Taking Depression on the Road

Taking depression on the road…

Travelling all over the world is beautiful, adventurous, romantic and fantastic. I feel like a “citizen of the world…and I love the whole thing – the good, the awesome and the ugly.

But let’s face it – it’s not all roses and can be equally difficult and dangerous for those of us who travel with medical issues like depression or other mental health issues which make us look healthy on the outside, while our mind is melting into something untouchable. Indeed the challenge is mighty to maintain the balance we all require for wellness – but a person with depression must be diligent.  It can be a massive challenge at times to just feel like a normal person in your skin, alone in crowds of familiar-like faces but apart from the motion of another world.   It’s a very strange feeling.  And I really did my best – but there is no way to replicate the kind of gentle balance you can create for yourself in your home environment, when you know the food, the roads, the people – it’s just different.

I must admit I was entirely dismayed when about 9 days after arriving in Australia I dropped into a deep dangerously dark place after trying hard to keep my feet on the ground and carefully walking the edge of a very precarious mind. I hadn’t felt like that in years! Traveler’s exhaustion coupled with the fast pace of each day “trying not to waste a second” of where you are at, knowing it could be the only time you see it, rich food, booze, sugar – my body probably went into some form of shock.   When travelling it just goes with the territory that your physical balance is completely shot with constant restaurant meals, wired eating hours, too much food, wine and not enough weed – harder to find anywhere when you are new. Imaginably for anyone, there are variety of reasons why when travelling you basically relinquish control of your body to the elements of the land you find yourself on.

It is my hope to use my own story with purpose to help break the stigma of depression. It is so important that we are speaking openly about our struggles when it falls on us like a lead weight.

If you’ve never had it – you won’t understand this.

But if you have it – I hope this will make you feel less alone.

Just in case you are not familiar with depression, I’d like to emphasize three things –

1- Depression is not “a bad attitude”, lack of knowledge or some weakness that those without depression don’t.

2- You cannot overcome depression through “sucking it up”. I saw a tee-shirt in Sydney that said…

“Depressed? Have a cup of cement and toughen the fuck up”.

Really…c’mon people.

3- Depression does not go on vacation just because you do. And maintaining the necessary disciplines you need when you are totally outside of your comfort zone – presents some unique challenges.

Medicine…

As a person who uses “natural and usually illegal” means of managing depression, the challenge is greater, because no matter what country you travel to, obtaining such “medicine” requires that you get to know folks a little less than casually or they think you are undercover something or other.

So, four days into Sydney, in the largest city I have ever been in, I found myself quite literally on my knees.  It was wicked. I sat in the bath crying, praying – and feeling like a burden to the entire planet – depression closes the world in around me and makes me the only thing I think about – not good for anyone.  For whatever reason (every good depression has its own “theme”) this was all about the past –  I began reviewing all the regrets of my past – which are very few actually except for the absolute bleak loss I feel when I think about the people and animals I love who have died in the past few years.  Depression brings back the ghost of deep grief for me.

Over the years I have come to understand that even the darkest times will reveal eventually to me a reason –  that it is inevitably something I need to see inside myself, and that those are the times when self-care is absolutely mandatory. The idea that “happiness is created from the inside” is poignant and sharp like a good Pinot Noir.  But you can’t think your way out of depression. The only action to move towards healing is non-avoidance – not try and rid yourself of it, but to recognize, reflect and adapt.  It is imperative you remind yourself that everything is changing – all the time – the happy things the sad things – are all changing.  So – as my mom loved to tell me…

“This too shall pass…”

Even if you don’t believe it.

I know how lucky I am – even when I am in the darkest of them all. . Unlike the people I see living on the streets who suffer from mental health issues, I have a fantastic partner, who is always standing at the ready to help bail me out of this place.  But this one was different – even he was afraid he wouldn’t find me in there.

Here’s how I handle depression…I get into a bath and I cry, and I pray and then I cry and pray more.

My first “bath tub” prayers were to my mother. I miss her in such a tangible way, especially as I travel.  She was my entire inspiration for loving the world and travelling through it like I do.  When I first found out she was my mother, my family sent me to Africa to live with her.   This was my first experience far from home, but unlike the experience I have had in any place since, Africa was home to me.  My feet touched the red soils of Guinea and I was simply – home.  I was happy there with her, basking in the hot African sun, reveling in the multicultural celebrations of living in an expatriate environment. My friends were from all over the world, from all imaginable places. Emmanuel from Ethiopia, my best friend from the US and my first boyfriend from Belgium. I heard the drums, I danced in the rains, and said forever more that we shared a common disorder – la malady d’afrique – my heart was left in Africa.images (1)

In the bathtub that night I prayed…oh did I pray. For a miracle. I needed a good one because nothing looked like it would ever feel good again. I fight with my husband, angry that he is talking to work while I fear I may be dying – not even imagined, it was really how it felt. I think about my mother – my mother – my mother – how she could always talk me down from the ledge, I didn’t even to tell her, she just knew me like two cells from the same being know each other.  I miss my friend.

12191947_10156223241230230_5654482010872487659_nI find it cold here in the deep city – I mean “people cold”. Everyone rushing to work running never saying good morning or making eye contact. A person could really get lost in such a place. But I break free from john and I go and sit on stairs, away from the maddening crowds, where evening commuters are passing by.

I think about the David white video on vulnerability and I think:2014BrochureTours

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“Fuck it. I’m going to sit here and just be.”

I think about what a long way I am from who i used to be – from shopping in New York for dresses as a young woman, only caring about my hair and shoes – to sitting here in my Nepalese poncho and ripped jeans, messy hair – I have never looked (or felt) more homeless in my life. It also felt more free than my “former designer self” had ever felt.

