Mocha

Mocha caramel with sea salt—salt and sweet, just like life. I am sitting in Peets in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Jeff has gone to GE for a meeting and I am writing. I have the best life. I have time to write and drink coffee—what could be more enjoyable? Well lots of things really: swimming in a warm ocean, or diving the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Walking along the cliffs of Cornwall watching the mountain goats sit on the rocks barely noticeable until they move. Lots of things are better than what I am doing. And lots of things are much worse.

Sitting in a jail cell for the rest of your life; that would suck big time. Or being so fat that you can’t get out of your front door. Or dying in hospital of cancer. Or worse, have your kid dying in hospital of cancer. There are always much worse things in life than what we are going through. But I don’t want to think of worse things or better things. I want to be just where I am.

I have come to realize that all this time—make that years and years—I have thought that to be happy is the utmost goal of life. So whenever I am not happy, I have felt I have fallen short of the goal. My big hairy audacious goal to be happy will never happen because it’s impossible. Once I figured that out—I became happy. You see, I thought that to be happy, happy, joy, joy was the goal. What I realize now is that to be happy is a moving target. It can be lost in an instant. Then the happiness turns to frustration, anger even?! I wanted to be happy. I had it for a moment, and now it’s gone. Bad girl. Bad, bad girl. You are not disciplined enough. Maybe if you meditated more, or prayed more, or had faith in God you would have made it. You would be happy. But that is not possible.

Furthermore, God has nothing to do with happiness. Happiness is an elusive emotion. We feel it whenever we are doing something that we enjoy—but can we really enjoy doing the dishes. Yes we can—but not all the time. What if another member of our household is not doing the dishes, and you are doing them all the time—then it feels like you are being put upon. The happiness of having a clean dish is surpassed by the unhappiness of someone taking advantage of your cleanliness streak.

And what about anger. That can arise in an instant. One moment happy. Kissing and cuddling with a loved one and the phone rings. Your friend has died. Or your accountant has stolen all your money. Or your beloved has been cheating on you. Happy one moment. Really angry the next. Discipline, fortitude, or grit are not enough to withstand some of life’s truly shitty things from happening.

This is what I learned. It’s not about being happy, sad, angry, frustrated or cheated. It’s about choosing how long do I want to be this way? How long do I want to be angry. I was being angry in the kitchen the other day. It’s such a silly thing. We have our office in our home and a co-worker wants to sleep over some nights, and take a shower in the morning. And I felt it was too encroaching. Too familiar. I didn’t like the idea of waking up in the morning—going downstairs in my PJ’s and seeing my co-worker in her PJ’s….or with wet hair…or whatever state she wakes up in the morning. I just didn’t want to deal with it and I was being angry about it in the kitchen. Telling my daughter, “I am just really angry about it.”

She said, “Mom how long do you want to be angry?” It hadn’t occurred to me that I had a choice. I looked at the clock and thought, ten minutes? Five minutes? One minute. No–one minute was not long enough to dissipate my anger. “Five minutes!” I said.

“Okay,” she said, “GO!” So I started being consciously angry. I swore and bitched and moaned, all the while watching the seconds and minutes tick by until the clock told me my five minutes of anger was up! “Okay” she said, “DONE!?”

“Done!” I said. And I felt great. It was like dumping the anger outside of my body. It didn’t belong to me like anger usually does. It was a widget. A product that I could dispense with. I had control of it. I was being given permission to be angry for a certain amount of time and then stop.

That’s my awareness now. Life will encroach on happiness. Something will happen to dump all over my happiness like a turd on a snow cone and I get to choose how long I keep looking at the turd! As long as I want and as short as I want. Happiness is not the choice my friend. The choice is how long do I want to be unhappy? How long do I want to be angry? How long do I want to be depressed. Answer: as short a time as possible–how wonderful is that? Bloody fantastic!

Forgiveness

I was talking with my niece today on face time. She lives in England so it’s a great way of talking face to face. She was telling me how she fell out with her brother-in-law, her sister’s husband. Or more accurately he fell out with her. He has banned her from his home….from her sister’s home. The worse thing is, the sisters only have each other. Their mom and dad died a while ago. So my niece is depressed. She says she will never forgive him. He was quite a bit drunk when he banned her from the house. It was a stupid, hurtful thing to do, but should it go on and on?

We are going to visit them next month, and my niece told me, When you stay at my house, he can’t come here and see you. I understand. If you are banned from a house, how can you invite the person who banned you into your own home? Can we really turn the other cheek? Who makes the first move to forgiveness? What happens if no forgiveness is given?

I’ve been in situations where I haven’t spoken to a friend or family member for years. Stubborn and stupid people falling out—usually over nothing—and wasting years when we could be friends. Who is willing to make the first move and throw the olive branch?

