This was my mantra through many cycles of depression, although I didn't call it that at the time. Instead, I thought maybe I just wasn't eating enough kale, or maybe I just needed to get my lazy ass to the gym. Maybe I was just hormonal. Whatever the cause, my sadness never felt valid. It felt like an inconvenience to those around me. Basically it always boiled down to Why the fuck can't I just be better?
This is not a kind way to live and because I know so many others experience this, I decided to put out a very personal and profoundly life changing collection of lessons I have recently learned through therapy and a whole crap ton of meditation.
1. I can't fix how I feel
Our brains are so big and complex, and they are always churning away for solutions to the data they are taking in. When my brain took in the data of sorrow, guilt, sadness or just plain pissed off, it tried really hard to fix it by offering infinite analyses of why I felt that way and what I needed to do to turn off this painful experience. What I finally got was that I can't fix how I feel, but more importantly, I don't need to fix it.
2. Feelings are passing experiences
We dichotomize feelings into “good” and “bad”. With these simplistic labels we do our damndest to keep only “good” feelings flowing and try oh so hard to push away the “bad” feelings. I apologize for the excessive use of quotations but I felt sick writing “good” and “bad” without them because no feeling is “good” or “bad”, feelings just are. They are passing experiences and deserve to be honoured. They do not define me but they are a part of me, and that makes all of them good.
3. I'm allowed to feel how I feel
This one is tricky. Feeling how you feel is not a free pass to be shitty to other people. In fact, it's just the opposite. Truly feeling how I felt, and being with my emotions allowed them the time to flourish and fade. When we don't allow these feelings to be, they mutate and come spilling out in other ways like shitty comments, impatience and frustration, all directed at ourselves and our loved ones. So now when I am righteously pissed off or so freaking sad I just don't know what I am going to do, I sit with it. I really feel it. I very gently and very kindly shush the part of my brain that is trying to justify and analyse my current pain, and just let myself have a moment to feel exactly what I'm feeling.
4. Thoughts are not reality
Just because I can think it, doesn't make it real and in need of a reaction. Sometimes I would get so hung up on thoughts as if they were intuitive manifestations and needed to be tweezed apart and turned over again and again. But the truth was that nope, it was just my brain doing what it does, thinking away. Now I see thoughts as passing experiences, just like feelings. And I don't kill myself trying to solve the complex equations that are my thoughts. They're just thoughts. And just like feelings, I sometimes sit with them.
The best visualization my therapist gave me for thoughts was to think of them as leaves floating on a creek, just running by in front of me. Sometimes the creek is raging and flooded with leaves vying for my attention, and sometimes the creek is meandering with only a few leaves here and there. But no matter the speed, I now know that I can just sit on the creek's bank and watch the leaves go by. There is no need to jump in and get carried away.
5. I am always enough, just as I am
I still get sad. I still get happy. My brain still churns out a billion What if? scenarios for no reason. I still don't go to the gym. And I am enough. I always have been and always will be enough. Don't get me wrong, things that people suggested to help me during my lows like going to the gym and eating well are great things to do for ourselves but they don't define us as “good enough”, and while they can support mental well being, they are not a dependable fix. I mean, what if I were to break my leg and suddenly couldn't run for awhile? Would I still be enough? The answer is damn straight I would. Happy, sad, anxious or confident, we are always good enough.
Much love to all of us, as we are, in this very moment.
For my journey I was fortunate enough to have a therapist who recommended an off-shoot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. It is a meditation based 8 week program that can be done with one-to-one therapy, group therapy or with a buddy.
Below are some links for tools or groups that have helped me on this journey.
Vancouver CBT center:
The Mindful Way Workbook:
Headspace App-Take Ten is a free ten day collection of beginner's meditation:
Mindful Living Vancouver-offers group MBCT sessions: