Behind a Farting Camel


Hafez or Hafiz was a Persian poet who lived in the 1300′s. His work has been influential since that time even though little is actually known today about him and his life. His work made deep impressions on writers such as Thoreau, Goethe and Emerson with the latter referring to him as “a poet’s poet. Hafez has been a favorite since I became aware of his writing during my young “hippie days” (or was that “hippie daze”?)

In this piece, Hafez writes about depression and seemed knowledgeable about the subject hundreds of years before Jung and Freud. There are a few days per month I have to deal with “cycling depression” that brings a sort of dimness and lethargy into my life. Writing like the piece below from Hafez helps me understand I am far from alone. Many today suffer as I do and many did a hundred generations before me did too.

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.
I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.
But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.
You can stay that way
And even bloom!
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel…
O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter
And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for dancing!

In recent years the days of my depression usually pass like wind through a tree when limbs are moved by the passing but no damage is not done. Through counseling, support of peers and those who care about me, and reaching a level of understanding that “depression” is a ‘normal’ malady, I am much healthier today than ever before. Some deal with migraines; some throw their back out; I cope with depression. And I do it quite well these days and am grateful for all the love, support and insight that makes that possible.

If depression is creeping up and must be faced,
learn something about the nature of the beast:
You may escape without a mauling.
Dr. R. W. Shepherd

Originally Posted on June 6, 2012

Memories of Better Days


If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why.
Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation;
depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness,lethargy,
hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through.
Be there for them when they come through the other side.
It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed,
but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.
Stephen Fry

What a proficient teacher feeling down has turned out to be for me. Please don’t misunderstand. The sort of despair that depression brings hits me a few days each month and is never fun. It’s is anything BUT something anticipated positively. Uderstanding the what’s and why’s of it has brought a painful appreciation. And what I have been taught is useful for any sort of bad day any person ever has.

The most basic awareness the big “D” has taught me is to be grateful for good times. In appreciating the silver lining in dark clouds even a gloomy sky is diminished in intensity and duration. The enemy is made less powerful when memories of better days are used to counter it.

This is the day I’m going to choose —
I’m coming out of the blues.
I don’t believe, I’ve got anything to lose,
I’m coming out of the blues.
Kissed too many days goodbye —
Too many tears I’ve cried —
I’ve got to get rid of these blues…

I remember when sleeping was something I abhorred
Then it became something I adored.
I remember when eating was such an event
Then it became just a job just to live.
I remember when the mirror was a friend of mine,
Then it became a painful reminder.

I’m not gonna stay in this state I’m in,
I’ve got too much to live for; so much to give.
I’m not gonna think of lost days gone by;
I’m not gonna hang my head and cry;
I’m just gonna leave these blues behind.

The wider one has been emotionally stretched the greater the knowledge of the distance between two points becomes. In the process good, bad and all parts in between bring a more detailed knowing of how precious all parts of life are. A person feeling moderately good and above most of the time may only partially grasp what I have shared. But even those living the happiest lives possible will in time find them self in the dark valley of wretched sadness and gut-wrenching grief. For one and all, good memories are the good medicine when those days come.

The good news today is I am not feeling depressed. Actually my mood is quite contrary to being down. And this sense of happiness, even joy, is made larger by not forgetting how bad “D” feels when it comes. I am grateful to have made depression my friend.

If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill…

Extremes of Despair and Gladness


I wish some of my past could be erased; those parts I dislike most. Some were done to me, but many are things I did to others. It’s a hundred times harder to forgive myself than it is find forgiveness for another. My ability to let go beating myself up has improved a lot since I began successfully disputing my own BS a few years ago, but it’s still challenging, especially in a ‘down’ time.

Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.

It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical.

For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn’t credit you for your efforts to make amends.

Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and – frankly – to tell that inner critic to Shut Up.

The only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame, or remorse is learning – not punishment! – so that you don’t mess up in that way again. Anything past the point of learning is just needless suffering. Plus excessive guilt, etc., actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping make this world a better place, by undermining your energy, mood, confidence, and sense of worth. Author and neuropsychologist Dr. Rich Hanson

My gratitude is never stronger than when I come back to the ‘real world’ after a bout of cycling depression. If I am willing to get in the ring with the big “D.” and fight it things get better faster than if I just wait for it to pass.

There is darkness inside all of us… that part of our soul that is irreparably damaged by the very trials and tribulations of life. We are what we are because of it, or perhaps in spite of it. Some use it as a shield to hide behind, others as an excuse to do unconscionable things. But, truly, the darkness is simply a piece of the whole, neither good nor evil unless you make it so. Jenna Maclaine

There is no doubt that I appreciate contentment more than many people. Existing within a world of depression’s darkness and shadow even for a short time makes every breathe more precious when the lightness of ‘normal’ returns. You won’t hear many whines for I know it is the down times that ultimately make being alive so cherished. The wider the gap between the extremes of despair and gladness, the better I can bear the former and more I am grateful for the latter. Oh, what a difference a day makes!

I now see how owning our story
and loving ourselves through that process
is the bravest thing that we will ever do.
Brene Brown

Light Into the Darkness


I thought depression had mostly been put behind me. Things were looking up. Reclaiming my life for my complete own was arriving. I was happier than I have been in a long time ever. Having reduced my stress load and been true to my hopes it seemed I had outrun depression. But the little monster was always running behind waiting for me to stop looking over my shoulder so it could sneak up on me.

The brand of depression I wrestle with is far from the worst kind. Mine cycles in and out coming for a few days now and again. Once again I have been reminded there is no cure. All I can do rely on the methods that work to fight it off making its duration as short as possible and its intensity no more than it has to be.

How do I fight depression? Being with people I care about. Reading. Making myself get up and do things. Listening to music. Watching a movie. Taking naps. Spending time outside. Going for a walk. Writing down what I feel. The most important thing is to do something and not just sit and lay around!

Most of the time being depressed sneaks up on me. Something Elizabeth Gilbert wrote describes how my depression comes: “When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”

The greatest weapon I have against being depressed is remembering it only lasts for a little while and passes. If I pay good attention each bout almost always teaches me something.

Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. Ranier Maria Rilke

It feels almost unnatural to attempt to find gratefulness for the depression that is upon me, but in my effort the shadow is already growing lighter just with this writing. I refuse to suffer in secret anymore. As the veil lifts over the next day or two as it always does, I will hold on tightly with gratitude to the knowing that it has been such times that hallowed me to be able to contain the depth of feeling I am capable of.

Don’t think about all those things you fear,
Just be glad to be here.
From the song “Hayling”
by FC Kahuna

Like Quicksand


removes the color from the colorful…

reduces the difference between day and night…

crowds out self-esteem with self-loathing…

takes away the pleasing taste from everything…

creates a sense of being UN-loveable…

brings all past mistakes to present-moment…

shades life with a shadow without a sun…

invents pain and hides joy…

makes effort seem meaningless…

concocts a need to sleep that never results in rest…

takes away desire to work, create or achieve…

cuts one off from other people…

detaches love and happiness…

amplifies grief and sadness far beyond reality…

scorches the ability to love and feel love…

produces a state of caring about little to nothing…

generates self-told lies that are believed…

shapes a good person into believing they are bad…

and on and on and on and on…

Depression is a liar, a thief, a distorter, a con man, a fake, a fraud, a pretender, a robber, an imposter, a hypocrite, a crook, a phony, a sham, a cheat, a bandit, a charlatan, a deceiver, a trickster, a swindler, a rogue, a double-dealer, a villain and false in every sense, thought and feeling.

These are the sort of truths I remind myself when cycling depression comes to call on me for a few days every month or two (as it has this weekend). With such thoughts at the forefront, I am able to see the big shadow of feeling depressed is being caused by something small; like a mouse casts a giant shadow when light is cast at a particular angle. No longer do I resist depression for it is like quicksand; the more resistance given, the deeper I will sink.

So I will let my depression pass like a strong wind through a tree, knowing it will die out in a few days. Each episode makes me stronger now like a tree’s roots are made stronger by its standing up to storm after storm. I am grateful beyond words for my understanding today of depression that usually makes it little more than emotional indigestion; ’twas not that way for so very long.

One in six people suffer depression
or a chronic anxiety disorder.
These are not the worried well
but those in severe mental pain
with conditions crippling enough
prevent them living normal lives.
Polly Toynbee

Only the Dead Don’t Feel It

My supposition is that life would be boring if things were always good. Fact or delusion, that’s a mantra that rings in my head to help me keep going. Life just gets damned difficult sometimes.

There’s a well-worn phrase that goes “its, not what happens, but how you react to it that matters”. My conclusion is there is wisdom in that statement to keep one from making something dreadful far worse than need be. However, what is awful will still be terrible. All practicing the “how you react” train of thought can do is impact how deep and engulfing the pain, grief or misery becomes. To think I can stop myself from feeling unpleasant things entirely is pure foolishness. What I put off ends up hurting worse later anyway.

Life is painful and messed up. It gets complicated at the worst of times, and sometimes you have no idea where to go or what to do. Lots of times people just let themselves get lost, dropping into a wide open, huge abyss. But that’s why we have to keep trying. We have to push through all that hurts us, work past all our memories that are haunting us. Sometimes the things that hurt us are the things that make us strongest. A life without experience, in my opinion, is no life at all. And that’s why I tell everyone that, even when it hurts, never stop yourself from living. Alysha Speer

Ready for my rant? Here goes. So much of a quandary my life is these days: single and not wanting to be; lonely, but afraid to let someone get really close; so tired of my work but addicted to the money; unable to see more than a vapor of what my future might be; too regretful of my past and unable to fully put some of it behind me; not completely comfortable with my age but trying to not let it show; working hard to get in shape with frustrating slow progress; far more loving than I know how to comfortably show; misunderstood by just about everyone I have ever known; good progress in recovery from codependence while aggravated some of the dysfunction will always exist; wanting to travel the world for months at a time yet fearful of taking the leap…. oh, woe is me; gripe, gripe, gripe and it’s exhausting!

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. Louise Erdrich

It should come as no surprise that I am working my way through a few days of my cycling depression that comes around every few weeks for a few days. These are times the half missing in the glass is painfully obvious and I’m too stymied to see much of the half full part. This will pass. It always does. But for the time I wrestle depression it feels like trying to swim in quicksand; moving with great effort and getting no where fast.

My gratitude is for knowing what is going on. For years I had no explanation for these days that sucked badly. So I will use the weapon I’ve learned that helps me walk through these dark days: “fake it until I make it”. I’ll put on a smile and show the world sunshine instead of my darkness. Just because I feel bad doesn’t mean I should make others feel it with me. Hello world, here I come.

Everyone is down on pain,
because they forget
something important about it:
Pain is for the living.
Only the dead don’t feel it.
Jim Butcher