My take on depression is to accept it and love it, not try to change it or get rid of it. It’s a state of being that turns up uninvited and insists on staying as long as it wants. As my Gramma Ardy says, sobeit. My depression gives me a good excuse to treat myself right, pamper myself, take naps and rest, enjoy the gray Portland weather, practice mood-lifting yoga. In general, my depression allows me to experience a different state of being, and as with Life as a Practice, experience is key. And no matter, I’m going to wake up sad some days. It’s just how it’s going to be. Might as well not lament the fact and spiral down, depressed because I’m depressed and angry because I’m depressed that I’m depressed and resentful of the anger, and on and on and on. I think avoiding my bouts of depression by medicating is unnatural, and I yearn for true equilibrium, untouched by artificial inputs (an idealistic state I believe can exist, although difficult to unearth). Depression is included in my lot in life, it’s not good or bad, it’s just what it is. I seek to be fully me, and respond to whatever that means each moment with the grace and skill gained from experience and practice. Hence, why I accept my depression fully and work with it, not against it.
A Typical Depressed Day
Wake up moody with a short fuse, recognize I’m having some kind of unfair reaction (hopefully just internally, but sometimes externally) to my most loved one, and realize that yep, todays one of those depressed days. A state I’ve come to refer to as “having a Time.” Decide to go easy on myself. Self-compassion. It’s no fun to be depressed, no need to be hard on myself over something I can’t control. Also, no use in trying to trick myself into being pleased with the day. Just let it be and move forward. Bonus! It’s rainy and gray outside. I love morose days in morose moods. In fact, it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to be blasé. Just totally unconcerned. Gloomy even. Depression reframed as lucky!
Now, depending on the day, I might be able to stick to myself and have a nice little blah party at home, or I might need to make my way into public and interact with others. Can’t expect everyone to be in a depressed mood with me, and chipper people when I’m feeling shitty doesn’t really help things out. But also, when I’m chipper, depressed people are a total downer. Goal=have a neutral impact. Pipe in as little as possible in public. Keep thoughts to myself, as they will probably be on the more negative end of things, and I don’t want to bring people down. I just have to police myself in public, and minimize the amount of time I’m being social lest I gray cloud all over an innocent friend. If I’ve got nothing on my calendar, perfect! I will drink tea, read, practice yoga and meditate…in that order. And then, something will change. Instead of feeling depressed, I’ll feel neutral, middle-of-the-road. My, my, my, what happened? I’m centered, balanced…relaxed and present. Oh, right, yoga!
Key learning during my last bout of depression – do the yoga and meditation part first, then carry on with compassionate self-care as the day unfolds.
My intention in life for some time now, and thus my intention in my yoga practice, has been to find balance. I even mention it back in July on the blog. The idea is to make my emotional highs lower and my emotional lows higher. To find that centerline, staying close in. Physics might call this decreasing the amplitude of the wave.
In yoga, the idea can be compared to nadi shodhana pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing. Nadi shodhana, among other things, serves to balance out what the Chinese system calls our yin and yang energies and yoga calls ida and pingala nadis, pulling these “opposite” energies in closer to the central channel, called sushumna nadi.
In Quinn life, finding center means reining in feeling “ecstatically exuberant and hyperactively joyous” to feeling “pleasant”; “depressed, morose, and pointedly dark” to “dispassionate.” It might sound like I’m decreasing the spice of life and arriving at boring, but imagine the nuance in emotion. Emotions are complicated, convoluted, and difficult to see clearly. In decreasing the intensity of the emotional manifestation related to some feeling I’ve felt, I am able to more fully experience the emotion and see clearly to the root feeling and it’s patterned impact on my life. I’m able to become more aware of the truth about myself and witness how I experience through and handle things. This is as opposed to displaying some theatrical expression of my feelings through my emotions. Working my way from seeing and being obvious to seeing and being subtle.
Let me back up for a moment and explain something. I see feeling, emotion, and mood as progressive states of being. First you have a feeling (ping in the heart when you think you’ve been lied to). That feeling turns into an emotion (anger at the injustice and disrespect of being lied to!) That emotion turns into a mood (pissy-ness at everyone and everything just because they exist and you’re pissed). So, I’m pissy (mood) because I got angry (emotion) because I felt hurt (feeling). This is just the way I see things. Feeling(s)–>emotion(s)–>mood. And on the topic of depression, I see depression as a mood without the feeling/emotion progression (i.e. mood without stimulus). I can be depressed for no reason. It’s the hallmark of my depression – I have no reason to feel sad, I just am sad. Sobeit.
Antidote? Practice my yoga.
Love my depression as I love my cheerfulness as I love every other state of my being.