Blue shores. Deep waters.

In the shadow of my own making. Blue ballpoint pen on cartridge paper. Nov 2015.
In the shadow of my own grief. Blue ballpoint pen on cartridge paper. Nov 2015.

Sometimes the hugest battle of all is to choose joy over suffering. Especially when living with depression. Once I transform the cycle, it’s liberating. Tony Robbins video (see link further down) about the figure of 8 and how I can master my moods that can lead to depression. It was quite scary realising this at first. I was thinking “All those years I struggled. Weeks of despair at a time. Medicating, withdrawing, so much pain… and all along I had the means to shift it myself?!” I had to watch this clip a couple of times before I could accept that in fact this state of depression I would slip into was something I could approach much more easily than I ever thought possible.

Luckily this process of self healing is working for me. I recognise there are different types of and degrees of chronic and major depression. I am a person who has actively avoided prescription medicating for very personal reasons. As a result I am very very open to the idea of self-healing. This may not be the correct path for everyone.

Sometimes it can be a minute by minute battle. Depression is deadly and I am glad that it’s more publicly acknowledged and it’s debilitating effects recognised.

I am now recognising that depression does not have to dominate my life so much. I have moved from fighting mode (which I was never very good at), to acceptance. And now I have tools to assist me, i am not so scared when it overwhelms me for too long.
Sometimes I am powerless when the mood shifts suddenly, taking me by surprise like I’m washed up on a strange shore limp and lifeless, not knowing where my energy and positive outlook has gone.

I realised too there is some benefit in maintaining calm, trusting that there is a reason why I’m there and that I will learn an important lesson out of it. At those times I tell myself I can allow it to wash over me like a huge dark wave. Fighting ends up in defeat anyway. I go under. Deep. Deep. The dark. Water pressure. Unable to breathe. Slowed movement as if in a dream. Separate from reality but still present like a hologram. Hollow. Zombie. On one level I can still function. Outwardly everything looks normal. That’s a skill many depressed people have. We have refined the art of appearing as if everything’s fine. Ok. All is good.

I have given up fighting depression. Yes that’s right. Now I give in. Let go. I open up to it and feel every part of it.
Now I work with tools like Nichiren Buddhism, my creativity, EFT and NVC to transform it with kindness compassion and tender love. Writing and drawing enable the voices of my depression to be heard. The sketches I draw give some insight to my feelings.

I remember when my children were very little. Sometimes they would get so distressed, especially one child who found words difficult to communicate with. Hysterical tears thrashing around screaming throwing things etc. huge tantrum. I learned that a soft approach was most effective. I would slowly approach them calmly talking gently and giving empathy. “Yes it’s awful isn’t it? You feel really angry/sad etc.” I would eventually touch then gently embrace the child. Holding firmly but lovingly breathing deeply, being the calmness, safety and love that they so need. Eventually their anger would melt and they would gently sob as they calmed down. Sometimes find words to describe their feelings. I now try to treat my depression like an angry distressed child and transform it with love gentleness and understanding. My mentor Daisaku Ikeda talks about soft power. I also like that story about the Sun and the Wind competing to get someone to remove their coat. Depression that I experience is very aggressive. I cannot compete with a similar force, it’s not my nature, so the tools I use are tactical.

I went through a long winter last year. I was not doing much paid work. I had plenty of time alone. Having just moved away from my home city and country I was isolated and full of fear. The first time living alone gave me a huge space I could fill and everything poured out! I chose to sit with it. I had the benefit of a friend who worked locally and checked in with me each week. Dear friends who maintained contact online. Social media can be a life line – literally. The counsellor I saw for a year before I moved was available for Skype sessions and I booked in 6 weekly sessions. I also made an effort to talk to one person each day. Even if just to say thank you at a cash till or good morning as I pass a stranger in the park. Most days I sat in freeze state alone.

This is what I learned about my depression during that time:

My depression communicates to me that I am in pain. I need to open my heart and listen from a place of peace and calm. Be the parent. I call that parenting part of me the Mothership. In my darkest depressions I have little contact with the Mothership. It’s hard to hear and feel her. That’s when the dark demons come and dance around me. My fear increases alarmingly and I start thinking of ways to end the torment. It can be torture. I panic. Last time I was in this place I felt the enormity, the huge depth of grief I carried in my whole life. It was overwhelming. Painful. Every pore of my body reeked with pain. It was like I stank of everything I suffered, was denied and everything I hated about myself. Scum. Worthless. And my soul grieved. I cried and cried and cried. As the heavy wave weakened and thankfully contact with the Mothership was regained, I was able to pull myself up a little and find calm in the pain. Some of us don’t. Some of us become so consumed, so disconnected from our Mothership that the only way out is to cut the life support. I am grateful, utterly grateful that I have rarely reached that depth and have never taken action when I was there. My heart goes out to those who have never returned from the dark and for those they left behind.

Depression is hard work. Experiencing it. Working it out. Learning to live with it. It’s fucking tough. All the good advice, therapy, self-help guides out there are all well and good when you can access and apply them. It’s like the horse-to-water saying. It’s something we must do for ourselves.

Develop an inner conviction that depression is not our master, just a messenger.

We are warriors through and through. I bow to you all, my fellow comrades.

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