See Depression For What It Is – Part 2

19 Apr

Life constriction means that you aren’t succeeding in making your life what you would like it to be; your life isn’t producing the sense of vitality, purpose, and meaning that you hoped it would. (The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression. Strosahl, K.D. & Robinson, P.J. (15))

If you ask a person why they are experiencing depression, sadness, anxiety, etc., you are bound to get many different answers. They can range from, ‘my life just sucks’ to ‘I lost my job, my house and my livelihood.’ Depression triggers vary widely from individual to individual for the very reason that depression is an INDVIDUAL disease. No two people will experience depression the same way, for the same reasons or in the same situations. There is no doubt that depression is a very unique and differentiated experience. However, I believe that you can boil the reason for depression down to a very simple explanation: you’re not living the life you want to live.

You’re depressed because you lost your job? Well, obviously you’re not living the way you want. You value success in your work and you enjoy the responsibility of helping others in your job. That has been taken away from you; and now, all those things that you value so strongly have also been taken from you. Perhaps you’ve just broken up with a significant other. You value companionship, love and compassion. And now, all those things that you value in your intimate relationships have been taken from you. Life constriction is what, in essence, triggers depression. Your life isn’t the way you thought it would be or the way you want it; the purpose and meaning you want or had in your life has been (if only briefly) squashed.

I think it is important to understand exactly what triggers depression. Each person has to figure this out on your own as no two people have the same triggers. It is sometimes easier to sit down and think about what might be happening in your life that is causing life constriction or a loss of a sense of vitality. Was it an argument with a friend? Frustration at work? Uncertainty about your next steps in life? Sometimes understanding what is triggering your depression and actually separating out those triggers can help you back on the road to recovery. You have taken an abstract feeling, thought or emotion and given a name, idea or a place to it. It is now effectively something you can physicalize. You can now understand WHY you are feeling anxious, why your chest feels tight, why you feel a ten-pound weight on your shoulder.

One very important thing to remember is that we can’t run away from these triggers. They are there, and it is okay to acknowledge them. Yes, it might hurt, it might cause you anxiety, fear, sadness, etc., but by ignoring what those triggers might be, you are allowing your depression to consume you. Take a stand against your depression and prove to yourself that you are capable of handling whatever negative thoughts or experiences that you may be facing. If you are able to do this, you will finally feel in charge of your own life and you will be able to renew the sense of purpose and vitality you want to have in your life.

See Depresssion For What It Is – Part 1

5 Apr

Even if it’s unintentional, falling into a pattern of avoiding unpleasant or painful feelings and the situations that trigger them is a major cause of depression. (The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression. Strosahl, K.D. & Robinson, P.J. (14))

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know what can happen. Instead of getting out of the house and enjoying the weather, or talking a walk, or seeing friends, you would rather sit inside a small dark enclosed space (I always enjoyed utilizing my closet for this activity) and sleep. In fact, sleeping was an escape from depression for me. At least when I was sleeping (albeit I didn’t have nightmares or dream about the things that were bothering me), I could relax and my thoughts would stop for the moment. Being depressed is exhausting. It drains you of almost all the emotional energy you posses – and emotional exhaustion is just as intense as physical exhaustion. And when we’re exhausted, both physically and mentally, our body and mind just want to rest. Now – this is not always a bad thing. Our body and mind need rest to rejuvenate, heal and be ready to take on the situations that we are presented with daily. But too much rest can be a bad thing.

Case in point: Depression exhausts us. It’s much easier and much less tiring to stay inside, watch TV, sleep, moan, cry, etc. But this is one of the WORST things that you can do when you are depressed. It seems counter-intuitive, but going out, attempting to do things with friends and family, and otherwise just getting yourself out of the house, is exactly what you need in helping you to combat depression. When depressed, we try to avoid social situations of any kind because we believe that putting ourselves in those situations will only make us feel worse. What if we burst into tears? What if we have a panic attack or take out our anger on others? These are legitimate fears. But by avoiding these situations altogether, we are only allowing ourselves to sink deeper and deeper into our depressive state.

So how can we slowly, gently and carefully allow ourselves to move forward? Take things one step at a time. You don’t need to go to a concert with hundreds of people or a state fair with millions of screaming children if you’re already feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of venturing into the world. Maybe just take a trip to the store or visit a close friend. One of my favorite activities when I am feeling down is to go for a walk. I really enjoy walking the trails at the local state park and I find myself feeling better and better with each step I take. It may not seem like a lot at first, but it will help you feel better, and you will have more courage to take the next step in beating your depression.

Create A Context For Change

17 Mar

The first principle to follow in stepping out of your depression and back into your life is to understand that you can only start from where you are, not from where you would like to be. (The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression. Strosahl, K.D. & Robinson, P.J. (9))
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Depression is a tricky little bugger. It has perfected the ability to trick us into thinking that depression is normal, never-ending and bigger than us. It is phenomenal at convincing us that life is a constant let-down and it colors our perceptions with pessimism and self-loathing. In the past, whenever I attempted to ‘fight’ this depression, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into it. And once I had all but sunk into the quick sand of this disease, I gave in and accepted that depression would forever be a part of my life and that I would just have to deal with it. THIS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

I’m not saying that dealing with and getting out of depression is easy or simple. Quite the opposite. It is an absolutely obnoxious experience. It takes dedication, support from family and friends, perseverance and a quiet understanding of yourself and how you operate. But the most important aspect of pulling yourself out is to believe and know that it takes time. ‘You can only start from where you are, not from where you would like to be.’ If you attempt to step out of your depression from where you’d like to be – well, I guess you wouldn’t be depressed and then why would you need to step out of it in the first place? Where you would like to be is a wonderful goal, a great finish, but it’s not the starting line. You have to accept and understand that you have to start with where you are now – and that might not be very attractive, but it is essential.

