Crashing Waves

Like many other beach lovers, I realize that the ocean is home for me. So now I make sure that I get to the ocean as often as possible. I’ve traveled to many beaches at different times of the year and have begun to learn the many nuances of the sea. In early spring the water is brisk and refreshing, while in summertime the ocean is cool and fairly calm and the waves bounce around playfully. In September, everyone rushes to the beach for Labor Day weekend to say the final goodbyes to summer. The water is very warm and inviting, but waves are crashing high in anticipation of the imminent winds of the autumn season.

This weekend the waves were especially tall and intense, coming in fast and cresting over into foamy bubbles at the shore. And like any homecoming visit, I couldn’t wait to get out there and frolic around with my “friends.” So I played with the waves, crashing and splashing and jumping around. I probably looked about five, rather than thirty-five years old! It was so exhilarating that I briefly pondered becoming a surfer to become more at one with the waves and stand straight on top of them. So there I was jumping and floating like those around me, some with boogie boards, and one or two kids with actual surf boards. These waves were really extraordinary, some one or two feet above my head. It was just amazing. I swallowed more than a little bit of salt water and got knocked down a few times. One wipeout flipped me complete upside down under the water and it was just wonderful! When I first entered the water I had on a pair of hoops that are usually secure in the water and beach friendly during other times in the year; but not this time. After the first two or three waves with I came up one earring missing, so I gave the other one up and counted the gold-colored circles as an offering to Yemoja, goddess of the sea.

Unlike past beach visits, I was experiencing a spiritual block so my first day at the beach didn’t yield much inspiration or deep reflection. I tried to focus but came up with nothing. I didn’t have any rituals to do, things I wanted to cleanse, or divine aspirations and dreams to affirm. I was experiencing soul congestion I guess. At present I am grappling with and needing to heal some upheavals that occurred in my professional life and with my mental health, both of which began about a year and a half ago. Though some time has passed, those two areas are sites of recurring issues and difficulties that seem to keep coming up in my life.

I was reading a novel and got the idea to think of these pains as storms that continually wear away at a lighthouse. The author implied that storms would keep coming across the seasons and that after so many storms lighthouse might need to be rebuilt a time or two after sustaining significant damage. Acceptance. Restoration. I like this metaphor; I like storms… and I like thinking of myself as lighthouse (guess myself esteem is still intact). But the waves that came crashing my way ever 20 to 30 seconds today, made so much more sense. They occurred because they were supposed to; they were fast and full of power and force. But they were so much fun if you weren’t afraid and dared to enjoy them. The ocean water wasn’t deep at all, the sun was shining and there were lots of people around. Like in life, you didn’t know when the next wave was coming or how soon it would crest or how high it would be. You didn’t know if they next one coming might knock you on your ass, but if it did you enjoyed it, got up and got ready to see what the next wave would be like. Some of the waves weren’t as forceful, but their height seemed scary until you realized you could float right on top of it. These high and crashing waves don’t trouble the sea all the time, just in certain seasons. You don’t have to be an expert swimmer, or really know how to swim at all. You just need to be able to jump as high as you can and be able to float a little bit.

If you’ve never been wave jumping then none of this will make sense. But I left the beach today with some peace about the rapid rearrangements that seem to be occurring everyday when I go to work, the disappointment of dreams deferred, and the ebbing highs and lows of my mental health and wellness. What if, as I did in the ocean, I had fun as these forceful waves seemingly slapped me around and tossed me about? What if I realized that the general conditions of my surroundings hadn’t changed or become life threatening and instead decided to jump and play in the ups and downs? That seems pretty unconventional to me, but I think I’ll try it. Summer is over, the fall winds are approaching and eventually winter will follow. I’m deciding that winter blues can’t be my story this year so I will need to try new things. This time I’m gonna try splashing around in the waves, floating and squealing and having fun even if I’m feeling knocked around a bit. At the end of this life I want my story to be that I loved well, gave freely, and enjoyed myself. The first two I do alright right with, but its time that I practice pleasure as a principle. It’s time that I commit to living and having fun along the way.
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Depression is a formidable opponent

Depression is a formidable opponent.

That is of course, assuming that you notice and accept that depression is present at all. For me depression is like the duller twin of anxiety- dulled as in the lack of sensation. But honestly … I had ranked these conditions in my head and given anxiety a higher status than depression. Anxiety was less embarrassing to me. Basically it translated as: “You worry too much and you just can’t calm down well.” Depression, on the other hand, felt shameful. I translated it as: “Really? – you can’t find anything to be happy about?” But here I am watching as the “Winter Blues” season approaches, clueless that I was already in my indigo funk. I was feeling sullen but not miserable, functional but listless about my personal life. As much as I had judged and avoided it, I had to just admit to myself that I was actually experiencing depression (and sometimes I was still pretty anxious too). In fact I have regularly experienced depression but try to hide it, deny it to myself, or I try to focus more on my anxiety. But it feels better now to just “come out” about it.

Anxiety and depression often function together and not separately. In my experience, anxiety requires one to center oneself and calm down (not ever as easy as it seems). Alternately, depression requires pulling oneself up out of the mire; revving up into hope and out of despair. Despair. Despair is what can make mental health challenges overwhelming and cumbersome. The despair of depression may feel like persistent hopelessness . But with anxiety, excessive worry can lead to panic or to despair… the hopelessness that things we worry about won’t work out. When we are in despair, it FEELS impossible to come out of it.

It is not impossible, but it sure does seem like it, sometimes.

Depression is a formidable opponent; BUT it is NOT impossible to overcome. Breaking through depression requires that simultaneously, we be WILLING TO MEND (this can sometimes feel like forcing oneself, but that’s okay) and that we be GENTLE AND CARING to oneself. To work through my own depression, I had to give myself permission to lay in the bed and do nothing so my body and mind could rest and heal. I had to lie in the bed without guilt when there were chores and cleaning today, people waiting on me or calling me, and a running to-do-list of work tasks. I had to be there and get clear on what I really need most and what I was feeling. Sometimes this can take days, or weeks, or months.

On the other hand, I had to be willing to mend and to add a little force. I sometimes had to force the bathing and eating. Or make effort to consume lots of water and fresh veggies. Sometimes I would muster up a lot of force and go walk or exercise for 15-30 minutes because I knew the endorphins would automatically change my situation. This might only happen once a week, but I fight for it. Every day, even in the pain of depression or anxiety I try to find something to be grateful for. The gratitude work is transformative. Stopping to smile, because the sun came through the clouds on a dreary day, can be quite soothing. I also try to laugh or watch a funny movie if I can pull myself out of the slump for a moment. If I can’t “unslump” myself I am learning to call a safe person to help me pull myself up. And ultimately, I ride it out because I know that depression can last a few days or a season and that this is okay (and it never lasts forever). I don’t worry too much about judgement from others (i.e. happy people) but here is a great post with good practical suggestions and some nice “snarkiness” if you need such a boost! I have definitely felt many of these and benefitted from a lot of the suggestions.

Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed

These things are small steps, but depression is a formidable opponent that requires determination and patience. It can seem impossible to “get up” quickly (or get up at all) in the midst of despair. Absent of hope there is often no will to try or exert effort. This is what I know. But I also know that big, scary, difficult things are best overcome piece by piece, step by step, breathe by breathe healing IS POSSIBLE. Coming out of depression is possible. Feeling better, feeling good, feeling healthy IS POSSIBLE and it is within our reach. I am not alone, nor are you. I am willing to mend and take difficult painful steps to get out of depression. I am!

Daily affirmation for gratitude:

http://www.dailyword.com/dailyword/gratitude-thursday-november-28-2013

Things that make me fall out laughing no matter how low I am feeling:

Animals That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now

BEST pics from “Reasons My Kid is Crying”

and the “f$&k it” face on this dog right here… priceless!

dogoverit

Enjoy!

I feel sooooo alone, but really I’m not.

More than a few of us have had to navigate mental health challenges to include: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and the full spectrum of such conditions. Part of me imagines that our brains and our bodies align to manifest the outward experience of living in an angst driven society that de-centers gentleness and ease with oneself and with the process of life.

It is fairly easy to dismiss, misunderstand, and diminish the experience of mental illness and brain disease if you have no previous experience or awareness of it in your own life. Sometimes I have hesitated to share my joy and wellness, in fear that my hardship won’t be taken seriously. It’s crazy, but I fear that others might miss the overwhelming emotional, physical, and spiritual pain one has to cross over from moment to moment and breath to breath until healing is complete. I have found it difficult to navigate this pain of indescribable nature that has no visible manifestations nor obvious symptoms. The pain doesn’t always go away when I talk about. It is partially a physical turmoil and needs a physical response; a release of some sort.

Along the healing road, I have found that it REALLY helps to be understood, remembered, and considered with warmth and compassionate care.

Here is a collection of creative illustrations that make wonderfully clear the struggles many of us have had within our mental health experience (whether clinically diagnosed or not). I am in a healing place now and yet I have felt many of these sentiments at one time or another as I found my truth about my mental health experience.

At this juncture, I can praise and celebrate my experience with anxiety and depression not just because of the strength I’ve gain and the healthy life practice I am cultivating but also for the gift I can be to others. Whether through inspiration , compassion, or direct assistance I can offer a hand in healing to others. This swells my heart in a way that I can’t explain. And what is more exciting is that EACH of us has the capacity and power to do this and to be a light for one another in this world.

So while I often feel alone, I really am not. I am always loved, I am always protected, I am always comforted when I still myself, breathe , and reconnect with my spiritual power. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but I am always gonna try.

I am NOT gonna give up.

that’s a fact; and that’s my bottom line. 🙂

Below are diagrams/ creative expressions I made to share with others about my own healing and recovery process.

What anxiety can feel like:

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What it can feel like to go on or come off meds:

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What I have gained from the experience so far:

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I hope this is helpful to someone along the same journey or one who desires to support a loved one toward optimal mental health.

Update: Check out the comics mentioned above (21 Comics that Capture the Frustration of Depression):  http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/comics-that-capture-the-frustrations-of-depression

Post a comment about which ones caught your attention or made an impression?  Mine are 3,9,16,19, and 20.  I like 4, 5,6, and 21 as well.