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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."


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.



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