You can’t expect yourself to be happy and bubbly within 24 hours of ‘fighting’ your depression (nor should you ever expect that). And that’s okay. Its okay to still be hurt and angry and frustrated; but you have to keep persevering and committing to the end goal of finding a way to overcome your depression. Consider your ‘fight’ against depression as a marathon (yes, one of the 25 miles ones). Consider your current self the starting line and consider the ‘you’ you want to be as the finish line. Now find the support along the way to help to get you there, just like runners get water to keep them hydrated and have fans cheering them along the way. Find your water and your fans and push yourself to the end. It’s tough, you’ll get tired, you’ll want to stop or give up, but when you cross the finish line, it will be more than worth the journey you took. And you will have proved to yourself that depression is NOT bigger than you and it can’t beat you!

Mindfulness and Awareness PKN 12/2

10 Jan

The Mind and Its Demons

10 Jan

The mind is a many splendid thing. Except when it is not. Especially when it is not. The mind is both great and terrible, both intelligent and absolutely dumb and it both helps and hurts. Let’s face it…our mind can be our greatest enemy and our best friend. And that’s YOUR CHOICE! But wait — is it really your choice? I mean doesn’t the mind make choices? So in essence wouldn’t that mean your MIND makes up its own choice about whether it is its own greatest enemy or best friend?

Whoa. Too much.

Let’s get a couple things straight. We often consider our minds and ‘us’ to be one. We are what we think, what we feel, what we perceive, etc. Society has a brilliant way of convincing us of these ‘truths’ – it’s most certainly not something that is built into us or a natural way of thinking.

You are not your mind. Your are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings or emotions. They are A PART of you. But they are not the entire essence of who you are. And this is where we get trapped – caught – overwhelmed. Well by God if my mind says I’m a complete failure at life – THEN I MUST BE! Your mind says a lot of things – and the majority of them are not true. The mind is a great and wonderful liar – it has perfected the art of insincerity. And that’s the FIRST ‘truth’ that you can actually believe in.

Now – when I say mind here – I really mean your reactive mind. The mind that is really good at numbers and solving problems and keeping us safe. But the reactive mind is not so good at dealing with emotions and responses and overwhelming feelings. It thinks it’s amazing at these things – but it’s not. Sorry mind – hate to break it to you – but your strengths lie in helping me pass physics and cross the street safely. Which is VERY HELPFUL – but just not when it comes to mindfulness.

But the wise mind – the wise mind is YOU. I don’t even like calling it a mind at all. I consider it the essence of who I am. The me that has been there my whole life – observing – without judgment – since the day I popped out onto this great and wonderful earth. The wise mind is – well, wise. It’s wise in the sense that it is completely and unconditionally true to YOU. It does not serve your perceptions, your environment, your social circle or your experiences. Yes, it definitely takes part in these events – but it never allows itself to be drawn into them. Or rather, the essence of you does not allow yourself to be drawn in. Yes – try and wrap your ‘mind’ around that :)

So – what do we do then? Well, we begin by recognizing that the essence of who we are is there within us at all times – we just need to utilize tools and experiences to help us reach it. And that’s where mindfulness and awareness come into play. These are the tools that can help us discover our true self and tap into the wise mind that can provide so much comfort, understanding and knowledge.

Enter the Mindfulness Zone my friends – or as I like to call it – the Zone of Awesomeness.

Reverb…December 20

20 Dec

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

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Here’s something cool – I did those things! That’s to say, I did a lot of things this past year that I would never have imagined myself doing. Yeah, I was scared, worried, unsure, busy and otherwise deterred – but – I did it. Someone once told me it’s really important to have a full life. This especially comes into play when you start dating or find yourself in a serious relationship. Your life should be the cake – sweet, full of cake’y’ things and wonderful! The other person should be the icing on top – also sweet, full of icing’y’ things – an added extra. This year I was able to have a full life – lots of cake!

Things I did this year that I might have avoided in the past:
- Presented at Pecha Kucha Raleigh
- Joined a community group
- Started going back to church
- Joined a gym and signed up for personal training
- Joined TCDC
- Started a blog!!!!!!!!!!

The most important thing I did?

WILLINGLY and with complete and total knowledge of what I was doing – put myself in situations that caused me anxiety, fear and uncertainty – knowing that I would grow and experience moments I couldn’t otherwise.

I stepped outside my box. Hell – I stepped outside the range of my GPS.

Reverb…December 19

20 Dec

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

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What healed me this year:
- Mindfulness and awareness
- My amazing and wonderful family
- My supportive and awesome friends
- Me!
- My cat
- My experiences

I’m going to expand on the ‘experiences’ aspect of that list. You might be wondering why I put it there. I put it there because without the things I experienced during this past year (yes – the good and the bad) I would never have discovered so much about myself or realized how blessed I am to have the people/pets in my life that I do. In my opinion, very few people would have put up with me (including myself) and I did lose some friends along the way. But my whole family and my true friends stuck by my side. They showed me that I was capable of amazing things and I was continuously pushed to my limit – with love, understanding and support – to get through the tough times.

Life is a many splendid thing. So are friends and family.

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