healing from depression - preparing for the journey

I'm meeting you once again in this space where we speak the truth about depression. Honestly, I never imagined bringing these thoughts to this space: The Artful Life is a place I come to share the best and most beautiful in my life.

But lately, as I transform and heal, I find that the boundaries in life are blurring and merging in a beautiful way. It used to be very important to me to keep things separate - depression over here, beauty over there. Art and flowers here, struggle and doubt there. I probably don't need to tell you that this is an exercise in futility, a dubious and exhausting practice.

This struggle to keep things shored up in their separateness arises from a belief that if all the inner barriers come down, the dark parts will spread their stain to the whole of life like so much India Ink. Did you ever spill a bottle of ink on your work table? There's no putting the cap back on. This is what I feared would happen if I didn't spend so much time running around locking internal doors and cupboards.

But as I healed, this practice began to reveal itself as futile. Suddenly the symbolism of locks, keys, doors, and unopened rooms began to show itself everywhere; food for thought. The phrase "opening the locked rooms of your being" came up in a class, and the phrase thrilled me, really thrilled me, the way the suggestion of travel or adventure can thrill you.

So I began to open.

And what I found was that the darkness wasn't like a staining ink, it couldn't actually escape like a contagion and infect my whole life. It was just like ordinary darkness, the ordinary kind of darkness that is dispelled by light. I opened doors, and light flowed in to places it hadn't been for a long time, and it was actually the light that spread, not the darkness.

What I'm saying is this: depression makes us compartmentalize. It gives us the crippling and false belief that there is a stain on our being, that we are bad and should be ashamed. It generates shame. And the shame makes us hide. That is why beginning to heal, beginning to talk, is such a courageous act. We must come out of hiding to do it.

You don't need an artist to tell you that beauty comes from the merging and mixing of light and shadow, not just from light.  Maybe you are exhausting yourself trying to keep the shadows hidden, like I was. Maybe today you can take just one tiny step, make one tiny opening for the light to enter.

Here are some small actions that I (and so many others through the centuries) have found can create small pinpricks of light in the darkness:
  • Tell someone. You can just tell a small truth that is part of your bigger truth, a small truth like "I hurt" or "I'm doing my best right now" or even "I'm depressed."
  • Pray.
  • Meditate.
  • Go outside for a short time and be quietly present with nature.
  • Walk.
  • Drink water.
  • Be near water and listen to its sounds.
  • Focus on your breath. Just relax and count your breaths for a while.
I'm not suggesting that these tiny actions will make you "feel better." But I can say for certain that my own return to health - and my continued health - absolutely depend on the daily repetition of tiny beautiful acts of light-making like these. 

Next time I'll talk about some of the bigger stuff I did when I was ready to really move in my healing - the therapy I chose, the food and supplements that have contributed, and what some of the science says about this stuff.

Until then, be well.

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