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Declaration of independence

I've been working hard over the past year or so on making meaningful inner changes. A critical job problem and some other trials and losses led to a few rounds with serious depression, at the nadir of which my inner voice delivered an ultimatum: "Do something about it or die."

I believed that voice, and I wrangled up every tool at my command and a bunch that came my way when I really asked [the universe] [god] [my higher self] for more help. I didn't let up till I had a victory.

It was a full-spectrum approach. Scattershot, even: try everything, turn no idea down. Dietary changes, meditation, essential oils and flower essences, energy healing, acupuncture, exercise, physical detoxification, uplifting books and movies, hypnosis, new kinds of bodymind therapies, prayer and affirmation, breathing exercises, hydration, feng shui, shamanism--anything that came my way and wasn't completely antithetical to my values (i.e., pharmaceuticals, religions, or gurus), I tried.

I believe--but of course can't prove--that each thing I tried gave me a piece of the solution, and no effort was wasted. It took a while, but eventually I realized that even the slightest edge, the briefest moment of mental sunshine, is a small victory and provides the foundation for another, and another. A minute of clearheaded optimism is solid gold. Two minutes, ten, an hour...it builds.

Happiness, I found, is a habit. That was very hard to understand and accept, but it was true for me. Building that habit--or rather, breaking the habit of listening to the horrible messages in my head--has taken a full year of intensive effort. It isn't natural to me. As nearly as I can judge, this recovery process bears a striking resemblance to the one my sisters both went through for drug and alcohol addiction.

Here's how I know I'm on the mend--or perhaps I should say "in recovery":

  • I'm learning a new language with greater ease than at any time in my language-learning past
  • My eyesight has actually improved
  • I catch myself circling the emotional drain the second it starts, and have ten ways of reversing the process--all of which I deploy instantly
  • I enjoy my job almost every day
  • I'm learning to cook Chinese
  • My Netflix queue includes interesting and challenging movies in addition to easy, familiar TV series
  • My house is almost always acceptably tidy
  • I like myself most days
  • my knees, which were giving out on me, are working fine again
  • The critical, browbeating voice in my head has almost given up in defeat
  • I can walk 8 or 10 miles in a day again
  • I can go to a social event and come home feeling okay about myself
  • I can't even remember the last time I overate
  • My garden is making a comeback after at least two seasons of neglect.

Some stuff I planted today in the backyard that neglect was about to destroy.

No, "there isn't any there there". I still live in the same tiny house. I still drive the same car. I'm still single, I'm still over 50, and I struggle with almost all the same issues as before. Recovering from depression, damn it, isn't a magic cure for other things.

But I'll say this for it: every hour that I live in the light rather than in the darkness is an hour of real life, an hour in which I can create or do or be something that I had no strength for in the past. I may never accomplish another meritorious thing in this life, but I got across the river.

"That's not much."

"It's enough."


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it all feels so wonderful I can hardly believe it. I note these moments down and try to tell others about them. That way, they serve as ropes and life-preservers in case I ever go slipping down the slope again.
Jul. 6th, 2007 10:27 am (UTC)
inspiring, thank you
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
I'm the grateful one.

But you're welcome!
Jul. 6th, 2007 10:39 am (UTC)
I can't say enough how much I admire your courage. The pull of that dark spiral can be so strong. I'm glad you're stronger.
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Some days I feel quite mighty. It's the days when I don't have to feel mighty, though, that let me know I've won a battle.
Jul. 6th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
I think you said that you are entitled to have a good, happy life. And you're so, so right.
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
That is the hardest damn belief to come to! A poem by Primus St. John sums it up:

I believe in myself slowly.
It takes all of the doubt I’ve got.
It takes my wonder.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Me too. I like it here and plan on staying.
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
Woohoo! Keep up the inspiring work!
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC)
It's forward from here. Guaranteed.
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
That's so awesome. I wish I had that kind of determination.
Jul. 6th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
You do. Or you will. I've never met you but I know enough about your extraordinary mind to have complete faith in your ability to have, do and be anything you want.
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
so so very happy for you!

I had one of those "you can change things, or you can cease to exist" moments back in '88. I wasn't able then to deploy the full spectrum of potential ways to heal myself--and it took many more years and many more moments of crisis before I even considered myself on the path to recovery--but feeling myself backed up against a wall like that really was the impetus for beginning to make that healing journey.

Jul. 6th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
As they say in the Twelve Step program, everyone has to find their "rock bottom," and the climb up out of there can be very, very slow to gain momentum.

What you say (or what I infer, anyway) about not always being able to deploy the tools available is also true. I'd be the first to admit that money did play a role in my eventual recovery, and that when I was younger, I just didn't have it to spend.

That said, however, a combination of will, determination and sheer desperation brought me to solutions that didn't necessarily cost money, but that required faith--which was also in short supply when I was younger. Honestly, I think that of money and faith, faith was the more important ingredient by far.

And by the way, it's interesting that 1988 was the year I quit smoking. It was an early step in my own process. Powerful year, that.
Jul. 6th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
wow... you brought tears to my eyes. despite all your struggles you have great inner strength and i'm glad that you have been able to overcome as much as you have.

Jul. 6th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And I love your hug icon--"Scrubs", right?

I wish to god it weren't true, but it seems to be: struggles do seem to be the only path to inner strength in this life. Maybe being brought up in a perfect sea of love and acceptance would have the same result, but hell, who has that, huh?

For the rest of us, emotional fitness does seem to come at the price of long, dedicated workouts at the hard-knocks gym.
Jul. 7th, 2007 05:39 am (UTC)
That's A LOT.

Sweetie, I am so proud of you. In awe of you. The strength it took...

You are amazing and inspirational.
Jul. 7th, 2007 06:14 am (UTC)
Thanks. I appreciate your words. We don't think of ourselves as being very strong as we're laboring through the trenches, and it usually takes someone outside us to say "Wow."

I know you've been laboring too, and to you I also say, "Wow!" You've faced some tough things lately with huge courage, and I'm so glad you're well.
Jul. 7th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you, chica. It's certainly been enlightening.
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
It is inspiring to read this. I admire you greatly.

What led you to the "try anything that works" approach? Any books you'd recommend?
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
The eclectic approach arose naturally from the fact that modern medicine had nothing to offer me--and that what troubled me was very poorly understood in the physical realm. I wanted healing, not just symptomatic relief.

An important book for me was James Hillman's The Soul's Code: On Character and Calling because it helped me break away from the post-Freudian "psychological" model of depression.

Reading, however, wasn't a big part of the solution for me. I honestly think that the body-based energy healing techniques I mentioned in my more recent post on the problem of depression, had they been available to me earlier, would have made much shorter work of the journey.

I cannot recommend highly enough Somatic Experiencing, EFT Tapping, Psych-K, EMDR, BodyTalk, and other very-new forms of energy healing that combine consciousness work (words, talking, etc.) with body work (tapping, muscle-testing, breathwork, etc.)

If I had to recommend one as a starting point, I'd say EFT tapping. It's easy to learn, it can be self-administered, it's fast, it's painless, it's easy to do, it's effective, and even if you need deep, longer-term work with a practitioner, it's a brief therapy that won't cost you an arm and a leg and four years of Mondays.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )



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