Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving: The Forgotten Holiday?

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” ~E.P. Powell

Thanksgiving: a day of gluttony, around the clock football, and the eve of the biggest shopping day of the year…

Wait! That doesn’t sound right, does it?

Is it me, or does it seem that our modern society is putting materialism before spiritualism again? They are so good at making holidays about something other than what they were originally created for.

It’s sad to hear only the talk of what we’re putting on the dinner table, what we’re watching on the television, and what were buying in the stores. I’ve even heard people refer to Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate the murderous pilgrims and the plight of the Native American. I am not excusing the Trail of Tears and the transgressions against this land's indigenous people, but that wasn't what Thanksgiving was about at all.

Does all this chatter get you down, or am I simply a naïve woman who prefers to see Thanksgiving as two things and two things alone? Making time for your loved ones and giving thanks…

When I think about the fourth Thursday in November, I smile because it’s a day to commemorate our heritage and the sacrifices of our ancestors who had a hand in constructing this great nation. And what’s better than to celebrate those things than by looking around, taking stock of all our blessings, and thanking God them?

Whatever prism you view Thanksgiving through, I pray that despite the ups and downs you experienced in 2010, you have a handful of blessing and some amazing people to spend November 25th with. And though our nation’s history is a marred one, I hope you are able to find the goodness that is worthy to celebrate. No nation across the face of the planet has ever been freer, and we can all be thankful for that.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones and raise a glass to the blessings. There is much thanks to be offered up "... for each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything [His] goodness sends" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What I Know...

I know that if you don’t mark time, it will disappear; so make it memorable.

I know that happy wrinkles come from living beautifully, and that’s the only way.

I know that the life you build is a reflection of your soul; it’s not about what’s in the mirror.

I know that Karma isn’t just a catch phrase; it’s real.

I know that God doesn’t live in heaven; he lives in me.

I know that forgiveness isn’t for your enemy; it’s for you.

I know that people remember what you say better than you do; speak carefully.

I know there’s an invisible lake attached to each of us; be mindful of your ripple effect.

I know that kindness is higher than intellect; it’s better to be a lover of man than the lover of books.

I know that listening speaks louder than words.

I know that there is no excuse for hatred—ever.


And I know that I know really nothing at all, and that’s why I must continue to be a mere student of life. And upon death, I hope to graduate to Heaven.



And that’s what I know...



for now...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part III

If you haven't, please read "Being Okay with God: Part I" and "Being Okay with God: Part II" before you read this, as they build on each other. Thank you!


PART III

Miracles DO happen.

They really do. And as I said, God had one more miracle to share with me...

I can't believe this (actually I can...), but just as I was reflecting on my crisis of faith during my mother’s battle with ovarian cancer and writing about it to all you lovely readers at The Universal Soul, God did something really BIG in my life this very week. I mean this timing can’t be a mere coincidence. It can’t be “ironic” or a fluke. It’s got to be God. And I think you’ll agree…

To find out how this story ends, you’ll have to read this letter I wrote to my mother explaining what happened because I don’t know how else to explain it to you...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“The Girl and the Pink Pen”
A letter to my mother on 10/8/2010


Mom,

I know this is random, but I have to share this with you. Today a student in my class was presenting a project about her personal culture, and part of that was her family. She stood up and showed everyone a pink pen and then started to cry. And then she couldn’t go on…


Everyone waited for a few moments in utter silence. We didn’t know why she was crying, but people started to tear up anyway. Then she continued. She said the pink pen represented breast cancer. She said that someone she loves is fighting a battle against breast cancer right now. And then she broke down in tears. She couldn’t bring herself to tell the rest. I asked her if she wanted to present her project with me later, and she thanked me and said she would.

She sat back down at her desk, and I brought her the tissues. After that, something beautiful happened. The class began to raise their hands. One by one, they looked this young girl in her eyes and told her they’d been there. They said she was brave. They told her they lost the one they loved, and they know how she feels. Then some students shared stories about survivors, and they promised her that her loved one could be a survivor too. That exchange gave me hope. Watching these young people step up and use their voices made me feel like I was privy to the most beautiful experience we human beings can have.

After the students were done supporting and sharing with one another, I shared your story. I told the young girl with the pink pen that you had ovarian cancer. I told her that as soon as I heard the news I thought about death and that I couldn't lose my mother. She cried and nodded her head. But then I got to tell her that you survived. I got to tell her to hold onto those survival stories as hope that her loved one would survive too. She smiled and thanked me. And then the entire class told her to hang on. There wasn’t a dry eye.

This moment will be—forever—one of my most treasured teaching memories. And I had to tell you for two reasons: 1) because you’re the best teacher I know, and I strive to emulate your heart and 2) because your survival story happened so you could go on and bless others.

I now fully understand why God allowed this to happen to you. Your struggle and pain and scars had to happen so others could be blessed and be guided by your story.

It’s amazing how things come full circle. God does have a master plan. It won’t always be easy. It can hurt a lot, but if we are steadfast, God will reveal the end result. I am a better person and a far more compassionate person because of this struggle our family has gone through.

I think this story illuminates the idea that we are all connected to one another. We aren't strangers, but rather God's children. Who could have ever known that what happened to our family two years ago would reach out and touch this young lady?

Anyway, I love you so much. I will be seeing you soon.

xoxo,
me

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So do you believe me? It’s a bit of a miracle, isn’t it? I started writing about this chapter in my life just days before this happened. How was I to know? There wasn't suppose to be a Part III to this series, but now there is.

I feel blessed to be able to share this with you. And I can tell you wholeheartedly that this is why I am okay with God. I hope you are too. And please share your stories...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part II

If you haven't yet, please read "Being Okay with God: Part I" first. Part II builds on the story in Part I.

Part II
When something bad happens to us, I suppose that it’s human nature—or perhaps human frailty—that causes the kneejerk question “If God loves us so much, then how come he let’s us suffer?” Or perhaps we ask the father of all God Questions, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”

When it came to the news of my mother’s cancer, I was asking both questions. In my mind, I thought that if saints were taking up residence on Rocky Mountain Road (the street my parents lived on), my mother could be a founding member. She was a woman after God’s own heart, humble and disarmingly sincere. Wasn’t this enough for God? Couldn’t he let someone else have cancer? Perhaps a murderer or cheat instead? Why her? Why now? WHY ever?


My dad always told me to keep God close because you don’t want to have to go running and searching for him when something catastrophic happens. My mom always told me that God is like a patient father who sits in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace at the center of the home waiting for us, the rowdy and busy teen, to sit at his feet and stay awhile.

You’d think with powerful anecdotes like that, I would have listened to their spiritual guidance… but I didn’t. And I only know that now as I look back over my shoulder into my past of just two years ago. I guess I thought God and I were a lot tighter than we were. And it wasn’t his fault we were that way; it was mine.

I was that rowdy teen. I acknowledged there was a God, and I even read my Bible, but I was too busy coming and going to actually sit down at his feet and stay awhile. And as you know, when we don’t work at our relationships, they become tenuous and weak.

God was waiting in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace, and I was too busy. So naturally, when something really bad happened, like my mother getting cancer, I turned from a rowdy teen into an angry one. I wasn’t truly making time for God before, and now I was really pissed off at him.

To put it simply, God and I weren’t talking. Or was it, I wasn’t talking to God?

As the weeks went by, I watched in awe as other people in our church and family leaned heavily on God when they heard the news about my mother. They were talking about him and praying to him and counting on him. And me? I was just nodding my head and crying.

It’s not that I didn’t believe in God (because I did); I just didn’t think he cared about us the way we humans thought he did. My new premise was that if God could do THIS to my mother, then he’s not the God I want to know. (And now, it’s hard to even type those words. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.)

Despite my God-boycott, something amazing happened. In spite of my lack of utter faithfulness, God still had faith in me and my family. He was steadfast even when I turned my back. He still made a miracle I wasn’t worthy of.

BUT you know who was worthy? My mother! Her unwavering faith carried us all. She never asked, “Why me, God?” She never questioned the “why” at all. She just begged that we’d believe that God was in control. That was her prayer.


In the time I now call “limbo,” which was the two months between her surgeries and the news, I was told about a book called The Shack. Everyone was talking about it. Some people thought it perverted the Christian word of God, while others loved it because it clarified God’s love for them in a new and unique way. Since I wasn’t really speaking to God, I thought why not check out this book that’s got all these tongues wagging?

Well, reading The Shack changed me. It came to me at the right time in my life and walked me through my “limbo.” I couldn’t put it down, and I read parts over and over again, as the main character of the book came face-to-face with God after his daughter was raped and murdered. I thought about all the strife we see here on Earth, and that story got me thinking…
I learned that the strife is NOT God’s doing. Strife is the fallout of a free world, and God is the solution to the fallout. The book helped me to see God in a gentler light, when all I could see was a distant, austere giant. It softened my heart. And I finally prayed for a miracle right there on my carpet, as the afternoon sun beamed through the blinds. And this time I meant it. It was my first step in many of being okay with God.

And as I closed the last pages of The Shack, and as I started to pray to God again, a change in the tide was coming…

After two evasive surgeries and a whole community’s weight in prayers, my mother was declared cancer-free. She wouldn’t need chemo. She’s wouldn’t need radiation. She would only need to live her life. Hearing the news made an ordinary day the best day of my life.

The nurses were calling it a miracle by the doctor’s hands and that her news was the best news they were able to share that day. The doctor even said God was guiding his hands. Everyone we knew felt the same way.

I doubted God, but he pulled us through. It's a simple and as complicated as that!

Now I don’t see my mother as cursed and betrayed by God. I see her as a very special story, an angel on Earth. God loved my mother so much that he brought her through this trial so that she could be good news for others.

And God loved me so much that he was about to show me YET another miracle that would close the chapter of this poignant story…



Please stop by tomorrow for PART III...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rumi's Love Poem

"In the Arc of Your Mallet"
Rumi

Don’t go anywhere without me.
Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
Vision, see nothing I don’t see.
Language, say nothing.
The way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. Be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.

There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don’t know where I’m going.
You’re the road and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part I

I think a lot of us—if we’re willing to look over our shoulder—can admit that we’ve had a crisis in faith at some point in time. For me, I can pinpoint the moment when my faith was almost leveled.

In June of 2008, my family, through a trial of draining events, learned that my mother had ovarian cancer. Yes, it was the C word, the word every one of us has come to dread because every last one of us loves someone that this horrid disease has claimed.

I’ll never forget the way the news played out. The doctor thought my mother’s post surgery follow-up would be a grand event. In fact, he was so sure the news would carry a clean bill of health that we kids were convinced to stay home while just my father and mother went in for the results. My dad was so certain that he even waited in the car, reading a biography on the Founding Fathers, while my mother went into the doctor’s office for her appointment.

It was suppose to be no big deal.

So after waiting for several minutes, my dad had become engrossed in his book when he heard a rapt on the window. And there stood my mother, gray and trying to find the words.

“The doctor wants to see us both,” she choked out.

And before they knew it, they were sitting before an awestruck man, who nearly cried as he bore out the horrifying news. “I—I can’t believe this, but—I’m so sorry… but you have ovarian cancer.”

They say they remember staring and asking how it was possible and crying… and little of anything else. My mother and father explained the ride up the mountain home as a dreadful climb.

Meanwhile, my sister, husband, and I were out for lunch, an “early celebration” for my mother’s clean bill of health, I guess you could say. And we all know what happens when we count our chickens before they hatch…

My parents beat us home.

When we finally arrived on the door step, laughing and smiling and soaking in the perfect summer day, I remember looking at my mother. And I’ll never forget the exchange we had.

“Mom!” I called out. And she appeared. “Oh, look at you! You look beautiful and healthy, like I knew you would be. How’d it go?”

“That’s what we need to talk to you about.” And those were the words that sent my faith in God in a deadly plunge for the ground.

We all gathered in the kitchen. The heart of our home. And once there, all the horrible details came out. She had ovarian cancer. She’d need another surgery and perhaps chemotherapy or radiation.

I cried out instantly and begged for the cancer to be a mirage, a figment of my imagination... But it was real, and I was in freefall. My husband stood against me, propping me up in his grip… And my baby sister, my sweet baby sister, shrank away in silence. Large pools of tears flooded her blueberry eyes.

And just like that, loud rumbles of thunder rolled through the mountain air, and the sky darkened. One minute later, it was pouring.

It was like God was crying. He was crying for my mother. He was crying for all the suffering that plagues the Earth. And I knew one of those tears were for me.

He knew what I was doing. I was losing my faith as quickly as a tub drains lukewarm water from a bath. And the water was flooding out… all over the ground.

The moments that followed are as nebulous as the clouds in a midnight sky. I only remember sitting on the dark stairway listening to the voices and the violent rain, wishing like a devil that God wasn’t this cruel.

PART II COMING SOON…

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Perfect Problem

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

If any post has been as equally for me as it is for you, this may be the one. In fact, I have to be frank with you—I am writing this to myself and for myself since the genesis for these words came strictly from my own struggles.

A long time ago, someone once told me that trying to be perfect is like telling God his work of art isn’t good enough. That sort of stuck with me... It’s too bad that I didn’t actually process this message until last week—years, have you, after receiving this kernel of spiritual enlightenment.

If you knew me—and it’s safe for me to venture this characterization because I’ve heard it for longer than I’d like to admit—you might list words like perfectionist, type-A, and maybe even meticulous to describe my nature. If I am not fretting about one thing, I am probably fretting about another. It’s my “perfect” problem. I constantly feel like I’ve got something to prove, and in turn, I allow my actions and thoughts to be consumed by the need to please, by the need to be good enough.

At times, I am like the look-out in a pack of wolves: pensive, eager, and even paranoid. I’ve mulled over this idea a lot, and I’ve concluded that my look-out behavior stems from my reliance on myself and my perception of what others may or may not be thinking about me. I am mistaken, and I know it. But sadly, I keep making those mistakes, over and over again.

Why can't I shake this need to prove I am "good enough?" If I know my behaviors and thoughts are mistaken, why can’t I stop? Why can’t I just let go and let God? Why can’t I shrug off this “perfect” problem of mine?

I know what my mother would tell me: I’ve got to define myself through God’s perceptions of me and lean on God’s strength instead of my own. I know what my friends would tell me: “Who cares what other people think!”

And I hear them; I know they’re right. But I don’t know what to do next...

As I type this, I have no specific solutions for myself. There’s no action plan that will help me let my need for perfection go. Honestly, I don’t know how I will purposely be better tomorrow… If I did, I probably would have done it by now. I am sure the textbooks would tell me to retrain my mind. The devout would tell me to pray. The insightful would tell me to scale back and calm down. I know all these things too; I just don’t know why I can’t apply them in a real way to finally rid myself of this “perfect” problem.

I feel like an addict sometimes, and perfection, or rather the pursuit for perfection, is my drug. I grip the feelings and rituals I’ve associated with perfection like an eagle clenches its prey as he jets through the sky.

But maybe I am not alone in this boat. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve struggled with this too. In fact, my problem may hit home for many other woman today. Given the way this culture is, it might be safe to say that we are all consumed by the chase for that elusive perfection in one way or another.

Joseph Campbell, an American writer and philosopher best remembered for his mantra “Follow your bliss,” reminds us that the achievement of perfection is not perfect at all, explaining that “Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.”

So in close, I must admit that I still don’t have the answers, but what I can say is that I plan on breaking myself up. I plan on stripping down the layers. I plan on introspection. I must be silent more and listen harder. What exact message I am listening for, I can’t say. I just know God’s voice will be carrying one of them. And in time, I hope that I will be able to dig deep enough so that I can confront my “perfect” problem and do away with it once and for all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Moment

Last Moment
By: K.A. Phinney


And then the tears
Ran from my cheeks
And met the water’s edge
Because the girl I swore
I couldn’t be was
Waiting on the ledge,
In a much closer space
Than I thought she’d ever be,
Waiting for me to fill her.

And all this time,
I dreamed that grief
Was further away than this,
And that your little face,
The one that makes me live,
Would be here much longer
Than it really was.

But I guess I took you for granted
In the smallest moments.
Because all my nightmares,
The ones that promised
you’d be stolen away
And I’d become that sad, crying girl
Were right indeed.

Seems we never know
When we’re in that last moment,
The last one we’d call normal.
The one before pain, death,
And our undoing.
So in that last moment,
We are happily blind
And thoughtless.

It’s the poetry of life, they’d say.
Or, the poetry of death,
When in that last moment,
We never really know
That is exactly what it is.


----------------------------------------------

And since we never know when that last moment is, let us love each other with all we have in every minute we are given together. And if your loved one is gone already, keep their memory close by cherishing your last moments, for now and for always.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Eating, Praying, and Loving (Part II)

Click here to read Part I: On Eating, Praying, and Loving






Dear Friend,

I can tell you’ve been brought down so low, and I see the weight of the world on your shoulders. When you look out the window of your life, I am saddened by your expression of emptiness, as if you see nothing before you that has deeply connected with you. It’s as if you are floating adrift with no anchor. How could you feel that no one really knows you?

But you must know that your inclinations are wrong. When you look out the window, you should see a road that rises up to meet you. You should look for the smiling faces and know you deserve them because you are here, living this life. And you are here for a divine reason because God created you when he could have been creating another universe.

And when you find those smiles, let them welcome you with arms wide open. You deserve to love and to be loved. Loneliness and depression are deceptive entities, and they work tirelessly to keep you away from your destiny. You must leave them in the dust and never come back to them, no matter the hour or the obstacle.

I know you might be surprised, but I also know about some of your secrets. You lay awake at night in fear. Your mind is so good at focusing on what you think you don’t deserve and convincing you that the things you love best will leave you or will be taken away as punishment. Your body is too good at allowing the paralysis of fear to overcome it. And your thoughts are your own slave driver, making you search endlessly for the elusive idea called perfection.

All of this thinking is wrong. You deserve so much better.


Imagine if you saw your friend like this. Imagine if you saw your friend doing these very same things. You know what you’d do. You’d scoop them up with your loving words and hold them in your arms until the last drop of pain fell from them and dried up. You’d tell them they were worthy. You’d tell them that God is their help and their protector. You’d tell them to get some rest. You'd say, “You’re beautiful, inside and out. I love you. Don’t be afraid.”

You know you’d do that… So then why, oh why, won’t you do it for yourself?

I know all these things about you because
I am you. And you must know that even when you make mistakes, even when you neglect me or go hiding, I am always here waiting for you. I will never leave your side. I will forgive you 100 times, and I will walk every step of the way with you.

Because I love you.


Every. Single. Part.

Your first and last friend,
Me



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is a letter I wrote to myself. I was inspired to write it because of my last post and the book Eat, Pray, Love. I commit to reading this letter when my days are hard and when I am not being the friend I should be… to myself. I figure this very letter is what many of you needed to hear too. And maybe it opened your eyes to the struggles many women (and men) have. Or maybe, you’ll write a letter to yourself, and then tuck it away and take that letter out when you need to hear it most.

Infact, I hope you do. Because you deserve it.

Every. Single. Part.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Eating, Praying, and Loving (Part I)

There’s a fine frenzy about this book... You might have heard of it.

It goes by the name Eat, Pray, Love (and yes, the movie’s out right now too). And I can tell you that this book… Well, it’s pretty darn good!

I laughed. I cried. I had my “ah-ha” moments. And then I did it all again. I learned what’s good about eating and praying and loving. Much of which I already knew, but sometimes we need someone to come along and remind us. And if you're like me, sometimes we need life’s messengers to walk right up to us and tap us on the forehead and say, “Hello? Remember?”

But I have to be honest, at this moment I can only think about one tiny part. And in that one part, it is just one quote that won’t leave me alone. It’s on repeat in my mind, and since I traipsed through Italy, India, and Indonesia, it’s all I can think about when I think about Eat, Pray, Love.

I feel like this quote was meant for me. And don’t you just love it when an author is so talented and so timely? It’s as if they knew the future "you" almost intimately, and they decided to sit down and write to your life.

Amidst the journey from her spiritual breakdown to her spiritual epiphany, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, looked in the mirror. And what she found was something most unexpected. And what she found is what I needed to hear:

"So tonight I reach for my journal again. This is the first time I’ve done this since I came to Italy. What I write in my journal is that I am weak and full of fear. I explain that Depression and Loneliness have shown up, and I’m scared they will never leave. I say that I don’t want to take the drugs anymore, but I’m frightened I will have to. I am terrified that I will never really pull my life together.

In response, somewhere from within me, rises a now-familiar presence, offering me all the certainties I have always wished another person would say to me when I was troubled. This is what I find myself writing on the page:

I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long. I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it—I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and Braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.

