You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘depression’ tag.

COVID-IMAGE

There is so much coming at us about the novel Corona virus. There is important, well researched information and good best practices along with false news, opinions stated as facts, and advice of all kinds. In this digital age, where so much of all of it is in our faces whether we want it or not, I’d like to share something that can be truly helpful no matter where you are in the process of coming to terms with this current pandemic.

If I carry only one message, I want to encourage us all to be practicing compassion. We must practice because it is hard and we need to get better at it because it will help everyone, no matter what is happening in our lives or in the world today. We need to practice compassion for others, but just as importantly, compassion for ourselves.

The definition of compassion is to hold pain and suffering with loving kindness. Having to cancel your vacation or be deprived of attending events you were looking forward to is painful. Trying to help your kids deal with canceled sporting events, social gatherings, and school closings is painful. Forced or self-imposed social distancing creates suffering of various kinds for people of all ages. Losing income because businesses have to close down for a time surely creates suffering. And of course fear of any kind, especially fear of the unknown, can be incredibly painful.

This current situation is one where so much is unknown. New things are unfolding constantly and we are all required to adjust, day by day, to changing circumstances. Humans don’t do so well with fear of the unknown and we have many different coping strategies; ways to try to help ourselves feel safe. These can range from denial: “This is all nothing, no different from the flu and everyone is over reacting!” to the fear driven hoarding of everything that might be helpful to prevent or treat the virus. Sometimes it’s anger that helps manage our fears: “What’s wrong with those horrible people buying up all the toilet paper?”

These kinds of reactions are in response to the suffering; the pain of how the spread of this virus is, or might impact us. How can we hold our own and other people’s feelings and behaviors with kindness? When we get to the store and find that all the bleach, and Lysol, and toilet paper is sold out, can we notice our fear about the possibility of not having what we need? Can we notice how quickly that fear turns to anger at the people who over-bought, depriving us of a sense of safety? Can we hold ourselves with kindness in all our feelings? Of course we feel this way. Can we remember that the people who are cleaning out the shelves are also feeling fear? Probably the same fear we have?

This sense of common humanity is one of the most important elements in the practice of compassion. To remember that we’re all human with human responses and the human drive to try to feel safe. We reach for a feeling of safety in many different ways, but we’re all doing it all of the time. And we’re all suffering, especially now. How can we hold this suffering, this fear, this annoyance, this disappointment with kindness?

If you’re disappointed that your plans to travel or to go out with friends have been interrupted, can remember that there are thousands of other people with the same disappointment? Maybe you can connect on the phone, Face-time, or Skype. If you are losing income because of the outbreak, can you remember that the financial fallout of this pandemic will be shared by many others? Can you reach out to someone else in a similar boat and commiserate or get support? If you’re terrified that you are your loved ones will get sick and die can you remember how many people are afraid at this time? Maybe you can take a break from reading the news, scrolling Facebook, talking about the situation. Find something good to watch on Netflix or escape into a good book. If you are feeling annoyed and inconvenienced and think people are over-reacting, you are also not alone but can you recognize that many people are very scared and trying to make decisions for safety? Can you remember a time in your life when you were scared and then try to act in ways that would have helped you in your fear?

In our fast paced digital world many people are already struggling with varying levels of emotional and psychological challenges. The current push for social distancing, along with the financial pressures many are facing can greatly increase feelings of isolation which can lead to depression and even more anxiety. In these times it’s ever more important for all of us to be practicing compassion. How can you make space for whatever you’re feeling and be kind to yourself and others? How can you reach out and ask for support or offer support to someone you know is suffering? How can we use out technology to be closer to people as opposed to create further distancing?

I believe that how we respond to what is happening will have a larger, longer lasting effect on us all than the corona virus itself. Let’s respond to the suffering, other’s and our own, with loving kindness as much as we can and we’ll get through this time together.

Advertisement

images

Today’s big news is that Britain votes to leave the European Union. My first reaction: Where is my opportunity to vote to leave the things that I no longer want to participate in? Sometimes I think I would like to separate myself from almost everything happening in the world today. I know this thought is rooted in fear; of course I want to just escape everything that scares me. I suppose I could leave Facebook, as I am so often tempted to do. At least then I wouldn’t constantly and instantaneously have in my face every little piece of horrible news (true or not) when I’m simply hoping to see something that will make me feel a little closer to my many beloveds who live far away; but I’d miss all those adorable cat memes.

I understand how terrified people are and that it is a survival instinct to do whatever most quickly allays the fear from anything that seems to be a threat. Anger, denial, greed, blame, and sticking with those who are just like you can seem like the way to security. Separatism can feel safer than anything else. I get it. But still it is horrifyingly shocking to see such a surge in blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, violence, poverty, and corruption in the world today.

