Saturday, October 21, 2017

Time out.

Why is the day so cold when the sun is so bright?
Breathing in, breathing out twice.

My heart is 1687 miles from here under warmer skin.
The space between us holds reverence for patience.
Patience puts its wet nose on my knee and wags it's tail, asking me for another walk, a pet, a treat.

Then, the sunshine calls me like a lover.
Let me wrap you with my warm embrace.
Kissing your eyes and adding freckles to your face.

As music streams, it floods memories.
The Black Keys bellow, Now She's Gone, Long gone. 
I turn to my hardbound friend once again, page after page, her words on bravery and true belonging
Reminds me to stand in my power, even if that means temporarily standing alone.

Oh Karma, you're rich with secrets of my past.
Was I so determined that I was mistaken for bossy in my past life?
This life has proven to be one bold, determined decision after another.
Costly choices, no regrets.

Time flies forward to deadlines.
Time crawls forward to love.

All in.

Today and always.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My journey: Yoga and Depression

Health and wellness is about the whole person- physical, mental and emotional. It's mind body and soul. When one piece is affected the entire body like a contagion in a choregraphed dance - it can ripple through with grace, or it can simply fall apart because one fragment isn't doing it's job. 

When I think of my own health and well-being, I think more in terms of mental health. In the past, I've struggled with adult stress eating, anorexia in high school and unhealthy body image which played into a feeling of unworthiness for so many years. I have abstained from hard alcohol or drugs due to a history of addiction in my family. Cancer within my family made for many nights up til my 30's on my knees in prayer. A case of idiopathic frozen shoulders where both shoulders were literally frozen and prevented me from being able to lift my arms was ultimately caused by stress. Bouts with deep depression gripped me- once during my divorce and another time this past Christmas as I wrestled with grief and loss. Overall throughout my life, though, I have not had any major illnesses, surgeries or other health issues.

What strikes me most in my journey to healing, is my relationship with depression.  For me, depression felt like being enveloped in a darkened cave over an extended period of time, where I'm unable to see the exit. I know the exit is there but any amount of searching in the dark was fruitless and found me bumping into walls and doors causing invisible scars in my mind.  

There is still a lot of shame associated with depression because we are often told that we should just deal with it or just change at will. Speaking as someone who has been affected by it myself, it's simply not possible to will myself to change. It required very deliberate decisions to heal and become whole again and support from others when I couldn't ask for it and didn't even know how to ask. 

If we can take away the stigma of health issues like depression, that would be a huge step forward for those who suffer to hopefully realize they're not alone. Similar to this #metoo campaign for sexual assault and power inequality, I imagine there is a #hashtagfordepression, but I'm not aware of it. 

It's amazing to me how many people turn to yoga because their doctor recommended it, or as self - treatment for various health issues or simply because it's something they feel like they should do. They're looking for something to fill an empty space within them.

"It’s not news that depression has become a kind of invisible epidemic, afflicting millions of people. We live at a time when depression is approached as a disease. That has a good side. Depressed people are not judged against as weak or self-indulgent, as if they only need to try harder to lift themselves out of their sadness. Yet depression, for all the publicity surrounding it, remains mysterious, and those who suffer from it tend to hide their condition – the medical model hasn’t removed a sense of shame. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless." ~ Deepak Chopra

This past year that was a lot of hullabaloo surrounding international yoga teacher Hemalayaa​'s (now removed) admittedly insensitive blog post about depression and her strong feelings against anti-depressants. It's been a subtle platform for me as a yoga teacher to create awareness and dive deeper into what depression is, the treatment options for it, and how to show empathy for those who have it. 
"Depression isn’t one disorder, and even though an array of antidepressants have been thrown at the problem, the basic cause for depression remains unknown. For a diagnosis of major depression, which is more serious than mild to moderate depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period. 
  • Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty; being tearful)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide" *

While for some it's a pure chemical imbalance that only drugs can help with, others have found relief through tools like yoga, counseling, changes in lifestyle or work to reduce stress, cutting out destructive relationships, nutrition, a passion (some kind of exercise or art or whatever makes you come alive), mindfulness, etc. 

Personally, in my own struggle with depression over the years, it's been a combination of yoga, sunshine, counseling, journaling, moving my body with breath awareness in some way every day, spirituality/meditation and connection that have helped me overcome the worst of it. I am someone who needs to be with and enjoys people, specifically teaching and sharing my love for yoga. 

As independent as I am, I have come to realize I am not a Lone Ranger or Super Woman. It took years to let go of that. I cannot do it all on my own. In addition, I am just re-learning how to date myself and truly love who I am. It's a life-long process to let go of old habits and internal dialog of inadequacy, co-dependence, and unworthiness. 

I think the most beautiful thing we can offer those who suffer from it is consistent, compassionate presence, not our strong opinions. To be told how to live or what to do to "fix it" is usually not helpful. To know that I am cared for and have support is huge. Offering a listening ear and compassion, now that's powerful. Having a network of friends who will check in can also been a lifeline. 

There was a time during the early stages of my divorce, that I felt abandoned by a certain group of friends and loved ones. I think people didn't know what to say or how to behave and frankly, I think everyone's just so busy with their own problems to remember to check on someone who seemingly disappeared from social life. When someone is depressed, they just don't have the ability to reach out or call you or go to dinner, let alone eat. As a friend, knowing this can be so helpful. Even something as simple as a call or an email letting them know you care with no expectation of a reply means a lot. 
"May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within." ~ John O'Donohue
I believe yoga heals. However, I feel it takes a holistic approach to wellness and healing through mind, body and spirit whether you suffer from depression, addiction, PTSD or any kind of injury or illness. 