Tonight, this strange interior gesture of friendship—the lending of a hand from me to myself when nobody else is around to offer solace—reminds me of something that happened to me once in New York City. I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glance of myself in a security mirror’s reflection. In that moment, my brain did an odd thing—it fired off this split-second message: “Hey! You know her! That’s a friend of yours!” And I actually ran forward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. But for some reason that incident comes to mind again tonight during my sadness in Rome, and I find myself writing this comforting reminder at the bottom of the page:
Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a FRIEND…

I fell asleep holding my notebook pressed against my chest, open to this most recent assurance. In the morning when I wake up, I can still smell a faint trace of depression’s lingering smoke, but he himself is nowhere to be seen. Somewhere during the night, he got up and left. And his buddy loneliness beat it, too.”

I can’t get this part out of my mind. And those bold words come together to make the quote I can’t stop thinking about: Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a FRIEND….

It’s the crux of the novel. It’s the heart of the message. It’s the crème de la crème. It’s the—Well, you get the point...

We should never forget that in every moment we are our own best friend. There is beauty and power in self-love. Whether we are in the midst of sitting atop a golden mountain or whether we are knee deep in the muck of the darkest valley, it is okay to stop and love ourselves.

In fact, it’s a necessity that we put our arms around ourselves, in the form of a hug, a reminder, or a welcoming. It’s vital we find the things to love about ourselves and ignore the messages of a superficial culture. Because it isn’t until we learn to love the pieces that makes us who we are that we can let genuine outside love in from our God, our lover, our family, and our friends...

And when we let that love in, it multiplies. And when we let that love in, it becomes home.

And isn’t that what this journey is about? Don’t we deserve this intimate friendship? Don’t we deserve to hear the words, “I’m here. I love you. I’ll stay with you” from our own voice?

If you can know just one thing, know this: You are worthy to be loved, and that love starts with you!


Please come back to The Universal Soul for Part II of On Eating, Praying, and Loving…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

That Childlike Wonder

Do you remember when you were a kid and the smallest thing made you happy? You couldn’t wait to shout, “Mommy, look!” or “Daddy, guess what!”

Think about those memories for a minute… I know you’ve got some great ones way back in the corner of your mind…

Are you thinking about it?

I bet it took you a bit to access the feelings you associated with that childlike wonder, and I bet you started to wonder when you stopped feeling that way.


It’s so easy to be consumed by the adult world and its ability to be ridiculously mundane, while in the very same breathe, the adult world has the uncanny ability to be ridiculously exhausting. It’s mundanely exhausting! Or is that exhaustingly mundane?

So what do we do about it? How do we access that childlike wonder?

I think that the key to loving life (the way we did as kids) is to pay very close attention to the details and then revel in them at every turn. We’ve got to forget about the whole “But I’m adult!” rationalization we so frequently use to excuse our stress levels and set ways. We’ve got to make room for loving those little details again.

Where is that childlike wonder?

Hmmm.

I must humbly admit that I haven’t been keeping in touch with my inner child as I should. As I type this admission, I realize that I need to be more cognizant of all the awe-inspiring things that surround my senses. I need to be more aware of the tiny celebrations that pop up everyday. Because lately, I’ve been letting my little mind get a little crazy, and I’ve been worry about things I can’t control. And since my mind can only house a given amount of neurotic thoughts at a time, it’s about time I kick them out on the mean streets so I can make room for the thoughts that make me happy, the thoughts that make life grand.

So what did I love today? What are those awe-inspiring things? What are my tiny celebrations?

(But more importantly for you, what are yours? What brings you joy? What keeps the childlike wonder alive?)

First of all, I love the first sip of a cold drink on a hot summer day. I love how I can feel that cool bubble of liquid travel from my lips, to my tongue, to my throat, and down into my belly. It’s a perfect feeling.


Secondly, I love the way my little white dog wiggles her butt when she runs down the stairs. I am laughing right now because I can see her in my mind's eye. She loves to smile too. So there she is in my memory, wiggling her butt and smiling as she runs down the stairs to greet me with a wet puppy-dog kiss.


I’ve got one more... I love my red couch. I wanted a red couch for years, convincing myself that it would be my muse. Turns out I was right. After a long day at work, I open the window blinds and plop down of my red couch. That late sun comes in, bathing my skin with a light dusting of warmth, and I am extended on my slice of Heaven.



Doesn’t get any better than that.

Reminding myself of those things prompts me to realize that I had a good day, and that no stress is worth diminishing these things. No bad thought is worth entertaining.

So I’ll ask you again... What are the little things you love? What are your tiny celebrations? How do you keep that childlike wonder alive in this mundanely exhausting adult world?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beyond Front Doors

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” ~Flora Whittemore

Doors are like people.

I don’t know all the reasons why I think this, but I do. I’ve always been fascinated with them, just as I am infinitely fascinated by people. No matter how many people you've met, you can never say you've known them all. The same thing goes for doors.

Perhaps I'm drawn in by doors because of what they represent.













Perhaps it’s because I am nosy, and I am curious; I can’t help but to wonder what’s behind them. Or more specifically, who's behind them...










When I travel, I love to walk around looking at doors and snapping photographs of my favorites. I find myself imagining whose life was led behind them, fully knowing each life is intricate and different from my own. The secrets behind those closed doors are secrets I will never know.

Here are two photographs I took in Charleston, SC.











Each door, especially in homes that have stood hundreds of years, has seen many lifetimes. It has known many people. And each is different from the next. The doors say so much about the time, yet say so little about the lives they protected.

I wonder what my mother's front door says about her... I wonder if it says she loves to garden. Or that she's a cancer survivor. Or that she loves her country and the country mountains.

I wonder what my front door has seen and what it says about my life... Does it say I'm still figuring things out? Does it say I get lonely? Does it say that I'm a dreamer?

Doors are complicated and as unique as we are... They are great secret keepers and protect the dwellers inside like the good friends that they are.

Doors are like people.
But not just any people.
Doors are good people.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pictures from the Road...

There's nothing more beautiful and inspirational than being in nature. So naturally, one of my favorite hobbies is photographing nature wherever I go. I just wanted to share some of the many photographs I took on the road this summer. I figured that if they bring me peace and inspiration, then maybe you'd enjoy them too. Also, I will be sharing some of my other journeys in future posts along the way as well.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wedding Blues- wedding ceremony floral arrangement at Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod... My husband and I were blessed to witness our childhood friend marry his best friend this summer on the beaches of Cape Cod.
First Promise- a beautiful miracle appearing across the majestic mountains of North Carolina...
The rainbow was so bold, perhaps the most pristine rainbow I've ever seen. My family and I all smiled, and then we enjoyed an amazing home-cooked meal thanks to my talented father.

Keep Off Rocks- a sign that can be found on the beaches of Chatham in Cape Cod...
The weather was beautiful, and I have to admit that though I am from Florida, I greatly enjoyed so many beach days in a row with my hubby and friends. And as you folks up north know, the beaches are very different up that way.

Solitude- simple, throwback lifeguard chair on the beaches of Cape Cod...
We came across this spot as we walked the beach that evening after driving home from Province Town. I liked how it looked with the high sand dunes behind it so I snapped this photo.

