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Depression …and out of the darkness came the light.

mental illness

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The other day, I was wasting time on facebook and came across one of those games where you create a name for yourself based on random pairings of words and personal data. Due to my first initial and month of birth I was awarded the title Empress of the Frozen Darkness. This gave me some pause.

Sometimes it seems like a topic is trending in the ether, or on the internet, or just in my head, because everywhere I look this week I am seeing articles about depression and anxiety. Of course May was Mental Health Awareness Month, so that may have been the reason.  In a short newsletter I can’t even begin to approach this topic with the time and attention it deserves. I can just say this: I have suffered from mild depression in the past, my brother and my mother have suffered from debilitating depression in the past, and other members of my family (both my blood family and my friend family) are suffering from depression and anxiety right now.

Depression is poorly understood by people who’ve never experienced it and unfortunately we often use the word depressed to describe trivial mood states (e.g. I was depressed that I missed the season finale of Big Bang Theory). Being clinically depressed is not equivalent to feeling blue, being stuck in a bad mood, or needing an attitude adjustment (those who advocate quick fixes or promises of easy relief through yoga, dietary changes, or self-help books are practicing a cruel form of disrespect).

The experience of depression can range from a pervasive sadness and lack of energy, to insomnia, frenetic activity and panic (anxiety), to a feeling of being absolutely leaden and incapable of any sort of feeling at all. Depression can span a huge range of mental and bodily experiences, and often requires medical help to overcome. Yoga and meditation can be helpful, but they are not cure-alls.

Although the stigma of mental illness is not nearly so pronounced as it used to be, we can still go a long way towards educating ourselves about depression, helping each other through it, and addressing erroneous attitudes and views about how it should be treated. In my experiences the fight to overcome depression requires a multi-faceted approach, excellent social support, time, patience and a good sense of humour. Some of us never overcome it. We learn to make space for it and continue on living in the best way that we can manage.

Most of the depressives I know are amazing people, so I guess I needn’t feel so bad about being the Empress of Frozen Darkness. To quote the inimitable Arlo Guthrie, “You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.”

From my light to yours,

Elaine

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Yoga and meditation teacher, writer, reader, cat-momma, environmental warrior, friend

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