Tag Archives: depression

An Open Letter to My Depressed Self:

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As part of cognitive behavioral therapy you are often sent to fill out tables, first to identify your irrational, exaggeratedly negative thoughts, and then to respond with rational, more accurate ones.  Because I often feel attacked by my negative thinking about myself, it can feel daunting to respond to each ridiculous thought as it arises.  I know, even as it is happening, that my negative thoughts are irrational, but I still feel defeated and trapped.  Because of this, I thought it would be useful to come up with a letter to myself, to read to myself, in midst of one of my negativity ambushes, that responds rationally and empathetically, to the irrational beliefs that ultimately fuel my depression. It is an open letter, because I consider it a work in progress, and because I would love to receive advice, suggestions, input, edits, etc. etc., especially from those who have experienced the challenges that depression brings.  Thanks for your time and honesty! ❤

Here’s what I have so far:  

An Open Letter to My Depressed Self

Dear me,

The way you are seeing the world is distorted, even though its ugliness seems so real. I know that you are struggling and that your emotions feel out of control. You need to know that you are much better a person, than you deem yourself to be at this moment.  The people who love you are better equipped to confirm this.  You should ask them about your doubts, listen to their answers and believe them, even if it hurts more to receive their love, than it does to continue hating yourself. Sometimes pain is necessary in the healing process.

Yes, it is true that you have made mistakes and survived hardships; it is part of being human. But remember that you have always had good intentions in your heart.  It can be a tough course to learn that true love, is as much about loving as it is about being loved, that love is about balance, and boundaries.

Hard times have the potential to teach us about ourselves and help build resilience.  But their worth can only be measured afterwards, in lessons learned.  And sometimes a hard time is just a hard time. We have little control over this.

In the end, what will matter most is how we used the love we were given, across a lifetime. I know you deeply believe in the intrinsic worth of every being on this earth. This includes yourself.  Just as you believe others to be worthy of love and understanding, so must you believe this of yourself, for yourself.

This makes it not only ok to lean on people, when you need them, but necessary.  When you choose to lean, others also learn that it’s ok to lean back, when they need you.  This is the way we, humans, have nurtured our love for one another, for all of our history.  Do it even though you don’t want to, even though it goes against the very aching in your bones: do it anyway.

Finally, time is a curse – too much when we are suffering, too little when we are saying goodbye.  But it also has healing powers, because, this too will pass! Let these words seep into your hurting heart.  They may not feel good but you know, in your soul, there is wisdom here.  Heed it.

Please remember that my love for you will always be greater than your disdain, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.  Love has always, and will always, win.

Love,

Me

 

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Still Standing

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coss in the clearingAfter the ashes have settled,
around the burning crosses,
and the billows of gray fog have lifted,
I will be there.

Perhaps a bit torn,
tear-stained tattered,
rip-frayed shabby,
bruised,
but standing.

You will find me in the open,
where you will be able to see me clearly,
in my state of
fractured wholeness.

You might even notice
a certain lightness about me,
as I smile in sincerity,
my presence- an embrace,
my love- no longer for the taking.

I will offer it only as a gift,
a healing source,
that only a liberated soul
can bestow.

And I will call out with melodies of strength,
to those who are listening
for a way through these ashes,
towards the clearing where I stand.

Only those with ears attuned
to these vibrant longings and holy hymns,
will hear my song,
and only those that hold,
the ambivalence of justice within their souls,
will turn and follow through,
with their open hearts beating,
and their blessed voices singing.

They will join in sacred harmony,
for our Ways are many,
but together we are a Psalm.

Wildflower

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IMG_20150424_085651477I want to be a wildflower,
growing in the shadows,
of jagged mountains.

Fragile, fleeting-beauty,
simplicity in being,
rebellious in the face monstrosity.

It is a difficult deed,
to open one’s petals,
before ominous giants.

Tiny and frail,
the memory of calamity,
ripe within its roots,
submerged in rocky soil.

It’s a gradual awakening,
eternal in its stubbornness,
in search of light within shadows.

Becoming in blooming:
Alive in defiant Grace.

Abuse: My Story

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I don’t understand why victims of domestic violence blame themselves, but we do.  Even now a year after leaving, I don’t have feelings of anger or hate for my ex.  The hardest emotion to deal with these days is my own shame over having stayed for 12 years, for having enabled him to manipulate me, for having ruthlessly forgiven time and time again, his intimidations, aggressions, and infidelities.  But what hurts me the most is having believed that staying was the right thing for my children and in doing so, I exposed them to a concept of home that I would not wish on anyone.

Even early in our relationship he had angry outbursts and would call me names that he would later regret and for which he would apologize.  I was young, inexperienced in love and was still suffering the effects of having been socially excluded for much of my childhood.  Angry exchanges were also not uncommon between my father and I as an adolescent, so I figured it was part of love and that passion drove people to say things they later regretted.

Then my ex began to use my deep insecurities around belonging, to justify his opinions and manipulations, saying that I could not argue with him because I didn’t have any friends or know many people.  As a foreigner without my immediate family or friends nearby, it was difficult to hold my ground in a disagreement, especially when he used cultural difference as a justification.  Despite considering myself an intelligent and independent woman, I played his games because I so badly wanted to believe that I had the perfect family.  Getting married I now realize, gave me a status in Lima society that I did not have as a young single foreign woman.  The fact that an attractive and well-respected man had decided to spend the rest of his life with me, helped me feel worthy of love, as if I had to justify my existence.  I had previously been afraid that nobody would want me, despite being attractive and quite successful in my studies and career.  I am still struggling to understand this.

Around the time of my first pregnancy he began to develop a drinking problem which grew until he was having a couple liters of beer every evening.  His personality would change from depressed and withdrawn to insulted and aggressive, sometimes with words and other times with pushes, shoves, kicks and throwing things.  When my first daughter was born, he left me alone in the clinic, reeling in pain from an unnecessary and traumatic c-section.  The doctor told me I should not speak after the operation so as not to fill with air, which would cause me great pain, so I said nothing.  Today I can’t decide which hurt more, the physical or emotional pain of birth.  Both were devastating.

It became hard to ignore that he had serious psychological issues and I begged him to see a psychologist.  But because I had already had a few depressive episodes in my life and was now dealing with post-partum depression, he argued that it was in my head and I was the one who had the issues.  I wanted to seek help for myself and take antidepressants, which had helped me in the past.  He ridiculed me, comparing antidepressants to illegal street drugs.  Half believing him in my debilitated state, I took on his problems as my responsibility, to understand and support him as his wife, when I was the one who desperately needed understanding and support.

When I gave birth to my second daughter he reacted the same way, leaving me the next day to go out drinking with his friends and “celebrate.”  By this time I vowed not to ignore his serious problem and when I became even more depressed post-partum, I sought help for myself and was able to convince him to do the same.  He was diagnosed rather quickly as having bipolar disorder.  The diagnosis gave me new hope that there was a way to make things better.  It fueled my belief that he would change and that it was my responsibility to heal him with my love.  After all, I had taken a vow before God, in sickness and in health.  I had my own issues, who was I to throw the first stone? Despite caring for a newborn and a 4 year-old, my whole life revolved around him.  More important was how he was feeling and if he was following his treatment, which he was not.

He continued to drink despite being forbidden by his psychiatrist.  His medication would make him sleepy but it did not hinder his anger before it took effect every night.  Now that I had instructions from the doctor to “help” him follow a routine, avoid alcohol etc. he felt controlled, which made matters worse.    I am keenly aware now that I was also trapped in my own addiction, to be his savior, to the disturbing point of self-denigration.    I was so deep in my own denial, thinking that I could solve the problem of his out of control behaviors by not reacting, by enduring, by forgiving, by kicking him out for a few days, by giving him lectures etc.  Meanwhile I was suffering in silence and shame, lying to my family and friends about my marriage, and tending only to the physical side effects caused my emotional turmoil.  I kept telling myself that I was strong, that I could take it, for a better future, for my kids to grow up in a whole family and because he needed me and could not survive without me.  This continued cycle after cycle of abuse. Living in survival mode, I was prepared for almost anything, or so I thought.

One year ago this month, I came home from a work trip to find, my then six year old, daughter angry and upset.  I thought it was because I had left her for a week but later in a moment of tears she explained to me that she had seen her father with another woman, kissing on the sofa without any clothes.  She had run to her bed crying and crying, alone and afraid, she yelled that she did not want another mother.   Her daddy later told her not to speak of the event and that it was just a bad dream she had had.  Never had I imagined he would go so far.  I was left breathless as my denial came crashing down around me.  He was never going to change and this time he had deeply hurt his own daughter.  I made him leave for good, which was not easy, but he eventually did.

It has now been a year and I am still processing.  Some days are actually good and I feel hopeful, while others are a struggle.  I have only recently begun to call my marriage abusive.  Previously I avoided the term because I felt it was beneath me, that in doing so I was calling myself a victim and therefore weak.  Abuse is not supposed to happen to women like me and if it does, at the first sign I’m supposed to get myself out.   But shame and so many other ideas and feelings kept me trapped for 12 years.  In truth, no one is exempt from being manipulated and abused.  It happens, unfortunately, quite frequently and sometimes the more we believe we are invincible, the more vulnerable we actually are.

I share my story now on the other side of disaster because I know I am not the only one out there.  Other victims’ stories have inspired me and given me the strength to speak up.  I want to do the same.  If you are experiencing anything similar to what I have, no matter what gender, age, or sexuality, it’s not worth staying.  If you’re not sure what you are experiencing is abuse, inform yourself, talk to someone whose opinion you trust (not someone who will say what you want to hear) or reach out to someone who is objective like a therapist or call a hotline.  I spent the first part of my separation trying to forget the awful things I lived through.  But the truth is, the emotional pain you don’t give voice to, will erode you from within, as it did me.  I am now learning for the first time how to be whole and to love myself for who I am.  It’s a wonderful feeling and I hope that you will join me.

Vulnerable

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Here is my heart on my sleeve:
treat it gently, please.

My mind and history are behind,
screaming to accept its defeat.
Sometimes all the energy I have,
is for standing on my own feet.

But I have decided to wear it there,
even if it drains me of durability.
I am beginning to walk again,
swaying in vulnerability.

Be kind to me:
I am learning to trust again,
to reach my hands before me,
when I stumble in pain.

No longer in order to brace my falling,
but because I am hoping- you see-
than when I inevitably do,
there will be someone to hold me.

Ready

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Tonight just under the surface,
there is a stirring in my soul.

A passion suppressed,
beyond the reach of my memory.

I feel it budding,
Pushing from behind my skin.

Craving to be freed,
from the darkness I’ve held:
too long,
too buried,
too painful,
for contention.

Tonight I will not struggle,
I will not strain,
I will not fold.

I will open towards the moon,
Unveiling my cracks and bumps and bruises,
I will breathe in light.

Tonight,
on my 34th birthday,
I am ready.