My Dark Place
I have a dark place. I don’t know if I can call it depression. One, out of respect for those who have it worse. Two, because we don’t talk about it.
Now I know mental health is a huge talking point and awareness of it has been on the forefront of campaigns and strategies in Ireland and internationally for some years now. The aim, to benefit those who cannot speak of it, families and friends who don’t know how to deal with it, and to save people from themselves.
But we still don’t talk about it.
We talk about it, as if it is over there. The thing called the label – mental health, suicide, depression… The thing that other people have, are or do. Other communities deal with it. The people on the couch discussing their story, offering help, raising money and awareness of the supports/charities/7 step plans/professional services can help them to a better place. They are talking about it. They are telling those people who need the help where it is and how to find it. That’s a great service, me thinks, for them.
But we don’t talk about ourselves in it. Ourselves. Our feelings. Identifying what the “it” that might be inside of us. Even when we have all this help and awareness around us we still are not connecting inside of ourselves. We want to get away from it. Whatever it is that's inside of us that is uncomfortable, we bury, disassociate, remove, push away.
Because when we feel like that we don’t feel like talking. We don’t feel like being in company and dragging our friends and loved ones down. We don’t know what to talk about when all the thoughts in your head are self-loathing and really don’t sound good out loud. Also talking might give us away and we don’t even know how we are. We could be judged. We feel physically low with patterns of tiredness or pain. Raging thoughts or physical pain can interfere with a night’s sleep that can lend itself to the downward cycle. Bags under eyes, dull skin and poor posture all tell the world something is down, but often we think we are covering it up, keeping it in.
Oh look! I have started identifying as we. The arrogance! How do I know what we feel? I can barely figure out what I feel for myself. I must speak from my “I”.
I have spent some years watching how my year goes and noticing the winter lows. It’s not as bad now as it was, due to my awareness of the feelings, the signs and my ability to accept some down time before I find my way back. But for a long time I didn’t accept that I was low, that I could be something called “depressed” or even use the word. We are a family who got on and did. There was no time or education spent on not getting on with it, regardless of what is thrown at you. And hey I have the tools in my work to deal with it, to live up and be happy.
About 6 or 7 years ago in the middle of a dark period, I had arranged to go to exchange work with a colleague. Normally we would meet up and work on each other, but sometimes it would be one way and reciprocated another time. Even though I thought it was going to be a reciprocal event this time, my colleague saw me coming, gave up any thoughts for himself and put me on the table.
We were talking and I was telling him of my day and how I was coming from a lesson with my favourite client, a man in his 80’s who I loved spending time with. We would chat and I would attempt to Alexander him. He relished his independence and the goal was to keep him moving as his health ailed. But I think I got more from the relationship, his wisdom and charm, than he did. Anyway he had been an Opera singer in his youth and this day he brought a Wagner cd as a gift and we played it, focusing on a particular track he wanted to share with me. When I described the music to my friend he identified it as the most depressing music he had ever heard and questioned should I be working at all in my state.
Well I nearly fell off the table laughing at the acknowledgment and realisation that I
I’m not sure why I am telling this story, but I suppose it was a first step in awareness that I was one of them. One of the ones (millions) they were talking about on the TV couches when the subject was mental health and depression. And my realisation came as I laughed. Not when I was crying.
My separations, them and me, mind and body, happy and sad, far away and small, were coming together in a new way.
But this is the thing. Aren’t we each “one of the ones” they are talking about? Don’t we ALL have something to learn from listening to our feelings and our bodies, rather than splitting, pushing away, burying, braving, holding it together? Why is mental health somebody else’s job?
We all need help to feel safe. We need help when we can't do for ourselves. Help to find the tools, to listen, and be listened to, to support, to not isolate when all you want to do is hide or leave.
I needed to realise help is all around. That I, we, live in an ocean of help but we just won’t take the water. Asking for help is the hardest thing, especially when we don’t even think we need it. But there are simple things we can do to help ourselves on our way. Just do something to realise we are NOT on our own.
All I’m saying is that I am not separate to everything around me, even when I think I am or want to be.
Love Fiona x
These are simple things I do to reconnect.
Go for a walk. One foot in front of the other. Short distance or far, just leave the house.
Attempt a half arsed smile at a passer-by. They are not judging me. It's only a few seconds in time and they will be gone.
Pet a dog or a cat. Feel their fur, the heat of their body, movement.
