Working through my depression
I have been feeling depressed these past several weeks. And this depression seemed to come out of nowhere. It was alarming, actually, how suddenly it just washed over me, like a rogue tidal wave.
Usually an episode of depression is triggered by something. But I didn’t know what that something was. I have been taking my meds regularly. What brought this on?
Was it the acupuncture?
One of my friends remarked in passing that acupuncture can sometimes cause a release of emotions. Of course! We all store emotions in our bodies. And when you stuff down an emotion that you don’t want to feel, it shows up somewhere else. Like as mysterious back pain.
My acupuncture treatments (for sciatica and back pain) most likely released emotions that I have been holding. As soon as my physical pain began to ease, the depression came on. It took a while for me to connect the dots on this.
I’ve had fluctuating pain in my lower right side for nearly two years. Initially I thought I had hurt my back when we were packing up the house, getting ready to move. But it didn’t go away.
At the same time, my sciatica was getting worse. I’ve been plagued with that for nearly twenty years. Most of the time it’s just uncomfortable, but now I felt shooting pains down my leg. On the advice of a friend I decided to try acupuncture.
I started my treatments in mid-December, going once a week. At first nothing changed. Then it got better. Then it got worse. “Keep trusting the process, sometimes it just takes a while,” the doc told me. Then, after five months, my sciatica finally went away. It took a few weeks longer for my mysterious back pain to ease. The blocked energy finally released.
And that’s when the depression came flooding in.
Time for self-compassion
No one wants to feel depressed, so how do I manage these feelings, without stuffing them down again? Why did I block these emotions in the first place, when I know, rationally, that it’s bad for me? I don’t have all the answers. I have done my best to treat myself kindly. Remember my New Year’s resolution to practice self-compassion? Boy, do I need that now.
Three steps to self-compassion
Be mindful of your suffering. Validate your feelings. Have the courage and presence to be with your difficult emotions.
This means that I can have the presence to really feel this depression. It is a result of all the changes in my life over the past two years. We’re empty-nesters now. We moved into a new house. I started a new job, after 13 years in my former one. Things haven’t gone as easily as I expected. Although I wanted to make these changes, it’s been hard, and I haven’t admitted that to myself. I’ve been so busy focusing on how it’s great! In reality, it’s not perfect. I miss my old house, especially my maple trees. I miss the people from my former job. And I miss my daughters, and I am sad about that. I know they are amazing young women, and I’m proud of them. But that doesn’t diminish the ache of letting them go, of seeing them all grown up, and knowing that one part of my life has ended.
Remind yourself of common humanity. This struggle is normal, and a part of life. We are all imperfect and lead imperfect lives. Mistakes are what it means to be human.
I know I am not the only mom (or dad) who feels this way. I’m not the first person who ever made a suggestion (Let’s move! Let’s quit this job!) and backed it enthusiastically, only to discover that, in the end, it wasn’t that great. I’m not being honest when I pretend like everything is perfect. These changes — the move to a new house, the new job — I needed to make the changes. They are good ones. But I have ignored the negative emotions. And it’s only human to push away what we don’t want to feel.
Use words of kindness, and gestures of kindness. Say to yourself what you would say to a friend: this is really hard, and I’m here for you. I care, what do you need? Let me get it for you. Hug yourself, place a hand over your heart.
I did place my hand on my heart, and I offered kindness to myself. I took nurturing yoga classes. I reached out to friends and family who offered support and, most importantly, a non-judgmental listening ear.
It’s not easy, but I’m working through it. Thank you for reading, and listening.