depression as a heavy coat

when writing about pain, emotional pain specifically, it can be especially challenging to articulate the experience without sounding trite, vague, or both.

as i sit with the experience of depression in my body today, the analogy of feeling weighed down by a heavy coat comes to mind.

as someone who’s lived with chronic “mild” depression, or melancholy as an old therapist referred to it, the feeling is both familiar and oppressive.

today, it began with sleeping a lot and not feeling rested. it was the sense, upon waking, that i could fall back asleep for another 10 to 12 hours.

it is the inexplicable fatigue that makes just moving my body from one place to another a challenge.

i was listening to Tarot for the End of Times with Sarah Cargill today as she discussed the Temperance card:

this is a card i hadn’t previously had much of a relationship with, so my assessment of it was quite shallow. the traditional concept of temperance, of refraining from indulgence, is not one that resonates with me as someone in recovery from toxic Christian views that encourage denial of the body.

but Sarah Cargill’s approach was much different from the conventional encouragement of moderation. instead, she approaches the card from a perspective of the healing.

she speaks to pain as a “symptom of dis-integration.” and she also speaks to her own healing journey with chronic pain and physical distress, and her resonance with “alternative” healing modalities, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

inspired by her story and analysis, i googled TCM’s view of depression and came across this assessment:

“According to TCM, depression is caused by stagnation, or blockages in the Qi (life force energy). It is usually related to stagnant energy in the liver, spleen, heart or kidneys. Liver Qi stagnation can cause strong feelings of frustration, stomach pain and digestive trouble, heartburn or tightness in the chest, and headaches. Heart or Spleen Deficiency patterns cause worrying, trouble sleeping, and poor appetite. Chronic cases of depression with anxiety are often related to Yin deficiency, which causes irritability, restlessness, poor sleep, and back pain. An acupuncturist looks at all of these symptoms and treats the appropriate pattern with acupuncture and herbs.” (source)

depression as blocked life force energy rings true to me, because that’s what it feels like — like something is standing in the way between me and experiencing my life fully.

i think about the experience of taking a walk earlier with a beloved, and how simply getting out into the world and moving my body seemed to work to move this stagnant energy.

but now that i’m back in a apartment, laying in bed, writing this post, it finds me again, that sense of deep tiredness residing in my muscles, blood, bones.

if i’m being completely honest, despite dealing with depression for as long as i can remember, it continues to scare me. i remain afraid of its potential to swallow me whole, for hours, days, weeks, months.

i’ve been practicing somatic mindfulness/embodiment, which involves getting still and sitting with what’s present in my body. and i’m consistently shocked by how often the experience sitting just below the surface is one of fear. often this fear is vague, not taking on any specific form. it seems as though merely existing in this world is fear-inducing.

i cried today, held by a beloved, and when asked what i was sad about, i couldn’t help but think, everything. “i cried today, held by a beloved, and when asked what i was sad about, i couldn’t help but think: “everything.”

the world is a scary place, being alive is hella intimidating, and grappling with the existential crisis of humans potentially going extinct sooner than later is freaking heavy.

i think about my craving for justice and healing, and through that lens, depression seems like a logical and valid response. that’s an aspect of depression that i find generally lacking from discussion of it — its validity.

there is always enough tragedy, whether personally or collectively, in this world to justify being debilitated by it. but on the other side of this equation is joy, which is equally valid. there are always reasons with which to be filled with a powerful sense of aliveness.

this reminds me of a story from Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning:

“The story of the young woman whose death I witnessed in a concentration camp. It is a simple story. There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it seems like a poem. This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.”

Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here-I am here-I am life, eternal life.” (source)

what gets lost in the experience of depression is a sense of wholeness. i wish i could go back in time and tell my younger self, “it is not that your depression is wrong, it is that it is incomplete.”

a sense of despair and hopelessness is as much as a part of this experience of being alive as hope and optimism. but when experienced in excess, it creates a confirmation bias loop, seeking out all that validates its beliefs and ignoring the rest.

my depression, for much of my life, has made feeling joy seemingly impossible at times. this is largely why i’ve self-medicated with substances as a desperate desire to know what it feels like to feel good.

so how do we move through the internal blocks of depression? i’m very much still learning the answer to this. the most coherent one i have is the need to disrupt the experience, to agitate it. to seek out experiences that remind me what it’s like to feel alive, such as going on a walk in a busy city on a nice fall day.

Sarah Cargill refers to tears as the salt that’s needed to bring out the full flavor of our souls. so i’d say the release of crying is also a part of it.

i remind myself that hope is a practice (or a “discipline,” as Mariame Kaba puts it). and when i’m depressed, practicing hope can feel like trying to lift a car off the ground. so many times it is an exerting of effort that seemingly has little impact. which is where trust comes in — a belief that it’s all valuable, that progress is happening even when we cannot yet see it.

i’m reminded that external manifestation is often the final stage of healing and change, which helps me to nurture patience.

there is nothing easy about healing, or the irony that things often get worse before they get better. all i can do is trust, believe, practice. and when all else fails, i dig deep inside myself to find compassion for the hardship of this lived experience.

❤ ❤ ❤

deep listening… is embodiment?

Writing, too, is ninety percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you. If you can capture that reality around you, your writing needs nothing else.
You don’t only listen to the person speaking to you across the table, but simultaneously listen to the air, the chair, and the door. And go beyond the door. Take in the sound of the season, the sound of the color coming in through the windows.
Listen to the past, future and present right where you are. Listen with your whole body, not only with your ears, but with your hands, your face, and the back of your neck.

Listening is receptivity. The deeper you can listen, the better you can write. You take in the way things are without judgment, and the next day you can write the truth about the way things are.” – Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
[note: i’ve bold-ed and slightly reformatted this quote]

this brings to mind a point James Clear makes in his book Atomic Habits about how if you want to write a book, practice the qualities of a person who writes a book:
“It’s probably someone who is consistent and reliable. Now your focus shifts from writing a book (outcome-based) to being the type of person who is consistent and reliable (identity-based).”

similarly, Natalie Goldberg seems to be making the point, if you want to be a writer, learn how to listen deeply — with your full body, with all your senses, going beyond the mind’s assessment of things, which is inherently limited by what it already “knows.”

as someone who’s wanted to be a writer most of my life, i’m captivated by these re-framings. they transform the idea of “being a writer” into a more holistic experience, beyond the mere act of putting words on a page.

for me, it makes the experience more tangible. i realize that this whole “writing thing” that’s intimidated me for years, decades even, is much less about being inherently brilliant, insightful, and naturally talented, but more so about showing up to the page every morning, no matter how i feel, and offering myself to the practice, time and time again.

it’s very knight of pentacles energy — consistent, hardworking, in it for the long haul, recognizes that big changes happen through small, daily choices.

and as unsexy as that might sound, i’m here for it. i mean, of course i have fear around “failing” at consistency, at letting my moods “get in the way.” but it still beats the previous framework of success as: be a genius!

this approach feels much more down-to-earth to me, which doesn’t mean not challenging.. consistency, for me, is deceptively hard.
but this process becomes much more accessible.. the dream is no longer a cloud floating in the sky, always out of reach. instead, it feels more like a plow on the ground, calling me to work the land, to give my whole body to the work from a place of dedication, of service, of practical Love.

my prayer for today is grounded in presence and intention, and deep listening from a place of embodiment. while also recognizing the need for energetic boundaries, because sometimes the world is simply too much (as a highly sensitive person, believe me, i know):

may we create space for the pause today, even if just for a moment, if just for a breath.
may we remember our nature as divine beings, and our reason for being put on this earth: service, Love, pleasure, growth.
may we continue to learn to trust ourselves, to tend to ourselves, to practice listening on a cellular level, so that every millimeter of our being can be felt.
❤ ❤ ❤

happy thursday, babes. much love ❤

finding home in our bodies (and its implications)