Lean on a tree. Let it support me.
Stick my nose near a flower. I don’t even have to do anything to let the smell into my nostrils.
Put a hand or a bare foot in a river and let the water roll over, feeling the gentle pressure of it. Deliciously refreshing through my skin.
Sit by the sea and watch the rolling waves, incessantly moving.
Spend time with my natural self in nature, even if it's just sitting on the small green patch outside my house. Get out of the box I live in.
For help to find your internal supports, contact me, join a class or come for a lesson - Classes . I can help you help yourself.
Even with all the tools in the world, the happiest thoughts, strongest practices, we all still have crap weeks.
I’m really good at glossing over things. Being optimistic. Staying calm. Looking on the bright side. Letting go of the negative. Focusing on the practical. What we CAN do or be. Interrupting the CAN’T. I’m a problem solver. I’m very good at redesigning in the moment, when we see the plan develop.
So I am seen as cool, capable, and kind. Which I don’t deny that I am, some of the time.
But I’ve had a crap week.
I could look at what happened, what I can learn from it, what I can address practically, focus on the achievements and positives. And there were many.
But today I just want to acknowledge it’s been crap, without wanting to justify or change it.
Cancellations. No money coming in at the end of the month. Insurance companies trying to screw you, and then being uncontactable when you go looking for help or answers. Credit card being scammed and cancelled so no card for a week. Frozen. Can’t transact. A jacket robbed from the car. The senseless violation. And people died. I was not close to the deceased, but still learning of their passing has its effect on my senses none the less.
So it feels crap. I feel frustrated and angry and fed up. And I really want to curse more as I write. But I feel I have to sit here, in it. Whatever “it” is?
Like I said I am very good at finding the space in the situation, in my thinking, in my body. I can say the cancellations are not rejections of me personally, they just don’t understand how the work can help them. How can I communicate better? What have I learned about my message or how I say it? No money, grand, I’ll just tighten my belt. Look at how well I can save. Some opportunistic bollox stole from us – practice better security, or let it go. Insurance!!!! Who needs it??? I haven’t ever used it to claim. I practice good driving and they still want to put up the price 30% for no reason, as my car depreciates. FFS!!!
All external events, I can or cannot influence.
So let’s look at the frustration and anger that has me feeling jagged and uncomfortable. Deep feelings of being out of control. A childish helplessness. My teeth are clenched and my mouth is in a frown. My boobs are touching my lower ribs as a slump seems the appropriate posture. Well it’s just the way I am today. I have been having some pains in my left side which probably means my appendix is about to burst and I will die (catastrophizing now) but who cares. It will be an end to debt and uselessness and no need for car insurance.
As I stay here I watch the words that come out. Then, over the short time of writing, how I feel. I don’t want to stay here anymore. My ridiculousness is entertaining to me and my front is lifting. My breath is moving my ribs and my head is finding the space above me. I turn my head to catch my reflection and the downward pointing lines around my mouth have levelled as there feels to be more space there. I wouldn’t call it a smile, but the corners are lifting.
And there I am on my optimistic, forward and up way. It’s nice to feel better. The day is lovely with blue skies and interesting light colouring the fluffy clouds. The wind has subsided and it’s not that cold. Insurance. Who needs car insurance when I’m on a train?
But have I missed something that those negative feelings are here to tell me. Do I just wait out the bad for better times to come around on the clock or the calendar? Isn’t it anger and frustration (pain) that spurs us on to take action, to make a change? How can I hold onto my negative feelings long enough to figure something out? But not long enough to sink into my dark non-productive place? It’s a delicate balance. Because if I fall into that dark place who knows when I’ll get out?
But let’s stay here in my active awareness. My foot on the accelerator out of here, while also biting the clutch. A full push of the clutch pedal to the ground would see me free falling. So I stay in the critical place. The lights are amber. I can go either way. But what is the most useful direction in this moment? An angry rage against the machine, or a slumping retreat? Or maybe what I am doing right now is what’s right for right now? Maybe I haven’t lost my call to productive action. Writing and exploring is an action. Honestly connecting to myself here and now, helped. Do I go deeper? Do I just see what happens next?
Maybe being ok is enough. Perhaps being able to press the accelerator and release the clutch so that I smoothly drive out of this place is good. That would be better than a stall or a crash.
Maybe I’m ok, right now.
Maybe I am ok.
