Mindfulness #5: Creating a Team When You’re Depressed

Our Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class has come to an end. There were tears and hugs when we said goodbye.

Nine weeks ago we looked at each other with minds that were wary, scared, curious, self-conscious. Today we are Sangha for each other, and we will miss each other. And we will miss our teacher. Today many of us are scared to be without each other. I’m scared.

I wonder whether I’ll keep up my meditation practice, or whether it will wither on the vine. I wonder whether I’ll grow to loathe it – that thing I’m not doing for myself that I know I should do. I wonder whether I’ll keep the progress I’ve made or slide back. I wonder whether I’ll keep progressing.

I wonder whether “it’s worked,” whether I’ve avoided another major episode of depression. And I know the answer isn’t written. Doesn’t exist. I wonder whether I’ll wither again.

“Find yourself a Sangha,” our teacher told us. Find yourself a group to practice with. You need a group. You need a team.

Find yourself a Sangha.

Mindfullnes #3: The Beauty of a Gentle Sway

swayWhen we’re recovering, we’re frustrated by the sway. Frustrated that recovery isn’t a straight line toward Better. Frustrated that some days, some hours, some thoughts still hurt like hell.

When we’re meditating, we’re taught that our minds will wander, it’s the bringing them back to the breath that matters.

I learned a standing yoga pose the other day that put all this into stark relief. Place your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart, hands hanging at your sides.

You’ll notice as you stand there that you’re constantly, very slightly, losing your balance and regaining it. You’re swaying. Allow yourself to sway. Notice that your body knows how to right itself, simply by tensing the muscles of the feet, the legs.

Instead of thinking of recovery as a frustrating, up-and-down hike to someplace called Better, I like to think of it as a gentle swaying motion. Constantly losing and regaining my balance, in cooperation with my body and mind, I’m able to stand tall.

Photo by HomeSpot HQ on Flickr.

A Learning Menu

I found researching depression frustrating enough to just stop. But if I’m not learning about something that affects my life this much, then I’m feeling powerless to do much about it. Besides, thousands of people have spent their lives trying to ease this type of pain – I’d hate to skip their findings just because they’re hard to wade through.

I do most of my reading in a miniskirt in a meadow.

I do most of my reading in a miniskirt in a meadow while working out my core.

So I was really encouraged when a friend sent a reading list of interesting articles. Some had me nodding my head, others made me skeptical. They all made me think critically about depression – not monolithic, not all powerful, not murky with mystery. Rather, depression as a cause of suffering like so many others – a cause that dedicated people are trying to understand, a suffering that thoughtful people are trying to ease.

“How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility” An article on the consequences of “dispositional optimism.” I was especially pleased to read the interviewee’s concern that patients can feel guilty for not feeling optimistic, and relieved to read his stance that disposition is most often not a decision.

“In Therapy Forever? Enough Already” This New York Times article questions the common belief that therapy can and should should take years to work.

The Sidewalk Psychiatrist A blog by a practicing psychiatrist with a casual tone. I’m still digging in, but I think it’s a source of practical perspective from an expert on depression and an expert on the ecosystem of treatment (what are the controversies in the field right now? etc.). He recommends a short book called The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade, which I ordered immediately.

Have You Seen a Therapist Yourself?” A thoughtful article on how we think of mental illness and the therapist-patient relationship.

How Mindfulness Reduces Vulnerability to Depression” This article introduces a very helpful term I’d never heard before: Cognitive Reactivity – the degree to which mild negative moods can result in patterns of thinking which lead to depression. Very cool.

Have recommendations? Click through to leave a comment or email me at depressionwhoneedsit at gmail dot com.