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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."


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.



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