Archives for category: depression

I’m so insanely busy right now.  I’ve got a full time job for the first time in a few years.  I’ll be updating this blog with new stuff once a week, but until then, here is a vintage post.

So, before this afternoon’s bag of chips and chocolate “trail mix”, it has been nearly two weeks that I haven’t eaten for any other reason than that I was hungry.  A funny thing happened when I stopped eating emotionally….I started FEELING all my emotions.  All of them.  The pesky ones, the silly ones, the crushing ones, the tortuous ones, the giddy ones, the mushy ones, the giggly ones, the soul-squashing ones have all come up through this silent place between my belly-button and my pubic bone like a geyser.  I always thought the “with every fiber of my being” phrase was a hackneyed one used by writers that need to rely on melodrama.  Until now….I feel all my emotions with every fiber of my being.

I can feel hollow sadness all through me.  It turns my torso, the columns of legs, the cylinders of my arms…even the tubes of my fingers, into an empty, echoing space under the drum-taut stretch of my skin.

Happiness gurgles through me like a cool stream flowing along the beds of my muscles, even the little ones that hold my ears in place.

Panic grips me at the waist and I can’t feel my legs, my bowels get cold and watery, my chest becomes a frantic metronome swinging my heart from one side of my ribcage to the other.

There is hatred, also, where my eyes lose their peripheral vision and get very, very focused.  Every vein strains against the pink inside of my skin, searing it all black.

Then, the rage.  Oh, the rage.  The rage that has been a quiet, steady, smoldering fire for nearly all the years that my memory can stretch back.  Except that without cupcakes, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with extra gravy, german chocolate cake ice cream, and salt and vinegar chips to smother that rage into my dearest friend, depression, I am finally looking rage right in the face.

And rage is looking right back at me.  And, for once, I am really seeing.

Depression was all that rage on a shock collar.  Each time that rage bared its teeth, bzzzzzzzzt, a shock was administered to keep it well-behaved.  A good girl does not get angry at others.  She punishes herself for thinking that she was even worth the trouble to be upset about what happened.

Depression tells me that it was my fault.  Depression tells me that there must have been something wrong with me.  Depression tells me that I had set my expectations way too high.  Depression tells me that I should be quiet, stuff my face so that rage doesn’t have a chance to escape.  Depression tells me that of course, no one can love me, I mean really, you’re always so depressed.

But, rage, dear, clear, searing rage.  Rage wants to destroy.  Rage wants to pull things out of their sick sockets.  Rage wants to burn hot enough to cauterize the wounds.

Rage yells: I was perfectly lovable and you didn’t love me.

Rage roars: I kept lowering and lowering my expectations until I had none and you couldn’t meet them.

Rage screams: You had no right to touch me like that.

Rage cries out: My body!  My body!  My body is SACRED.

Rage roars: Something was very wrong and it was not my responsibility to make it right.

But that gets pretty exhausting, so I had a bag of chips with a jar of salsa and several handfuls of chocolate.

there has been a very steep learning curve in my life with depression.  for somebody like me, who really enjoys being teacher’s pet, it’s so nice to be able to look to experts for the answers and then regurgitate them without ever finding out if they are TRUE.

i’ve looked in so many places for help with my depression: talk therapy (helpful for a while), medication (helpful for a while), routine changes (helpful for a while), becoming a recluse (guess what i’m gonna say here?  that’s right…helpful for a while), becoming a party animal (yep, a while).  because depression is a multi-faceted disease, the best way to dance with it is also multi-dimensional.

but, the single most beneficial thing that has helped over  a long time is how i choose to nourish myself.

that’s right.  what i eat has become the greatest single factor in the severity of my depression.

and, the best way for me to eat is NOT what is usually recommended.

here’s how the logic usually went:  since sugar is a direct path to seratonin production, sugar makes us happy, so if you’re depressed eat sugar.  we don’t usually come right out and say sugar.  we say carbs.  generally whole grains.

i am so happy to see the tide turning.  there is a greater awareness that sugar is metabolized like a drug and we need more and more of it to get that initial hit.  even worse, after our sugar high, there is a pretty bad crash.  but, whole grains are still recommended as the foundation of a healthy diet.  (spoiler alert: they are incredibly detrimental.)

i rode this roller-coaster for a long time.  when i was on a “health kick” i would decrease my “sugar” intake but up by grain intake.  warm baguettes, bowlfuls of rice and beans, quinoa, quinoa, quinoa, mounds of pasta bolognese.  after each hit, i would feel a little euphoric, detached.  and then, BLAM.  i would want to increase my razor to wrist ratio.

