Emerging from the depths . . .

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
~ William Wordsworth

I am just emerging from a few days of a deep depressive state, one with which I am all too familiar. I’ve learned over my many years of dealing with depression that these states come and go. Some are worse than others, but none last more than a few days.

When I am in this state it is like being in quicksand. “Doing something” to try to get out of it is similar to fighting when you are sinking in quicksand — the more you fight, the worse it gets. I can see my “normal” life going on around me, but it is distant and unreachable. My method of dealing with this may not be not right for everyone, but this is what works for me. I just need to pull back, curl on the couch with Mombasa, and read some novels until it passes. I don’t talk to anyone, I don’t go out, I just play possum until it passes.

The hardest part of this is that I sometimes still feel ashamed when this happens to me, that I haven’t “solved” this once and for all. I don’t want anyone to see me like this. And when I am coming out of it, I feel awkward getting back into life, sort of like a Martian her first time on earth, trying to act like nothing happened.

Much has changed since I first starting writing about depression in Choosing to Be — people are more open about it now. Back in the early 90’s, it helped me to read William Styron’s account of his depression or to know about Winston Churchill’s Black Dog. Unfortunately some of my female role models in college like Virginia Wolfe and Sylvia Plath didn’t make it, nor did so many other sensitive, talented people like Rothko and other artists.

I remember seeing a retrospective of Rothko’s paintings in NYC many years ago. The paintings were arranged chronologically, moving from figurative to abstract, when he used thin layers of paint to develop squares of colors. As you went from room to room, the colors darkened from yellow and orange to blue to purple, until in the last room they were descending values of black. I sat in that room and cried, knowing that he had reached the end of his ability to be here on the planet.

I have long since let go of any suicidal ideation, so my black days are a temporary phenomenon now.  I have had so many years of therapy, hypnotherapy, medication, natural supplements, EFT, meditation, and so many other modalities, including close association with the Feline Zen Master Poohbear Degoonacoon and his little muse Catzenbear. And now Mombasa is my companion during the dark days.

I write about this not to have you worry about me, or feel pity for me. I write about this for you to know that it is possible to live with depression, to make one’s peace with it even if you are not completed “cured” — whatever that is. I love my life and treasure every moment of it.

Because my years of meditation have taught me mindful awareness, I can sense triggers that lead to these dark times. Sometimes they are personal — criticism, feeling envy, feeling insecure or losing my confidence. Usually I know when these feelings are being stirred up and can release them. However, if several triggers happen in a row, especially when there are world events that are very upsetting, events that make me despair for the human race, then I can’t seem to stop the wave that builds up. I have to let it wash over me and descend into the depths until it passes.

I want to mention something else here. When I had my radio show called Finding Magic in Midlife, I interviewed Dr. Elaine Aron after reading her book, The Highly Sensitive Person. I cried when I read it, and wanted to hear from her how she was able to figure out that some of us — 15-20% of the population — are highly sensitive people, HSPs as she calls us. When I learned about this, my whole life seemed to make sense to me. Everyone was always telling me not to be so sensitive. I thought there must be something wrong with me. It turns out there was nothing wrong with me — I just didn’t know the beauty of who I was.

And so I am writing about my latest voyage to the deep today — for those who hide out periodically during those dark days, for those who are too sensitive, for those who worry about us. Sometimes we need help, and sometimes we just need to be alone. It never hurts to ask us what we need — and help us not feel ashamed that what we need is just to weather the storm and know that it will end. It does, and when we come back we know perhaps more than most how truly vulnerable we all are.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Eden (@sharoneden) May 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Such grace and awareness, woman… going with the flow of what you need in those deep dark times. Speaking of, being with and managing your depression is an inspiration for those who don’t yet know it can be days rather than weeks, or months, or even years. I also tell people when I sense they are a sensitive so that they might celebrate in themselves… Love to you Kat.

Suzanne Henwood May 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Wow. Beautifully described and so great you have discovered the beautiful person you are within. Your insight about being sensitive is priceless and will resonate with so people, helping them to explain just how normal they are … And I would emphasise how that very sensitivity probably makes you an awesome friend and support to others.
One thing I have found over the years and in trying to find something to hold on to in those darker days is that now I have the ability to just create a small, no tiny, hole through the black. Just big enough for me to peer through to see the light and sunshine outside … It is still there. I just have to wait until I am ready to go back into it.
Like you its often unclear why the darkness comes, sometimes it threatens and I can use techniques to prevent it closing in, not fighting, but calmly choosing. Other times, like you, I just accept thats how it will be for a few hours, or days and yes you can live with it, work in it, carry on etc….
Maybe it is the very sensitivity that means we take in more emotion and feeling so sometimes we need space to process it all … Time out … And this is our way of doing it. Who knows.
What is great is knowing other awesome people, amazing talent and beautiful beings know what it is like and are strong enough to share … You reaching out will be a lifeline to someone …. So thank you for sharing and finding such an accurate way to describe this different way of being x

Samantha Eaton May 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Brought a tear to my eye when I read this but as a fellow periodical ‘hider’ it is so good to know my dealing with my ‘grey fogs’ are similar to others. I am not ashamed. There I’ve said it…’I am not ashamed’!! I just batten down the hatches until it passes, in my pjs and often with a book, the tv or my music and I know it will finally pass. Thank you for sharing and letting me share back. It is so helpful to be open and honest and just be ‘me’

Kat May 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Your post the other day was a balm for my spirit, Sharon — as I was just coming out of this particular black hole. To know that another magnificent woman has dealt with this and is ready to speak out and help others gave me strength. I haven’t written much about depression since Choosing To Be, and perhaps I could have left the impression that I was “cured.” Not sure one is ever really cured. I think probably two of the biggest lessons I have learned are — shame is a killer, and self compassion is essential. If we take depression out of the darkness, we can come out with it. If we are compassionate with ourselves, we will see that perhaps all we need is a time out from our external world. So glad you are going to write about this — please let me know if I can help you in any way.

Kat May 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I like your ability to create a tiny hole to peer through, Suzanne — that is a metaphor I will remember and use myself. When I was writing this piece, that poem by Wordsworth came to mind because that is what it feels like — “the world is too much with us”. And coming back feels like the world is moving faster than I am — takes me a while to catch up. What an amazing journey this life is, eh?

Kat May 29, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Hooray for you, Samantha. I have learned a lot about shame and vulnerability from Brene Brown — in case you haven’t seen it, here is her famous TED talk about it — http://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o

After we come out of the dark we see so many others just like us:)

Debbie Hampton August 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Kat,

Thank you for sharing this sensitive and insightful peice. I hear ya and feel for ya for I can relate to the dark days as I used to spend much time there. I applaud your wisened acceptance.

I don’t ever really go there anymore.I have days where I feel “blah,” but not black. I wonder if this hints at depression being biological as opposed to a thinking pattern? In my case, I am opretty sure it was a thought habit. I can tell you, that if I do get depressed again, it will shock and scare me, for sure. So, it’s bound to happen, right! 🙂

Jennifer Lehr March 15, 2014 at 10:51 am

Love this posting. I fit into the ‘too sensitive’ category as well. Learning to be ‘with’ ourselves in the patient cocoon of transformation is much kinder than trying to escape this process.

Amethyst March 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Gorgeous Kat. Really. Deeply. Truly. Gorgeous.

From one HSP to another – please keep writing, and weathering for it is in sharing our messages (even from the depths) that we are able to make the most difference – in our own lives – and in the lives of those we touch with our words. Appreciating the Empowered Messenger that you are….

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