Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Learning from Depression (Part 1)

Once the panic is over...once the psychic pain has receded...once I know I have survived, yet again...there is always something I learn from depressive episodes, no matter how painful they are.

Although I keep on telling myself there must be an easier way to gain insight, a more gentle method of figuring out that my life needs tweaking, thus far I haven't figured out how. And until I do, I guess I'm stuck with depressions that make me feel like I can only grow by getting smacked in the head by a iron skillet or run over by a two-ton truck. Still, hope springs eternal.

There were many such lessons in the last few months, but one of the primary ones is that I have been stagnant in many ways. When I'm not blogging, I keep on writing the same stories...over and over...with different words, but the same themes.

So, my new therapist recommended a writing class--my first one ever--taught by a poet. While I've read some brochures on it, tomorrow afternoon will be my first class, although it's the last of eight classes in this session.

Although we aren't expected to write poetry, and the teacher's method is unique and quite different--and I'll tell you all about it after I attend--tonight, in anticipation of class, I decided to skim a book I've read a few times, Poetic Medicine by John Fox, who's the president of The Institute for Poetic Medicine.

I particularly liked the following passage by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

"Poetry is simply speaking truth. Each of us has a truth that is as unique as our own fingerprints. Without knowing that truth, without speaking it aloud, we cannot know who we are and that we are already whole. In the most profound way, speaking our truth allows us to know that our life matters, that our viewpoint has never existed before. That our suffering, our joys, our fears and our hopes are important and meaningful. One of the best kept secrets in this technically oriented culture is that simply speaking truth heals."


Gianna said...

oh! this sounds like fun!! I would so much like to be in a writing class or a writing group..the right one where good constructive criticism can be made...

have fun and I can't wait to hear more.

Wellness Writer said...

This group is supposed to be like that. And from the testimonials, that seems to be one of the teacher's strengths that he teaches others. It's supposed to provide a safe and supportive environment in which to share really personal work.

P.S. Too bad we can't do this together.

Annie said...

Susan, I have been away for a while and it was so good to see you back! I like the idea of a writing class. Take care! Peace, Annie

Wendalyn Love said...

I too have found every depressive episode yet another learning curve...I am glad you have had some benefit from this last down period. I am rooting for you!

Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Annie.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
Your words are as heartfelt as your smile from the photograph on your blog! Thanks.


John D said...

Hi, Susan - Switching to a different form of writing is a good idea. I know the feeling of drifting in work, doing the same things over and over. Writers do, I think, always repeat the themes that are so basic in their lives - issues that never really get resolved - it's impossible to "finish" them in the creative work they do.

I love the quote. In college I had some teachers who were fine writers - one a great poet - and they always made this point about truth. But I never heard it expressed so simply and directly. I hope the class is really helpful.

My best to you -- John

Wellness Writer said...

Dear John,
Hello again. I'll have to start visiting your blog more often because I love the comments you're writing in mine.

You're right about the themes, and I imagine that if a person writes fiction, it plays itself out in interesting ways. I have always written essays, non-fiction, and how-to type books.

In my case, I seem to be dwelling on the negative aspects of this illness, and about the last few years of my mother's life and how awful it was to deal with my siblings.

So, I'm trying to find some new themes that might be more uplifting. And maybe poetry will help.