Saturday, May 16, 2009

Depression and the Art of Healing

Saturday, May 16, 2009
What does depression feel like? 
Years ago, when I asked my sister, who's suffered depression episodes that sent her to the crisis unit, what depression felt like to her, she answered, It feels like I'm in the pits of hell. To me, it doesn't feel like I'm in the pits of hell, it feels like I am the pits of hell. The grief demon possesses me, I become his prisoner. At some point, destroying myself seems like a way to survive the anguish. In a nutshell, that's my experience of depression.

Now, let's move on. Think about healing.

What does healing look and feel like? How do we achieve it?
Healing is not a process through which we seek validation or approval for our grief. It's not what we do to make ourselves feel better about feeling lousy. It's about attending to the grief and loss we feel ~ embracing it. Never mind if its right or wrong to feel what you feel. Just feel. And have compassion and patience with yourself as you stay present with your feelings.

Pain occurs to alert us to some sort of disequilibrium. It's meant to spur us to seek healing. Healing requires me to change my perspective, to engage. I'm not a shattered glass that requires piecing together. I am a walking wounded, in need of emotional and spiritual debridement. I must debride my wounds, the scar tissue of which, stifles and starves my growth and renewal. Things have happened to me to get me to this point, and so I must happen to things in order to forge ahead into the light.

Healing teaches us why we feel the way we do, and we learn healthy responses to those feelings that help us restore equilibrium. Resisting pain increases its intensity. Think of the skier tumbling down the slope ~ using muscle tension to resist the fall increases the severity of injuries sustained in said fall. Acceptance begins with acceptance of the feelings of grief. That means letting them flow through you ~ finding the resolve to make your cross lighter to carry.

At this point it has nothing to do with who or what gave you this cross, or with any notion of restitution for your suffering. It has only to do with self care ~ what must you do to remain present to your grief without feeling swallowed whole? Don't deny yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don't pity yourself. Feel. Be. Stay. You are your most crucial witness. Do not spread your misery around for self-gratification. Remember debridement ~ we must remove necrotic tissue from the wound, or the limb will eventually die from ischemia. Despair must never triumph! Find grace. Be grace.

Dig underneath. Go gently, but do go deeper. What's there? Where does it belong?


Anonymous said...

Oh, how I agree with the "despair must never triumph." I wrote about this last summer when I felt like there was too much giving into despair around me:

And I agree, obviously, with this metaphor of removing decaying, rotting flesh. I think that it's important that we allow our anger, though, especially at the beginning of healing. Denying anger is just one more way of telling ourselves that our experience is somehow lesser or invalid or wrong.

foam said...

it's so hard to have the strength to deal with depression once one is quagmired within it's hold.
wishing you all the best in your search for peace and grace ..

chickory said...

this reminds me a bit of the 4 agreements. we tend to feel guilty about what we feel -but shouldnt. we should just be authentic -how others react is about them. the other part is to "be impeccable with your word" and how we talk to ourselves is critical to our sense of being. like you said, dont self pity yourself, but do be kind.

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Brandi said...

your words are true and wise and I think will inspire others to heal-to face the hurt and despair.

I also dealt with a depressive episode and I found the only way to really deal with it was to breath into those wounds.

Mayden' s Voyage said...

"Never mind if its right or wrong to feel what you feel. Just feel. And have compassion and patience with yourself as you stay present with your feelings."

"Resisting pain increases its intensity."

These 2 quotes meant the most to me. Because guilt is often on the heels of my "feeling what I'm feeling"- and I have to stop that.

I agree and understand that resisting pain increases the intensity of the pain, but sometimes it feels like it will swallow me whole- kind of like Jonah in the belly of the fish.
I'm thinking of you <3

pen* said...

thank you.
your words made me think,
with more compassion,
about where my mother might be.
may healing come to all who are hurting.