I was speaking about pain in my last post. I figured out the source. It was the dogs. It was probably many more insidious invisible actions I was doing as well but I had a big insight with the dogs. I don’t blame the dogs. They are gorgeous and fabulous and wonderful. Sure look at them. They taught me something about me.
So I don’t own dogs therefore walking is not a daily occurrence. I have the honour and freedom of being fairygodaunt to this pair of 5 month old puppies I gifted my niece and nephew. A brave decision at the time, but it really has worked out as everyone is in love with them. So a couple of days a week, or when needed, I take them out.
They are growing very fast and while not as dotey as when tiny, they definitely deliver on cuteness, fun, loving and have a great tolerance for small people, who can be either over exuberantly loving or rough. The middle ground is being developed. We still get stopped in the park with the oohs and ahs of how gorgeous they are, but less so as they get bigger.
Two Saturdays ago I had two pups and two kids that grew into five kids. Mighty fun and very active day. Great to have them all out chasing a ball and interacting with each other, away from screens and solo entertainments. Anyway, managing all these enthusiastic and active variables under my responsibility meant I had little attention for my good whole self. Lots of fun, though.
The following day there was stiffness and then there was pain when sitting, but I thought that was to do with sitting. Not wrong. I explored sitting and standing, made some changes and helped myself out of pain. I described a bigger picture in the earlier post.
Anyway, last Saturday, I took the dogs while the children attended a party. While walking with the dogs I re- discovered the pain that I had worked through and released during the week. Ouch!, but Aha!
So when the pups first arrived they were discovering the world around them sniffing everything. It was start, stop, sniff, start, be stopped, admire, rub, cuddle, start, sniff, stop, duck, run, stop, head to one side (what’s a duck), whine in fear, meet a swan, tiny brave bark, run, stop, sniff, meet someone, stop, go . . .
You’d hardly raise a heartbeat.
As they grow older and more familiar with the spaces we travel they are eager to run. Sometimes together in one direction, which is helpful, often in different directions, or stopping quickly. Sniffing everywhere and birds are very interesting. Moving fast, using their whole body and seeing how fast they can go, is interesting to them as they continue to grow and discover. Or maybe I am putting my thinking on their simple brains. They have sleeping, snuggled up to each other or flaked out upside down, down pat. So when they stretch into race speed it feels like they are testing themselves, but maybe they are just testing me.
My discovery of me and how I move is as exciting. When the dogs go into a run they pull my arm which is tied to a body that is walking. They will work to go faster and I either go with them, choosing to run, or I will not, which is resistance training for the pups. Either way when the dogs pull through the arm, I was leaning back at the shoulders while my pelvis led the movement. The dogs dragged me along.
I was noticing this while working through the pain that showed itself bright and brilliantly on Saturday. However due to its familiarity I had worked through some of the mental associations and so it wasn’t so acute or sharp. Once I noticed the middle of me being pulled along and therefore leading my own whole body movement, I could do something. What had I been doing? I was HOLDING my BACK. What’s the name of my website? DON’T HOLD your BACK. "Doh!"
You see the dogs always lead with their heads. Following their noses to discover new paths and other dogs and all of these exciting things that aren’t in the backyard. I forgot to lead with MY head. A principal principle of Alexander’s technique. So I thought UP and let my head fill the space above me. I felt longer and bigger and moved more swiftly that all three of us gained pace. And it was easy. NO PAIN!!!! Not even a twinge or a hint. I stopped HOLDING my BACK which was HOLDING ME BACK.
We were all flowing into movement, easily, freely, joyfully. I even enjoyed running, going for longer without being puffed as I would normally. It felt fabulous and free, running through nature laughing at my rediscovery.
It was all lovely until one pup turned sharply and my leads divided. An abrupt stop happened. Brakes on. Some pain right up through the back from heels to locked knees and ouch!
But hey I had figured out, again, what was always there. Alexander’s discoveries work. So back to the flow and next time the dogs crossed leads my soft knees absorbed the change and off we go again, up and forward.
I can’t wait to take them again.
Tell me about you and your dogs, or your discoveries . . .
Don’t Hold Back
If you are in pain and need help figuring out why or what you can stop doing, come for lessons or join a class http://www.dontholdback.ie/classes.html
Ouch! I’m in Pain
I am Fiona and I am exploring themes of meeting resistances and allowing ways through. The constant weeding, recognising the stuff that's in the way to live easier.