The truth is, I have been struggling deeply with what to do with the feelings I have about the state of the world and people’s reactions to it. I feel myself slipping into my own private pool of despair and I’m paddling like mad not to drown. I can get caught in the downward spiral of berating myself for not being more of an activist and getting out there in the world in some kind of major way to “be the change I want to see.” I can think that my way of being an ally to the marginalized and downtrodden or the individual work I do sitting with people in pain somehow isn’t enough. I often worry that I lack the wisdom to know the difference between what I must have the serenity to accept and what I must have the courage to change.

I could get on a soap box about the media or our political system and how we’ve all been bought and sold etc.  I could also go on about the psychology of fear and human nature. But so many other people sell those suds much more articulately than I ever could and I really don’t want to feed into the focus on how we’re all going to hell in a hand basket; in fact, I’m desperately grasping for anything that gets me out of that basket even for a moment.

I am finding that I need to make a conscious effort to attend to what is good and beautiful in the world. I can notice how the late afternoon sunlight is dancing with the shadows on the leaves of the maple outside my window and how my whole house (yes! I have a home!) smells deliciously of the garlic I’m roasting for the dinner I’ll soon share with my beloved. I don’t really want to leave this life, no matter how scary it is, so as the poet Adam Zagajewski tells me, I must try to praise the mutilated world. I need to ignore the screaming sirens of scary news between the picture of my friends’ vacations and new born babies instead of leaving Facebook because I need those connections. And I need those videos of laughing babies.

TRY TO PRAISE THE MUTILATED WORLD  (Adam Zagajewski )

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
One of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion waited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtains fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
And the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

images

 

Gray January skies can be depressing!

As I look out at the cold gray skies of early January I’m thinking about all the people beginning 2011 with a renewed resolve to lose weight, eat less fat and sugar, and exercise more and I’m feeling a deep sadness. I know from my work as a therapist and also from personal experience, how unlikely most people are to follow through on New Year’s resolutions about food and weight, particularly people who live in colder climates.

It wasn’t so long ago that extra weight at this time of year was desirable and helped us to survive the winters when fresh produce was less plentiful. It was natural to eat the starchy foods of the late autumn harvests and to hunker down in front of the fire for the duration. But that was before electricity created the availability of 24 hours of simulated daylight and before our local grocery stores carried organic lettuce and fresh lemons 365 days a year. Even if we still feel the ancient pull to hibernate with our bellies full of carbs, there’s no excuse not to get to the gym after work and have a salad for dinner. In other words, no excuse for not being thin.

Almost every woman I know has been battling with food since they were teenaged girls. Most women are not naturally skinny and while not fat by any means, they don’t have the wispy-willow, blown away by a puff of wind, kind of bodies that we have been brainwashed by the media to believe are most attractive. Many women’s natural bodies always want to be at least a few pounds heavier than they want them to be and they valiantly fight skirmish after skirmish with anywhere from 2-25 lbs. And as we age, it becomes harder and harder to win these battles but most of us can’t seem to just give up the fight and accept ourselves the way we naturally are and simply enjoy eating good food.

I often wonder what life would be like if our culture didn’t value thinness so highly. If we could be considered lovely in all the various sizes and shapes our bodies naturally are as opposed to being programmed to believe that only wafer thin is truly beautiful. We all know that obesity is a growing problem in the US and I’m certainly not advocating ignoring the health risks of a serious weight issue, but there’s a wide gap between a size 0 and a health risking weight problem. And I’m not talking about people with serious food addiction, eating disorders, or survivors of sexual trauma who gain weight trying become invisible. Those are different categories and I know these are difficult issues to untangle, but here I’m talking about folks who simply enjoy delicious food but feel constantly tortured by culturally skewed body image issues.

The average woman (or man) does not even come near to today’s standard of beauty naturally. We diet and exercise, and torture ourselves trying to come as close as we can to what we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking is valued and attractive. For many, when failure to achieve the standard norm is inevitable, surrender seems the only choice and then the fat wins. But most of us fight the good fight, at least to some degree, never willing to wave the white flag but also never winning the war. When New Years rolls around (or Monday, or a significant birthday, etc.) we take up the banner again and vow to attack the fat with a vengeance, mostly to be defeated by the first offer of something scrumptious to eat.

This year, I invite you to join me in saying NO to an unreasonable resolution to be thin. Let’s support each other in accepting our bodies’ natural beauty in all the various shapes and sizes that are healthy. Let’s say NO to buying into the Western culture’s distorted message about the value of extreme thinness and YES to good health and a deep appreciation for the rich bounty that is available to us. Let’s surrender and finally win this thing!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 33 other followers
%d bloggers like this: