Guest Article by D’Alene
When I started a blog, I vowed to be brutally honest in what I write. My goal is to help others who may be struggling, offer hope and share what I learn through my own personal growth. My Path to Zen (mypathtozen.com) hasn’t always been pretty and it hasn’t been a straight line upward, but from where I started, I’ve made a hell of a lot of progress during my journey. About a year ago I came to the realization I may need extra help. I was ready for the next step, the next phase of my healing.
It was an interesting revelation. I participate in many healthy activities that help me keep a balanced life: meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, hanging out with friends & family, doing my best to live in the present moment, etc. My head seemed to know everything was OK, but my heart wasn’t always receiving the message. I used to wake up happy and in a good mood almost every morning. Annoying to some people who might have doubted my sincerity on how someone could be always be so positive, but that’s who I was, it wasn’t fake. But that changed after I found out my husband had been unfaithful. Even after we’d reconciled and our marriage was on steady ground, I’d wake up and had to remind myself that it was OK to be happy, I was safe. My emotions were flat and I always felt on guard, no matter what I did. Even my husband said he noticed an undercurrent of sadness in me. I pride myself on being a woman of action, so I made a decision, I was tired of feeling like this and I need to do something about it.
I get by with a little help from my friends…
I reached out to my primary care physician and described the symptoms I was experiencing. After asking lots of questions she determined I had mild depression and suggested I try a low dose of the generic version of Zoloft. I was also able to get an appointment with my former therapist, psychologist Dr. P. I wanted to be sure taking this medication was the right path for me before I started. She agreed, a low dose of Zoloft would be helpful but I probably wouldn’t need it long term, just long enough to get the serotonin chemicals re-balanced in my brain. But both Dr. P & my physician said it was ultimately up to me if I wanted to try the medication, or other alternatives to get me over the hump and back to feeling like myself again.
When I met with Dr. P. we had a very interesting session. Two of the more eye opening things I learned were:
- Sometimes cognitive healing can happen faster than emotional healing. My brain can understand and process the fact that Husband and I are in a good place and will never go back to that dark time, but my heart was still a little tentative. Serotonin levels in the brain drop during depression and sometimes (but not always) medication is needed to get it back to a normal level as I continue to heal. At the same time, identifying issues bogging me down were also very important to get working on ASAP.
- Some of the things I already do are helpful and soothing but may not actively deal with issues that needed my attention. Listening to music (see my post at Mypathtozen.com: Healing with Music, Chakras and Balance) while walking on the beach or hiking in Forrest Park, playing Words with Friends, mindless TV are all nice escapes and feel good for the moment but don’t necessarily heal your heart. Dr. P gave a good example of this: Suppose your child came home from school crying he’d been bullied and you gave him a bowl of Fruit Loops and sent him to watch cartoons. That probably made him feel better in the moment but didn’t help him learn how to deal with the bully.
A few action steps she suggested sounded very Zen and clicked with me right away:
- Focus on self-care to the wound. Validate the wound is still there and welcome all the feelings experienced from being emotionally flat, hurt, and sad, BUT…
- Don’t cling to the feeling and don’t resist, just be with the emotions. No negative self-talk!! Meditation is like that, no judging with what comes up, just accept, be curious and let it go.
- Write a letter from your mind to your heart, like a mother to a child. What would I say? “It’s OK, the danger is gone, and you can trust that your heart is safe now.”
And the beat goes on….
When our hearts and heads are in alignment, it is a great feeling. Unfortunately sometimes what we think we know intellectually is different from what we feel emotionally. In my head, I know my husband is committed to our marriage and me. For a long time my heart struggled with how someone could make the deep changes he made after acting so destructively in our marriage….then my head chimed in “but you’ve seen all the hard work he’s done and how devoted he is to you.” Yes, I have.
After my session with Dr. P., some self-reflection and continuing to meditate, I decided not to take the medication. For me, it was the right thing to do. I came out of my mild depression a short time later feeling like my old self again. BUT…for many of us medication is extremely helpful and necessary to level out the chemicals in our brains. I would not hesitate to take it if my health professionals and I believed it was the right approach if it happened again. Since my depression was very mild it ended up not being necessary. Admitting to myself that I was struggling, talking to my counselor, continuing to meditate, staying physically active and connecting with loved ones are what helped me and could help you too.
If you have questions about whether you may be depressed, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It is there for you. Here is a link about depression and whether antidepressant medication might be right for you…or not: Depression: Should I Take an Antidepressant by Cigna