One More Thing to Add…Dec. 3, 2016

…to add to my last What I’ve Learned in A Nutshell…

This morning I was sitting quietly reflecting that it was 6 years ago today that I was just looking out my window when slowly and gradually I absolutely knew in the deepest part of me and every cell that I was the thought of God.  It was such a transcendent experience of new light within my customary depressed dark, dark state that I wondered if it might have erased all depression from my being; body, mind, heart and soul.  That hope would be true.  I never again had a depression episode after that.  I had lived with it since childhood.

So I was just in a pensive, or reflective mood of gratitude this morning.  God had done for me what no one, even myself, could have done when a new thought gradually rose in my being. ( This is called a “contemplative” moment because something is revealed you would not have otherwise had privilege to be aware of, experience or know.  We all have them.)

A few days ago I wrote of The Greatest Achievement, The Greatest Mourning, The Greatest Decision and The Greatest Intention.  This one presented itself as The Greatest Humility.

The Greatest Humility:  God becoming in God’s own created creatures, knowing Its own created creature and trusting that creature with its own Creator.  “Incarnation.”  And what then is our great humility?  To quietly say, ‘And I move beyond myself willing You to live through me.’  It almost sounds irreverent…but I know the paradox is true.  It quiets one to silence.

 

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What I’ve learned in a nutshell…

Prior to my “beginning again” with my Nov. 28th blog, it has been 14 years since I started life again in response to hearing, “You must do life differently…”   I remember thinking, ‘I’ve played by all the rules.  I followed my religion as best I could, I married, had children, finished my education, even entered my career.  Volunteered. What’s left “to do” that I haven’t already done???’ 

Here’s a few things you need to know about me first.  I lived into adulthood with hang-ups having to do with both childhood depression and childhood trauma.  Then, not knowing about alcoholism’s effect,  I married an adult child of an alcoholic (A.C.O.A) and divorced after 27 unhappy years, but through it all discovered I’m an adult child as both my grand-fathers drank. So my parents were adult children. In the meantime, I’m absolutely driven to work for an identity and personal value. ( It was when I was freaking out on the couch with anxiety after having to quit my work post hospitalization that I self-diagnosed my workaholism.   PS  I don’t eat properly either so you could add a continuum of an eating disorder, I suppose.

I think you need to know these things to appreciate why (and later how) I’ve discovered  The Greatest Achievement, The Greatest Mourning, The Greatest Decision and The Greatest Intention for myself.  Your “Greatests” could very well be different.  One more aside: When I returned home from “The Floor” all I could figure out that I knew to do was the 11th step of a 12 step program: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for God’s will and the power to carry that out.”  So I did that. (14 years later I learned it’s called “Centering Prayer”)

The Greatest Achievement:  Since childhood as the oldest I’ve been very oriented toward what others want me to do.  From childhood trauma, I learned it is only safe to please others – so give me a job, give me 10 things to do and I’ll do it.  But recently I discovered I am my “greatest achievement”!!!  I’ve come to believe it is innate with in the human being to both realize one’s origin AND to transcend the self.  It was an aha moment to realize that it’s nothing out there that I needed to drive myself to ‘accomplished’, but the priority was my inner peace; peace of body, mind, heart and soul.  I felt so free it didn’t feel like there was anything left “to do”.

The Greatest Mourning:  Eventually through prayer/recovery process at night I found I could look forward to the next morning’s peaceful time.  But I continued to wake with a feeling I’ve only recently been able to decide was a ‘mourning’ left over from childhood; I’m not enough.  I don’t know how. I don’t want to.  I simultaneously realized this absorbed me so that I couldn’t love with my whole being the God who had literally saved me from death and graciously (with NO strings attached) healed me of depression, anxiety, shame and workaholism.

The Greatest Decision: The only thing as a human that I have that both differentiates me from creation and other non-human creatures is reason; the ability to make a decision.  So I simply needed to make a decision to love God with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my being, with all my soul.  Done.

The Greatest Intention:  As a workaholic without work, my brain is always going off, ‘What should I do…, what should I do….?’  Anxiety.  But, once I made a clear decision to make God first as God had really done everything for me what neither myself and or no one else could do, there it was; I knew exactly what I needed to be about.  And so began again.

I love that about living life on a spiritual plane.  One always gets to begin again.   I feel a new en-Thus-iasm though.  Now that I’m not the main locus of control, the future appears quite hopeful.  Undefinable, true, but hopeful.

 

 

Begin Nov. 28, 2016

While I’ve titled this “Begin” with today’s date, Dec. 31st, 2002 is really the date I “began”.  While, my niece helped me start a blog in the Spring of this year by  entering a few old blogs written in 2012, the year my book Dancing With Depression: A Spiritual Recovery from Darkness to Light came out, I didn’t follow-up with the blog or the book project.  Even though the book was accepted first try by a real live publisher, Tate Publishing in Mustang, OK because we “need stories of hope”, I stopped.

So why did I stop in May of this year?  (And my apologies to all who may have started reading my blog and then I dropped out of nowhere.)  Basically speaking, I had an undiscovered “shame attack” or fear of being me, if you will.  But in my prayer time this morning, I had an aha moment quite similar to an aha moment when my book completed.  At that time, like a lightening bolt I realized  the life I absolutely abhorred through my depressed mind, was, in fact, the very thing that I had to offer the world.

This morning’s aha?  I realized that the long journey of recovery was, in fact, not at all just the ‘lower’ case living of plodding along in only hope of recovery from clinical depression, anxiety and shame, but it was absolutely the sacred walk of my life.  This morning was like a light going on illuminating that the ‘walk’ in darkness, was really a walking light; a pathway, a guidance, a Presence, a right order to what felt mostly like perseverance,  confusion and unsureness.  They say one of the “fruits” of meditation, or contemplative prayer is to “see things differently”.  Well, I guess so!

December 31, 2002 I was on the floor of a lightless bathroom on suicide precaution for clinical depression.  It was the first time I had been hospitalized though I had lived with depression since childhood.  I self diagnosed at the age of 45. Why so long?  I never knew life differently than depression.  I had no other perspective.  But while I had followed to a “T” all the do’s and don’ts of the medical model (including 4 different doctors and 7 different combinations of medication), here I was hospitalization and not wanting to take another breath.  I absolutely knew that nothing on this earth, including myself could help me.  I did hear in that indescribable hopelessness, “Look up.”  I did, I do.

You know what, while I’ve given workshops entitled “Finding The Sacred in Depression”, I didn’t know what I was talking about!  I was still in the journey.  I gave people the tools to work with, but this morning I discovered (as a recovering Workaholic) that there is nothing out there that is mine to discover as a “great achievement”.  I believe that the “Great Achievement” that most of us strive for on some aspect of the continuum, is simply to discover, ‘I am the “great achievement! I can transcend myself.  I can go beyond where I am.’  And I did!  And I am.

What does desire have to do with depression?

In the book Dancing with Depression, I didn’t want to say anything that would deter people from wanting to read the book because it didn’t follow certain religious practices or traditions.  I wanted to tell the story as I lived it and so I did not go into the depth of the spiritual reading resources that I felt led to, that felt right for me.  If you are a person who looks at the world in absolutes, there is a right way, that another way is the wrong way, it has to be such and such, you may find as we go along that you will not want to remain with this web site.  I encourage you to keep an open mind.  I had to be open to what was coming to me in a new way.  I had to be willing to do life differently.  I had to be ready  to be guided.  I had to trust.

If you are desperate in your depression though, you may want to know just what it was that sent me on my road to healing and you don’t particularly care to be afraid of reading it.   You trust the path because this woman, who lived with clinical depression, is depressed no longer.  I’m free.

For some people, another’s journey is enough to start building trust in something new.  If I would never have taken the path I took, I don’t know that I would have ever been healed.  If I did not digress from what I’ve always been told and if I had not risked to find my own way of “doing life differently”, I might have remained stuck in depression.

Just that I knew deep inside that life had to change was significant.  I’m a relatively insecure individual and I don’t like change.  I was quite the creature of insecurity full of “must” and “should”.  I learned as a child life “should” go and be a certain way.  I was hanging onto all that I’d learned.  Well, nothing I was familiar with was working obviously.  I was just released from a psychiatric hospital and all the conditioned ways told to me to manage depression weren’t working.  I was ready for change.

But the new direction began with desire.  The new way, what presented seemed to quicken my heart, to enliven me and I was, in fact, looking forward to my new way of being in the day.  Just hospitalized for depression, unable to drive, I was so sick my mind ‘time warped’.  One example, I was thinking I had been dusting the china cabinet for a half hour when my husband came home from work… I had been at it all day!

