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.

❤ ❤ ❤

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

i’ve been doing things that terrify me

i’ve been doing things that terrify me. i guess you would call this trying — showing up for life with a fullness i’ve only glimpsed a handful of times in my adult life. and this time feels.. different.

i can sense an energy in the air, an enthusiasm, an excitement. something that feels bigger than me — astrological, spiritual, ancestral.

and as i navigate this territory of showing up in a fullness that scares the shit out of me, i can’t help but give credit to my ancestors. to my woman ancestors specifically. partially because this gives me distance from my own sense of achievement, making me feel a bit safer to believe it’s not just me.

but also because that’s what it feels like. it feels like the women of my past have my back, are nudging me forward.

i had an experience writing yesterday that felt so much bigger than myself. it felt like words offered to me from afar.

words whispered, familiar and large. and as i followed them, i felt their power fill my chest and release from me.

i’m not typically one for grandeur, because the higher you go, the further you can fall. and in a cliched way, success feels much more threatening than failure.

so my choice to not try, to not commit myself fully to this existence (at least not in recent history) has been protective. it places a bubble around me that keeps the world at a safe distance and turns the volume down on all of it, especially my soul.

but in this moment, i’m excited, hopeful even. i feel fresh, born anew. (god i feel cheesy) i feel like life has potential again. that maybe i do have something to offer the world.

the other side of this coin is fear. waiting for the other shoe to drop. waiting for depression to find me and wrap its talons around me once again and drown me under its dark waters.

and yet, this fullness of my heart, i love it. i’ve always wanted to allow my heart to feel as deeply and fully as it craves. the last time i remember feeling this fully was childhood, when limitations and judgements and fears of failure had yet to enter my consciousness. and now, i feel her emerging, ready to see what comes next.

but what if i disappoint her? what if this is another false start? what if this high is just that – a high.

i so desperately want it to be a turning point, but here’s the thing: the last time i felt this hopeful, this full of life, i was dumped, broken up with. that was 7 months ago, and my heart has felt heavy ever since.

and so i am weary of optimism. of believing that maybe life truly could be something. and unfortunately i have the life experiences to validate my concerns.

but fuck, for tonight, i feel good. i feel content. i feel happy.

wow. just wow.

i’m used to big feelings of sadness. but big feelings of happiness.. these are so oddly intimidating. how does one navigate this? i carry the fear that allowing myself to feel it in its fullness is like testing the universe.

so i carry it humbly, softly, tenderly. it feels like a dream come true to believe in myself, even if for just a day. to feel the tears welling behind my eyes not due to despair or devastation but out of love and appreciation for this messy human experience.

so i guess i’ll just sit with it. like a sleeping cat curled up on my lap, petting it timidly so that it doesn’t get startled and run away.

and although i fear reflecting upon this entry and feeling like a fool, there’s the irony that i never reflect upon my depressive pieces and point to how wrong i got it then.

so maybe i should enjoy this phase on the wheel of fortune. appreciate the grace that’s been offered to me. and carry gratitude for all the women who came before me, who sacrificed so much so that i could sit here and tap away on my computer musing my thoughts.

in this moment, i do feel like my ancestors’ dream come true. (the type of thing i typically roll my eyes at) or to be more precise, i feel like i’ve at least gotten one step closer to fulfilling them.

so i don’t know, i guess i’m just grateful.

a grateful cheeseball.

What will save me but writing?

I do not know how to exist in this world. How to be a good writer, lover, friend, human… I can so petty, that when it hits me, it knocks me ajar. Catching me off guard during the most inopportune moments – those feelings of low self-worth veiled by criticisms for others.

These feelings that live inside me confuse me, make me realize my humanity is no different, no better than anyone else’s. And that realization floors me, especially on days like this, when I so desperately want to show up a certain way and in-turn offer the opposite.

Despite what I say, I desperately want to rise above my own humanity. I want to rid myself of these petty feelings that make me feel like a trash person. I want to offer only love, compassion, support. And yet, there are moments when I grasp for these things, and instead I find resentment, jealousy, and the desire to tear down. These feelings that are destructive, malicious, nourished by pain.

Confronting my full humanity continues to jar me, makes me want to turn away, deny, distract. But nothing that cannot be faced can be dealt with, so instead I practice looking as directly as I can in the eyes of the parts of myself that make my stomach turn.

Sitting with my dark parts tears me apart inside, pulls at my heart like it might rip it into pieces. I guess this is pain? Pain internalized and calcified, old yet fresh. These are the wounds I’ve dressed with incomplete bandages time and time again. “Not today,” I’ve told them, “not right now.”

But when does the time come? When do I recognize that there will be no “perfect” moment to face the wounded children and traumatized ancestors masquerading as demons inside me? They do not need to be chastised, they need to be held, loved, comforted.

Such is the nature of life, that when we do not open ourselves to a deeper intuition, a more ancient wisdom, we miss what the world, what our own humanity is asking for from us. We forget that anger is pain, and that pain must be healed.

I do not know what I’m doing. I go to sleep uncertain, I wake up uncertain, and I stumble through life uncertain. There is so much about the internal experience of being human that does not align with my external realities. In all honesty, I’m perpetually confused by how anyone keeps it together, especially my therapist.

I forget that life is not about me, but that I am an inextricable part of life. I am everything and nothing. I am divine embodied in a pile of bones and flesh and blood. I forget that humility and grace are two sides of the same coin. I forget that living fully means having my heart broken time and time again. And each time it is repaired, I enter a new depth of loving that both excites and terrifies me.

Because I think what I really am, at the bottom of it all, is scared. Desperately terrified. And my own humanity is the hardest to confront. Because I am a reflection of all that is good and beautiful and nasty and off-putting. I cannot experience the innumerable layers of being human while cutting off the parts I don’t like.

But I don’t want to look, I think, I can’t, and so I attempt to veil my eyes with an open hand to only catch slivers of the pain and destruction that exist within and without me.

But my dear, it doesn’t work like that. You cannot divorce love from pain, happiness from sadness, loss from joy. I would tell you that I’m sorry, but I don’t know if I am. It is a hard trade-off living and experiencing life in its fullness. And it is only you who can decide if it’s worth it.

Of all the things I do not know, I do know this: when I enter the shadows and clear the cobwebs and sweep up the dust and dirt that’s accumulated over the years.. the tears come more easily, my heart throbs more fully, and I no longer have to question if I am alive.