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.

❤ ❤ ❤

Can my pain be a gift to others?

“In order to succeed as an artist we must have two well-developed functions: our artist and its trainer.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way Everyday

there are often days, like today, when showing up to the page feels beyond difficult, toeing the line of impossible, maybe even cruel if i’m entertaining my most bratty, reluctant self.
(with enough emotional distress, i can make myself feel victimized by almost anything, even other people’s victimization.)

the truth of the matter is that i need the trainer, or the parent (as i often think of it) to remind me that this practice will alleviate suffering, not add to it.

everyday, i wake up with something to release to the page – some worry, anxiety, insecurity.

i believe i’ve always been a writer, even the many years of my life when i wrote very little. a writer who does not write is a dangerous thing. our need to release grows and grows, and without our preferred outlet, we become restless, even reckless (at least in my case).

i’ve been revisiting a familiar pattern that has been hard to engage with — seeking out men who are clearly emotionally unavailable and disinterested in the type of relationship i want.
the point where it becomes truly toxic is the moment i clearly see their limitations, their unwillingness, and yet i keep pushing.
i don’t know if this is because i think i can change them, or because i want to abuse myself.. i imagine some combination of the two.

it is a pattern i’ve lived out time and again in my 20s. and it doesn’t take long to spiral into intense feelings of loneliness, desperation, and insecurity.

i start telling myself stories of how crazy i am, how desperate i am, how pitiful of a person i am, how no one could be attracted me in such a state. i start feeding off the emotional drama, getting that odd high of self-induced pain.
i come back for more and more (and more) until i feel weak and delirious, willing myself to stop. or more accurately, becoming too exhausted to go on.

it’s hard to not detest myself for doing this, to not continue to feed the self-destructive monster with the awareness of what i’m doing. i honestly believe it is the grace of something both outside of me and within me that gives me the resolve to stop.

it is often the love of others that convinces me to love myself, because i understand the ways in which my own self-love (or lack thereof) influences my relationships. and because i don’t want to live in a world of cruelty, i recognize that cruelty towards self is often where it all begins.

breaking patterns of self-harm feels like its own version of breaking inter-generational trauma/curses. rising above the narratives offered to women as emotionally desperate creatures, especially in relation to men, is no easy feat. there are many stories i tell myself that have been given to me and to my ancestors for so long, they can be hard to see beyond.

the truth feels nestled in that deep crevice discovered after peeling back layer after layer of stories around my behavior.
and in that core is the reminder that i am human like the rest of us. that i crave connection, security, the feeling of being loved. that that does not make me desperate but human. that loneliness is an element of this lived experience, not an indication of me being broken.

when i remember my humanity is reflected in all of humanity, the ability to be self-compassionate and kind becomes much more accessible. because it’s no longer about me, but all of us. i am reminded that my suffering is the suffering of so many.

laying in bed last night, decompressing from the emotional spiral i’d fallen down, i contemplated all the people in the world experiencing loneliness at that exact same moment as me. and then i thought, heck, how many people just on my block are feeling lonely right now?

this perspective is incredibly helpful. it reminds me i am not actually alone, that my suffering connects me with so many. it urges me to open my heart in those moments when it so desperately wants to close.

it prompts me to not take someone’s inability to receive me as personal, to consider their own loneliness and suffering as well.

it’s truly humbling in the most generous way, creating space to grieve without the unnecessary layer of feeling broken, wrong, or bad.

it gives me permission to be human, which is all i can ever expect of myself.

it reminds me that feeling pain is not a burden or a punishment, but a reminder.

and so i move forward, practicing the question, “can my pain be a gift to others?”

may i remember that love is acceptance of every detail of my humanity. that strength is acceptance. that inter-connectedness is the truest collective nature. that my ancestors hold me even when i cannot hold myself.

happy monday. love y’all ❤ ❤ ❤

the evolving lessons of rejection – learning to take responsibility for how i feel

everyday, i come to this page, uncertain of the shape my thoughts will take.

everyday, so many lessons; every morning, so many revelations.

i am tired, on multiple levels. i am navigating the waters of rejection, once again learning it’s depth, the feeling of it lapping against my skin, the fear of drowning in it.

rejection is an interesting experience, because it feels immensely personal and yet, when i really dig into it, i can see that the other person’s experience of me has little to do with me. and vice versa.

as someone practicing taking responsibility for how i feel (instead of falling into blaming, my historically preferred approach to pain), i am learning how to dissect my side of things and the ways in which i am hurting myself (or maybe simply the ways i am hurting).

for what seems like the thousandth time, i’m confronting the reality of my loneliness and boredom. along with the places these states takes me and the actions they tend to prompt from me.

i’m coming to terms with the ways i’ve infused my hopes and desires into my idea of this person. and also the ways in which i am not great at not getting my way.

as i’ve gotten older, i’ve gotten better, more skilled at not “barking up the wrong tree” — not pursuing someone who’s so clearly uninterested, unavailable, or both.

and yet there are still times when i just can’t help myself. when i feel captivated, intrigued by someone, and i have to have them, despite whatever they’d prefer.

i think this is the place i come to when i’ve been lonely for a good while, and avoidant of it. and instead of engaging with it head on, i become focused, even obsessed with the other person in the subconscious hope they’ll fix it for me. that i’ll be able to bypass feeling the hard feelings completely.