“Each day must remain an exploratory expedition. We must remain tourists on our home terrain.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way Everyday

what does it mean to remain a tourist in our home? when i wonder about what my home is, i land on my body, which houses the most tangible parts of me.

i want to highlight a difference here between being a tourist versus a strange in the homeland of our bodies — with my study of somatics, i have come to the understanding that most of us are disconnected from our body most of the time. and not by accident or some sort of individual shortcoming, but by design.

as someone who grew up christian, the dominant means of relating to my body was through shame. which was compounded by a capitalist patriarchy that benefits from me believing my physical form is never good enough.

so finding home in my body is a process, one i often forget about.

one thing i know about my body, a fact of it i often cannot escape, is my sensitive gut. my stomach is often upset, at least mildly, and despite years of trying to manage it, it still perplexes me.

upon reflecting in this moment on the hyper-sensitivity of my gut, taking into consideration recent understandings around the gut as the “second brain,” it makes more sense to me.
i’m such a sensitive person at a core, energetic level, that it makes sense that my gut often senses things my brain doesn’t in any given moment.

i’ve also become adept at hiding certain feelings from myself, such as anxiety, fear, insecurity. you’d think in moments when i’m incessantly reassuring myself of how not anxious, scared, or insecure, i’d be able to recognize the writing on the wall..

moments when i have the willingness and capacity to show up for whatever internal struggle is waging inside me, i eventually root down to the same place, over and over again: to the core experience of being scared.

i don’t know why, but it still shocks me. because on a day-to-day basis, i don’t consciously experience this fear. i guess that’s a survival adaptation or something..

but when i do tap into it, when i allow myself to feel it, it’s immense.
it’s a fear of death, of rejection, of never being good enough, of not accomplishing the things i want in life.

i mean, i think if i were to really sit with it, it’d all ultimately come down to fears of death and loss, whether literal or metaphorical (there are worst things in life than literal death, that’s for sure.)

and i’m learning how to love myself through it. not because i’m trying to be all gushy positive over here, but because it’s the only force i know strong enough to help me breathe through the weight of it all… such as environmental collapse – death on a grand scale.. death that has been taking over for decades now..

  • i read a lovely Medium piece that speaks to omnicide and touches on why it can so hard to put our finger on the immense suffering all around us (and its impact on us)
  • i also listened to an indigenous woman talk about the ways in which we experience the massive pain of environmental destruction, even if we’re in denial of it
  • i’m reminded of a tik tok in which the speaker reminded everyone that no one is okay, especially the ones pretending they are right now
  • and then a quote comes to mind: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”― J. Krishnamurti

i have newfound appreciation for people who are real about the times that we’re in, which is pre-collapse. we are in the midst of life as we know it winding down (crashing might be more appropriate), and a new world that we have no idea how to interact with, relate to, or survive in emerging.. it’s a mindfuck of a time, that’s for sure.

and none of us are prepared. correction: *most* of us aren’t..

it’s a very strange time, this sleepwalking towards apocalypse..

and yet, maybe that’s the most human thing to do..
OR more accurately, the powers that be are too good at distracting us, at keeping us so worn down we can’t see beyond the day-to-day grind of survival.. ya, i like that better, because it refrains from blaming the general populace for the corruption and destruction of merely a few..

i approached the page today with not much to say, not much to share — i feel out of it, foggy brained. so i’m grateful for how far i’ve managed to make it.

with that being said, i’m going to wrap it up here.

and i want to be clear that i don’t share all of this to be bleak or depressing or hopeless. i believe there’s so much room for the potential of what comes next. i understand the connection between destruction and rebirth, which we so desperately need..

i wish i had an offering for today, but for now, all i have is my love.. and my commitment to doing this with you, this scary life thing.