when i don’t eat sugar, grains of any kind, and keep my protein/fat to carb ratio at least 2:1, i can feel the life in me instead of wishing for death.  and that’s pretty damn sweet.

since wednesdays kind of suck all around, i decided that they would be the days that i blog about depression.

today, we will learn the opposite game.

it’s played when depression’s voice is the loudest one you can hear in your head.  you’ll know when that happens.  it’s not necessary when you still have the capacity to hear your own loving voice counter negative thoughts, but once all you can hear is the eloquent droning (somewhat like a rather pompous preacher’s sermon) of your depression, it’s time to play.

here’s how it goes:

1. depression tells you to do something

2. you do the opposite

one symptom of depression is feeling overwhelmed so i kept the guidelines of the game to a minimum.

“wild woman, can you give me an example?”

hellz to the ya, i can!

scenario one:

it’s ten in the morning and all depression wants to do is stay in bed with the curtains drawn, under the covers.

 opposite game: get up, take a quick shower, wear something clean, and take a walk.

scenario two:

it’s dinner time and all depression wants to do is eat a german chocolate cake

opposite game: sautee that steak you thawed in butter, plop some salad greens onto your plate and eat

scenario three:

depression’s got “i suck” on a playback loop in the brain

opposite game: “i’m pretty awesome” is repeated like a mantra

since, i’m playing along, it’s time for me to get up and get some lunch.  (gluten and dairy free!)

 

 

i’ve long ago lost the ability to make a direct correlation between the food that i eat and my weight.  this is one of the things about which i’m quite proud.  my weight gain and loss and gain and loss are idealogical, environmental, emotional.

right now, i am a little shocked at how chunky i am.  of course, being the daughter of a constantly dieting mother, as i’m sure most women of this culture are, i will probably always see myself that way.  it is a struggle to not equate weight and worth as a woman.  even if you get the internal voice taken care of, society/media/advertising doesn’t let you slide for a second.

my extra weight that i’m carrying (don’t ask me how much.  i haven’t weighed myself in almost eight years.) is a symptom of something else.  of course, i didn’t start having a weight “problem” until i started dieting and it only got worse when i became a vegetarian at 18.  dieting led to a binge eating disorder (because i was fucking STARVING!).

just in case you’re thinking that if you just find the right diet, you’ll lost the weight, let me tell you two things:

1. diets make you fat

2. diets make you unhealthy

3.  diets make you crazy*

*a bonus thing, i’m feeling generous.

here’s the tweak, though.  diets externally imposed have this effect.

my body imposed a diet that people like to call a paleo/primal diet.  i eat grains or dairy and i’m sick.  i don’t and i’m not.  pretty easy.

i’ve been sick a lot and depressed quite a bit.  it is partially because i haven’t been eating well for my body, but it is also related to why i’ve gained weight.  my life has been crappy for the past 18 months.

i just really haven’t recovered from the twin shocks of the earthquake in haiti and my car accident.

another thing that i know for sure about my weight is that whenever it looms large in my consciousness as something to control, there is something else in my life that needs my attention.  right now, it is my health.

don’t confuse the two.  it’s easy to do.  we’ve been so uber conditioned to equate skinny to healthy and physical fitness as overall health.

health is a lot more than jean size.  you can be skinny and sick.  you can be capable of running a marathon but hate yourself.  you can be a size two and be dying of cancer.  you can lift 2x your body weight but like to torture kittens.  your weight is but a tiny, tiny diet sized sliver of the pie of health.

 

there is a chinese proverb that i tripped over and fell softly into while skipping through the Tao of Pooh a few months ago.

“one disease, long life.  no disease, short life.”

depression is my one disease.

i get sick with other things, obviously.  i’m actually writing now through a head that feels full of concrete and joints that feel like rice krispies-fragile and snap, crackling, and popping.  i have a wicked cold.  (i just spent my first time in Boston so i just want to make it clear that it is not a wicked cool cold, just wicked.)

here’s the thing with one disease that follows you around: at some point, you need to listen to it.  disease is always, always, always, a call to act.  i don’t buy that whatever you get sick with is your fault, but if you ignore it, what happens next is your responsibility.

something like depression is tricky because it is your brain that is first affected so your decision making capacity diminishes.  however, i’ve been depressed enough to feel it coming.  i’ve gotten pretty good at knowing, okay, if i don’t do something right now to tweak my self-care, i will be depressed in six weeks.

any disease: diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, depression are teachers.  they will show you how to take care of your self, if you allow them.

