Am I Grieving, Sad or Depressed?

An Andrew Solomon TED talk

Andrew Solomon discusses his own experience and his research into what happens when genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression collides with triggering life events.

As he says, ” The opposite of depression is vitality.”. And if you are depressed, thoughts can lie.

If this mirrors your own condition or you have questions,seek help. Sometimes the one life you should save is your own.

Hello sadness
I notice you are here today.
You want to wrap my heart in foil
or waxed paper like a burrito take-out

You want me to sit and warm the couch
to be still
to not let anything move
forward or back.
Yet fear grabs at my chest
sends my heart into overdrive
tightens my throat.
I am so tired.

I hear the little birds
and know it is Spring outside
and I imagine how I might venture out
and unwrap my heart and give it an airing.

And after that?
I dont know.
Lie down on the warm earth.
Let it support my body
Breathe for me.

One thing
at a time…
one.

RAS

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A Season of Comfort

Many of us have come through a very rough year. In this experience we discovered how to stay awake, be aware we are still here, acknowledge we HAVE come through, and comfort ourselves and each other. Fragility, loss and resilience were common experiences

Comfort begins as a personal activity made up of childhood experiaces of attachment,  family memories and deeply personal and interior connections. The person who has wronged or harmed you cannot be your comforter but you can learn to comfort yourself and accept new comforters. Sometimes it’s better to make new ways to parent ourselves through to kindness. As we practice interrupting the negative and ruminating thoughts with lovingkindness we relax into new ways our being safe.

Comfort.

Comfort wears something soft
you saved from the goodwill bag,
with a bit of raggedy velvet at the wrist.
Comfort sings a lullaby
or the blues. Maybe she lived
in New Orleans before she came here.
Comfort turns you into a one-note crooning
Southern woman with a voice
full of rain and dirt.
Comfort IS dirt. Good dirt.
Things grow here.
Comfort is rain so hard
you can’t hear your thoughts.
The air blows in fresh
and riverlets happen up
all through the yard
washing everything downhill.
Comfort is seeing 5:00 a.m. on the clock
and knowing you’ve slept all night.
Comfort is dog fur,dog breath, dog warmth
and dog smell. How they connect you
to the Earth they never left
just when your heart is taking off on bat wings
into the darkest part of the cave.
Comfort reminds you there are
people who are saner, kinder, simpler, funnier
who love you and who still come around.
Comfort is reading Rumi and Hafiz,
the old Avila Hotsprings
soaking out weary joints since 1907.
Comfort is Monday coffees by the beach,
and dolphin sightings. Comfort is
breathing together
and seeing your face
again and again, my friend.
If you are chilled
with unkindness
there is a quilt here for your knees.
See, I have laid us a carpet
of poppies and mountain sage.
Shall we see what compassion has hidden
in the pantry?
Please, my friend,come on in.

This poem was published in an earlier version in If &When Vol. 1. 2013. I wrote it at one of the Veteran writing workshops.
Please let me know if you would like to come to a Writing and Stillness workshop in January..
Roslyn Strohl 2-10-2013 copyright.

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Why I Still Practice Psychotherapy

In this quiet setting of a therapy hour we can reach a level of reflection and trust that revives a belief in one’s own imagination and character. No fancy tricks, just deep presence and reflective conversation. From honesty with one self in a supported environment, courage and resolution can arise and become action.
Look for me in Psychology Today for directions to safe online sessions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/magazine/psychotherapys-image-problem-pushes-some-therapists-to-become-brands.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&goback=%2Egde_2079675_member_205492588

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This time of year…

As the winter descends this week and the fierce retail seduction sets in, we can succumb to sadness and feelings of deprivation, or take a breath, change the thought and proceed with gratitude, humor and joy…..more moments practicing builds resilience and resistence to the onslaught. Through the toughest times I have learned to say, “Watch for the miracles”.
Hold to the beauty of gathering together before descending into the cave of winter. Find and polish your favorite symbols, perhaps one candle not twenty, a branch not a tree, tea not champagne, if money is tight or you are already busy.
Symbolically winter is the time for sleep, poetry, renewal, dreaming, the North, the stripped tree as well as the evergreen and the dark giving way to the light. By savoring this time we are ready when the Birth and rebirth occur.
While our fearful, addictive culture says keep all the lights on, party and decorate, Nature says gather the Beloveds, stay simple, feast on what you have already harvested, believe.

Here is my Winter Solstice offering to you.

Thirteen crows perch
on the wires
above the persimmons.
These fruit have sung to me for months
with their bright refusal to be melancholy
I have watched their curves fill into sweet polished cheeks
their orange clarity against the dying leaves.
It is past Thanksgiving, almost Winter Solstice
and so the crows and I are gathered here
to a communion of ripeness.
Who will eat first
the raven priests or I?
Who will feast on these last fruits, robust
while leaves show their age
give in,
take one last spin to Earth
a leave-taking?
The persimmons glow.
They hold a star within,
taste foreign
dry-crisp
almost too sweet
not orange, not apple.

It takes years
to bend the tough persimmon wood
into the tea boxes of Japan.
Yet these most prized.

Now see,
I have written too long.
Up in the persimmon tree
five crows are feasting.
The fruit yields empty baskets
orange skins hold to branches
like tiny lanterns.

RAS. 11-30-2012

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The Problem Is The Problem

In our angst driven society so often I hear people self diagnose and identify with their diagnosis, “my depression” or “my OCD”. One of the things I like about Narrative Practice is the idea that the problem is the problem. You are not the problem. This allows for a collaborative problem solving and some interesting new possibilities. There are many ways for persons to engage in therapeutic conversations that strengthen and expand a personal knowledge of one’s resourcefulness.
Read about narrative practice from the originals. The Dulwich Center in Australia generously shares material in their library.http://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/what-is-narrative-therapy.html

Courage to be kind

I awoke this morning to the twittering of the tiny hummingbirds in the sage outside my window.
In my kitchen hangs an etching of a hummingbird by Rosey Rosenthal from Los Osos,Ca.
The hummingbird speaks of highly focused attention, all that energy to be still and gather nectar.
There is grace in taking only what we need. We are not deprived, because the sweetness is already distilled into nectar waiting for us. That was the work of sun,earth and flower.

Life still is sweet even after trauma. It may not stop the suffering around you. But there is reason to be still, to be kind to yourself. It will give you delight and strength to do your part.

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Reflections

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In narrative therapy we use the term “reflecting team” for the people we surround ourselves with who can reflect well the best in us, the spark. We can find a similar team internally and allow the dialogue of support to begin with encouragement rather than critique. The act of smiling releases tension in the many small muscles covering our heads and sends new messages to our brains.
I bow deeply to the spirit that lives within.

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Aha!

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Once at a workshop we participants were challenged to walk barefoot on a hike through the forest.The invitation to discard hiking boots induced the gamut of reactions.

A good antidote to “stuck” is inviting surprise. Most of the time surprise enters through our senses rather than our thoughts, so the more we settle into our bodies (grounding) the more likely we are to receive the surprise when it comes with joy rather than anxiety.

Walking in the redwoods barefoot brought an edge to our attention.

With a few notes, a sketch, an iPhoto a new memory is anchored.

Banking new memories helps us move past the old hurts.

From “stuck” to “surprise” to “stillness” and “smile”. Aha!