony cant be denied,

but neither, my precious sister,

can all of the ANDs that are contained within you.

They too have shaped you,

and even as your pain has left you grounded,

the ANDs will surely make up the magic

that will lead you once again to fly.

Take them with you…

Tammie Fowles

http://sageplace.com/

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Surviving Depression: Wisdom From Gabrielle Roth and My Mother

As a therapist who walks beside others who struggle with depression, and as a woman who has endured its devastating blows myself,  Im all too aware of what overcoming it demands of us.  We are required to hold on even as our grasp weakens,  overwhelmed by dread and hopelessness.  The pull of life  insists that we get up and face the day when all we really want to do is cover up our heads and refuse to come out.  And we are called during our long dark nights to recognize that those voices (all too often the loudest and the most convincing) that repeatedly remind us of all the ways that we have been wounded and taunts us with our failures, disappointments, and of the vast array of dangers that surround us, can not and  must  not be trusted.  And when almost every fiber of our being seems to be shutting down, we are challenged to acknowledge that the gaping wound inside of us is also an opening one that is capable of ushering in as much possibility as it does pain.

Dancer and wisdom keeper, Gabrielle Roth,  who died from lung cancer this past October, just one month before my mother lost her own battle with lung cancer, wrote that in many shamanic cultures when someone sought a medicine person because he or she was disheartened or depressed, it was common for the sufferer  to be asked one of the following four questions:

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

As I sat yesterday in the gloaming, mellowed by the sweet territory of silence, I asked myself those questions.  And as I waited for answers, memories of my mother floated in and out of my consciousness.   As a child she  created entire universes within the magic and mystery of her own imagination, enchanted her husband as a young woman by belting out country songs about cheating hearts and lovin eyes, and captivated her eldest daughter with tales of  an abused and abandoned little girl and her faithful dog, buddy.   My mother taught me so much with her stories, and it was both the bitter and the sweet of her own life that offered up multiple lessons regarding how to live, what’s important, what needs to be let go of,  and what’s essential to remember.

And at this moment I am remembering one of my favorite stories of my mother as a child.  She was five years old and it was her first  day of kindergarten.  My grandmother was helping her get ready for school and she was both excited and terribly anxious.  As her mother combed her fine brown hair, she peppered her with the following questions.

Can I come home if I miss you too much? she asked.

No.  You need to stay until the school day is over, her mom replied.

Can you come and visit me? she bargained.

No.  School is for children, not for mothers, answered her mother.

“Can I sing in school?” my 5 year old mother asked hopefully.

“No Brenda.  You have to be quiet and listen to your teacher.”

“Can I play?”  she asked tremulously.

“Only at recess.  You go to school to learn,” my grandmother explained.

“Well, can I dance?”

“No Brenda.  You have to sit in your seat,”  her mother responded firmly.

“Well, the tiny child sighed,  holding her skinny little arms over her head as she started to twirl round and around, then, I’d better dance now.”

And I see her in my minds eye still, almost fifty years from the time that  I first heard this story, and feel my soul reaching out to the child that I came to cherish almost as dearly as I loved the mother that she would grow up to be,  and I am smiling and I am weeping now as I imagine her yet again, swirling around the kitchen, pig tails flying, dancing.

Both Gabrielle Roth and Brenda Byram are with us no longer but their legacy lives on dance.  Dance even as your heart breaks, dance even as your body bends from the terrible gravity of grief, dance even though your stomach aches and your heart trembles.  Dance.  Dance while you can….

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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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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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It has been an incredibly beautiful week here as we begin to make preparations to move the retreat and training division of SagePlace to the lake house in central Maine. During this process we discovered a 5 page goodbye letter written to the house and hidden away in a secret hiding place for twenty-seven years. The lettter was written by a man and his children who had lived here then and while sad to leave, were also grateful for the healing which took place and wrote with tremendous honesty and beauty about their experiences. The letter concluded with a riddle written by a young child (who would now be a middle aged adult) to whomever might discover the letter in the future. If we solved the riddle correctly, it appeared to imply that there was a treasure that lived in the heart of Wayne the house itself. We tucked the letter safely back in its hiding place and have decided that over the years we will add our own letters to these very dear people who remain unknown (but very much appreciated) to us in the hopes that far off into the future they will all be uncovered again and will touch the hearts of future residents of the house as our hearts were touched.

Following is an untitled poem that speaks to me of all of the holy places available to each and every one of us

I do not have to go
To Sacred Places
In far-off lands.
The ground I stand on
Is holy.
Here, in this little garden
I tend
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
The hummingbird moths
The flickering fireflies at dusk
Are a microcosm
Of the Universe.
Each seed that grows
Each spade of soil
Is full of miracles.
And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
Dwell here.

By poet and activist, Mary de La Valette

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Therapy Worksheets: A Wonderful Resource

Will Baum has put together a wonderful blog entitled therapy worksheets which offers links to several online worksheets helpful to those working on a number of issues including but not limited to: anger management, ptsd. ocd, panic disorder, depression, alcohol addiction, anxiety, grief, and much more.
I encourage you to check it out!

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The Self Care Depression Program: A Free Online E-book for Those Struggling with Depression

The Self-Care Depression Program is a free online ebook written for those struggling with depression as well as for friends, family and caregivers. Written by two psychologists and funded by grants from the Canadian Ministry of Health and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services, it consists of 10 sections:

Introduction
What is depression?
What causes depression?
What can you do about depression?
More about medication
Antidepressant Skills
The road ahead: Reducing the risk of relapse
The story of Margaret
Suggested reading
Useful information
Worksheets

If you or someone you love is suffering from depression, I encourage you to read it.

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