Due to the depression and knowing I couldn’t function, I quit my employment.  that’s amazing a workaholic could do that.  I could only just take care of me – kind of.   If I felt like quilting,  I quilted.  If I felt like doing yoga,  I did yoga.  (Yoga was a way for physical movement so necessary in a depression.  I know, someone out there is going to be shocked I did yoga…  Did you know the word “yoga” means to connect with the higher?  Keep an open mind.) If I felt like meditating,  I meditated.  Remember, I had been in a place of not even wanting to take a breath.  I felt nothing.  I had no desire other than to stop breathing and not “do” life. Remember, I said if I was going to do life, then God would have to “do life in me”.  Quilting, yoga and meditating were the first things I did that I felt like doing.   They came from tiny desires within.  Where did the desire to do the right things for myself come from?  Not from the depression, I tell you that.  New desires just happened as something awakening in my heart toward these little healing practices.

A lack of desire for much of anything is certainly a characteristic of depression.  We go through the motions of life, don’t we, but we don’t have much enthusiasm or motivation.  Enthusiasm?  What’s that?  Enthusiasm does not compute in the mind and vocabulary of the depressed, does it?  Well, I now live with “enthusiasm” and it started with the simple “doing” of what I desired to do.  I think God took that excruciating prayer of surrender and honored it by giving me desires that had become obliterated in my spirit.  I recognized a desire to quilt, to do yoga and meditate.  Find your desire waiting – and do it.

What had I left out of all my attempts at managing depression?

The first thing I did was to daily return to a meditation practice that I had come to trust as a something that seemed to create order in my life.  I can’t tell you why or how, though.  While employed in the 80’s, it became a desire to sit quietly during my lunch hours once a week.  I found it helped me de-stress and to be more peaceful.  Today even the medical model is suggesting meditation for people with different illness such as high blood pressure, pain management and anxiety, but in all my years of enlisting the aid of social workers and psychiatrists, never was it suggested that I put meditation as an option of managing depression into practice.

People cringe at the word “meditation” for many reasons,  I know, but I absolutely believe a good and compassionate God led me to it. Of my faith tradition, meditation is a prayer practice.   Practicing meditation at least once a week for many years I knew it positively affected my life; I went back to college though I was fearful, I made a significant change in employment, though I was a workaholic and, as a woman, I began to make decisions for my life independent of someone who didn’t have my best interest as a priority.   I began to connect the dots and realized that from the practice of meditation it seemed to follow that a new pathway in life presented for me to follow.  It had happened enough times that I did not question the cause and effect of meditation having significant bearings on life changes when I needed to “do life differently”.  Rational thought; increase meditation from weekly to daily.

The full story of how meditation played a part of career changes, new decisions and new avenues is covered in my book, Dancing with Depression, so I won’t go into it here.  I will emphasize that not only from my experience of healing depression, but I would later discover much of the literature from the medical field of psychiatry and from spiritual writings to secular, all sing the praises of the advantages of meditation.  So just trust us.

I want to say something to those who don’t consider themselves “religious” or “spiritual”.  I want to encourage you as you seek something better to make a difference in your depression, to just keep an open mind.  While those many years of weekly meditation made a difference, it was not a “religious” experience.  It was a spiritual experience. Spirituality is about relationships; to something higher than the self, to the self and to other (people, places, things, illness, work, drugs, shopping, eating, etc.)

While I had grown up in a mainline denomination, I can say it was not that religion that healed me of depression.  In fact, I never considered while I struggled with depression and suicide ideation to even go talk to the priest.  Why?  Maybe I anticipated no one really understood.  Or that I would be told it was “wrong” when it felt compulsive, beyond will, to me.  Or someone would tell me all the reason I should want to live…  Well, I just didn’t so I didn’t want to risk misunderstanding or ignorance.  (There’s a lot of that going around.).

 

Honestly, while my denomination had specific beliefs, traditions and teachings, in those times of returning to deep daily meditation, I lost all names for God that had been familiar.  I just experienced deep compassion.  That’s my best descriptive name for God or Higher Power now – compassion.  I have no doubt I have been cared for, delivered, helped and resurrected by Something that made no big deal about “It’s” name…  Though I tried, scriptures seemed to go dormant and dry.  Prayers I had been used to praying seemed insignificant.

I was definitely in a new place spiritually.  Maybe it’s like being so close to someone, a family member or friend, that you no longer need to call them by a name as you are heart and soul connected.  I think God came so close to me that the names disappeared and only presence remained.  I’ve come to understand all I described above isn’t about what some would call, “losing faith” but it was the deep experience beyond words of being scooped up, absorbed, rescued by Grace.

