Monday, December 10, 2007

Coping with Depression (Wellness Activity 2)

Another way I try and cope with depressive episodes is to read inspirational books. One of the books I'm currently reading is Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard.

Richard is a Buddhist monk who "had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas thirty-five years ago. He is a bestselling author, translator, and photographer, and an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. He lives in Tibet and Nepal, where he is involved in a variety of humanitarian projects."

Ricard writes, "The search for happiness is not about looking at life through rose-colored glasses or blinding oneself to the pain and imperfections of the world. Nor is happiness a state of exaltation to be perpetuated at all costs; it is the purging of mental toxins, such as hatred and obsession, that literally poison the mind.

"It is also about learning how to put things in perspective and reduce the gap between appearances and reality. To that end we must acquire a better knowledge of how the mind works and a more accurate insight into the nature of things, for in its deepest sense, suffering is intimately linked to a misapprehension of the nature of reality."

Friday, December 7, 2007

Coping with Depression (Wellness Activity 1)

This morning, as I waited for my medication to kick in (I use a stimulant and it takes about 45 minutes to begin having an impact),I thought back on all the years when I sought help for this illness and how extraordinarily bad the advice and treatment was.

The lack of insight about depression and bipolar mood disorder is stunning! The treatment is terrible. The pain it produces is legion. The devastation is inestimable.

Then, I stopped that thought process and began focusing on the positive. I said the words that no doctor has ever said to me. "Susan, you need to remember you can heal yourself. You can change your body chemistry by the strength of your personality. You feel good about yourself and have high self-esteem. You must use your strengths to heal yourself.

"Depressive episodes don't happen in a vacuum. They are triggered by life events. You understand your recent losses and you have felt overwhelmed by sadness. Relatives have deeply disappointed you but this is not new behavior. You cannot allow disappointment or their bad behavior to make you ill.

"You were there for your mother for so many years and she and your father are there for you now. They are in your heart as is everyone else you love. Relax and think about all the people you love and those who love you. You are the same person you were two weeks ago when you weren't depressed.

"You have the capacity for great joy. Most people have never known the happiness and well-being you feel for months at a time. You're lucky to be able to love so fully and completely. Think of what that feels like.

"Close your eyes and think about the people you love--living and dead, the radiance of the sun shinning on your face, the pleasure you get from singing and playing music, the strength you provide others when you're well,the joy that radiates from every pore during the good times.

"Say to yourself, 'I love and I have been loved. I love and I have been loved. I love and I have been loved.'

"Think of the people you love. Concentrate on their faces. Let that feeling of love you feel for them spread throughout your body. Feel it in your heart. Imagine your heart filling up with love. Envision the love moving through your veins and arteries to your lungs. Now take a deep breath...slowly fill your lungs with love and exhale. With each breath, think of someone you love and imagine that each breath is a lifeline from you to them."

Well, I think you get my drift. I continued the exercise until I felt the medication beginning to work. And then, for the first time in days, I decided to blog about it. I thought that perhaps what I do may help others.

What I have learned is how to use my mind to recreate positive emotions. Experts say that "ruminating" about the bad stuff makes you feel worse. Over time I have learned that recreating the good stuff makes me feel better.

I'm not over the hump yet but each day I utilize all the wellness activities and skills I have developed and refined to heal myself. It's not easy. It's requires a lot of self-discipline. But it does by day.