Healing the broken

(If you are struggling, bear with me, where this post starts is not where it’s going.)

I suffer in ongoing ways with depression, I have a body that frequently hurts and less energy than I need to do the things that need doing. It’s not a great combination. I regularly run into books, blogs and people who tell me that it would all be better if I just made the time to do the magic thing. What the magic thing is varies, although yoga, and meditating for at least half an hour a day come up regularly. I do meditate when I can. It does not stop me getting depressed.

I never cease to be amazed by people who magically know what’s going to magically sort my life out, with no reference to my history, the state of my body, the options I have, or how I feel. Faced with a ‘your life would be great if you just made the effort and did this thing’ what I feel, invariably, is despair. I don’t feel inspired, or encouraged or uplifted, it feels like a swift kicking.

Depression is all about not having anything more to give. It catches us all differently, but exhaustion is a part of it, as a cause, as a symptom, as both. Facing physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, about the last thing you want to hear is that if you just made a bit of effort with this thing over here, you would get better. It’s worse if you have tried other people’s magic solutions and they’ve not produced a miracle. You ask yourself why you’re such a failure that the sure fire thing won’t work for you. You ask what you’re doing wrong, and you feel worse.

There are some very dodgy ‘facts’ floating around about the usefulness of meditation in ‘curing’ depression. Without getting bogged down in the details, the short answer is that the evidence has been spun somewhat, but meditation is cheap and your Doctor has no resources to send you for counselling and would rather not put you on costly anti-depressants if they can avoid it. For all the people who benefit from meditation, this has seemed like a thwacking great validation, so the idea that meditation can save you is doing the rounds in earnest. It might, or might not help.

There are no easy magic cures for long term mental and physical health problems. However, if having something shoved your way leaves you feeling even more defeated and demoralised, you can rest assured that it isn’t The Answer and that it wouldn’t have saved you if only you’d been able to do it properly. Also, positive thinking and positive affirmations will not save you from serious issues either. They may help, they may not.

It’s always worth trying things to see if they help, assuming you have the time and energy. If you don’t have the time and energy, the priority must always be getting to a place where you do. Rest and sleep are the most reliable restoratives there are. Sleep is the nearest we ever get to a magical cure for all ills. It’s a much better use of your time than anything that you feel pressured into doing because someone else has put pressure on you. People who are deeply involved in a practice can be evangelical, and can crave the affirmation of other people finding it very useful too. You don’t owe them anything.

You don’t have to validate their yoga practice by appearing to be saved. You do not have to squander your precious resources of time and energy on anything that does not work for you. It doesn’t matter how much someone else thinks it ought to help. It doesn’t matter how much someone insists that this one special thing saved them and will save you. What works for you, works for you, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. No one has the right to add to your discomfort by insisting you be magically cured by something that does not work for you in the slightest.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Healing the broken

  • Radhika

    I do suffer from depression and though mediation and exercise help, the best recourse I have found is a good multivitamin and multi-mineral tablet. It just made it all so much better. I feel more energetic and resilient and can actually feel the inherent happiness deep inside.

  • sophiaschildren

    True enough, Nimue. And as Radhika shared, there are various things that might support restoration and rejuvenation along the way, depending on our unique needs.

    It’s also very true that the whole “if you just made a little effort” or “tried a little harder” thing — suggesting that one is depressed (or fill in the blank) because he, she, or we are “not trying” or “not making the effort” — is just clueless.

    Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Jamie

  • Christopher Blackwell

    My main thing when I was depressed was seeing if there was good reason to be depressed, that is something going wrong that needed fixing. Then working on the problem might be helpful.

    The other case, if it was just the depression, was surviving it, and not taking on the more stressful thing under that conditions I would leave te stressful things for a better day.

    But knowing which type of depression was happening, gave me a chance to choose the better strategy. That also gave e a sight feeling of some control.

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes indeed, sometimes the problem is being surrounded by assholes! A big part of my issues have been caused for me by other people, and it took me a while to learn how to recognise that and get away from it.

  • Kaylee

    Healing for me is medications and therapy. I did try without the meds, but that didn’t work out so well. I have found that meditation does not help for me, in fact, it makes me worse.

    Have you read about the spoon theory? It is a wonderful description of the unseen things that drain energy.

    • Nimue Brown

      Yes to spoon theory. And yes to not meditating – you certainly aren’t alone in finding it makes things worse. It’s a really important thing to put out there, because looking inwards is sometimes the last thing some of us need. I’ve had periods of chemical intervention, too – do what works, I think. Whatever gives you peace, relief, the means to cope and keep going, has to be the right answer.

  • Genealogy Jen

    Sleep can be restorative. It can be frustrating when part of the problem is that you can’t sleep, or have night terrors when you do. Sometimes I have to tell my brain no matter how convincing it is, that it’s a big fat liar. You’re not alone.

  • Shadow

    I find it interesting that, after reading a post essentially about how poisonous, even if wholly unintentionally so, other people’s “helpful suggestions” can be for combating depression, so many of the response posts are… other people’s suggestions for combating depression. Granted, they are made in a “this is what worked for me”, rather than a “you should try this” tone, but, still…

    “Facing physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, about the last thing you want to hear is that if you just made a bit of effort with this thing over here, you would get better. It’s worse if you have tried other people’s magic solutions and they’ve not produced a miracle”

    “Oh, here’s a helpful-suggestion! I’ll just make it sound not-quite-like-a-helpful-suggestion!”

    Is it human nature to think that one knows better than anyone else how to do something? Is it a lack of comprehension of the actual issue at hand? Misguided compassion that ultimately boils down to both of the above? Or something else entirely?

    I’m curious, because this post is so very spot on for me. Like you, Nimue, I battle depression. Like you, I am very tired of the “helpful suggestions” that simply make me feel like a failure. I have friends who face these same fights, as well, although it feels like they have much more extensive, stronger support networks in place than I do; I struggle with myself whenever one of them posts something somewhere about certain aspects of their negative mental state, because of my knee-jerk (and wrong, because it doesn’t work like that) thought that “you have more than I do!”

    That’s part of why it is so very frustrating to me to see this post, to see something that finally articulates some of that inadequacy and anger I’ve been feeling, that gives it a shape and a name that I can start trying to understand so that I might conquer those feeling to better support those beloved friends of mine…

    Only to see that the clearly articulated point seems to have been lost in translation somehow.

    Thank you for this post. It’s been highly enlightening, and so very helpful to me.

    • Nimue Brown

      I think in some ways my blog is just an ongoing ‘this is what happened, this is what I did’ 🙂 I find that kind of information sharing useful, because its less pressured. People just saying what helped them and mentioning it in case its applicable to anyone else has a different tone (for me at least) to people telling me what to do to fix myself. Often the people with very definite solutions are also selling something, I’ve noticed. I do think depression often happens for reasons, with exhaustion, and difficult to process inner shifts being high on the list. Sometimes we just need to be still and quiet for as long as it takes – because these are not things to ‘fix’ by overcoming them. Too much focus on symptoms in mainstream medicine, too much desire for perfection… we’re so entrenched culturally in the idea of normalising ourselves that its hard to talk about the realities of depression without someone feeling obliged to try and talk about fixes – I do it too.

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