It has taken me 50 years to recognise depression. It's something that I have encountered a few times but have always misunderstood, panicking that I am falling behind, confused at the ease in which everyone else seems to be navigating life. I have mistaken depression for 'not good enough' and for envy and jealousy. Now I see clearly that it is time for me to really bring awareness to these feelings. To allow them, exam and honour them. To support myself knowing that this is not who I am, but rather a way that I am feeling right now. It seems to me, in hindsight, that in those times when I felt out of control and impotent, depression was possibly very appropriate. Because what if the purpose of depression is indeed to slow down and process where we are in life? What if depression is our higher selves calling for 'more' or 'different', alerting us to the fact that we are off course and we are ignoring that something doesn't feel right?
With my kids I am good at pressing pause to explore the 'big stuff' as it happens, be it illness, death, puberty or grief. All major experiences bring profound opportunities to grow, to become self aware and to gain access to a tool kit that will serve us throughout life. Burying feelings creates problems later on. Dealing with feelings as they arise is much more painful and uncomfortable, but builds a strong foundation of resilience and emotional intelligence.
I find myself in exactly such a time of great opportunity as my relationship of 27 years falls away. All of my feelings of being unloved and unloveable, of abandonment and failure have come crashing down around me. I am entering a new phase of coming into my own power. Of seeing my own patterns and responses more clearly. Of being aware of the way this emotional stress is making me feel physically - I am flooded with cortisol, my pulse is electric. I feel coiled and ready to jump.I cannot continue to create such anxiety in my physical or emotional bodies. Already I am finding calm. I am trusting that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am finding compassion, for myself and for my husband. I am processing through shaking, laughing, crying, journalling, talking, hugging and dancing. When it comes up, I allow it and I fully go there. And 'there' is often a lonely, scared and disappointed place. But what a luxury. Again I am reminded that we only have this moment. This moment is a blessing and a safe place. All is well here, now. Now is not always 'perfect'. Now is not always 'trying'. Now is whatever now is, and that is liberating.
I have been doing this work in earnest since my cancer diagnosis, but as for so many it is the end of a marriage which brings some of the biggest challenges and the greatest growth. I am hopeful that this healing of old wounds, this melting of self doubt, will bring about my ultimate healing. Cancer developed within my marriage - not because of my relationship but because of the ways I have responded and reacted within it. I have always had a nagging sense that I would need to remove myself from this relationship to close the last page on my cancer story, but I am devoted to commitment. In a lifetime of huge lessons, this is probably one of the hardest I have faced - observing and addressing my own heartbreak, fear, loneliness and shame. Acknowledging needs unmet and my own complicity.
It is no coincidence that I have just discovered that I have a cyst on my ovary. Ovaries represent the seat of creative expression. Louise Hay speaks of ovarian cysts as the re-running of old stories that no longer serve us. In 2021, the year I dubbed 'the year of letting go' I am letting go of these old stories and beliefs - they were the traits of a person who existed yesterday. This feels like a HUGE opportunity to grow and discard. Discarding cancer, feelings of being 'not good enough' and 'too much.' I am a big believer in manifestation and so I look now at what I DO want rather than what I DON'T. I am learning to self soothe. I am watching my language around guilt and 'trying'. I am taking responsibility. I am growing up. I feel excited and broken hearted, bewildered and joyful, discarded and liberated. And sometimes I feel bitter, toxic and tired. How beautiful it is to be able to feel.
I am realising that at times of great stress I reach for crutches - coffee, chocolate, alcohol. Drugs to numb or elevate when the feelings threaten to overwhelm. These drugs deplete magnesium, as does stress. Magnesium helps us to relax. I'm increasing my daily dose of this important mineral in malate form. Low B vitamins are implicated in depression, as we burn through our finite resources faster when stressed. B6 in the form of P5P can help to build the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA. I am taking hawthorn for a broken heart and ignatia for grief. Lemon balm calms my central nervous system. I am looking at my health more holistically - my usual go to is attending to what I put IN my body, but now it's time to pull focus and healthily immerse my whole self in joy. The sea is calling as are new friends and my fledgling business. I am seeking words that resonate and am taking them deep into my soul. My soul knows the truth. I deserve happy. We all do.
Transitions are tough, but one thing my dog taught me in my recent grief is that nothing stays the same. Even the pain and power of grief transform eventually. Maybe that hawthorn that I picked on those last walks was for this future version of me after all.