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Okay. So, I’ve been in this funk for……days? Weeks? Months? Hell, I don’t even know anymore. I just know that my writing has suffered. A lot. And my muse did not deserve that. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. I did, but now I’m ready to extend my hand to her and see if she is ready to dance. 

I have gained two things from this most recent trip through the Looking Glass: anger, and the worth of darkness.

First of all, I have likened Depression to going “down the rabbit hole”. One of my writer friends coined this expression, but my experience with the ugly D has been more lately like going through the Looking Glass. Everything just seems to be a warped image of what it ought to be. Things that shouldn’t have significance, do. Things that shouldn’t be so, are. And it’s very hard to understand who I am, when trapped on the other side of that Looking Glass.

Now, I suspect that this will all sound completely insane to someone who hasn’t ever dealt with Depression and really walked through it. I might sound dramatic or even ludicrous to someone who hasn’t experienced this type of illness. But I also have this gut feeling that people who really have been there, will nod their heads as they read and say, “I know exactly what she means.”

But back to the results.

First, anger.

I have let good habits slip away from me over the last year. Good eating. Good exercise. Intentional acts for wellness. 

The anger came from knowing that, not so long ago, I was in a good place, and I let life overwhelm me and bad habits overtake the good ones and I ended up right back where I was two years ago. I had fought like hell to get to that better place, only to return to the gutter.

About a week ago, I got mad. Really, really, internally angry. At myself. And I decided that I’d had enough of this version of me. I know why I turn to certain comforts, and told my therapist why. I think there was some release in that. Honesty, with someone else, and not only myself, has been a huge source of healing. 

We try so hard to put on a good face. Act like we’ve got it all together. That’s one reason I decided to detox from Facebook for a while. Because so little of it is genuine. And I can’t do phony. And I can’t do hateful. And I was just seeing way too much of both. 

I’ve turned this anger into fuel. A source of energy to push me into better habits, healthier mindsets, and a strong resolve to make this the last time I have to lose this kind of weight or make this big of an adjustment in my lifestyle. 

This anger has been one of the things that has proven worthy for me and my life, and was born of the darkness that is depression. Because there are things to learn in that place, it can just be hard to process them during the journey. I almost always have to come back to the other side of the Looking Glass before I can really express what I learned during my absence from “normalcy”. 

Understanding that there are hidden treasures in that darkness is something I’m just now really starting to get. I read something this week about going through darkness, and it really spoke to me:

Through darkness and doubt often come the greatest creativity and faith. Our faith is strengthened every time we go through a period of questioning: “Why do I believe this? Do I believe this at all? What do I base my life on?” When we are at rock bottom, everything becomes clearer: self-image, God-image, worldview.

The way through is always much more difficult than the way around. Cheap religion gives us the way around, avoiding darkness. True religion gives us the way through, stepping right into the mystery. 

Darkness is sacred ground. The God who calls us into darkness will also sustain us and lead us through it. “God… brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not yet exist” (Romans 4:17). Resurrection is the one and only pattern.

Richard Rohr

If anything, I always gain a higher and deeper connection with my spiritual side and draw closer to that on the heels of a depressive period of time. It sucks to get there, but I learn a lot about myself and God in the darkness. 

I feel like my mental, spiritual, and physical selves are all at odds right now. Each needing, demanding something important from me. And, the truth is, I’m having trouble prioritizing what needs the most attention. And so perhaps another lesson in this darkness is that this combative state of living is completely normal. If you have a job, a family, and outside interests, these things will all constantly clamor for your attention. For me, this results in feeling pulled in a thousand different directions until I simply have nothing left. 

I’m much better at saying “no” to things than I used to be. But I still have some trouble…..undoing? Releasing myself from things and situations that are no longer healthy or beneficial, even if they once were. Because there is always guilt and the fact that I have the hardest of times overcoming my people-pleasing side.

Depression, for me, is like being caught in a rip tide. If I’ve written about this before, forgive me, but I can’t remember if I have or not. Our impulse when caught in a rip current is to panic and resist, but experts tell us that the way to break free is to swim parallel to the shore. So that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now. I don’t feel like I’m not being grabbed by the rip tide anymore, but I can see the shoreline. I’m not underwater. But I have learned that I cannot, cannot, cannot neglect certain things any longer.

I cannot neglect my health. I cannot so push my body (which includes my brain) to the point that I’m so exhausted that I won’t do what is best for it. I will not resort to convenience over healthy. I will not be pushed past the point of my own inner peace. I have ways to return to it when I feel myself getting off balance. I will seek out moments throughout my day to re-center and re-focus. This will be a learning process and I will be patient, first and foremost, with myself.

I will not neglect my spiritual health. I will surround myself with that which encourages and uplifts me, transforms me, and I will not start another day without looking first to the source of light and life and the inspiration found at the feet of the Divine.

I will not neglect my art. My passion. The one thing that has been a constant in my life for the last chaotic decade, plus some. I will take it in the direction of my choosing and I will make time to write and write well. Some days I won’t write well at all. Some days, no one will read what I’ve written. This is okay. 

I will not neglect my mental health. I will go to therapy. I will take my medication. I will do the physical things necessary to promote mental well-being by eating consistently healthier and taking more time for physical activity. 

I will not neglect my empathetic side. If I need to unfriend I will unfriend. If I need to speak honestly, I will speak honestly. If I need to back away from things that leech off of my nature for helpfulness and concern, I will back away. I will not try to be all things to all people. I won’t even try to be a few things to a few people. I will be me, and help when and where I can.

I will not neglect my dreams. I am 35 years old, but I still have dreams. I have goals. And I will continue to believe they are possible and attainable and allow myself to continue dreaming of what could be, even in the midst of what isn’t. I will not allow the necessity of compromise choke the life out the hopes that I continue to hold.

It is entirely likely that I will face Depression numerous more times before the end of my life. But each time I do, I can be stronger than the time before. And I am getting stronger. Nothing makes one stronger than a trip to Wonderland via a rip tide.

Don’t try to steer the river.

Deepak Chopra