for a fact, i will get depressed if i don’t take care of myself.  since everything is connected, when i don’t eat sugar, when i go outside for some fresh air early in the day, when i sleep 9 hours a night (i can’t sleep less or more and expect to keep depression at bay), when i eat plenty of good fat and watch my carb intake, i keep depression in its place AND increase the quality of my life.

depression is so good for letting you know that you need to pay attention to yourself.  there is something going on in your life that is not right for you.  learning how to fix those things is certainly a skill set.  learning to express your anger in ways that don’t hurt anyone or anything, discovering how to feed your brain and body in a way that nourishes it, facing the injustices that your psyche can’t accept and making either peace with them or changing them if you can: these are some examples.

i’ll be back with more when all the cold is gone and i only have my disease to serve.

granted, it’s a bit more of a mouthful than war, what is it good for?  and i’m about to rock your collective world by changing the answer to that question.  war is good for absolutely nothin, but i’m not convinced that that’s the case when it comes to depression.

yes, you read that right.  i believe that depression has a purpose. it has taken me 32 years of experience with the disease to come to that conclusion.  i’ll wait here while you do the math.  i’m thirty-eight today, so yes, i was six years old the first time that i experienced depression.  parts of me can remember the horrible feelings of wanting life to end.  i’ve also pieced together certain things as an adult looking back at pictures of myself during that time and knowing now the symptoms, seeing them manifest in my second grade self.  depression in someone that young is usually situational, and i’m no exception.

i want to make sure that it’s clear right here and now that i’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so i can only talk about what i’ve learned through my own research and experience.  the research, lots, the experience, vast.  lets say that if depression was a building, i’ve been on just about every floor, spent time in all the storage closets, know the pattern of the tile, the color of the walls, and there are no windows.

depression is an emotional, genetic, mental, and physical disease.  and, it’s not to be trifled with.  it is dangerous.  i lost my dad to depression and two uncles who i never got to meet.  depression has been very close to winning with it’s little battle with my brain, too.

you can have situational depression which is brought about by something that your psyche deems unacceptable in your life.  you can have a genetic pre-disposition to depression where certain hormones in your brain just don’t do what they should. you can have a depression brought on my mental exhaustion when your brain just gets too tired trying to figure something out that it can’t quite accept.  and, this one is essential to grasp, depression is physical.  just like diabetes is physical, just like cancer is physical.  what i mean is that when depression has you in its talons, your body, not just your brain, doesn’t function to its optimum.  when i am depressed, my body aches.  all of it.  my hair hurts-i can feel each follicle and the place where the hair breaks through the surface of my scalp.  my muscles alternate between humming with electricity and feeling completely used up.  my bones get really heavy and my joints feel made from concrete and old, dried up rubber bands.  and, then, there is the sensitivity to stimulus.  everything is too bright.  everything is too loud.  and everyone is just too fucking talkative.

emotionally, i will feel an ebb and flow between a numbness that stretches my skin to just wanting to cry and cry and cry and cry, and then wanting to watch the world burn. i’ve had low-grade depression which allowed me to function but, just like a low-grade fever, altered my perspective of life.  i’ve had depression so dark, like being in the bottom of a deep well, that there was no light available from the top of  the hole.  i’ve had fleeting depressions (these live on sunday afternoons).  i’ve had depressions that are nothing more than swallowed rage.

depression may manifest differently to you.

all in all, depression is the least fun i’ve ever had.

because depression is so prevalent in my life, i used to think that it was going to win in the end.  i had a very adversarial relationship with the disease.  my vocabulary in my mind was: i’m going to beat this, i have to kill it, i need to rip it from my brain, i want to strangle it.  in all my encounters with depression and even to this day, i’ve never accepted that it was me.

several years ago, i read this book.  although it doesn’t deal specifically with depression, one of the greatest things it offered me was a different vocabulary.  it gave me a different framework for things.  one of Susun Weed‘s greatest contributions to the world is her defining the three traditions of healing.  the book really explains them.  around this time, there were a lot of different things going on at once.  i was finally able to declare myself an atheist, after a lifetime of not having a word for what i knew.  i was studying to be a green witch (yep, a witch who doesn’t believe in spirits.).  i was exploring the fact that i was an animal, pure and simple.  it was a couple years later that i fell upon marks daily apple and started the paleo stuff.  all of these things congealed in me and i realized something very important about my depression.

it existed for a reason. for many reasons, actually.

it existed for an emotional reason.  the decades of abuse, of pain that i’d never found a safe place to express festered and gave depression a comfy nest.

it existed for a genetic reason.  i was very much my father’s child and in this, there was no exception.