Initially with meditation, I didn’t expect much.  I just wanted peace of mind.  I just wanted my brain to quite screaming at me.  I was trying to connect to the peaceful place of meditation, the process of quieting the mind, to stop the thinking, the ruminating and the anguish.  It was a desperate realization there nothing more I nor could do about depression and that everything anyone had done with and for me was not enough.  There was nowhere else to go.  Nothing more I could do.  I could not imagine what else could be factored in.  I had no clue as to what “doing life differently” would entail.  All the suggestions for managing depression weren’t enough.  I had nothing left to try.  All I had was a simple desire from within.

Where am I Now and How Did I Get Here?

It has not been a quick journey out of depression, or an easy journey to this point in time, but the “process” has been well worth it.  Only hind site allows a clear view of where I’ve been and gives a perspective to where I am now.  If you have lived with depression, then you know of the characteristics we share; suicide ideation, worthlessness, no personal value, negativity, poor mental focus or concentration, irritability and anger, low to no motivation, poor self-esteem, physical pain, anguish, anxiety…  Well, there’s no need to elaborate is there?  What you hope to receive from me is the pathway of liberation out of depression.  It has been since the fall of 2010 that I have had a depression episode.  But the journey out began in the worst of times –  on the floor of a psychiatric hospital on suicide precaution.

I say the worst of times because it was the first time (Dec., 2002) when the love for my husband and children made no difference.  People who reach suicide planning know what I mean.  The mind of depression is absolutely unable to reach the heart where love resides.  Once one reaches planning, the ability to reason and will choice is all skewed.  The “key”, if you will, to my journey out began with what could be considered a “spiritual” principal, if that is of importance to you, or just the human need to come to a full realization when something is not manageable. Surrender.

On Dec. 26, 2002, I was able to pray: “Lord, if you are there, there is absolutely nothing in me that wants to take another breath, not even with the love of my husband and children.  Yet I cannot stop my breath.  If I am to do life, you will have to do life in me.”  A peace poured over me like someone was pouring from above, over my head and to my total self.  I then heard, “You will be delivered.”  Here I am, curled up on the floor wanting sooo much to not be alive, yet I ask, ‘From what would I be delivered?’ Sad, but true.  It was the only life I knew.

I was discharged the next day.  By the time I returned home, I just knew I needed to do life differently.  I now know that was a deep, new encouragement from something greater than myself.  Everything that one is encouraged to do to manage depression had been done; I took care of stress, ate well, saw my social worker and doctor for medication, tried to mentally stay “up”, worked very hard to will living.  It was exhausting.  Yet, depression remained a significant part of my life.

What could “You must do life differently…” possibly mean?  What more could I do?  What had not been done?  I had achieved my education. I had re-married well.  My children and grand-children were well and nearby.  I had friends.  I had a career.  I was employed.  I volunteered.  Other than depression, I was in good health.  Bottom line; I was still depressed.

Is there a pathway out?

I did find something that eventually made the depression “go away”.  After hospitalization, I followed Something calling me to a different way of life and by following that path I became free of depression.  Eureka!  Until I wrote the book Dancing With Depression where I wrote of my life and recovery from depression,  I never saw a Presence.  While I lived in the darkness of depression, I also lived in the darkness of being aware there was something spiritual going on deep within myself.  It was that hidden grace working within that I followed and cooperated with through the years despite not know of its workings!  It was a gift and it is a gift I live by giving it to others.

I have not experienced a depression episode since Fall of 2010.  What I want to share through my blogs are little pieces of that pathway.  I share the full story in my book Dancing with Depression: A Spiritual Pathway for Recovery from Darkness to Light, published by Tate Publishing, Mustang, OK.  (Or contact author in Topeka, KS  or ordered from major bookstores.)

While I prayed for help,  it never crossed my mind that I would actually be free of depression.  After 50 years of depression I began to believe this is just the way it is.  I suppose I hoped for healing, but I didn’t hope with faith. Know, where I did not, that hope for freedom from depression is very, very possible.

I was one who followed the typical medical model of care.  I talked with a quality psychotherapist who referred me to a doctor who knew how to manage the medications.  It was during hospitalization, while I had done all the right things, that I realized there was nothing out there who could help me.  Nor was the love of my husband or children enough.   I absolutely did not want to breathe but I couldn’t stop myself.  On the floor in a a dark bathroom curled up in a fetal position, I hear, “Look up”.   I was then able to pray.  I would later learn that experience in the spiritual realm is called “surrender”.