Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Making a U-Turn While Writing About It

While I had intended to write more about how we find meaning in our lives, tonight I find myself unable to continue this series. The truth is that I felt lousy all day, and I was in a terrible mood. I felt irritable and annoyed for no apparent reason. Throughout the day, I took three bubble baths to relax, and while I now look like a prune, it's after 1:00 a.m. and I'm not relaxed at all.

I finally realized that part of my discomfort is that I'm still slightly depressed and I'm finding it difficult to enthusiastically embrace the topic of finding meaning in life. One of the reasons is because, as I mentioned yesterday, during a depressive episode, I lose whatever sense of purpose I feel I have.

Of course, the truth is that I intellectually know my sense of purpose doesn't just disappear. It just feels like that. I also know that once an episode is over, I shouldn't feel "better than great." But, in the old days, since the medication I took kept me cycling from depression to hypomania and back again, that's exactly how I did feel for many years, although I don't now.

So, what I have to get used to is coming out of a depression and feeling somewhat disoriented and lost, rather than euphoric. And that's been disappointing.

For all those years of being on a roller coaster that I was told (and read over and over again) was biochemical in nature, I've also realized that I ultimately felt powerless to stop them. Over time, what I internalized from my psychiatrists was the feeling that depression is an illness I am powerless to prevent or even diminish because I am medication-resistant.

The alternative viewpoint offered by the so-called alternative healers I turned to, was that if they could just find the right amino acid or the right combination of vitamins and minerals, I could end these episodes. And, that too, never happened.

And, in all those years, while I tried my darnest to find some way to alleviate the pain and suffering, I never thought to try and embrace it in any way, or to learn from it. I never considered that my resistance might be making things worse rather than better.

Because I had read (and been told) about brain kindling, a psychiatric theory that suggests that repeated untreated depressive episodes worsen a person's condition, I figured that after 25 years of untreated depressions, it only made sense that I could barely survive each successive episode.

Now, it's been 41 years (if one counts the years of medication), and the very thought of it is overwhelming. What I now believe is that everything I was ever told and most of what I've read was wrong (for me), and there was undoubtedly a better way to have dealt with all this.

So, hours ago when I started looking at the books in my home library that might inspire me to continue writing about finding life's meaning, instead I found one that enabled me to feel good about not writing about it.

What I picked up was Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. While it had been recommended me to me years ago, I remember reading it, and either "not getting it," or not liking what I got.

But...suddenly much of what she says makes sense to me. While I'd like to promise that tomorrow I will explain Chodron's premise, I think it's an unrealistic expectation. I'm not feeling well enough to finish the book and try to distill it in a day.

All I can promise is this: Sometime in the future I'll write again about finding life's meaning. Sometime in the future, I'll figure out if the type of meditation Chodron practices will help me. But, tomorrow, I need to stop staying indoors and reading, and go outside and smell the flowers!

Having said that, I must admit that months ago I received a Flower Smeller's Award, and didn't even put it on my blog. How meaningful is that?


Gianna said...

I love Pema Chodron and have that book among others...

for a quick hit of inspiration with some of her quotes, I posted a while back look here:

Pema Chodron Quotes

just in case that link doesn't work this is the link

Tamara (TC) said...


Very interesting posts about life's meaning. Thank you for the links. I struggle with this ALL OF THE TIME!! I drive myself completely nuts trying to figure out my purpose and why I am here. Why have I suffered so much of my life with abuse, chronic illness and pain. Surely I am meant to do something with what I have been through and learned. Sometimes I just scream at my brain to SHUT UP! Why can't I just be happy with a normal day-to-day life.

If you get back to the series and figure anything out, please, please let me know! ;-)

Meanwhile, I think going out and smelling the flowers sounds like a lovely idea. I hope it helps clear your mind a bit.

All my best,

Mariposa said...


I hear you...and yes it can be overwhelming at times. The thing is, we just love to get to the root cause of all and intellectualize things...which can be both good and otherwise.

Somebody once told me before and I'm not sure if I have shared it to you here, but he said, do not let word (which has potential of making us anxious) get into a sentence and eventually an overwhelming, for God does not want us to be shaken. Whatever our concept of god that is...

Easier said...but very hard to do, but at times when I have exhausted myself in trying to put meaning with all that is happening around me, I just stop and let it go. Looking back, it is during those times that it was easier for people around me to pick me up and comfort me. It was during those times that I let God take care of me.

Then, I started smelling the flowers... :)

So, you are in the right path! *wink*

I know we will bump into this topic again in the future, and I also know by then we will have new perspective on things...but one thing is sure, we will get there, we will make it there, intact, because though we say we are in continuour search for it, we are living it, we just don't know it yet.

P.S. I discovered a very soothing tea tonight on the way to work...I have to go back there and sipped one everytime I feel gloomy!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for the quotes. I knew you probably had this book, because hers was some of the kind of advice I felt you were trying to give me when I was so depressed. I couldn't hear it then, but I'm more receptive to it now.


Gianna said...'s not just her's a universal message...I haven't actually read that book yet, though I have it!!

I've read her book on Fear. And tons of other Buddhist literature...and all sorts of other religious texts...

do you know I majored in religious studies at UC Berkeley?

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
I feel the same way. I can't imagine why I've had to go through all I have--if there isn't some purpose in it.

It would somehow be tolerable if I could do something with it that's helpful to others.

Sometimes I feel my blog satisfies that need; other times I feel like I have nothing to share that's of value. Of course, I know that's the depression talking, but still...

It would also seem that at some point I could stop making the same mistakes over and over again, and feel like I'd gained some wisdom. Alas...

I'm sorry you're plagued with this as well, and do feel great empathy for you...knowing how much pain and suffering you've experienced.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
I totally agree with what you've said. I wish there was a way to explore all this without writing about it. And perhaps that's the value of meditation, and prayer.

But, many times I find insight when I try to make sense of things by writing about them. And it also enables me to find kindred spirits who are going through the same kind of struggle.

And today when I read what you and Tamara had written (and the quotes Gianna provided), I felt less isolated with these feelings.

Hopefully we are on the right path. Thanks for the hugs, and I'm glad you found the tea!

P.S. I'm off to smell the flowers!

Wellness Writer said...

Yes, I do know it's universal. I've read a number of books on the subject. It's just that last night her voice in her book finally resonated with me. And it made me look at some of the things you'd written.

And, in my memory bank, I know that you majored in religion. I sometimes forget.


robert said...

I often worry, well actually I more than often worry that the suffering I endure on a daily basis is simply karma. I'm not sure if it helps or not to think that way, but I was a lawyer for 18 years and I sued a lot of people, and now, maybe I'm paying a price. I'm also learning about the paradox of pain and how to be with it and know that it serves many purposes. It's a gift that no one wants....I'm trying to welcome it now in my life, to invite it in, because I know that no matter what, it will always be with me. Robert

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Robert,
I think issues of forgiveness are such a personal issue that we each need to figure out what we've done for which we need forgiveness, how to "make it right" if that's possible, and/or how to live with it if it's not. But I can certainly see your point.

While figuring out how to live with pain is still a new concept to me, I do know that trying to run away from it surely doesn't work.