Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our stories

I believe it is Rachel Naomi Remen, the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, who says, "A story is a container for meaning." We all have our own stories which define us and influence how we view the world. For example, each of us with depression, though we are struggling with the same illness, has a different story.

In my experience, depression seems to break down into three primary stories. For some, depression seems to define them. Everything they do and see is colored by it. All input and output filters through its cloud of despair. It is who they are. For some others, depression appears to be an obstacle. It gets in the way, but they constantly strive to push it into the background. It's a frustrating piece of their experience. And for a few more, depression seems to be an afterthought. It's already in the background. They may even forget about it, until it temporarily flares up. Their friends may not know they have it, and whether friends know or not is not important to them. It is separate from their person and their experience. Same illness, three different stories.

My yoga instructor also talks about our stories. She preaches letting them go. She discourages letting our stories define us. For example, I have a story about my hip. It goes something like this. ...I've had two hip surgeries, and as a result, I have continued weakness and limited motion in my right hip. It's affected my running. I seem to be more easily injured because of it...blah, blah, blah. Prior to beginning my yoga class, I was certain I wouldn't be able to perform certain poses because of my 'bad' hip. I let that story define my limitations before I even tried the poses! I was ready and willing to share when I couldn't do a pose perfectly! My yoga teacher foiled that willingness when she preached letting go and "just trying it."

Perfection isn't required in my yoga class. Trying is. Trying, letting go of my stories and trying, is all our instructor asks. As a result, I can do poses I never imagined I could do, and my hip is stronger and more flexible because of it. By busting out of my story, by trying, I grew.

Imagine my continued growth if I just try in life, too? How often do I let my stories define my limits before I even try? How often do you? How many of you want to go back to school, for example, but your story won't allow it? How about getting a new job, or, as in my case, going back to work? Do you have a story about your illness, your finances, or your circumstances which keeps you constrained? I know I do. What if we just said yes to everything instead? Imagine. Imagine the possibilities!


andrew said...

Hello again,
I wish I had your ability to somehow rise above the depression that definitely does define me. Part of this feeling I think originates from a weary feeling of having depression for 25 years. Every time I have battled against it, fought hard not to let it get in the way, it has come back and hit me harder. In effect it goes something like this: I start a new job or activity. Depression icks in and I struggle to cope along with the depression. A fighting spirit inside me takes over and I battle on refusing to be beaten. However all that happens is that I end up literally on my knees. Recently this happened and after fighting against it I ended up with a nervous breakdown. Now I just find it easier to accept the depression- accept that it defines me and stragely this attitude has helped.
All the best,

etta said...

@ Andrew: The way I read your comment, you do NOT let depression define you.
And yes, I have found acceptance was the answer, too. Once I accepted depression as an ILLNESS, that is, NOT a character defect, it stopped defining me. I was set free.
Don't get me wrong, it still sucks, and I hate it. But by accepting it, I stopped fighting against it. That's where the freedom came in. Now, I ride it out as best I can, reminding myself it is temporary, and knowing I will live to experience better days.
Congrats on your acceptance. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Etta,

I was online looking for some info about the fresh fruit fast and stumbled upon your blog. I am doing a 40 day yoga program too - actually at the baron baptiste yoga institute in cambridge, ma and just got done our fast. We did a fast called a kitchari fast b/c it's not as "cooling" as fruit, and in the dead of winter i guess the kitchari (run a search and you'll find it) can be good for you. I do want to try the fruit fast at some point though - maybe in summer. Anyway, just wanted to say good luck with the rest of your yoga program and practice. If you haven't already, I encourage you to learn about ayurveda - it's an interesting way of looking at helping yourself to find balance with the food you eat and your daily practices given the time of year, seasons, weather, etc. Also, as a note related to your illness - 7 days into my 40 days I had a pulmonary embolism. After just 2 weeks, I am back in yoga, doing the fast, etc. I believe that the program helped me have a better attitude about accepting what had happened to me from a health perspective, and learning to embrace and live now with this condition. I hope you can find that yourself.

Kristin from Boston

etta said...

Thanks, Kristin--
Nice to meet a fellow "40-day-er" from halfway across the country! BTW, I used to live in your fair city!
Glad you survived your embolism! Scary! Thanks for your thoughts!