Tag Archives: depression

Seeing is Believing?

 

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I often find pennies when I walk. Twenty years ago, I found one next to a vacant lot in my neighborhood. My back was hurting so much at the time that I had trouble stooping to pick it up. I’d been suffering from back and neck pain for about a year. The anxiety crippling me came around the same time.

I was coming close to being agoraphobic. I was quiet about it—ashamed really. I could fake it pretty well so no one knew. I could manage the grocery store if I were alone. Driving, thank God, wasn’t an issue then.

When I saw a documentary about agoraphobia, I saw myself and knew I needed help. I got a referral and began seeing a therapist. I also took Paxil. Both the talk therapy and the medication helped me a lot. I also got into other types of therapy, like the emotional freedom technique and EMDR, which were beneficial on many levels. I read Jack Sarno’s book on emotionally triggered pain in the body. The panic attacks became less frequent and my physical pain almost disappeared.

The night before I found the penny in my neighborhood, my husband and I watched an Andrew Weill special on television. He told a story about finding four leaf clovers. “When I give a lecture, I’ll tell the audience, ‘If you believe you can find a four leaf clover, you will’,” he’d said. “Then during the break, people will go out onto the grounds and twelve will come back with a four leaf clover.”

This was unbelievable to me. I’d always been told four leaf clovers were extremely rare and you had to be extremely lucky to find one. Lucky pennies were a dime a dozen. Anyone could find one of those. You just had to look down.

That day, twenty years ago, I knew I wasn’t a lucky type, but since I’d bent down to get the penny, I decided to look in the grass, just in case. I leaned over, resting my hand on the grass. When I looked down, my thumb was on a four-leaf clover!

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I can’t tell you how I felt. My heart soared. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s the only way I can describe my feeling. I still remember that sensation.

That’s the moment I look back on that started me healing. I began to believe in myself. I began to believe in the limitless nature of the universe. I started on a path of healing: physical, mental and spiritual. My fears quieted.

Believe it or not, I’ve found more than a dozen four-leaf clovers since then. Some were in my back yard, some were in Europe. I don’t look often, but when I do, I usually find one. I tell this story to my grandchildren and two have already found four-leaf clovers with me.

Seeing is believing, or is it if you believe, you’ll be able to see it?

 

 

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In Praise of Crying

There’s a lot of sadness in this world, my dad would say. I think I could write a book with that title—each chapter talking about a time when his words would resonate in my life. He started saying it when we were young and complaining about something trivial, but he continued saying it into his nineties. He said it so often that I hear it in my head all the time. My kids, grown up now, say it too.

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There IS a lot of sadness in this world. Sometimes my world becomes so sad that the weight of it fills the room—like when my brother-in-law got throat cancer and died. And we didn’t know whether to tell my mother-in-law—whether to disturb her dementia with truths. Whether to pull her out of the nursing home to take her to his funeral. You’d want to go to your son’s funeral, right? Or maybe wrong. That was a sad time, but you didn’t have time to dwell on it. You had to make decisions—you had to argue with siblings about what to do. That pushed the sadness away.

I don’t know why I am so sad this morning. Is it the world situation, which terrifies and saddens me? Is it that wonderful friends have been diagnosed with cancer and brain tumors? Is it because I’m now just beginning to process that we moved away from a place where I had twenty-five happy years? Is it that I have been looking through photos of my life with my granddaughter as she prepares to scan them into the computer? She is already twelve—no longer the three-year-old who loved to play Goldilocks on our front steps. Don’t get me wrong. She is a lovely girl, inside and out. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but how did it happen so quickly?

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And how have the years flown away since my own little family looked like this?

 

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Or is it just plain melancholy I’m feeling? In our society, we’re not allowed much space for sadness. In the nineteenth century, there were spots in gardens set aside for people to sit and examine their melancholy. It wasn’t seen as an illness. Now we say these people are depressed and we should find a cure for it; medicate in some form. I usually medicate by overdoing. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think let alone cry. But this morning was different.

I took a walk along the lake, listening to an audio book. This kept the mind busy, giving me no time to think. Then I happened on some dead bushes. I idly wondered if they were victims of the drought. My attention was caught by the original tag on one of them, waving in the breeze. Someone had placed it on the plant when it was healthy and blooming. Now the withered plant was dead. The hopelessness of it hit me and I began to cry.

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I pulled myself together and kept walking. I didn’t start crying again until I was in the kitchen cleaning out the pantry cabinet, throwing out food that had passed its sell by date. One side of my mind told me to cut it out, eat my breakfast and get on with it. The other side told me to let go of my sadness—to let some of it, at least, seep out of me. It was when I was cutting up celery that I began to keen like some banshee. I put down the knife and leaned against the sink. I was alone in the house and could make as much noise as I wanted. It was only the dog I scared. He looked at me with alarm, then ran to get a toy to drop at my feet. I sat on the floor and hugged him. Normally I would have told him I was okay to reassure him, but not this time.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not sure why I’m revealing so much. I know that when I got up and started cleaning up the kitchen, I stood outside of myself, wondering what someone would think if they saw me: is that old lady batshit crazy? I wondered how many other women did as I was now doing—cried when no one else could hear. Maybe fifteen minutes later, I realized my tears weren’t feeding my depression—my sadness—. Instead they were easing it. I was doing something I should have been doing all along—crying out my grief, not trapping it inside to fester. The phrase, “It’s All Right to Cry”, that Rosie Greer sang on Sesame Street began to play in my head so I looked up the words. Here are some of them:

It’s all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you
It’s all right to cry
It might make you feel better

Raindrops from your eyes
Washing all the mad out of you
Raindrops from your eyes
It’s gonna make you feel better

With Robin Williams’ death, there has been much talk about depression. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing my experience. Because you know what? I feel a lot better. My chest doesn’t hurt and I can take a deep breath. Yeah, it’s all right to cry.