this rarely, if ever, pans out well.

it’s also a total objectification of the other person, turning them into a means to an end, instead of a highly complex and individualized human being with as many needs and desires as myself.

and then i villainize them, making them the object of my anger instead of truly grappling with my pain.

it’s a cycle i know well, intimately, really. it made up a lot of my 20s, and i’m setting the intention to not make it a pattern in my 30s.

but of course, this means the willingness to feel my loneliness, my deep, unmet desire for companionship. my fear of being alone.

i honestly don’t know how to grapple with hard feelings. i’ve spent so much of my life in avoidance of and distraction from them, honing the skill of intellectualizing my feelings instead of feeling them.

i’ve also found that trying to feel my feelings on demand to be a generally counterproductive experience. so oftentimes, i end up feeling them only once they’ve gotten so big, they’ve become a tidal wave that swallows me whole.

i took a somatics course this past fall/winter that could probably help me out with this — much like my experiences with yoga, i’ve found the body to be the entry point to hard, tangled emotions vs trying to think myself there.

because ultimately, feelings start in the body and then become stories we tell ourselves, often stories we’ve been telling ourselves for years, even decades. i don’t want to keep telling myself the same stories around rejection, ones that feed my insecurity, my blaming, my lacking.

i am learning the path of self-compassion, the willingness to hold my pain with tenderness and care in place of ridicule and shame. this transformation is not easy or simple (or even straightforward). i have a long history of using shame as a tool for change, and so learning how to grow and evolve without it has a learning curve.

the mantra i’ve found to be the most effective when i’m getting down on myself is: never a failure, always a lesson (a tattoo of Rihanna’s).

this is the best reminder i have (at the moment) that instead of beating myself up, i can learn and grow from what feels like mistakes.

it’s a very relieving perspective to have, very forgiving and understanding. it feels like the path of love. and it’s not a letting off the hook, it’s a transmutation process, turning the “bad” into something “good.”

well, i don’t think i have the capacity to keep writing, so i’m going to wish y’all a happy sunday and leave it here.

if anyone would like to share their own lessons with rejection, please do. collective wisdom is the most potent.

love y’all. stay strong and soft and tender and bold ❤ keep challenging the bullshit that’s been fed to us.

may we never forget our truest nature, as divine beings on their earth, interconnected, and interdependent. ❤ ❤ ❤

what does healing look like?

i’ve spent the morning deep diving into the book, You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance by Chani Nicholas.

i took out a journal, got my highlighter and pen, and worked my way through the beginning, taking notes and feeling nostalgic for my days of consistent learning and studying. i initially had the thought: i miss school. but then i paused, reflected more intentionally and thought: no, i miss learning and studying.

there’s a rush of excitement that comes when a new topic/area of interest captivates me. the most depressing moments of my life are ones where i’ve lost my curiosity, my sense of wonder about life — when it feels like there’s nothing worthwhile to be discovered, explored, engaged with.

in the past couple of years, my spiritual interests began with tarot and have now evolved to include astrology.

like a lot of westerners, especially those of us who consider ourselves “intellectuals” and have prided ourselves on our reason and logic, i spent much of my teen and young adult life not taking any of these things seriously. i dismissed astrology as vague and generalized ramblings, and due to growing up in a certain flavor of Christian family, grew up associating tarot with the devil.

so, coming to these practices has been a journey, one that still feels very fresh and new.

as i progress through the book, taking notes on planets, signs, aspects, houses, etc., i have waves of doubt and insecurity. and a voice creeps in that says: how silly to believe that the position of planets and stars have a direct impact on your personal experience of life.

this voice is familiar, has creeped up with every spiritual practice i’ve adopted, and it’s not always wrong. there are times when my intuition confirms the suspicion that maybe a practice or person isn’t to be trusted with my vulnerability.

there are times when i do a tarot reading or read astrology, and it seems completely unrelated to anything going on in my life. and that’s okay. because whether or not there’s truly a Spirit guiding me, the practices remain nurturing, comforting, and clarifying.

as Chani says in her book, as we deepen our understanding of what’s at play for us astrologically and how that is reflected in our life, we in-turn cultivate more compassion for ourselves and our struggle.

both the tarot and astrology are in conversation with ancient wisdom, universal truths, and the enigmatic nature of life. which, to me, means they are much more about learning how to live the questions of life as opposed to receiving answers on how to live.

plus, when it comes to healing, i believe in each person’s intuitive knowing of what they need to heal. and so spiritual tools are not about seeking external knowledge but instead are guides helping us to better engage with our own internal wisdom and knowing.

another element of both astrology and tarot is that they speak in what Chani refers to as an archetypal language, featuring often grand and wondrous characters and ideas. they offer us a fantastical and magical perspective of reality. which pushes us beyond our limited perspective to weave a view of life that’s much bigger, interconnected and significant.

and my romantic sage side LOVES it. because even when life is mundane, it’s still grand and magical. i mean, our existence is inherently magic made reality (lol you might be eye rolling rn & that’s okay). and when i navigate life with a sense of something bigger and deeper, things feel much more manageable, and even the challenges and hardships of life start to take on meaning. ❤