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Sick AND Depressed? ‘Ooof

Head coldHello from your local depression blogger. This week I got sick. Because I was told my employer isn’t renewing my contract again? Because I’m nervous as hell about an upcoming opportunity? Because my extremely helpful meditation class came to an end?

Who knows?

But the head cold persists.

I know what to do about the cold itself – drown it in hot liquids, sleep, and vitamin C. What I’m not so sure about is how to manage the attendant weepiness, the mood swings, the body aches that remind me of my worst depressions.

How do we pass the time when we’re holed up inside and feeling ill, wanting desperately to avoid an emotional fall into that shitty dark pit of despair?

ReadingA lot of my friends swear by video games. Others say TV. Neither really work for me. Instead I’m immersing myself in a few good books. I’ve discovered David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and am reading The Bone Clocks by him. I’ve also combed through a list of books on meditation and mindfulness and purchased Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham.

I’m making myself eat so that the vitamin C doesn’t tear my stomach to shreds, and I’m making myself read so that my lethargy doesn’t tear my mind to shreds.

Got some book recommendations? Leave them in the comments below or email me at depressionwhoneedsit@gmail.com.

First photo by bandita on Flickr.

Second photo by Richard Masoner on Flickr.

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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.

Cool Little Depression Videos

You gotta love a video about depression that makes you laugh. Recently a friend of mine (the same friend who learned to love the mean voice) sent me two of those very things.

The first video includes a great depression metaphor for our collection: depression as an online stalker. He is interrupted throughout the video by messages that he is a failure, that even the act of making the video is a sign of weakness. It also has valuable information and recommends a book called The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression that I’m going to get now.

The second video is a little more playful. The backstory is hard to explain, check it out here if you’re interested. On the video, listen to the fantastic John Green of VlogBrothers talk about his experience with depression and give advice to other sufferers, while playing the shit out of some FIFA.

I found the latter inspirational, because John Green has a life I wouldn’t mind having, creating fantastic content for money. Who knew he’d suffered from depression? If he can do it, maybe so can we.

Photo by Pabak Sarkar on Flickr.

Thank God for Google Wormholes

Your brainThrough a sort of depression google search wormhole, I came across a book called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. (It’s the book that made me realize that depressives should skip the first few chapters of every book on depression because they’re almost always focused on validating depression as a disease. The goal seems to be convincing the reader that depression is SUPER bad, which, for those of us in the thick of it, is super depressing. Nowadays I start at the chapter where they start to talk about getting better.)

That book led me to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who, in addition to being an extremely well respected author and practitioner of mindfulness-based therapies for the chronically ill, seems to have taken his wife’s name when he married. My kind of guy.

It turns out that Kabat-Zinn is co-author of a book called The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness, which I highly recommend. He’s also the creator of a course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which uses meditation, yoga, and mindfulness to treat everything from high blood pressure and chronic pain to depression and panic disorders.

So I signed up for the course and during my introductory meeting with our instructor, after explaining my situation, I asked him why he thought I should take his course. “You need to rewire your brain.” he answered.

Huh.

So I’m currently in my third week of the eight week course and am struck by how simple and straightforward it is on one level, and how complex and contradictory I also find it. Focus on the breath but don’t strive to focus on the breath. Relax but stay awake. Clear your mind but be aware of your thoughts. Do this every day for an hour but be easy on yourself and take life as it comes.

More on that later. In the meantime, I am both thoroughly enjoying the course and struggling with its teachings – which I’m pretty sure is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing (though, of course, there is no “supposed to”).

A final book recommendation – Kabat-Zinn’s bible of mindfulness: Full Catastrophe Living.

Photo by Hey Paul Studios on Flickr

We’re Not the Only Ones

hopeThe loneliness of depression often tricks us into believing that we’re facing something completely unique. That we’re out here alone and no one is trying to reach us, no one is trying to help.

It’s not true.

I once worked in the US Senate and my favorite part was getting the chance to sit down with patients and their advocates almost every day. Children with epilepsy, adults with debilitating psoriasis, families who’d lost a loved one to suicide. Cancer, chronic pain, paralysis, ALS. Almost all of them requested the same thing – more funding for medical research.

After a year or so I realized that almost all of them were asking for the same, most fundamental thing – hope. Many of them were asking not for themselves, but for their children. Many were asking not for their children, who were already gone, but for future generations of children – so that they might not suffer.

“You never know,” they often added, “what else we might discover while researching blindness.” You never know how close the next treatment might be. They came to Washington with the sense that they were not in this alone, that what was good for them would be good for others, would be good for the whole country. They came insisting that, if we cared, we could do something together, to help each other.

I think they were right.

Photo by US Army Africa on Flickr.