Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Equanimity

Equanimity, it was a word with which I was unfamiliar. Baron Baptiste, in his book 40 Days to a Personal Revolution, defined equanimity as the art of meeting life as it meets you--calmly, without drama or fuss. I loved that! Calmly and without drama or fuss...

One of the things I've learned throughout the last 8 years of illness, and especially during the past 3-plus years of sobriety, is apparently equanimity. It took me awhile, but through CBT, DBT, and The Big Book, I eventually learned to meet life where life met me. Attempting to change or control life, or those in it, is akin to banging my head against the wall. I'm not always perfect at this lesson, but life is definitely less painful if I'm not banging my head against a wall.

Baptiste goes on to quote the infamous serenity prayer, which is used daily (hopefully) by those of us in recovery. He states, "When we become centered enough, we have the ability to accept the things we cannot change, and are able to instantly and humbly admit that our willpower and ego are ultimately powerless over most of the realities in our lives." I don't know about the "instantly" part of this statement. It took me a few bloody noggin episodes before I got it. But I digress...

One of the things I cannot change is my diagnosis. I have depression. It's a reality that became a lot easier to accept once I stopped trying to exert control over it. Once I stopped playing with, changing or discontinuing my medications; once I stopped self-medicating with alcohol; once I stopped ignoring my symptoms, or worse, actively fighting against them; once I stopped trying to figure out why I felt so bad; once I stopped trying to be in control and instead accepted my mood, my fatigue, and my thinking; my life with depression got easier. It's not fun. I don't enjoy it, but I don't have a bloody forehead either.

As Baptiste points out, fighting only leads to more struggle. "You don't get to the light by fighting or wrestling for control." With my sometimes irrational illness, it is in surrendering that I find peace. It is waiting, as in waiting out the bad times, that allows me to cope. "We change by finding equanimity and learning to relax right in the middle of conflict-filled moments," Baptiste says. "Equanimity releases us from unrealistic expectations about what life should be and allows us to stay centered amid the inevitable highs and lows."

How many of us with mental illness have railed against our inevitable highs and lows? How many of us have thought, or even said, "This is not what my life should be like! This is not what I planned!" If you are like me, you didn't plan to lose your job to illness. You didn't plan to lose your spouse to illness. You didn't plan to lose your financial security or friends to illness. If you are like me, you've spent a lot of time struggling against symptoms you ultimately couldn't control. This is not equanimity. This is drama and fuss.

Baptiste's discussion of equanimity reinforces acceptance as the answer. I'm not talking about lying down and playing victim, but rather accepting my life, and illness, right where they are--calmly, without drama or fuss. I pray for acceptance of the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It's not necessarily simple, but in my experience, it makes my life simpler.

3 comments:

SK said...

Excellent post, Etta! And as usual, so resonant with my own experience that it's uncanny!

Hope you had a relaxing weekend.

-SK

Emma said...

I am a little behind, (life is challenging at the moment), but before another day passes I wanted to say thank you for expressing so much of how I have felt over the years. I particularly appreciated the final paragraph.
Good wishes, and I hope life post dentist is beginning to be a little more comfortable!
Emma

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