Sphere- residential trellis right off the beaches of Chatham...
I loved the shadows and the contrast of the blue and white. It was a beautiful day on the beach, and we were now off to get the best lobster rolls in town.

On the Shoreline- taking a break from walking the beach on Chatham to capture the smooth pebbles and shells that washed to the shoreline...
I love this photo because I can see my hubby on the shoreline enjoying the waves as they splash across his feet.

Stairway to Heaven- a bridge so that homeowners could travel over the rocks and onto the their private beaches...
I love this photo because of the angular lines of the bridge and how it looks against the rocks and clear blue sky. Cape Cod, along with its beaches, is a photographically stunning place.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

In My Mother's Garden- The last three photographs are my favorite photos I took in my mother's garden. Every summer I photograph what she's been working on, as her garden is her heaven on Earth. She loves sharing its beauty with others.




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Art of Letting Go

If I am certain of one thing, I am certain that the mind is a suitcase. And in it we carry around the day's events. We fold up memories and tuck them into the corners. We hide our unmentionables at the bottom, stuffed underneath a stack of less incriminating articles, like our trusty blue jeans and white t-shirts.

And this suitcase travels everywhere. Some things we unload. Some things we hold onto for the next trip, even if the journey doesn’t call for them. Some articles are helpful, while others just weigh us down or hold us up. And when the day’s journey has come to a close, the suitcase of our mind can become overwhelming because we can’t find what we’re looking for because it’s buried underneath a pile of junk we stopped needing years ago. And that pile of junk becomes a real problem.

We start to lose our minds because of the chaos. We’ve complicated our travels because we just can’t seem to let some things go. And because of this, our load just gets heavier and heavier.

You get the metaphor...


I think we all have a list of things that haunt us, packed deep inside our minds. Perhaps they’re should haves and could haves. Perhaps they’re what ifs. Sometimes we stew over a relationship that came to an end. We wonder what we did and why it didn’t work. We play the blame game. We torment ourselves over what was said and what wasn’t said. And then there’re the relationships we’re all in now. We love these people. But they drive us crazy. Why don’t they listen? What were they thinking? We wonder why they do this or why they do that.

The list of mental preoccupations can go on and on and on…

And they do. They keep us up at night. They are the object of our obsessions. They are the catalyst for our bad moods. If we’re ranting and raving… they’re probably what got us started.

I won’t deny I’ve done this… and a lot. But something I’ve recently learned in my quiet time and meditation is that as a simple human being I have very little control over anything other than my own mind. I can’t control traffic lights, my family members, or the state of affairs. Heck, I can’t even control what others think of me; that’s their doing, inside their mind.

And it was with this small epiphany, in which I was reading Wherever You Go, There You Are, that I felt a huge release of tension escape from my chest. I felt relieved! All the things I’ve been packing into my suitcase so that I could analyze and fret over them later shouldn’t be in my suitcase at all! I can kick them to the curb because all that worrying is for naught. I’ve got to let go... and that's OKAY!

And you should too! So what I purpose is that we all make a list of five things we know we’ve been obsessing over, and choose one to let go of today. And if it works, we’ll let go of one more tomorrow… and so on and so forth.

You can do this through prayer, meditation, contemplation, writing, or action… Do whatever suits you. It might take a minute or a day; it may take the month, but that's okay. Just be sure you're letting go of that certain something...

Let go of its torment.

Let go of its weight.

Let go of your expectations and your need to understand and control whatever it is.

We can’t control anything but our thoughts. So let go and revitalize your mind. In return, you’ll be rewarded with a greater sense of peace and wellbeing because if we purge our suitcase of these unneeded articles, we can make room for the things that matter, things that we could actually use in this journey.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn explained, “Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything… It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are… It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to…

So open your hand, release your clutched fingers, and let the things you've clung to the very most go, and let them ride out on the wind. Then sit back and welcome that smile of peace as it crawls across your face, as you watch the fear and regret and anxiety that once gripped you disappear into the air as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Visit with the Enemy: A Body, Mind, and Soul Cleanse (Part II)

A few days ago, I shared with you all that I was wrestling with a bout of depression for the period I was on a prescription medication to combat an infection I was suffering from.

In just ten days, I could feel my health and vitality, both physically and mentally, unravel, and I learned how easy it was to become depressed and allow that feeling to overtake your body and your life. But the difference for me, which is a great blessing, is that the visit with the enemy was short-lived. I was lucky enough to be on the antibiotics for less than two weeks, and I’ve been able to gather enough knowledge on natural health to effectively combat the imbalances my body was experiencing.

So now, as my time on my medication comes to a close I’ve decided that because it took ten days to fall off the wagon of ideal health, it’s in my best interest to do something radical for the next ten days in order to get back on track physically, mentally, and spiritually.



My objective is to find balance and ultimate health again, and my goal is to continue this journey beyond just ten days.


As all of you know, the body, mind, and spirit are all intrinsically linked, and when one part suffers, the others will inevitably suffer as well, but before I share my plan, I’d like to explain my reasons for sharing this journey to begin with: I want to share my personal cleanse so that I might inspire someone else to do the same (in their own way, of course), and also, I’d like to comfort others in their journey through depression; there are NATURAL ways to combat your pain. And finally, I’d like to share this plan with you all so that I may hold myself accountable.

How it will work: I know the next ten days will be a major challenge, but I’d like to share them with you. I have it set up so that new posts will appear on the blog automatically over the next ten days because I won't be on. However, I will be chronicling my days and experiences on a daily basis, and in ten days I'll share the series, for better or for worse.

-----------------------------------------------

My Personal 10-Day Cleanse (June 22nd-July 1st)

BODY
Daily Physical Activity- Physical activity isn’t just good for the body; it also helps to fight depression, so I’ll be doing one hour of exercise or physical activity a day, which will be in addition to any meditative yoga I will be doing. Physical activity has been proven to fight depression: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression.
Daily Vitamins- I will take a Vitamin D, Fish Oil (Omega 3-fatty acid), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E daily in order to fight depression with my nutrition, as cited in these two medical articles: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery and http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/fight-depression.html.
Daily Green Drink- My good friend is a yoga instructor and vegetarian, and she swears that Green Vibrance, a popular green drink, did wonders for her health, both physically and mentally. So I will begin my daily regimen and continue to do this beyond my 10 day cleanse. You can learn more about this here: http://www.sensablehealth.com/wp/2008/06/21/green-vibrance/.
A Pescetarian Diet- The term Pescetarian is used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish, and there has been research done to show that this particular Mediterranean diet helps combat depression and many other illnesses. This will be a new challenge for me, and I hope to implement it past the ten days. I haven’t eaten read meat in over ten years so I am almost there. I just have to surrender the chicken, Lord help me! You can read more about a Pescetarian diet here: http://www.musclemagfitness.com/nutrition/healthy-eating/pescetarian-diet-for-total-health.html and http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1305214/health_benefits_of_a_pescetarian_diet.html?cat=51.