it existed for a mental reason.  i’ve been a thinker since the age of six.  i think i always have been, but around that time, my body became a danger zone and my brain was where i went to figure things out.  depression loves a thinker.  picture a pokemon (i know…i know….stay with me).  some of them get stronger through their relationship with their trainer and others get stronger through experience in battle.  (i’ve just consulted the resident expert.)  depression is just like that.  it feeds on me thinking about it, trying to figure it out….it feeds on me attacking it.  the more i do mental exercises to defeat it, the more it grows and transforms into something more powerful.

it exists for a physical reason.  anything felt in the body is a signal.  i don’t trust my brain, even less my mind.  i mean i can do some really cool things with it, but i wouldn’t let it out in public without tying on one of these.  my body, however, (and yours, too, by the way) IS.  NEVER.  WRONG.  once depression hits my body, that’s when i no longer feel powerless.

*tune in friday for more.

**if you want a little homework assignment (especially if you love someone with depression but can’t quite understand why they don’t “just get over it”, please watch this.  if you are depressed right now, DON’T.  just sayin’.  it’s not a mood lifter.)

my furry feral friends, i hope you had wild weekends away from your computers and gadgets.  the outdoor time with just our bodies, plants, and others always refuels me in ways that nothing else really can. since i’m always on island time, i just found out that may is mental health awareness month, so i’ll be writing a couple times a week about depression.  after this month, it will probably make an appearance at least once a week in my posts.  it’s an important issue to me.

but, today is monday, and i like to let y’all know what i did with my weekend.  i would also really, really love to hear how you spent yours.  hint, hint, nudge, nudge.  below.  in the comments.  like, type it in, people! my weekend started early.  i got to go up to montpelier on friday to visit my new friend.  she’s not paleo, but she’s hardcore weston price.  so in the spirit of open mindedness, i sacrificed myself on the altar of a thai rice ball.  sweet baby jeebus, yum!  it was so good that it is the first thing i report in a weekend chock full of awesome.  it was still warm.  of course, gluten free, which is essential.  (in the spirit of full disclosure, weston a. price was my gateway into paleo eating.)

we wandered around for a little bit.  in town, we walked three stories up to a dance school that i hope to frequent in the fall on a very regular basis.  i really miss dance classes.  yes, zumba, i flirt with you and you’re fun and all, but you just can’t scratch that deep dance itch.  (montpelier also has a kickass crossfit gym.  i really, really miss this one that first seduced me with it’s hardcoreness.  this is how i’m easing into the announcement that i’m moving to montpelier in the fall.

okay, back to the weekend. my friend C asks me, rather nonchalantly, if i’d like to go feed some lambs.  what?  hells to the yeah!  so i got to meet the lambs.

bottle feeding the lamb...it would sigh after each swig. melted my little wild heart.

after loving on the lambs, we walked up to check out the others that were able to suckle from their moms.  there were 14 of them.  they were frolicking (literally and only when referring to lambs is that verb viable).  they also had a llama and a cow to keep them company.

llama

cow.

(i’ve labelled them to avoid confusion.)

after the animal time, a.k.a. future buffet recon, we went to her house and snacked on raw cheese, chopped veg, and fermented veg.  we then went to a party and supplied beef sliders and roast turkey.  so yum.

saturday was supposed to be my son’s first flight lesson.  most teenagers rebel with drugs, sex, piercings.  mine can’t.  so, he rebels by deciding to be a pilot.  it’s all very passive-aggressive.  he knows i’m terrified (terrified!) to fly.  born with no wings, no hollow bones and all seems to be proof enough to me that i shouldn’t.  i digress.  his lesson was cancelled due to bad weather.  (vermont, up yours!)

so, he went to spend the night at his buddy’s place.  that’s right, kids.  the wild woman had the place to herself.  she celebrated by watching this movie while awaiting the rapture, going for a run (A. RUN.) with the dog, and ate fish smothered in onions that had been sauteed in almost a cup of butter and a red wine reduction.

first, the movie.  i love this kind of shit.  i would love love love to be a spy and hit man, with all those sweet skills.  but not like in real life, cuz it’s actually pretty boring, all that data collection.  i love the adventure.  but, in my dream, i’m never in any REAL danger and when i find my target, i fire a dart with a slow-release drip of chocolate.