May we all learn from this at the very least to become more active nonjudgmental listeners, consistent friends and loving to all. Let's regard one another with beauty and reverence and begin to learn to gaze upon ourselves with a sacred awe. 

*article on depression by Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A daughter shares a letter to her mother: living with alcoholism in the family.

What can you ever really know of other people’s souls – of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.~ C.S. Lewis

Walking into the kitchen, you used to pause before you poured. Now you worry you won't have enough to numb the pain tomorrow as you toss the last bottle into the trash.

Sitting up in the recliner, your eyes trying to adjust to the TV, you realize you forgot to put your glasses on. You try to will your eyes to stay open but they glide shut as you hear the last few words of the sermon before passing out. "Thou shall not..."

I am curious if you recall all the prayers you've spoken for other's souls, and if you repeat them for yourself now? 

Since you don't answer the phone when I call, I stopped calling. You don't reply to messages or emails, but I still send them. 

What has darkened your heart so much that you cannot see your way into the light? 

We do not know how to help you, and you deny you need it. 

I miss you. 

I miss the delight in your smile and the praise you poured over me. Your words encouraging me to dare to become anything I wanted. I have a crack in my esteem that I patch from time to time your positivity from my memory. 

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. ~Pericles

What will your grandchildren know of your legacy? 

I have admired you all of my life. Strong, outspoken, and courageous are the words I've used to describe you. 

There was a time when you shook the world you walked in. You overcame and persevered as a single mother. You told me day after day after day: Missy, you can be whatever you set your heart to become. Miss. America? Yes, you can. Doctor? Yes, you can. Winning salesperson? Yes, you can. I will tell them what you told me often and everyday "yes, you can."

I will tell them of your gift of mercy and how you helped everyone and anyone within reach. 

I will show them photos of you in your red and purple suits and flawless skin. 

But, I will also tell them that it's not good to be alone. That one day, they may find themselves within the walls they've built around them and while it feels very quiet, the longings and fears may whisper lies. Please, I'll say, don't believe stories of doubt or bitterness. Be courageous enough to know that each of us are more than we think we are.

I will urge them to surround themselves with people who love them and allow them to be uniquely themselves. 

I will tell them to give generously, just like you did. And then give some more. Offer not only money but time to others in service. Giving put everything perspective for you.

I will admonish that giving is not the answer when they are drained. The deepest most fulfilling thing they will ever do is to love themselves as if they were their own child. Offer grace and gratitude a thousand times a day and then offer it again before they close their eyes to sleep. To wake up again and tell themselves that today is the best day of their life. Then simply encourage them to do what makes them feel alive. 

I stand a world away and know you are fighting your demons the best way you can or the only way you know how, I suppose.

Find your courage once more. Only you can examine your soul, choose a new path and find a new way to fight. Yes, Mom, you can. 

I believe in you. And, I love you. 

I've written this letter in a hundred different ways and trashed it every time. Fear of what others might think or anger from the one it's addressed to has kept me from sharing it. But, now it's time. I've lost count of the number of broken bones, blood transfusions and whispers of excuses. Unfortunately, in the United States you cannot force someone to get help with alcohol addiction unless they are endangering the public. No matter that they endanger themselves, that's the freedom we face. I hope that my family's journey in dealing with alcoholism will be a catalyst for just one person to seek help.

In grace and love,

October 8, 2017

Dear Mom,

You always sign your emails and brief letters: Love, Mother. I've never called you Mother. I don't know why you prefer this to Mom. You're just my mom. I think I remember you calling Grandma, Mother. It's so formal.
Our relationship has been anything but formal. Distant, maybe but not formal. A thick forest of questions. Dark and wandering, I find so much of our past a maze in my mind. Difficulty navigating the stories Craig and I share of you. We have perceived so much of our growing up differently.
I have so much I would like to ask Grandma about you. I would give anything for one more day with her. And, I wonder if I should be asking God for one more day with you?
You're in the hospital again. This time, Ron called Craig to help when he found you on laying in the narrow hallway.  They argued over whether or not to take you to the ER. Finally, the decided to call an ambulance, and hysterical, you didn't want to go.
This time was different than all the other times, for some reason, my brother told them the truth. You were drinking.
8 hours since your last drink, your blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. That you are alive is a miracle. Your pelvis broken and a break somewhere in your lower spine, they determine that you don't need surgery but physical rehab again.
You know them well there. And, seem to know all the nurses' stories and intimate details of their lives. Inquire. That's what you do. You're great at asking questions and then making someone out to be a queen or the best of... whatever they do. You can take an ordinary person and by the time you're done talking to them, you've got their life story, all of their accolades and awards on the shelf of your brain and ready to tell anyone who will listen how remarkable the person is. You can make a yard man into a owner of his own arboretum that is the best and most renowned in the country where, in your opinion, the most wealthy should seek their services!
Mom, I miss you. I don't even know which you I miss. The mom who used to scratch my back when I was tired and sitting at the table doing homework. The mom who used to say, Missy, you can be anything you want to be, Miss America or the President of the United States. Just follow your heart, Missy. I miss the way you answer the phone, and the way your voice lights up when you talk about how well your Mary Kay unit is doing.
I called you at the hospital yesterday and you didn't answer the phone. I was expecting your voice mail to say, "Hello, thank you for calling, please leave your name, number and any brief message and I will return your call shortly."
With no recording of your voice, I left a message anyway, like I usually do with no expectation of a return call. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you, as usual.
I love you, Mom.