Mindfulness and depression

Been dealing with the demon depression, so I haven’t posted here much. For one thing, I hate to bring the world down with me. If that were possible, I would hate to do that. For another, just haven’t had the energy to put any thoughts together.

I guess this was precipitated by going to yet another interview, for not a very good contract, which I didn’t get. Once again a failure.

But really, I depressed myself. Or my mind did it to me. The interview was a trigger, which set off a chain reaction, and left me struggling in the muck. The problem is I’ve been here before. So once I start sliding down that slope, it’s very difficult to stop.

One explanation of this is that we have ‘pathways’ in the mind. Certain chemical reactions, and chains of thoughts, that are very well worn because I’ve gone down them so often. Some minor event can set me off, and bang, I go through those pathways like a ball in a pinball game, lighting up the obstacles shame, despair, and helplessness on the way down.

To me, depression feels like an absence of feeling mostly. It’s a state where I lie down a lot, sometimes for hours, not doing anything, not even sleeping. I don’t actually feel much, but any thoughts I have are  negative and distorted. For me it’s not a feeling of sadness where I cry – it’s more of an inability to feel and act with a lack of any motivation. It’s a sensation of being a trapped animal, small, helpless and alone.

Luckily, having been here before, after a while I remember I have some resources for these situations, like a rescue kit, previously acquired for just such situations. One of my best resources is a book and CD called The Mindful Way through Depression, by Jon Kabat-Zinn et al.

Today I read just a chapter, where I’d left a bookmark in previously. He talks about minding the body, and about not avoiding discomfort. In yoga, that means not automatically pulling out of a stretch when it feels a little uncomfortable. And also not forcing yourself to do a painful stretch in a military manner (the only way I used to do yoga, and a useless one).

And learning this, we learn to treat the mind similarly. Not pushing away angry feelings, sad feelings, or whatever feelings there are. Not trying not to have the feelings and thoughts. But allowing feelings, gently, and being aware of thoughts, though not encouraging them.

This stuff was just what I needed somehow. After reading about this, I did some yoga and meditation with the accompanying CD. My whole body-mind just calmed right down, and suddenly, bam, the world seemed normal again. I was no longer a small trapped animal. I was just a woman, in a quite decent warm apartment, with food in her fridge, and the possibility of finding work in the future. Just regular.

Such an excellent feeling. Just being an ordinary person in an ordinary world, no longer beset by monsters.

Picture: A prickly plant, shot in Allen Gardens greenhouse in December

  1. Tess said:

    This is a really helpful post. I've begun wondering lately (I'm a bit of a slow study on things emotional!) if I am prone to depression. I've thought not in the past because I keep going, I don't have that "feeling of sadness where I cry", but that helplessness and paralysis that you describe is very familiar to me.I'm sorry to hear you've been suffering, and I'm grateful for the advice you've given here. Going to check out that CD.

  2. diver said:

    Nicely posted Ellen, especially the ending with your countings-of-blessings. Just regular. Evocative pic too … as usual.

  3. Ellen said:

    @Mike – ty :-)@Tess – Glad you found something useful here Tess. I kind of think depression is a continuum – you don't need a big fat diagnosis to have some sometimes. The book I mention comes with the CD, so you have to get both…and I think they could be helpful to anyone, depressed or not. It's kind of basic info on how we work. Thanks for coming by!@diver – why thanks diver. The ordinary is a blessing sometimes I think. Glad you like the photos – started using my own, so they're not as professional as some, but I like them ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,On a recommendation I asked my parents to buy that book for my brother when we went into hospital but unfortunately he never used it. I have heard from some people that they regard it to be the best of its kind.It is great that it helped you get back to normality. I completely agree about those thought processes being so well oiled that it takes little to slip into them again and I think while we realise this we add more wore to it. I'm glad that you found a way back out.All the bestNechtan

  5. Ellen said:

    HI Nechtan,Not sure if your brother was hospitalized for depression? That book actually is not intended for anyone in the midst of a major episode, and says so at the beginning. It's just too difficult to learn anything new if you are in the real depths of clinical depression. And, too, I probably like this method because I am drawn to meditation anyway and have some experience with it. It may not be everyone's cup of tea. I like having the book and CD around for emergencies, when I can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing to feel better. Those oily slippery slopes – we both get caught up in them I think.Cheers

  6. Susan said:

    So excellent Ellen that you were able to draw on your resources and find your way back to today. It is such hard work. I agree on the idea of the "pathways" in our mind. And how hard it is to be able to "jump the track" to a new chosen way of thinking/responding to life circumstances. Hard work but look – you're doing it!

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