MIND
Yoga- I will commit to at least 30 minutes of gentle, meditative yoga a day in order to calm my mind, heal my body, and practice meditation.
Writing- I will write daily, both creatively and reflectively. Specifically, I plan to work on my novel and document my journey over the next ten days.
Unplugging- For ten days, I will not watch any television or spend time on the Internet. I will leave my long cell phone chats behind. So that means no Facebook and no surfing the web and no texting. I really believe too much time doing these things can fill our mind with mental toxins, and they keep us from getting out there and living our lives a good deal of the time. They keep us from being in the moment, and I want my focus to be on my friends, family, and spiritual being.
Rethinking- I will work on rejecting negative thoughts and will work on replacing them with positive ones in order to decrease anxiety.

SPIRIT
Meditation/Prayer- During my yoga sessions and before bed, I will commit to spending real time praying and reflecting spiritually on my life and those that populate it. I want to increase my dialogue with God, as well as getting better at just listening.
Nature Focus- I will spend at least one hour outside in nature a day, whether that be via exercise, yoga, or relaxing with a book, a friend, or a family member. And while in nature, I will be present and pay attention to the beautiful details that unite us all.
Read Spiritual Texts- I will, on a daily basis, spend time reading and reflecting on one of several spiritual texts: the Bible, select devotionals, Emerson’s Self Reliance, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson (to name a few).
Do What I Love- Teaching has one luxury, and that is the summer break. Because of this, I am blessed to focus an extended period of time on doing the things I love that the school year typically suspends. So over the next ten days, I will, on a daily basis, commit myself to stepping outside my old routine and doing the things I love to do like writing, scrapbooking, photography, hiking, playing with my dogs, going on nature walks, and working on my novel.
----------------------------------------------
SEE YOU IN TEN DAYS!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Visit with the Enemy (Part I)

I read on the bottle that one of the side effects was depression. I remember laughing, chuckling to myself, and thinking, That’s for the sad people; it’s not for me.

Then I remember thinking, it’s just ten days. In ten days I’ll be healed of this infection. This drug can’t possibly have any sway over me in that short period of time. It just didn’t seem logical to me, a fiercely logical woman, that years of a strong, healthy lifestyle could be undone in a week and a half of prescription medication.

There’s no way.

But then the investigator in me decided to do a little research on the drug (which shall remain nameless to protect the drug companies) around the web, and what I found was disturbing to say the least.

People called it “poison.” And every type of ailment or reaction I could conjure up in my hypochondriac-of-a-mind was spilling across the computer screen as I scrolled further and further down the page. One person after another explained the physical pain that came to live in their otherwise healthy body and joints. Others meticulously described a tailspin into depression. The most disturbing parts were the accounts that exposed the long-term effects of the drug. Even AFTER getting off this medication, people still experienced the devastating effects of physical aches and depression.

It was only day two, and I was determined, despite the mounting evidence, to stay optimistic...


Well, on day three, the little researcher in me was at it again, and this time I was determined to find out how I could decrease the chances of having these ill side effects. I wanted to be the model patient. So I started digging. And sure enough, I found a laundry list of “do nots.”

First it was “Don’t drink any caffeine because you won’t be able to process it.” Then it was “Don’t have any dairy products because it will induce nausea.” Then it was “Restrain from any physical activity to avoid damage to the tendons and joints.” And following those edicts were “Don’t take pain relievers. Don’t take supplements. Don’t go in the sun.”

So in one fell swoop, I was forced to relinquish everything that made me… well, ME.

I couldn’t garden. I couldn’t revel in my morning cup of joe. No yoga. No exercise. No bike rides. No going to the beach, swimming at the pool, or reading in the sun. No daily vitamins or supplements… "No, no, no," was I could hear.

Despite my efforts, by day five I was dragging and aching all over my body. My joints were stiff and popping. I had never felt this type of aching lethargy before. Lucky me; I was in that minute “1%” of patients that would react in such a way.

And by day six, I was depressed. Yes, I said it... Depressed! I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I kept my blinds drawn. For fear of what, I do not know. I couldn’t bring myself to see my friends, so I canceled plans with lame excuses. What was I going to say to them? “I’m sorry, but I am really depressed right now”? That wasn’t going to happen.

And then the lack of control set in. For no reason, I felt like I could cry, and I did. For what exactly, I didn’t really know. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a grayish, drawn girl that resembled me, but she wasn't me. My poor husband looked at me as if someone had come along and sucked his wife right out of her body during the night. Even when he was home from work, I still just wanted to be alone.

And in all of this alone time, I started thinking about the warning on that darn bottle again. Here I was, thinking just eight days before, that this warning about depression was just for the sad people. But now it all made perfect sense. In ten day’s time, when someone is stripped of all the healthy things that make them vibrant, and that lifestyle is replaced with a man-made prescription drug, of course the side effects are going to be depressing. Of course we aren’t going to have an overall sense of wellbeing.

I wasn't different from anyone else. Depression was knocking at my door. He was settling in at my kitchenette. He was resting on my pillow.

In just ten days, he was making himself quite at home. And he was starting to undo me...


But trust me, I am determined that this is just a visit. I am outing him now; I'm opening the blinds and letting the sun in. My bout with this nuisance will go down in my history book as a personal victory. Because unlike so many sufferers, my ten days are over today. The foreigner will be out of my body and out of my house in 24 hours. And to be SURE of this, I have a plan to heal myself…

I have a very good plan indeed…


--------------------------------------------------------

A Personal Note:

I decided to share this very personal story about myself for a few reason.

First, I share this story with you on the tale-end of our “Journey from Darkness to Light” series. It was perfect timing that my good friend Nihcole shared her three part series. And from the reactions and the discussions on our Facebook community, I know it’s touched more people than just me. So thank you to Nihcole and our readers for giving me the courage to share this.

Also, in sharing this, I hope everyone sees how easy it is to become depressed, and that if they are depressed, that they are not alone. There are so many people who love you and there are so many natural tools, as Nihcole shared, that can lift you up out of your depression.

And finally, I wanted everyone to understand why I am doing what I am going to do next. I have a plan to get myself back on track, and I’d like to share that journey with you all, and I thought it would be strange to share the journey without sharing the origins of its inception.

So please stay tuned…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman's Journey out of Depression (Part III-B of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

If you are just joining us, please read Part I here:
http://theuniversalsoul.blogspot.com/2010/05/journey-from-darkness-to-light-one.html.
And you can read Part II here:
http://theuniversalsoul.blogspot.com/2010/06/journey-from-darkness-to-light-one.html.
Part III-A can be read here:
http://theuniversalsoul.blogspot.com/2010/06/journey-from-darkness-to-light-one_15.html.

Disclaimer: And please keep in mind that though Ms. Chartier has a background in mental health and is very informed, citing all her resources, she is not a physician. Please consult your physician if you are dealing with depression or find a professional in natural remedies and homeopathy to help you. Thank you.