secondly, the run.  after watching jason statham, i always tend to have a mysterious surge of energy.  hmmmm….i chose to pretend i was ‘on a mission’ by tethering the dog to my waist with his leash, putting on my vibrams and heading out the door.  kids, i was surprised by how far i went!  i think that the three things that factored into the distance were: 1. it has been a really, really long time since i’ve run, so i wasn’t burnt out.  it’s not my favorite thing to do.  2. i was on a trail i’d never been on before, so it was novel.  3.  jason statham crush chemicals.  i also didn’t stress myself about it.  it wasn’t a “workout”.  it was just me and the dog out having a good time.  so, i would run, sprint, walk, rinse, repeat.

third, the fish.  it was supposed to be steak.  but, the aforementioned kid put the steak back in the freezer instead of the fridge. the onions were already golden, soft in the butter and the wine, so i just grabbed some frozen fish and let it stew together.  not my first choice, but, butter and wine and onions all combine in a way that the rest doesn’t matter all that much.

of course, the house to myself meant i could get naked and walk around.  so good for the wild soul!  shed those clothes as often as you possible can!

oh, and, yeah, there’s this little thing that happened, too.

if you can't guess, here: my hair is purple in some places.

clearly, someone watched far too much of this as a kid.

sunday was equally full of fun.  the kid came back.  we hit the rocks by the river near our house.  both of us in our vibrams.  i’m still too cold to go completely barefoot.

the water is brown because of tannins, not sewage.

for dinner, since the kid was back, no fish, no onions, no wine.  but, i’ve done my best to raise him right, so it was steak….sauteed in butter.

that was my weekend.  hit me up with your adventures.

hello my feral friends,

i can’t wait to tell you about the couple things i did this weekend that just ignited my wild soul’s fire!  you can read about them tomorrow and the day after.

right now, i need to deal with a little topic that can get a little out of hand in my life.  it’s the opposite of express yourself, kids.  the big, many clawed beast of depression.  oh, so civilized a fellow he is.  he sits and just waits for me to no longer worry about him, reclines with such elegance that i don’t notice him in the corner there, so well-behaved he is until…BLAM!  i just get to wander around lost in my brain that he’s just invaded.  the first thing he does is close off all the little windows and skylights in my brain that let in the light.  he likes it dark, still, and that everyone carries on with polite decorum.

this is the aspect of the wild woman that i don’t talk about much.  well, i don’t think i do.  i like to pretend it doesn’t exist.  i like to put forth this image that i’m hardcore and my attitude is just as big as the sky.  sometimes.  but, i’m a pretty fragile flower really.

instead of making me need to behave, that fragility is the very reason that i need to be wild and wilder and wilder.  i can be as vulnerable as i truly am when i’m walking in the woods and my broken brain doesn’t seem broken out there.  i don’t have to wear a certain mask when i’m swimming in the ocean.  nor do i have to be a culturally appropriate lady.  i can yell outside.  i am a freer girl when i can use my outside voice.

the dapper depression monster does enjoy my company sometimes.  and, these days is one of those times.  i haven’t been getting enough sleep, mcdonald’s has probably recorded my voice three times in the past two days (just because it can hardly believe that my voice is there!), and i haven’t been able to express my self as i’d like.  oh, poor me, right?

that’s the hardest part for me.  i mean, really, is my life that bad?  nope, it’s not.  and, yep, it has been.  no need for the sob story, but, my acceptance of my tendency to share a couple cupcakes with the suited beast of many manicured claws is also the acceptance that diabetics go through or those who dance with cancer must eventually make.  i can rail against the injustice of my brain broken in places because i wasn’t nurtured by the world in the way that all children should be all that i want or just accept that there are a series of practices that i must do over and over and over, daily for the rest of my life.

one of those practices is being physically active.  my brain fucks me over consistently.  my body just wants to have a good time.

another is nourishing myself like a goddess.  herbal infusions, plenty of meat, vegetables from all the colors of the spectrum, and lots of fat makes my cells sing.  grains and sugar and seed oils make my cells weep in pain.  (true story.)

yet another (the hardest for me) is retraining my brain.  habits of thought are deeply entrenched.  just as i was brainwashed (we all were) to think a certain way, i can brainwash myself to think another way.  this is also called “doing the work” and we all know how i feel about work, especially when i’m not getting paid or with no vacation time anywhere in sight.

there are other more specific habits that fall under these umbrellas that i will probably be talking about, but my depression, contrary to what i used to think, does not need to be tamed, but let loose.

getting wild is so much more than about physical strength.  it’s also about emotional vulnerability and safety.  seriously, do wild creatures even get depressed?

in the words of the incomparable, *express yourself, don’t depress yourself!

*nope, it’s not lost on me that this video takes place in an industrial NIGHTMARE.  discuss amongst yourselves.