Everybody knows that forgiveness is important; and it has to come from inside ourselves. Whatever is going on in your life, it is time to forgive and be forgiven. Say to yourself, I forgive myself for everything I have done or not done in my life. I forgive other people for anything they have done or not done to make me upset. My heart is ful of forgiveness. Forgiveness runs in my blood and in my soul and body. Forgiveness is the way I lead my life.

My friend if you can forgive yourself and others you are combatting depression in a huge way. There is no room for despair when forgiveness is uppermost in your mind. Take courage and forgive today and let all your tomorrow’s be filled with the joy and succour of forgiveness.

Stats

An estimated 121 million people around the world suffer from depression. One in ten Americans suffer from it. Over 80% of people that have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression. The number of patients diagnosed with depression increases 20% each year. People with depression often suffer from obesity, heart disease, stroke, lack of education, and less access to Medical Insurance. Individuals who are recently divorced or unemployed are more likely to suffer depression. Depression is most prevalent in people aged 45 – 64. Women are more likely to have depression. And finally, 1 in 10 women are likely to suffer depression weeks after having a baby.

Boy oh boy, I feel depressed just reading those statistics. Fortunately, 60 -80 % of depressed patients can be effectively treated with brief, structured forms of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. And because depression is now a global health issue, depression awareness, diagnosis, and treatment are matters of crucial significance in building a healthier, happier world.

Again, please if you are suffering from clinical depression, seek medical guidance. I am not a doctor and although my Life Warrior combat moves work for me, you may need further help. So please if that is you, get on the phone and call your doctor right now.

If you feel you are getting all you need from books and blogs like this; in other words if you have a mild form of depression and this is helping to alleviate it, then keep reading. Because I have noticed from friends and family members, that not all antidepressants are provided as a brief structured treatment. And psychotherapy does not seem to go hand in hand with medication. I have a family member who was prescribed strong antidepressants and was never asked any more questions after her initial visit. Her prescription kept getting refilled, and no psychotherapy or counseling occurred at all. I don’t think that’s so good. I went to a therapist after I got Bells Palsy, but I didn’t get any pills. I also struggled for years without getting medication, because my first experience with Valium was so bad. Friends and family tell me that the drugs they use today are much better. Although I have also been told that when a person comes off antidepressants, they must be very careful about how they come off them.

Sorry, I hope this is not getting you too depressed.

Today, is about you finding out about your depression. Do you need to get checked? Do you need support from the medical profession? How are you handling your depression? If you have any questions or concerns please get help. I have said this before and am repeating it because it is really important that you get the proper treatment. You can still read this blog even if you are on antidepressants and getting psychotherapy. The two are not mutually exclusive. So let’s see where you are and make sure you are getting the exact treatment you require. My friend this is a good thing. Many people suffer without needing to, and I don’t want you to be a statistic.

Fun

Are we having fun yet? Are you enjoying the combat moves to kick depression? I am. I am really enjoying writing about all the tools I use to kick depression. One of them is fun. Fun is enjoyment, amusement or light hearted pleasure. Light hearted is the key to having fun. It is not serious. But how can we have fun when we are depressed? It seems impossible. But fortunately it isn’t. Having fun can be as simple as throwing a packet of cereal into the shopping cart from the distance of a few feet.  Or, like my husband did when we were going through some revolving doors, stop the door from revolving. Of course you can’t really do that when there are other people around. But you get the point.

My granddaughter loves to have fun by hiding outside the bathroom door and nearly scaring me to death. Of course, I could be all uptight and depressing about it, and say, “Stop that you nearly gave me a heart attack!” But then, that wouldn’t be having fun would it!

Having fun can be a light-hearted game of cards, or swinging on the kids playground swing when no one is looking, or even when they are! Having fun is about wanting to be light hearted. For me it begins with a thought, “I want to have fun today.” It doesn’t mean that it has to go on and on and on. But a few bits of fun here and there throughout the day, make the whole day seem like it’s been fun.

You know how to have fun, so go for it today. Make someone laugh, make someone smile. Have fun and lighten up. Life is not so serious. Seriously, it isn’t.

Fitness

Having family members who tell you like it is can be refreshing. So when my daughter came home tonight and said, “Mom you have to come to the Zumba class tomorrow. It is so much fun.

” I said, “Maybe.”

“Mom we are fat.” Okay I thought, where is this going. “I’m carrying an extra 50 pounds around.” And she lifted up a small cart that her son plays in, “It’s like carrying this around every day.” Then she said, “There are people in the class older than you and they are slim and really fit.” Then she went down and did some pushups on her knees. “One of them was older than you and she was doing full on pushups. I was behind her and her bottom was really firm, her legs and arms were buff!” I nodded thinking about my own meagre muscles. “I don’t think getting old is about age, these women are older than me and they really seem young. It’s not about age.” She repeated.

So tomorrow I am going to Zumba. I admit I have let myself go a bit. Too much cake, chocolate and ice-cream and not enough walking or going to the gym. And I love that my daughter cares enough about me to invite me to go with her. It will be fun. I’ve exercised enough in my life to know that it is fun. Over the years I’ve played tennis, squash, badminton, scuba’ d, parachuted, wind surfed, run, skied, water skied, boated, ridden horses and those are just the things I can remember. I actually love to exercise; I have just gotten out of the habit. The wonderful thing about being fit however is that the moment you step inside a gym, or onto a court, or into the swimming pool you immediately feel the benefit.

Exercise increases the amount of oxygen that goes into your blood system. It gets all your pumps working properly. It actually gives you more energy. So today, find something that will keep you fit. It could be a walk, a jog or going to the gym. It really doesn’t matter what it is. If possible, find a partner to go with. I usually exercise alone, so I am excited to go with a partner. Hey if you can’t find a physical partner today, I’ll go with you. Every time I exercise I will be thinking of you and all the millions of other people who are keeping fit. Have a fun workout and enjoy the benefits of being healthy.

Title

I told a friend that I was writing this book and she asked, What is the title? I told her, Life Warrior—365 combat moves to kick depression. She looked away for a moment and said, I always think of Mother Theresa who said she wouldn’t join a protest against war! When there’s a protest for peace I’ll come along. Then my friend added, Your title just seems too harsh. When I was depressed I kind of gave up resisting and went with the flow.

I answered her, For me depression was a battle. I fought very day. If I gave into it, I wouldn’t be here now. Today, I use strong powerful tools to combat it. Depression may seem like it’s just sadness, or a lack of vitality, but the definition of depression is severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.

Mother Theresa chose an arduous and difficult mission, to work in the slums of Calcutta. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and as her mission grew more difficult she wrote, There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started the work. In my heart there is no faith—no love—no trust—there is so much pain—the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul—and yet there between us—there is terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.

Yet she kept trying to pray: I want to speak—yet nothing comes—I find no words to express the depths of the darkness. In spite of it all—I am His little one—I love Him…. Eventually, she grew accustomed to her condition and wrote: I do not know how deeper will this trial go—how much pain and suffering it will bring to me. This does not worry me anymore. I leave this to Him as I leave everything else…there is such a deep loneliness in my heart that I cannot express it. I want it to be like this for as long as He wants it.

I am definitely not there; Some days I have faith, but not that much. For me, depression is a battle to be fought. It has a stickiness to it that clings like a dark shadow. So I stick with the title of this book. Life Warrior—365 combat moves to kick depression.

Think about whether the direction of this blog is working for you? Are you finding any kind of peace as you follow the suggestions? Are you feeling that it is helpful—because if not, then stop reading. No need to continue on a journey that is not working. But if it is working for you and you feel that your are learning combat moves to kick depression then continue reading.

Breathe, smile and breathe some more. Breathing is key. It is the spiritual link between you and God. Good. I am glad you are still here with me. I would have missed you a great deal if you had stopped reading. So welcome back, I’m glad you are here.

God

I struggled with faith for years and years. People I admired were atheists, and others had faith. Both sides had a good story about why they believed or didn’t believe. Finally it was up to me to decide. I started to read the bible; and the one thing that helped was the fact that love is so highly honored. 1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love. That’s what turned me towards having faith and believing more in God than not in God.

But it wasn’t just that—it was because without faith—for me, life is depressing. Without a supreme being to pray to, or a great spirit to thank, life is depressing. Just me, and just you? No higher power to believe in? Of course it is wholly possible that there is no God, and while I am okay with that, having a belief in a living creator makes me feel less alone.

I am not a Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim or any other kind of religion. I have tried temples and churches, I have been a board member of a Unitarian Church. I studied in a 2-year seminary and was ordained a swami. But in the end, I realized that religion is not for me. It is more the spirituality of God that I enjoy. I love the fact that there could be someone out there who loves me just as I am. I also love what people who believe in God write.

There are some wonderful poems, such as this one by Marianne Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us. We ask ourselves Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small Does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking So that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, As children do.
We were born to make manifest The glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.

I have learned that poem by heart, and I enjoy reciting it to myself when I feel down. It reminds me that I am a child of God and that makes me feel less vulnerable and alone.

So no matter whether you believe in God or not—you may find it useful to find some higher power to believe in. Today, become aware of your belief. Do you have faith in something bigger than yourself? Do you pray to God in times of worry, but not in normal times? If you do not believe in God, what do you use to get you through the tough times? Have a think about it, and be prepared to look at things differently. Some of our greatest minds, and even cynics have believed in a higher power. Not all of them could be wrong!