------------------------------------------------------------
Part III-B
By: N. Chartier

Change Your Lifestyle, Change Your Life

So far in this series, I have shared what triggered me to seek psychiatric care, how antidepressants affected me and changed my life, and the natural cures I rely on day-to-day that have drastically improved my stressed moods and depression. Now, I would like to focus for a few minutes on some of the other ways to help improve your quality of life and therefore, your emotions. Combating depression and anxiety naturally can be done. I am living proof that it is possible. But, it requires more than just taking a handful of supplements every day. It requires changing the way you think, what you eat, how you live your life, and who you associate with among other things. Depression can be a serious problem for some, but for most people, by establishing a healthy lifestyle and incorporating the supplements I previously mentioned, living life depression free naturally is not only possible, it is probable. Here are few other changes you can make in your life to not only help combat depression and anxiety, but to improve your quality of life over all:

• I know I have said it before and now I am going to say it again: Exercise! Exercising does more than just burn calories and boost your heart rate; it also helps to improve your mood because physical activity stimulates the “feel-good” chemicals in our brains, like endorphins, which leaves us feeling more relaxed and energized than before we worked out. Plus, exercise helps to boost our self-esteem, too.

• Eat organically as often and as much as possible. If you are on a budget, find out which foods are the most important ones to eat organically and only buy those. For example, foods with thin skin, such as tomatoes, absorb more mood killing, harmful pesticides than their thick skin counterpart, the pineapple. Also, try purchasing your fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets. Locally grown fruits and veggies are typically not genetically modified and are not treated with nearly as much pesticides as their big-company counterparts.

• Eat Protein. Protein sources such as turkey, chicken, beef, eggs and dairy are the best natural sources of the 26 essential amino-acids, particularly tryptophan, which helps to improve mood and sleep. I try to eat a protein source in every single meal.

• Eliminate or reduce your intake of bad mood foods like alcohol, tobacco, excessive amounts of caffeine, starchy carbs, sweets, candy, and soda. It’s okay to drink a cup of hot tea or coffee in the morning, but if you are relying on 8 cups to get you through the day, you could be doing a lot more damage to your mood than you know. Sugary and starchy foods spike up our blood sugar and give us a temporary energy or mood boost, however, when our blood sugar plummets after eating these foods, we are left feeling lethargic and depressed. Alcohol, as many of us know, is a depressant. Drinking alcohol at night prevents us from falling to quality and restful REM sleep, which leaves us feeling tired and depressed the next day.

• Drink water! Purified by reverse osmosis, and lots of it! Dehydration causes headaches and can leave us feeling depressed and lethargic. Try to drink between eight to ten glasses throughout the day. If you do, you might actually find that you won’t need that 3 p.m. coffee anymore.

• Get at least 10 to 20 minutes of sunlight each day. The vitamin D we get from spending about 20 minutes in the sun is enough to boost our mood instantly. While everyone else at your office is having a 5 minute smoke break, go take a 5 minute sunlight break for a quick mood booster.

• Spend at least 15 minutes a day alone with your own thoughts. Better yet, start a journal and spend 15 minutes each day writing down your thoughts. It will help make you more aware of what triggers certain emotions and will also help you to clear your mind by getting negative thoughts out of your system rather than harboring them.

• Connect with someone. Feeling blue? Call up a good, reliable friend or sit down and write a letter to a friend or family member. Having someone to talk to and who will listen to you, even if they have no advice to offer, improves bad moods drastically.

• Avoid people/situations that are negative. Limit the amount of time you spend with friends or family members who have a tendency to bring your mood down. Whether these are people who unintentionally (or deliberately) hurt your feelings and make you feel bad about yourself, or if these are those people who overwhelm you with their never-ending, emotionally draining drama, try to reduce the amount of time you spend with people who often leave you feeling bad or emotionally drained afterwards. You don’t have to avoid friends and family all together who tend to make you feel bad, but at least set a time limit and stick to it.

• Find something or someone to care for. I read somewhere years ago (I can’t remember where) that people who have either a pet or a simple house plant that needs watering are less likely to commit suicide than those who don’t have anything to take care of. Having something to take care of, or knowing someone or something relies on you day to day for survival can drastically improve your quality of life and can increase self worth.


There is Hope

For some people, I am sure, depression is debilitating. It can cripple our ability to function and hinder our desire to live a fulfilling life. Depression can leave us feeling hopeless, unworthy, guilty, and uninterested in life in general. It takes its toll both physically and emotionally. But, it does not have to be that way anymore. Every day we are bombarded by pharmaceutical companies with commercials for drugs that will “cure” our depression and that will change our lives for the better. What many people fail to realize is that just like any business, psychiatry and “Big Pharma” have one goal: to increase the number of people taking mood altering drugs in order to increase their profits. What many people don’t know is that antidepressants carry “black box” warnings which indicate that the drug that is supposed to be treating the depression can actually cause the people taking them to commit suicide. That very fact is what led me to get off antidepressants entirely and steered me in the direction of natural alternatives. What I found is that the natural alternatives I use have no side effects what-so-ever, and are far more effective (and far less expensive) than the antidepressants that were literally making me suicidal at times and emotionally numb at others. I truly hope that my message touches at least one person and encourages others to explore alternatives to the harmful pharmaceutical antidepressants. Now that I am no longer taking pharmaceutical antidepressants I am happy. I can feel excitement again. I no longer have deep spells of depression and suicidal thoughts. I am motivated again. I no longer battle with the side effects I felt while taking medications and my quality of life and my mood has changed drastically. I am finally free…

Recommended Reading:

The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A.

Creating Optimism: A Proven, Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression by Bob Murray, Ph.D. and Alicia Fortinberry, M.S.

Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber

Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman's Journey out of Depression (Part III-A of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.



Disclaimer: And please keep in mind that though Ms. Chartier has a background in mental health and is very informed, citing all her resources, she is not a physician. Please consult your physician if you are dealing with depression or find a professional in natural remedies and homeopathy to help you. Thank you.

----------------------------------------------------------------------





Part III-A
By: N. Chartier

Cardiologist, Physician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dr. Paul Dudley White once said, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” It sounds cliché, however, it is so true! Many of us don’t have the time to fit a five-mile walk in to our day, I certainly don’t, but I do make time every single day to get in some sort of exercise. Whether it be a relaxing walk around the block once or twice in the evening, an intense interval training session on the elliptical, or five minutes of bouncing on a trampoline, I always make time for a simple workout. The endorphins our bodies produce while exercising are a natural antidepressant. In this final part of this series, I will share how I was able to get off the medications that were robbing me of my feelings, and I will also share the natural remedies that I have integrated into a healthy lifestyle.

My Journey Getting off Antidepressants

I do so much to be healthy; I eat organically, exercise, and take vitamins. So why would I want to continue poisoning myself with medications that were literally making me sick? After I had my daughter, I began seeing my life (and my emotions) from a new perspective. I started to research alternatives to the antidepressants I was taking. I no longer wanted to be a slave to the medication. I was at a point where I felt it was safe to begin exploring the idea of weaning off the SNRI again. Additionally, I was fed up with my psychiatrist trying to convince me to increase my dose each visit when I knew I did not need it. I was less depressed taking only 75mg of the antidepressant than I was taking 150mg, which is the opposite of what one would expect, and a blatant indication that the SNRI simply was not doing what it was supposed to be doing.