maybe together, we can be brave.

i’ll leave you with some words from Melissa Febos:
“I don’t mean to argue that writing personally is for everyone. What I’m saying is: don’t avoid yourself. The story that comes calling might be your own and it might not go away if you don’t open the door. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I only believe in fear. And you can be afraid and still write something.” – “In Praise of Navel-Gazing,” Body Work

embodiment is a reclamation practice

i am continuing to learn how to show up for myself. to a better friend, a better lover, a better parent to me.

i am learning to show myself love, which continues to evolve my understanding of the numerous forms love can take.
i am learning how to integrate routine into my concept of love. because so often i’ve used routine to feed my perfectionism, and in-turn my sense of never being good enough.

i am learning how to forgive myself and how to trust myself.

i am walking the path of unlearning so many harmful narratives that have been infused in me, and the more i remove, the more i realize how immensely weighed down i am by them. such as what a “real adult” looks/acts like.

my therapist has offered me a new practice for when i’m falling into shame or feeling “bad” (my inner child experience of it). she asks:
who decided that? who decided that *insert behavior* was bad?”
recently, this has been related to my desires for casual sex and my practices around cannabis, which i’m expanding to treat the plant more and more like the medicine it is.

there are so many things, cannabis and sex to name a couple, that, as i become more aligned with myself, i realize are actually sacred practices for me.
which is ironic, because both of these practices have been historically villainized and denigrated in my life. so i am working to reclaim them as spiritual in nature.
(i refer to myself as a “recovering christian” these days, lol.)

in that same conversation, she later asked me,
“do you feel like you can trust yourself?”
which was a rather poignant question considering so much of my reclamation work revolves around believing i can trust myself, that it’s safe to trust myself, even necessary.

i am learning how to practice rigorous self-honesty, so that even when i’m doing a behavior that i associate with “bad,” i can stay present for it, engage with why i’m doing it, what i’m gaining from it, and what i might be compromising.

the practice of abandonment, of detaching from our bodies, feels so common these days, i wonder how many of us really recognize when we’re doing it. i can feel fired up in empowerment when i’m home alone, and then once i step into the world, i find myself falling into autopilot around the same defenses i’ve been using for decades.

and of course, this isn’t all bad — it’s appropriate to move from a place of self-protection in a world that is not inherently safe, especially the more marginalized your identity.
but i wonder what would happen if i learned to reach for a more expansive form of protection, if i could practice being open without being recklessly vulnerable…

i’m going to write a Medium piece on somatics soon, because i truly believe healing comes through the body.
to paraphrase Prentis Hemphill, “when you feel better, that is happening in your body.” so if our desire is to shift how we feel and relate to the world, it ultimately necessitates an embodied experience.

anyways, y’all, speaking of bodies, mine is asking me to eat something. so i’m going to cut it off here.

much love, happy friday.

the mantra sticking with me today comes via Ram Dass: “i am loving awareness.” may we speak it into our hearts and see what blooms in its place.

❤ ❤ ❤

how do we practice change in a sustainable way?

(note: some of the quotes have been italicized/bolded by me, to emphasize the point i’m trying to make)

i’ve been trying to work out what i’m going to write about today. considering i’m working on a piece about routine and habit change, i figure that would make the most sense (you know, to make life a bit easier for myself).

i started reading Atomic Habits yesterday, a book by James Clear. it’s a book i’ve been familiar with for years, but for whatever reason, up until now, i wasn’t ready to receive its lessons.

i want to begin with the beginning part of the book, which makes the point, “True behavior change is identity change.”

this reminded me of a friend who’s been trying to get a hang on her drinking, and a comment she made to me about what’s been helping her — she mentioned working with her therapist to get to a place of no longer thinking of herself as a “drinker.”