People are rushing by me in the evening commute.  I count – one, two three – But no one looks at me, or acknowledges me. I feel like a ghost – invisible. I imagine this is what homeless people must feel like. The loneliness of being invisible and sad was almost indescribable.

I keep my eyes down mostly, sitting on the cement stairs, away from the world walking above me. Occasional post work commuters pass by me, I see shoes – jogging shoes, pretty pumps, sensible men’s shoes.

27 people go by before a man stops in mid step and asks

“Excuse me miss are you OK?”

All I can say as I look up at him is

“You’re number 27….”

He looks confused and a little embarrassed – apologizes to me and moves on. Clearly concerned but not wanting to invest any time.

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I continue to count pairs of shoes, my mind still begging for a miracle in this cement world I had crouched in.  I see more people, more shoes.  More time passes.  I think about the 15 times a day I stop in the city to make human contact with a homeless person – and I am awash in the wonder of how amazing that must feel to someone that may have this kind of loneliness  every day. I feel sorry for myself – why isn’t anyone doing for me what I freely do all the time?

“Am I the only one who cares left on this planet??”

Hopelessness.

Just in time – a nice pair of casual sneakers stops and I look up to a bright green shirted man; he is number 72 but I don’t say it wanting to be alone as much as I wanted him to not leave.

He looks at me authentically concerned;

“You ok mate?”

I decided to be honest,

“Not really. I have had way better days, but this will pass. Thanks for asking.”

I try a smile but it probably comes out looking like post stroke victim smile all crooked swollen eyes sadness leaking from my face.

He lingers and looks at me then. It was clear he was no stranger to deep sadness.  He had been there, done that and had gotten the tee shirt.  I was grateful for the understanding and connection.

“Good on ya!” Giving me a “that’s the spirit” kind of look.

“You take good care of yourself”, he added sincerely and went on.

That was just enough real human contact for me to be able to get up to my feet and walk back to our hotel to greet my worried husband, wondering at my gratitude for having had the opportunity to feel like a homeless person for a while.   It made me want to tell you how important it is to someone feeling bad, homeless or not, to feel humanity from you, even if you don’t have money to give a person – that exchange can make all the difference.

But then…

The next morning when I didn’t wake feeling any better, I dragged my sorry self-downstairs to smoke a cigarette (I know I know – I’m trying to quit I swear). I was working on a hopeful song, inspired by talking to a young musician excited about her first composition – I felt a focus that was not ME. Very important!

It allowed just enough to open a crack of light…possibility.

The smoking area is a big common square with comfortable benches where people commune to smoke and generally look at their cell phones. I went to be with my poetry. I sat on a bench, concentrating on my own composition when suddenly the blackest man I have ever seen in Australia, I mean BLACK like Africa beautiful black, comes to me and interrupts saying with an angry voice almost, no eye contact,

“May I sit here?”

I look around – most of the benches are empty – why would he want to sit with me?

“Sure”, I say lamely.

I see he is obviously homeless, dirty pants and shirt, and probably suffers from something like paranoid schizophrenia or something along those un-socially acceptable mental health illnesses that cause so many to be homeless. His eyes have no “connection” with me.

“Of course”, I smile at him, wiping the rain off the bench so he can sit in a dry place, pretty sure no one had done something nice for this guy in decades.

Just that first action of doing a kindness for someone else – thinking about someone other than my self – was a great start back to me.

He looks at me long and hard, watching my hand move back and forth across the wood of the bench, a distress, beginning a hushed conversation with only himself.  I lean into him, trying to understand.

“Are you African?” I ask bluntly.

“Yes of course, where the hell do you think I come from” he says in a thick beautiful delicious accent – a

Balm to my ears.

I have to turn my head so he doesn’t see my tears – now from gratitude.  I know it’s my mother sending me what I need…no one else would know this.

“Where do you come from?” I ask trying to get him to focus his talking on one thought.

“Africa…Africa. I left Africa when I was just a child. I am from nowhere now. Everyone my family is all dead form there – there is no more Africa.” He says almost angrily.

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I think about the beautiful smiling children I loved so much in Africa…the real people who danced and played and understood the way of nature.  The fresh smart beautiful people of Africa, no pretention and such honesty we have never known in the west.  I wonder sadly if this man was one of those proud children learning the drum from his father in a circle of proud family and tribe members.

He starts talking nonsense – about his wife and loss and sadness…

“You are the nicest person I have met here”, I interrupt him unable to hide the grateful tears in my eyes.

He is quiet.

I think he hasn’t smiled in so long his face seems stuck in this frown.

“I’m a musician”, I tell him. “Music makes me feel better”.

I sing him a song – he closes his eyes.

We agree together that the world is fucked up because not enough people sing a dance.

I tell him it would be grand fun to bring a drum into this common place and make the serious people dance so they speak again to the wind – like we did in Africa.

Now he is laughing – and we are both laughing.  I put my arm him and I hug him.

“You are very wonderful”, I say to him.

“Your energy is why I am here – you speak to me”. He says quietly – suddenly completely “there” with me. I feel the power of this.

We sit again quiet comfortable like old friends.  I put my hand on his arm and we are happy…connected and not lonely. Not depressed – now we feel good together in our aloneness.

Soon, his busy speaking mind takes over and he is forced to move on by its vapid imperative to him.

The most unlikely, my husband and his coworker and I go to the Manly Island ferry – world famous for its view of Sydney.  I can tell you right now that touring was NOT in my plan – I could barely have wrapped my mind around being near people, never mind travelling by subway and ferry with crowds of fellow travelers.

But hey – if I have learned nothing else my plans are always not as good as god’s plans…and I only wanted to feel less sadness. I was – as they say – as willing as the dying can be.

We take the subway, my eyes are swollen. I see myself in the window – I look old and tired.  My eyes avoid further self-scrutiny.

Arriving at the quay for the ferry my husband says…

“Jo – do you hear it?”

I am breathing in the fresher air of the harbor incredibly grateful for not being in the city, feeling my feet reconnected…a peace coming over me.

“No”, I say to him distractedly.

Then I hear the sound…the Australian didgeridoo. It has been my only desire to connect with and learn from the Australian aboriginal people, who are incredibly difficult to find in the cities.

Suddenly my feet are running…I am, literally tearing through the crowds, pushing the too slow aside. Maybe I am running for my life? It feels like I am running to someone or something familiar.  I couldn’t have stopped myself if I would have tried.

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The Shaman who shakes the Joy from the places it hides.

And then I am DANCING…the dig playing under me lifting me up, and old man and me – he is shaman, dancing beside me. I have rain sticks and I am leaping all over I feel the power of it all and I am ELEVATED by it.

The old shaman invites me beside him – a dew dance. I am FILLED with it all – like a magic that is so hard to describe to you, UT I really want to try.  I want everyone to know this so possible.

He looked at me, and the man on the ground playing the dig and suddenly we are the only ones there.

I feel it shift in me – my joy. He has shaken my joy free – is all I can think.

We leave them eventually to take our ferry ride – but what happened next was all miracle.

My energy so high, everywhere we went people were smiling and talking to us and everyone interchanging.  The ferry people around us soon became like friends, interchanging our experiencing around the world. Talking about how amazing it was to all be together tree.

I can ASSURE YOU that had I gone on that trip with the original energy I came with – one of that would happen.

So here’s my point –

Travelling with depression can be hard – a dive it happens to you, well then you have some work to do.

  • Take exceptionally good care of yourself
  • Create write draw express.
  • Stop caring about what people think.
  • And most important…WAIT FOR THE MIRACLE.!! don’t be so impatient 😉
  • The lower down you go – the greater the beauty that is available.
  • Be a badass…and love it all!

And so, now we are on a different route, back on home territory for us in Australia continuing on with the old shaman’s lovely energy forever inside my heart.

FILLED WITH GRATITUDE and determination to keep myself as well as possible for the people I love and this world I am dedicated to.

Peace!

NOTE ON SUICIDE…

Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem…and ALL problems are temporary

silhouette-woman-grievingSuicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem…and ALL problems are temporary – but sometimes they feel like they will go on forever.

I have lived with severe clinical depression my entire adult life. I was raised in a family where suicide attempts were a form of communication. Over the past week, a dear friend lost his life to suicide.  “Coincidentally”, another friend of mine showed up on exactly the same day completely distressed when a member of her family also attempted suicide (thankfully unsuccessfully) the very same day. Ironically,  my daughter and I had just finished a long talk about the wave of suicides we are hearing about from all channels in our world.  We are perplexed, concerned and deeply saddened.

The most frightening thing right now is that I know I have friends and people mixed into my world who may be considering suicide as an option for their own life situations. How terrifying. So if that’s you – here’s is a letter. Please read, share and keep it – if you think suicide is an option, I’d like you to consider the alternatives. Someone loves you. Now – YOU need to love YOU.

Dear You;

We are together, you and I, on this planet, in this life at this time trudging the “happy road of destiny”. We are here for a purpose – you, me and us and them.  Every day we wake,we work, play, love, cry, sing, laugh, eat and sleep – all beside one another; house to house, country to country – we are together – there are no divisions. We make those up. Maybe we don’t talk, or maybe we haven’t even met – but at some level deep down in our cells, you are my family and you are loved. .

When I was suicidal I had thoughts like…”My family would be better without me”- I can’t do this anymore” – “Life is too hard” – “No one loves me – I am not worth loving” – THIS will never get better…and so on.

You know the thoughts -the ones that run through your mind unbidden and seemingly of their own volition.

I have had thoughts like this.  My mind has managed to trick me so many times.

And if you are feeling this way – having those thoughts – rest assured it isn’t you – it’s your mind.

We can create all sorts of science around emotions, the mind and our behaviour – but the bottom line is that if you are thinking that life isn’t worth living – you are suffering from a disconn3ection from your very basic nature – your most awesome nature – you’re divine and amazing SOUL.

I know I know – you’re depressed and you don’t want to hear about your soul.  BUT – it’s your soul that isn’t being heard by you – you are listening to your mind…and the mind is a scary place! DO NOT visit that neighbourhood without a friend – my mother used to tell me.

 Smart lady. She was suicidal too – her first suicide attempt was when she was nine years old. By the time she passed away, she was my great6est teacher on being kinder to myself and avoiding such deep despairing thinking. The most important thing she taught me, the thought that hold my head above water is this

this too shall pass

Whatever your problems are – they are changing, shifting right here and right now as you read this.  They are becoming something else. Just another living situation.  THAT’S LIFE!

You have to know how amazing you are. My sweet little friend Patrick never even got a chance to discover this.

Patrick’s Story…

When I was a high school sub for a while during one of my first years I had a grade seven science class for a whole year because their regular teacher had to take leave for chemotherapy.  That year, I had quite a rowdy bunch of kids, my6 daughter included.

In the back of the class were three boys – the non-listening party boys. But they were sweet and I enjoyed their enthusiasm.  Every day, the class would com3 in and we would do a lecture and then science experiments.

Of the three boys in the back of the class, Patrick was the “upcoming engineer” I always said.  That year for science, he created a giant catapult for the fair.  For a kid that was getting 20% when I started teaching, I was so proud of him.

But Patrick was often sad, bummed out – and angry. I would spend time with him outside the classroom talking, sitting on he floor. The year passed. Patrick missed allot of school and came in high too often – but passed his class anyways and we were all proud.

Then disaster. One day, the following year, I got a panicked phone call from my daughter – Patrick had killed himself by hanging the previous night. He was 13 years old.  My heart shattered.  He had broken up with his girlfriend, and in a frenzy of mismanaged emotions he consumned alcohol excessively and hung himself.  AT the hospital, he awake and said how he hadnt really wanted to die – but the injuries were too much and he didnt make it.  His best friends were there to see it all. Im sure we all think the same things…

Could I have done more? Why didnt he call? what the hell??

My best friend had committed suicide when I was 17 – I was so sad that my daughter had to have this sad experience.

Segue to Mike… A brilliant artist, teacher, and philosopher a friend shot himself in the head this week.  Like Robin Williams, creative, smart and capable. I have things I would have liked to tell all them – all of them – Mike, Patrick, Dale, Valerie, Robin – all the people that have touched my life and have taken their own way out.  If you are considering the worst option possible please take  a moment. I hope my words can have some effect on someone somewhere…

  1. You are unique to the universe. THE UNIVERSE is HUGE!  Nothing has ever been like YOU- AND NOTHING EVER WILL BE. Only YOU look like you, talk like you, think like you. Every single choice you make from the moment you wake in the morning – affects the world.  Think about It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey gets to see what his world would be like without him.  One person = an entire universe just inside of you. Wow. YOU are AWESOME.imagesTA3DYQAZ
  2. You are here for a reason – a purpose.  Of course your purpose isn’t always obvious to you. Sometimes your “purpose” is just learning how to manage to suffering that naturally comes with life. That purpose is NOT your job, your social standing or how much money you make. Your purpose is not what you DO – but who you are. YOU ARE your purpose. And discovering how you tick, how to deal with your emotions and how to find balance in your life is THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB YUOU HAVE. Getting to know your SELF is the    ONLY reason you are alive. Every other situation in your life is only a vehicle to gain you understanding of who you are
  3. I know we all have a problem with the God word – and I am not religious, but I have come to an understanding that we are all a unique experience of God (energy, Source, Spirit, Buddha, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah) – that thing which makes us all and keeps the delicate balance) – in other words, 0 god lives inside of you – you are god – the energy of everything that is alive – is YOU. You cannot disappoint God – you don’t have to pray, worship or throw yourself down on your knees. But the easiest fastest way to really get to know that ETERNAL part of you -is by finding something that you are grateful for.  Right here right now – name me five things you have gratitude for.  If you can’t find five…keep thinking. You’re not trying hard enough.
  4. Think about the living. I realize you probably berate yourself for thinking about suicide because you know how selfish it would be to cause so much pain to the people who love you. It’s a nasty cycle – self hatred. Maybe “to the world you are one person – but to one person you are the world.” (again – thanks mom)
  5. THIS TOO SHALL PASS. LET IT GO.  Whatever it is you think is so hard that it will never pass, never change and will ultimately destroy you –let it go. Just for a minute! You can do it.  Your “problems” aren’t going anywhere.  Let it GO – and discover that when you get back to it – something will have changed.  When it does – express that gratitude to yourself!

Absolutely everything is changing every second of your life – NOTHING in life stays the same. Everything is progressing – the normal cycle – birth – life – death – birth – life – death. Not just people, animals and living creatures – but situations in your life also have a “birth – life – death” cycle.  The more adamantly you hold on to something – things, thoughts, people, situations, money etc…- The more problems it will cause you.

I’ll say that again

The more you grasp onto something – the harder it is to hold on to.

People, places and things – dn’t grasp.

I heard a woman once say “I never let go of anything without leaving deep claw marks in it”.

Yup – I can relate.

But know this – anything but the truth will weigh you down like a deadly anchor.  And I will define Truth here as Maharishi did “The Truth is that which doesn’t change”.

What is it that doesn’t change?  You have to find that for yourself.

What works for me…

Don’t be attached to your thoughts, your ideas, your money, your house, even your people.  Just let everything be for what it is today. This is true freedom. In fact – you can’t “keep” anything.

NOTHING is yours. Not even your kids – by the way. They belong to themselves.

Things will change and transition and move and flux and flow – you can go with it – or fight it. But at the end of the day the truth still stands – THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

Whatever your troubles and problems your anxieties fears and insecurities – they will PASS.

If you want that to happen quickly rather than slowly – stop fighting – surrender to the uncontrollable events of life.

Surrender means – not spending energy or time trying to control what is out of your hands.

Here’s the tricky part – you have to decide what is and isn’t in your hands.

Back to the god thing – try the serenity prayer…it really works in focusing your thoughts. And remember YOU are god – so just pray and know that something inside you – the eternal thing – is listening.

 

 

ACCEPTANCE, COURAGE AND WISDOM – the ticket out of misery.

I hear you though;

“prayer…I don’t think so”.

I had said the same thing.   But, the night I went to bed, after a seven week long extreme depression and made a final decision that I would be done with life that night, a small voice I my started saying the serenity prayer. An unlikely trigger reaction from a non-religious person.

Don’t detail out your problems to everyone. Pick a couple of people you trust, and share with the INTENTION of finding YOUR ROLE in that situation.  If something is messed up for you – only you can find what can change inside yourself.  The solutiuon is NEVER on the outside.   Complaining about other people wioll only add to your misery.

Case in point…

I know a man who every time I have seen him for the last five year, he has talked to me about his anger, his absolute “hatred” of his ex wife, his concern for his daughter – legal struggles, unhappiness.  Each time I see him he looks older and older.

It’s hard to talk and to listen to someone who seems t always be in the same messes and never says anything genuinely nice about his life.  Last night we had yet another conversation, and he happened to mention “80% of men in my position commit suicide”.

Yes – probably that’s true. But you don’t have to be one of them.

PLEASE REMEMBER….!!

You are loved.

You are beautiful.

You are incredibly unique and  valuable

Please stay.

Peace.

resources for you

http://www.supportisp.org/

Suicide

http://www.findangel.org/?gclid=CjwKEAiA4rujBRDD7IG_wOPytXkSJACTMkgaptgmjP15OP9okpS6WPFN4Uo5yjuNCcDwJgA7GFPDPBoC9B_w_wcB

World Peace Through Inner Peace

1480631_10154570029310230_2357686507537653468_nI arrive at the festival about 6 hours early. We have a sound check, sound check is cancelled. The band is in fine form – everyone happy in the park. I feel so lucky because my family is with me. My cousin and nephew. How unbelievably amazing that I am so lucky to have a family that likes each other so much that we want to hang out voluntarily outside of Christmas dinner and funerals.

We notice that the place is filled with extraordinary musicians from all over. No one knows us – we are the new kids on the block. I have a chance to talk to many people as the day unravels and one sound check is put off after another until we realize that there will be no sound check and we are just meant to enjoy the day.

As it went on, I had a chance to meet two people who gave me a great lesson I’d like to share.  The first was a man who, right away upon meeting me candidly admitted:

“I have been trying to be an artist my whole life and I don’t know what I am good at. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, I can’t write…I am lost”.

 

I don’t know – maybe its my hippie look but people like to get down to brass tacks right away with me and I really like that. They can tell I’m not much of a “talk-about-the-weather” kinda of gal.

So, I said to the man’

“Cool!  You’re a seeker”, I said smiling. He looked in my eyes and I could see he saw familiar recognition of someone else who had been in enough pain to do the hard work.   He told me more of his story – falling in love with a women, moving to Egypt, caught in the political uprising, converts to Islam, freaks out, comes back home.  Now shaken and still trying to find his answers in another person.

It’s all part of the trip we’ve all done it.  But at some point you realize that what you are seeking can’t be found outside yourself.

The man’s eyes fly open…”Yes!” he says. “Of course you understand – you’re an artist”.

Yes I am, and so are you.

Everyone is an artist and is seeking.  In fact it is our most important job in life to help others get their feet under them and do what it is they are meant to do. The best way to do that is to walk your talk and follow your heart.

Because the issue of depression has been top headlines lately, we have been talking allot about how to be responsible for our emotional state, which has led me to really see that people who “follow their hearts” may have troubles, may have “hard times”, may have challenges abounding – but they are happy. You have to wring every last drop of life out of this life – and we who are relegated to the classifications of “crazy artist, depressive, bi-polar” whatever – are the souls brave enough to step outside of the box and choose the unworn path.

I marvel when I meet someone who says to me that they are “not creative”.

What does this mean?  Did you stop breathing?

Everyone creates…all day all the time. When you got up this morning you made a choice…you got out of bed. This is where your “creativity” began. Every thought and choice you make after – is a separate creation. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.

We can create art, music, writing, food, wood working, architecture – those are obvious acts of creation.

We can create relationships, environments, situations, and futures. Having depression means being responsible for the emotions we bring into our lives. I don’t mean controlling the uncontrollable, but being aware when life is pulling your attention here and there is the key to a serene and amazing existence. In order be really responsible for our selves and our emotional health – it is important to know that every thought we have creates SOMETHING.

The ying and yang of it…

… resentment will CREATE heartache

…anger will CREATE turmoil

…violence will CREATE retribution

…Obsession with material gain will CREATE anxiety

…self absorption will CREATE loneliness

 

Everything you do say think and believe is an act of creation.

 

An act of Compassion will CREATE peace

…of Love will CREATE fellowship

…of faith will CREATE miracles

…of generosity will CREATE abundance

…selflessness will CREATE personal fulfillment

 

After I met the man who told me he could not find his “inner artist” I met a young boy only nine years old who had been blind since birth and was discovered by his camp councillors playing guitar on his lap. They videotaped him and put his song on Youtube and within a few days the video had gotten over 50,000 hits. So they invited him to play at the end of the set of the big headline act of the day.

Ego is all that holds back creativity.  The bad ego – the one that tells you everything is about YOU you you you you.

Imagine meeting an egoless being?  It is very rare.

But that’s what the little boy was in essence.  He child was the opposite of the creatively constipated man I had met earlier. He existed simply as unhinged creativity – music on legs…

No ego. No self – only music.

The magic began when he first arrived and he emerged from his limo that the festival had gotten for him to ride in, all beautiful and smiling. And immediately looking for something to play, body swaying rhythmically. I noticed he was holding a machine to his ear – music emerge from it as he rocked happily back and forth. He approached the table in front of the artists entrance, just a regular white plastic patio table. He couldn’t see the emerging crowd of curious spectators and artists were watching, now quiet, no one quite sure what to say or do. All these “big blues stars” – rendered momentarily mute and caught in rapt attention. The boy begins to bang on a plastic table finding a rhythm – rap tap tap bang rap tap tap bang …. The surrounding musicians couldn’t hold themselves back and soon one guy is singing beside him, another (my own drummer) is tapping out a complimenting double beat smiling widely beside the boy – looking like he might have at the same age. My owns hands found a big blue recycling bin and soon the best show was taking place outside the tent where the big bands were playing. Rollin and Tumblin, garbage cans, tapping feet, singing voices – and a boy smiling as wide as a crescent moon. He found his happy place – and brought us all along with him! This was transferred enlightened music – a real miracle.

 

I dubbed him little Blues Buddha.

 

I also realize that the man who had not yet found his creation – was also Buddha – a teacher. We need to be in both places to find where we want to stand.

 

I feel so lucky to have a chance in this life to completely be myself in all my creative weirdness. People think I am a great singer when they see us perform, but really what it is is I have been blessed with being surrounded by people who let me know clearly that I can do absolutely ANYTHING, and they will support me.   I think saying Im grateful is abit of an understatement.

 

Instead I will use gratitude as a verb and keep trying and doing and creating and moving forward. And if I am lucky, I will always keep in my mind the face of the Little Buddha who was all soul – as I trudge my own creative path.

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When we all find our creative space like this boy did – when people individually find peace inside themselves and a place to express through some form of creation (“making something new that has not been made before”) only THEN will the world experience global peace. One person and one life at a time – this is our responsibility and joyful obligation towards ourselves first – and each other.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? H.A.L.T.!

301549_10150375411088656_541083655_8281137_1256522812_nFor those of us who live with depression, whether we can are on meds, off meds – the bottom line is that living with (sometimes unpredictable) emotional fluctuations can make it really hard to plan the  future..or sometime just an hour from now even.   Something that helps allot of people keep focus on balance in the day is also one of my family’s favourite – H.A.L.T. I’d like to share it in case its new to you and can help for next time the blues comes knockin’…

What it means seems obvious – when your mind starts twisting out and you feel your mood plummet…just STOP.

Stop everything if you can and check your basics. Are you hungry, angry lonely or tired?  This focus can help you to regain balance and avert deep depression when you begin to feel out of whack.  It’s also part of being emotionally responsible for yourself.  Over time it becomes easier to remember.

H.A.L.T:

Hungry ;

can mean you need food. Let’s stick to basics. Admit it, when we are emotionally overwrought we re not often inclined to be putting our physical well-being at the top of the to do list. We are more likely thinking …and drowning in thinking. All of ours, and the world’s problems at once.   Our thoughts have run away with a “mind of their own” (did I really just say that?) and we quickly lose body needs awareness. We forget to eat, or we eat crap. Carb;s usually – just for a moment of a little dopamine.

Seriously – Not having the proper minerals and vitamins when you are a clinically depressed person, can be life threatening.   The food we intake directly affects the way in which our brain produces dopamine and serotonin. I don’t know how you can do that in your diet.  I’m sure there are a million line resources. I believe that  many doctors obviously need to be more multidimensional in their approach to patient knowledge.  They need to be more like health partners and less like people that think they know more about your insides than you do. They have to really be thinking about the whole person and the situation.

So, that’s where you come in,  Someone with depression has to be very responsible for this most basic requirement.  When you feel that you are quickly spinning into the abyss, take a second, ok well maybe take 30 and check out what your body needs.

1- Drink water – in fact start your day with it. You wake dehydrated.  I don’t know much about the brain but I can imagine that`s not a great start for it.

2- Lay off caffeine – stop wrecking the start of your day by giving yourself a hyper dose of anxiety. Drink tea – you`ll live

3- Refined sugar is bad. Period.  It sparks mood swings, physical energy crashes etc… We are trying to avoid ANY crashes here.

4- Meat takes alot of energy for the body to consume. Plus it`s gross. I don’t eat it.

5- Eat whenever I`m hungry.  Small amounts.

6- Indulge your food fantasies sometimes. What the hell. One life.  But don`t do it when you`re sad.  Again, sugar never helps depression.

ANGRY:

Self explanatory. If you`re angry, stop, don`t RE-act (Def: Acting outwardly the angry you are feeling – creating a negative action twice).

Especially if you are in position to react to what someone else is saying to you it is always best to find some space and come back to it if you need to once you have checked your other indicators.

One of my grandmother`s favourite sayings was

“Don’t ever say something to someone you’ll have to apologize for. Especially if you don`t like them.”

LONELY: One of the hardest things to do in depression is reaching out to express yourself, but it is vitally important and healing.

There is an ocean’s difference between peaceful solitude and abject loneliness.  In mid-depression (if there is such a place) often people feel and see only themselves, and not in the best light either. Surrounding yourself with friends who understand you and are empathetic to your experience is really important.  It’s also part of what can be in your control.   Making relationship choices is empowering.

TIRED:

Most basic for all of us  but especially people with depression: you must sleep regularly and well.   One of the symptoms of a prolonged depression is insomnia. At this point a person is really so disconnected form the body that they have messed up their circadian rhythms and can’t return to a normal routine of sleep.  Thoughts race and we all know you cant run from yourself.

There is a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a  favoured technique for torture throughout our war torn histories.  People make bad decisions when they are exhausted. For people with depression, exhaustion can lead to suicidal ideation difficult emotions like hopelessness and despair.  No one wants to live like that on purpose.

Fake it till you make it doesn’t mean you’re lying or being fake…not really.  But it helps to act as if you already feel good…to feel good this doesn’t mean lying but more like acting out positivity.  When someone asks you how you are, don’t go into a forty minute diabtribe about your woes, try staring by saying something positive, or grateful.  This can have a huge effect on the whole energy of the interaction.

 

You know how sometimes it feels as though just in a MOMENT you can fall into a depression,

Keep in mind that the same thing applies to the opposite …in a MOMENT you can fall out and back into contentedness.   Say yes to things that feel good for example.  Taking care of basics puts everyone in a better position to make the best daily choices on their own behalf and help create this outcome.

Peace~

 

 

 

 

Why Robin Williams’s Death Can Be A Good Thing…

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My first reaction to Robin William’s suicide death announcement on facebook was astonished  anger.  I felt like he had somehow  copped out, jumped ship.  I was starkly reminded of my dear friend Anne who also committed suicide a month and a half ago…it has been a tough summer.  Lots of people are giving up.

Then sadness took me, in a big way. Maybe it because I am grieving so many significant personal losses and for some very real reasons Robin’s death felt very personal to me. Not only as a fellow sufferer of depression, but because I grew up with him.  All my favourite movies and some of my best moments with my kids include him. He could make me laugh and smile and feel like anything was possible when no one else could. He felt like a friend.

My family has some epic stories, but one of my favourites was when my sister, now an artist but then a high ranking administrative person for Bell Canada was travelling through Los Angele’s and she had the opportunity to meet and speak with him. The one thing that always reminded in the traditional retelling of the story was the effect that his eye had – gentle and full of love she would say. Smiling eyes. robin

And now he was gone.

Depression. Suicide.  My life has been plagued with these two words.  So understandably my next reaction was fear.  If depression could take Robin, then it could take ANYONE…even me.

My story..

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, in university. I was young and far from home and would experience great jags of unhappiness.  A University hospital doctor told me I had depression – a clinical explanation for a chemical imbalance in my brain.  In those days my depressions were only days long – usually right before my period and would disappear in a flash as soon as I would begin.  I never mentioned it, although it felt so terrible because people made so many jokes about PMS – but for someone like me, on occasion, PMS were the two r tree days when I couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t read two pages in row cause I had no concentration, and I hated myself.

After graduating with my first degree at 18, I came home, worked in a bar (yes it was the Pioneer in case you were wondering) because who in their right mind would hire a kid with a degree in political philosophy.  I had my first child at 25 and within weeks of having her, the depression came back. This time they called it “post partum disorder” –  again my sadness had nothing to do with me – it was BIOCHEMICAL. They gave me magical pills.  SSRI’s had hit the market but barely.  I am not sure which kind it was this time – probably Prozac was about all they really were using in those days.  Thus began my 17 year journey on pharmaceuticals and a coming to terms with depression.

Lots of people have tried to explain to me what depression is.  My easiest depressions only last a day, and the worst one lasted 7 weeks, I was in bed and I came about as close to dying as any living person wants to get.

silhouette-woman-grievingHere’s how it felt to me…

Depression…

    1. Hurts my body. Aches and pains like I am an old lady.
    2. Depression destroys my concentration. I cant read or even watch an entire tv show
    3. I don’t sleep – forget that.
    4. Make me feel like I am no good for anything or anyone.
    5. Makes me believe the world would be better without me
    6. Makes me feel hopeless – no matter what I do nothing will ever feel good again
    7. Causes me to make bad decisions
    8. I suffer from “not-enough-it is” in a deep depression. Nothing I am or I do is ENOUGH.  It;s exhausting.
    9. Depression causes me to harm myself and make bad choices on my own behalf
    10. Makes my family feel hopeless and out of control
    11. Makes my family and friends feel as though they have done something wrong
    12. Causes me to isolate
    13. Makes me feel as though I cant rely on my emotions so I cant make plans = I never know what I will be like in a day or two or three…
    14. Makes it so I am not able to get a full time normal world day job – again the unreliability factor.
    15. Makes me feel ugly, stupid and unlovable unworthy
    16. Sometimes – depression makes me want to stop living (I will differentiate however between “not wanting to live” and “suicidal” -= there is a big difference)

and so on…

Over the years they tried to give my personality lots of names… bi-polar, severe hyper manic rapid cycling depression (this means I m like Eeyore all the time…), border line personality etc.

I was just sad. That’s all. It was a terrible way to live. I would wake crying, sleep crying, no joy, faking everything in my life.  Trying to be the best mom possible, but incapable of really engaging with anyone – because I was incapable of engaging with myself at the time.

So a (male) doctor says he has a pill I can take that will fix the “broken chemistry” in my brain and I will then be NORMAL. I emphasize male because I don’t think any woman who had had a child would have diagnosed me the same way.

But I was so attracted to the possibility of the all encompassing NORMAL. My doctor wanted me to understand…

He drew me a diagram and explained it to me like I was an idiot…

“See these two lines here Josee…” he asked indicating a drawing of two parallel lines about 3 inches apart on a piece of paper. “most people have emotions within those lines” he says drawing an up and down squiggle.   “Your emotions are like this” he said letting his pen go wildly outside of the lines…

Wow. I am nuts.

Then he says something like,  “The medication will bring you inside the lines.  You can have “normal emotions like everyone else”.

Oh lord…I was so happy. They had invented A NORMAL PILL!

Finally someone explained why I wasn’t “NORMAL” (this word was later explained to  me by my Alanon sponsor as which only existed as a setting on a washing machine :)) why I didn’t feel like other people, and why I was SO much more emotional than I “should be”.

It started with anti -depressants, and by the end I had been prescribed every conceivable antidepressant and then some…seroquil, desyryl, welbutrin, celexa, paxil, elavil name it – I took it.

The results?

I didn’t play guitar or sing for 13 years.

I didn’t write

I didn’t draw

I didn’t paint

I forgot what made me joyful

Nothing in life was ever exciting.

Sex was meh…

Was this “normal”?

Not creating for someone like me is like being the walking dead and I became so empty it was ridiculous.

Depression is genetic in my family . I was raised by my maternal grandparents.  My mother told me the story of her first suicide attempt at only 9 years old. Poor thing – luckily the bottle of pills she took were laxatives, which we can almost giggle at, except to consider what kind of despair a child of nine must feel to down a whole bottle of anything, causes the laughter to turn into a choke in my throat.

My grandmother who raised me was a chronic suicide attempter.  In fact, by the time I was 10 I had saved the life of or witnessed the attempt to die of most of the women in my family.   The men (my “brothers” and maternal grandfather” called them weak and “crazy”.  I have one that still does to this day sadly. )  But their uneducated redneck discompassionate attitudes regarding mental health and emotional wellbeing is very representative of a big chunk of western culture. It is these attitude that prohibit a frank open honest discussion.

I would like that to end today.

*suck it up…” they would say.

That’s not helpful.

**I want to say right away that medications are important, and if you are prescribed and antidepressant to get your chemicals back on track and this is comfortable for you, take them, and get your balance back.

But medication is not where it ends,

it can be however where healing begins.

what is healing?

It is ACCEPTANCE OF YOURSELF.

ALL YOUR 2000 PARTS, PERSONALITIES AND EMOTIONS.

Unfortunately psychologist want to focus on your past and tyour problems and psychiatry is looking at “the problem”  only the medicinal aspects to cover symptoms.

It is not enough.

You have to go after THE ABSOLUTE UNADULTERATED  AWESOME BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF.

ROBIN WILLIAMS’S death can help us remove the stigma overshadowing a potentially open and healing dialogue on this silent deadly killer…robin love eys

No one is going to say he was

    1. Weak
    2. Should have had a better sense of humour
    3. Unintelligent
    4. Had a sad life anyone would want to escape

etc.

We all know,,,Robin Williams was an AWESOME human being – I am so grateful that he was here.

But another part of me understands and can sometimes relate to his hopelessness.

The Buddhist in me finds that his death will cathartically open this dialogue.

Robin Williams is such a key example of someone whose depression led to addiction (avoidance is pretty normal when you feel like crap all the time).

12 step programs are amazing…except for one teenier thing debilitating thing aspect of the 12 step culture…self righteous sobriety. The I’m better than you attitude is not helpful to someone who struggles and although it is are and you will find that 99% of the people you will meet will be supremely authentic and supportive, there are assholes everywhere in life. Right> Like they say in the program – learning to ACCEPT  (even the assholes) is the key.

Good luck though…If you are a person with long term sobriety and you slip – sometimes program people in these programs can be painfully judging and unforgiving – fearing for their own sobriety I suppose.

 

It must have been very hard for him to go back into the program in 2006 after 20 years of sobriety.

The thing is lots of people said they were “so surprised” when he started drinking again.

I always will remember what my mother, 27 years sober when she died said to me

“Never be surprised when an alcoholic drinks. Be surprised if he stays sober”

 

The world requires a dialogue – depression is epidemic and we need to openly share our stories, remove the stigma and walk TOGETHER.

Opening this dialogue and being very honest with myself has been a cathartic experience.

 

I’d like to begin this dialogue.  The only way to heal and see the amazing BENEFITS of having depression are to share our stories, openly.

 

Let it begin right here.

 

This is what i do for my depression today…

 

    1. REMEMBER YOU CANT FIGHT THE OCEAN WITH A TEASPOON…
    2. I try and let myself feel whatever I am feeling.  Trying to NOT be sad, not be depressed NOT BE…anything…is what got you into this mind mess in the first place.  So if you feel like crap…LET YOURSELF FEEL LIKE CRAP.
    3. Identify where the feeligns exist in your physical body – where are your emotions when you feel sad? I find my solar plexus hold this energy.
    4. Don’t use weed for depression. Weed is great – but not when your depressive. It doesn’t work It will make you feel way worse.
    5. Find five things to be grateful for every day – write them down. Or even better share them on social network and help others relate to gratitude.
    6. Eat healthy – treat yourself like your best friend.
    7. Do something nice for yourself; take yourself on a date to a movie, do your hair, a bath? something.
    8. DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. In massive depression – get up, brush your teeth, make your bed. Do the basics.
    9. Keep a journal. Write every morning,. Don’t edit. Everyone needs a place to spill their guts.
    10. Dont focus on the word “depression”.  YOU are NOT your illness. You are WAY MORE AWESOME than you can tell at this moment.
    11. Find the cool parts – I don’t know ONE fellow musician, artist or writer that doesn’t have some sort of what they would call “mental illness”…although now I am remiss to call it an illness given all the talented beautiful people I have come to know.
    12. Meditate. trust me there is nothing better to remind you that YOU are not YOUR THOUGHTS.

IF YOU SUFFER FROM DEPRESISON PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY…

** Depression comes from unexpressed emotions.  *not because you have cured depression but because you have found the awesomeness in it.

You know – what we are looking for in life is NOT happiness…It is the ability to handle all circumstances with a peace inside that cannot be shaken.

Everyone can do this.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Depression is a gift that makes you do the work. People without depression do not need to go  as deep into their self understanding as you can. And the purpose of life IS to understand ourselves better.  Depression is a gift of understanding.

I am suggesting a global open the door on depression initiative.

We need to talk. Openly and unabashedly.

Let us begin this dialogue today.

Tell us about your depression, your story, where has it taken you. What has it taught you?  Where does it come from? Can you identify some needs after talking about it?

Share together. Don’t be afraid.  We will catch you. I promise.  Its a process…and it has to begin somewhere.

I send you real love – although we may never have met I really do understand we are all connected  – we are each other. The more we heal each other, the more the whole world will benefit from your awesomeness.

COME OUT AND SHINE TOGETHER.

In love and service,

Peace