I knew that I needed to wean off the meds slowly and chose to do so without my psychiatrist’s supervision (something I do NOT recommend doing. If you plan to wean off your current antidepressant, ask your doctor how to do so appropriately. If your doctor is not sure how, or discourages you from doing so, find a doctor who will help you wean off safely). I researched the web hoping to find a site with guidance on how to safely wean of an SNRI. I found a message board with an antidepressant forum: http://www.topix.com/forum/drug/effexor . I read through countless posts by people going through the same thing I went through. It was so eye-opening to read that others had the same withdrawal experience trying to get off antidepressants as I had. Amongst all the posts about other people’s experiences, were also posts about how to taper off the drugs and recommendations for what supplements help with withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, I bought the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A., a book dedicated to offering all natural and safe alternatives to improving mood and quality of life. I also borrowed a book from the library called Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber, which exposes how pharmaceutical companies create the need for a drug then rushes the FDA to approve it, and it explains how Americans are under pressure to medicate themselves. Armed with the information I learned from these resources and a few others, I began my journey towards living life medication and depression free.

After spending hours reading through years of posts by people on the forum discussing how they weaned off potent and addictive antidepressants, I decided to cut all my antidepressant tablets in half. Then I took half of those half tablets and cut them in to fourths and cut half of the fourths in to eighths. I started my taper by going down to three fourths of a tablet for two weeks, then half a tablet for two weeks, then one fourth for two weeks, and finally one eighth for two weeks. It was by far the most difficult two months of my life. I experienced painful withdrawals such as brain zaps, a strange sensation which makes your head feel like it is being electrocuted. My joints were so stiff and achy that I couldn’t stand up straight or walk first thing in the morning and after getting up from sitting. I had severe depression and crying spells over nothing. I was easily angered and suffering insomnia.

I learned from the message board that taking Magnesium Malate and high potency Omega-3 fish oil helps to alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. I went to the vitamin store and purchased bottles of both. Magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever. I took 1,250mg of Magnesium Malate up to three times a day depending on how I felt. It helped me tremendously with muscle and joint pain. I also took 1,200mg of Omega-3 fish oil with DHA which helped to minimize the severity of those annoying “brain zaps” I described earlier and also works as a natural antidepressant. After two months of decreasing my antidepressant dose and taking these supplements, I was finally free of antidepressants. I have been completely off antidepressants for three months now, and I have never felt better.



My “Secrets” to Living Life Depression-free Naturally

Truthfully, what I am about to share with you is not really a secret at all (although the FDA and “Big Pharma” would probably like it to be). The remedies I use to maintain my emotional health and well-being are natural, affordable, abundant, effective, and some of them are even free! For instance, the sun is free, and it is abundant and is one of my favorite “cures” for a bad mood or depression. The quotable Astrid Alauda stated once that “The sun is nature’s Prozac.” Each day, first thing in the morning, I open all of the blinds in my house to let in the sunlight. Some mornings, I get caught up feeding the baby and forget to do it right away, and I’ll catch myself feeling a little glum. Then I open my blinds and feel a world of difference in terms of my mood.

Unfortunately for many of us simply opening the blinds is not enough to help boost our mood, which is why I also rely on supplements to keep my anxiety and depression in check. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A. taught me which supplements work for certain mood categories. I rely heavily on this book, refer to it on a weekly basis, and highly recommend it to anyone; from those who experience the occasional blues, to those who suffer from more severe depression. The Mood Cure shares information about natural antidepressant remedies, such as SAMe, 5-HTP, St. Johns Wort, Tryptophan, GABA and Melatonin, and provides instructions on how to take these supplements as well as when to stop taking them. For the sake of keeping this part of the series from becoming too cumbersome, I will only go in to detail discussing the supplements I take:

5-HTP-5 hydroxy-tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid and is the precursor to serotonin. It is converted from tryptophan, a protein building-block, and is transformed in to serotonin by our bodies. It is also an important brain chemical that influences mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Sometimes we do not get enough tryptophan from the foods we eat (eggs, beef, poultry, turkey and dairy products) therefore, our bodies have a more difficult time producing serotonin, which can lead to depression. 5-htp is also useful for combating headaches, carbohydrate cravings, obesity, fibromyalgia and insomnia basically side effect free. Relief from depression can be felt within minutes of taking a 5-htp supplement. I take 100mg of 5-htp every morning, and depending on my mood and whether I am having trouble falling asleep, I might also take 100mg at night, too. You can purchase 5-htp in supplement form from any health food store or vitamin shop. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross. M.A. Pages: 26-7, 42-44 and 235-36.

GABA- Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an amino acid, or building block of protein, and is a “potent mood enhancer”, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.89). Taking GABA in supplement form has the same effect on the brain as taking a benzodiazepine because it is what biochemists refer to as an “inhibitory neurotransmitter”, a chemical which turns off the brain’s reaction to stress. Our bodies produce GABA naturally, but too much stress can deplete our natural supply of GABA leaving us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, I take one 750mg GABA tablet and feel relief within a half hour. GABA can also be taken before an event which you know might be stressful and will actually prevent the person taking it from becoming too anxious or stressed. If you find that you are getting really sleepy after taking GABA, you are taking too much of it. GABA can be found in health food stores and vitamin shops in the same section where you will find 5-htp, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and other mood enhancing supplements. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 89 & 90.

Magnesium- Magnesium is a soothing and relaxing mineral that protects us from conditions associated with insomnia, depression, stress, anxiety, anger, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, constipation, low blood sugar, diabetes, chronic fatigue, low thyroid, PMS, osteoporosis and also encourages serotonin production, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.195 and 234) There are so many reasons to take a magnesium supplement. I prefer to take Magnesium Malate, which is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, because it helps with pain in addition to working as an antidepressant. I take 1,200mg in the evening because I find that not only does it help relieve the back pain I feel at the end of a long day of carrying and lifting my baby, it also helps me fall asleep quickly at bedtime. Since muscular tension and pain are often associated with stress and depression, I believe it is important to make sure you are getting enough magnesium if you suffer from depression or anxiety. For more information about how magnesium can help relieve chronic pain, refer to http://www.naturalnews.com/026801_magnesium_Vitamin_D_chronic_pain.html. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 195-96 and 243.

Fish Oil- Fish oil supplements are loaded with the important brain protecting fat, Omega-3. Omega-3 fats help protect our brains, arteries, and digestive lining and are also extraordinarily effective antidepressants. And, the more omega-3 we have, the more depression-fighting dopamine our bodies produce. It helps to improve our mental and physical alertness, as well. Grass-fed beef, many types of fish, eggs and flaxseed are all great sources of heart-healthy, mood boosting omega-3 fats. I take 1,800mg of omega-3 fish oil with DHA and EPA every day. One thing to watch out for when taking/eating omega-3 rich supplements and foods is that you are not also getting too much of the bad mood omega-6 fats. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 149-50 & 197.

----------------------------------------------------

In Part III-B Ms. Chartier will share lifestyle changes that can dramatically improve your mental health, along with her conclusion and recommended reads. Don't miss it!

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails