Cliff Diving

My psychologist, she extends her hand as if to shake someone else’s, but then stands her hand at the edge of the table and teeters it back and forth. The gesture is a visual aid, a representation of my plight with depression.

I, by virtue of biology and environment, exist precariously close to the ‘edge’ and with the use of my tools of awareness and self-management, though my path is rocky, I am able to stay atop and not fall over. However, it takes tremendous effort to do this and she readily acknowledges that it shouldn’t be this difficult. I would agree, though not through any direct evidence but through a deep knowledge, a knowing, that this is not my true nature. There is a part of me that knows I am a being of joy and love. It’s in me somewhere, I just don’t know how to access it.

My psychologist then draws her hand in towards the center of the table slightly, explaining how some people live further away from the edge but can, through situations and events combined with a prevalence towards depression, slide quickly to the edge. Her hand moves with her description and falls off the edge of the table.

She then places her hand right in the middle of the table. This is the person who, despite any circumstances experienced in life, will never be drawn towards that dangerous ‘edge’. I understand what she is telling me, it’s not news to me. But, I sit wishing to be the hand in the middle of the table yet not even being able to know what that would feel like.

I exist on a continuum of gray – fifty shades of gray.

Today is black. I lie in a fetal position on the floor, tears streaming down my face, and my head feeling like it’s going to explode. I feel trapped. I can’t explain it either. My husband asks what’s wrong and what he can do. The only answer to both questions is, “Nothing.”

It’s strange. How can someone feel so acutely awful and there not be anything ‘wrong’?

The more I fight the entrapment, the worse it gets and the pressure builds. I eventually surrender to it. I don’t know what else to do.

I lay on the floor, exhausted, staring at the ceiling. Tears still roll down my cheeks.

Ye, though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

I find solace in these verses that come to my forethought. I reach for my bible and lay my head on it like a pillow and allow the words to permeate my mind.

Sleep finds me.

I awake in the morning, a lighter shade of black. I think back to last night. I do not understand.

The attack was torturous yet, the more I fought it, the worse it got. And when the realization dawned that there was actually nothing that could happen to me, that there was actually nothing happening to me, I was able to let go.

There is no epiphany here. The remembrance of the attack fills me with fear. I don’t want it to happen again. But I wonder, what am I really afraid of if nothing actually happened to me? What is the attack?

My mind goes back to the hand and the table; the hilltop, the edge, and the fall into oblivion.

It all started with a pull to the edge but what hurt the most was the incessant struggle to keep from falling. Yet, when I let myself fall, that’s when the voice of God spoke to me.

So, I’m curious now. What’s in this cavernous valley below? Is it the dark and menacing place I’ve believed it to be? Why is the hilltop the ‘place to be’?

Perhaps there’s another world worth exploring…perhaps the pull is a calling to find out…

To Medicate or Not…

This is not the first post I’ve done regarding my decisions to make use of pharmaceuticals. It seems to be an ongoing ‘dilemma’ for me.

I don’t doubt that many people face similar questioning about whether meds are the right choice. Everyone’s situation is different though and so the question should always be directed inward – Why am I choosing this and what, or who, am I trying to protect? The answer will come in honest seeking.

For me, it appears, that at least for now, the medicating will continue.

Seek and ye shall find:

Perhaps my imperfections are meant to teach me something. I get it.

This dilemma about whether to increase my meds or not – why am I against it? What am I trying to prove? Perhaps it’s a lesson in letting go of preconceived, self-made notions of how things should be, letting go of rules and ideas around purity being obtained through my own actions, that in some way strict adherence to a list of commandments will offer me my salvation.

But how could I have been made with imperfections to begin with if Perfection itself made me? Precisely! The so-called imperfection was made Perfectly and therefore not an imperfection at all.

Ah, at first an epiphany but then more confusion comes. I can accept the depression but how do I live with it? It’s all-consuming, at its worst, and I am lost – not the ‘real’ me, of course, that’s still inside. But it’s been barricaded.

With medication the barricades are no longer concrete walls. Rather they are pesky nets of weeds, no longer impenetrable, but a nuisance nonetheless and a hindrance to joy.

The Joy is there, this I know.

If more medication could obliterate the weeds and offer a direct path to joy, why would I not take it? Because it’s Joy I want, not joy. I want Truth, not oblivion.

Why would I take a piece when I could have the whole? But could a piece of Wholeness be not whole?

Why would you allow yourself to struggle still?

Why would you enter the dark forest in search of light when you stand in it already? Or rather, why would you not step out of the dark forest and expose yourself to the light?

Do you fear the light? You don’t know it, do you? All you know is darkness so you keep yourself enveloped in its safety.

You’re afraid of what you’ll see.

But medication’s not of God.

Who says? Did God not make the mind of man that made the medication?

But depression’s not of God?

Who says? See it not of God and it’s a curse for sure!

Apart from its whole, you know not what it is. The image on the puzzle piece means nothing until it’s put in place. And the whole image can’t be seen without its pieces.

If the wholeness of God is joy, allow yourself to be the piece you were meant to be.

You’re so afraid of joy. You know not what it is.

It’s true.

Medication can’t touch me, truly. But in believing it can I keep myself in body, fearful of its demise.

Let go of your body, little mind, and find solace in My offering to you. My Joy cannot be found in your weak protection of your self. Fear not. Let go of your self and find Me.

I know not what I’ll find in Joy. It’s true – I am afraid.

I continue to see myself as separate, trying to make my piece whole, alone.

Yet a ray of light shines not at all without the sun.

I’m a defiant little ray. I’ve known darkness for so long. I have no idea how bright I could truly be in union with the sun.

Does the type of bridge I cross to freedom truly matter? I think not. All that matters is that I choose to cross it. The paths are all different but the destination is the same.

The instruction is not to devise your own path but to seek His will in all you do and He will direct your path.

Gratitude in Not-So-Glorious Places

I love my psychologist. She’s such a wise woman and can read me like a book.

I’ve started a new antidepressant medication and have recently upped the dose. When the dose increased I experienced a common side effect of the medication. Nausea.

I welcomed the nausea. It decreased my appetite. But, after a few days, the nausea went away.

In my psychologist’s office today she asked how the nausea was and I said it had gone. I smiled as I said this, giving her a sly look and snapping my fingers. “Shucks!”, I said.

She laughed and said, “How very eating-disordered of you.”

I laughed too. Of course it’s eating-disordered thinking. Why wouldn’t an eating-disordered person think that something that decreased the appetite was magnificent?

Despite lingering eating-disordered thoughts that roll around in my head and make themselves frequently present, the increased dose of my antidepressant medication has helped my mood tremendously. And historically, for me, when my mood is good I am much more able to stay on track with my food and not engage in the self-defeating, self-deflating acts of restricting and binging and purging.

We discuss my mood and have a great conversation about the brain and mental illness.

Then she says, “You know, the very thing, that dogged determination that keeps you in your eating disorder, is the same character that drives you to work so hard when your depression rears its ugly head.”

How’s that for a silver lining?

I laugh again. I know my mood is in a far better place than it has been in months because I can see the great wisdom in this.

“Well,” I say, “Thank God for my eating disorder then! Without it and this great relentless determination of mine, I just might not have the strength to fight the depression!”

Finding gratitude in the strangest of places.

Who knows, really? But I understand what she means. And perhaps she’s right. These attributes, the will and drive and doggedness and stubbornness that are characteristic of many eating-disordered people, could be the very traits that have allowed me to not be completely and utterly consumed and devastated by my major depression and all the other trials and tribulations that life is presenting to me right now.

It’s just like the Zen story of the farmer. Good luck or bad luck? Fortune or misfortune? Maybe or maybe not?

Good and bad can be found in all circumstances.

Perhaps.

Post-It Notes for Daily Living

I sit drinking coffee with my friend.

She tells me about her job working with people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. She details how, for many of her clients, they cannot do simple routine tasks. And not so much that they can’t do them but that they don’t remember to do them. The logical, sequential ability of ordering and accomplishing tasks is lost.

Some know they need groceries but forget to go to the store. Some will get to the store and return without anything they actually needed to get. Some need to take medication but can’t remember what time to take it at. Some don’t know where their mailbox is and can’t even establish a plan for finding it.

My friend’s job is to develop plans and strategies for her clients that will enable them to live their lives as self-sufficiently as possible. She doesn’t aim to do things for her clients, to accomplish their tasks for them. No, her job is to do just enough that will allow them to do what they need to do themselves. Whether it be Post-It note reminders around the house or to-do/get lists (and other strategies far beyond what I know about), she helps her clients help themselves.

To myself, I shake my head, almost unable to imagine what it would be like to not remember such basic functioning for daily life.

But, I am absolutely and humbly aware that I, we, the general population without traumatic brain injuries, are not so different.

My friend and I switch topics and we’re now discussing the state of her apartment and how she feels overwhelmed by the mess of it. She then tells me about a broken filing cabinet that is taking up space and adding to her feelings of a life of clutter.

It’s a humorous conversation. We’re grown adults commiserating about the miseries and annoyances of daily living. I finally suggest to her that one day, today after coffee, all she needs to do is move the filing cabinet from her living room to the back door. Then, two days later on garbage day, simply move the filing cabinet out to the curb. And voila! Clutter begone!

She feels less overwhelmed and agrees to the order of tasks. Three days later, and in record time, she has accomplished a task that had been haunting her for months.

Does my friend have a traumatic brain injury? Not at all. She’s actually a highly-functioning, very intelligent person with a post-secondary degree in social work.

I think about myself now and my weekly meetings with my psychologist (which I have no funds to afford but have concluded that, through a simplified cost-benefit analysis, if I had money right now it would be doing me no good anyway if I’m still suffering in the midst of my major depression).

In my recent meetings with my psychologist we have developed lists and tasks for me as well. Sure, I can remember to take my medication and get groceries and turn on and off the stove and take the garbage out and shower and go to bed. But, do I want to? No, right now I don’t! My brain is such that, not unlike my friend’s brain-injured clients, I am having problems completing daily tasks.

I have little motivation at times to continue but somewhere inside of me there’s a voice that says, “Keep going.” I know I have to wake up in the morning. I know I have to take my antidepressant medication. I know I have to shower and go to work. I also know that while there is breath being exhaled from my mouth there is a purpose to living. I don’t feel it, but I know it.

And right now, this is the time for lists. I don’t feel adult-like. I feel often like I’m failing. But right now, while my brain and emotions are fragile, this is the time for basic lists to help me function and survive. I am not strong enough right now to reach for the stars. I don’t know why I can’t do and be all the things I think I should be but now is not the time to discriminate and judge. Now is the time for doing, doing one thing at a time, one step at a time so that I can manage my day-to-day life.

We all need to self-manage. “Normal” brain or injured brain makes no difference. Whatever level we’re at is the level at which we need to manage and for however long it takes.

The only requirement is to just keep going, without judgement or criticism, but with kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.

This is where I’m at and I will work this day to the best of my ability, Post-It notes and all!

What’s Your Flavor?

My husband’s favorite ice cream is vanilla.

As luck would have it, that’s the very flavor that I have. I willingly serve it and it makes me happy to give it away. It brings me joy to see my husband experience such pleasure.

It’s no wonder he thinks there is nothing wrong with our marriage. He’s got a belly full of creamy vanilla ice cream.

On the flip side, my favorite is strawberry. The problem is that my husband only has chocolate and not only is that the only flavor he stocks, he is unwilling to stock anything else. It doesn’t matter that I want strawberry; he either can’t, or won’t, stock it. Either way, I’m left craving strawberry ice cream.

Don’t get me wrong, he serves a beautiful chocolate ice cream and sometimes it really hits the spot and I am satisfied. But, at the core of my being, I crave strawberry ice cream. The desire always returns and often with a fierce intensity.

I am sad.

It seems a little more understandable that he feels bad. He continues to offer the best he’s got but I keep asking for something different.

I’m starting to get a sense that in continuing to ask for something that someone can’t provide, I’m hurting us both.

He can never please me. And I can never be fully pleased.

I wish I could be happy with chocolate ice cream. I really do. I wish I didn’t want something different. But, the truth is I do and I can no longer ignore it.

I can no longer ignore the true essence that flows through me.

It’s neither right nor wrong. It just is.

Continuously returning to the chocolate ice cream vendor is never going to net me strawberry ice cream. This I now know.

 

A Simple Question

“May I make a suggestion?” my psychologist asks after reviewing my food records from the past week.

“Please,” I prompted.

“Just don’t purge,” she says.

For a split second I think she’s making a joke but I realize very quickly that this is no laughing matter. She’s dead serious. I just stare at her while I process the question. She’s okay with the silence and lets me stare, patiently waiting.

I’m thinking, “Oh sure, if it were that easy I wouldn’t be sitting here having this discussion with you.” But all of a sudden, in a flash, I’m realizing that it really is that easy. Well, maybe not that easy, but it’s surely that simple.

I’m still staring at her, incredulously now, but I start to understand exactly what she’s suggesting.

All of a sudden I feel like a tantrum-y three year old, only my tantrums are binge and purge episodes, my way of dealing when things don’t go the way I want them to.

My psychologist’s suggestion is not meant to belittle the struggles I am facing. I know this. But the simplicity of how to resolve the problem seems so blatantly obvious and I am filled with shame. I cry.

The ways in which I keep myself separated from Source are presenting themselves to me each and every day.

As my awareness expands so too does my understanding that my pain is not an excuse for self-punishment, rather it’s an opportunity to correct the errors of my thinking and bring myself back into alignment with who I truly am.

I am not an entity that needs to be overcome. I am already whole.

I am ready to let go of this “I” that needs to control. This “I” hasn’t done a very a good job at controlling anything anyway. This I know!

As Albert Einstein so wisely stated, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Truly. Let go and let God. Have Your way with me.

 

 

 

The Faith of the Faulty Gatekeeper

The undercurrent is strong.

These thoughts, they trickle in quietly through the flood gates. Once enough waters have seeped by, the current rages forcefully. I’m drowning before I’ve realized what’s happened.

I’m learning though, albeit slowly, to be a better gatekeeper. I’m in training.

I couldn’t stop it last night but in the midst of being forced down by the floods, I shone light on the darkness and remained calm.

You may not think so, but it’s progress to be able to look at your reflection in the water of a toilet basin that is half-filled with your own vomit and tell yourself that you’re loved and worthy. With every heave, I reminded myself that I am filled with the holy spirit.

Indeed, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I tell you, I’m not done asking. I am earnestly seeking. And the door will be opened.

I know not when, but I know it will.