Clear uses a similar example with smoking — the difference between being offered a cigarette and saying, “i’m trying to quit.” vs “i don’t smoke.” in the first response, you’re still a smoker; in the second one, you’re not.

which brings us to another point he makes: “Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.”

any of us engaging with self-improvement is aware of the power of self-talk. the way that we talk to ourselves, the way that we think about ourselves, in so many ways shapes the way we interact with the world around us. when we decide we’re “bad” at something, we often stop trying to improve at it. (on a grand scale, this could be applied to how girls relate to math)

i was having a conversation with an ex yesterday and caught myself saying things i no longer feel comfortable co-signing like, “i’m super insecure, i’m super petty,” etc. learning how to reframe these is a continuous practice — being able to honor what has felt true in the past without making it definitive of my present/future self.

in this early section of the book, Clear emphasizes, “it’s important to let your values, principles, and identity drive the loop rather than your results. The focus should always be on becoming that type of person, not getting a particular outcome.”

he makes the point that most of us have been trained to approach habit change with an emphasis on outcome, such as i want to run the marathon, i want to lose 10 pounds, i want to become a morning person, i want to stop smoking, i want to eat less sugar, etc.

one of his examples is having the goal/desire to write a book:
“‘Who is the type of person who could write a book?’ It’s probably someone who is consistent and reliable. Now your focus shifts from writing a book (outcome-based) to being the type of person who is consistent and reliable (identity-based).”

here, James provides a clear differentiation between an identity-based versus an outcome-based approach to change — it becomes about the qualities of the type of person you want to become.

this has honestly been revelatory to me (specifically as someone who wants to write a book). it also makes total sense for long-term change, right?

it reminds me of my own life and eating habits. as a kid, i grew up eating TV dinners, lunchables, and drinking Dr. Pepper as though it was water (i honestly have very few memories drinking water as a kid).

as i got older and realized that was not the ideal eating structure, i started relating to food differently. i shifted to being someone who wanted to eat foods that made me feel good, who cooked for myself, who ate vegetables and fresh foods.

so despite spending so many years in the routine/habit of eating crappy foods, nowadays, i’m not even tempted by them — they simply don’t seem relevant to the person i am today.

(also, zero shade to anyone’s eating habits — i’m not here to be self-righteous about how i live my life.)

so James makes the point that before we dive into the habits we want to change, we need to first decide who we want to be, which means asking ourselves questions along the lines of:
* What do I want to stand for?
* What are my principles and values?
* Who do I wish to become?

it’s strange how hard it can be to answer questions that appear so simple.

here are my own attempts at answering these questions:
* What do I want to stand for? love, service, care, justice, equity
* What are my principles and values? care for the Earth, care for each other, interconnectedness and interdependence, presence, rigorous honesty
* Who do I wish to become? a writer, good to my body, a better friend/lover/daughter/sister, a healer, steward of the earth, activist, changemaker, nomad

which brings us to the final quote from James (for now): “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

i have a morning writing practice because i wish to embody being a writer. i do my best to eat vegetables every day and move my body so i can practice being someone who tends to my body.

i’m reminded time and again of the difference between holding knowledge in my head and practicing embodying it. the difference between liking the idea of self-love and the practice of looking myself in the mirror and saying, “i love you.”

i mean, if knowledge was enough, those of us into self-improvement would be perfect by now.

it’s putting the knowledge into practice that makes it real, tangible.

anyway, i’m sure i’ll get into the actual minutiae of habit change as i continue to read the book. in the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

also, as someone who has tried to practice perfectionism for most of my life, please don’t internalize any of this as me telling you you need to “work harder” to become the person you want to be.

if i can offer any sort of insight into my own experience with change, it’s that moving from love and care for self is the most sustainable way to do it.

and sometimes we’re simply in survival mode, sometimes that is more than enough. i mean, from november to january, that was me. fuck change, i could barely get by. i was trying to keep my head above water, to make it from day to day. so ya know, let’s keep perspective on the ebb and flow of life.

anyway, i love y’all, and i’m grateful to be on this journey together. ❤ ❤ ❤