Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Life, Mental Health

Existential anxiety and depression

I was no stranger to the toy company called Melissa and Doug, but I never knew much about the people behind it and who created this line. It wasn’t until I bought a book called LifeLines, written by Melissa Bernstein, that I learned Melissa was one and the same woman. Creator of a toy company, author and survivor of existential anxiety and depression. In her book she documented her extraordinary and inspirational journey from profound darkness to radiant light. To this day I have not read this book that appealed to me some time ago and it’s not unusual for a book to come forward and find me. Sometimes I read them immediately and other times they patiently wait for the right timing, when I need them the most. I don’t question it anymore, I just go with the flow and know that the information will find me in time, and that the purpose will be revealed when it counts the most. I don’t know for what reason I picked up the book today. I simply felt drawn and called to it. I held it for a moment, gazing across the front cover and the chosen words to grace and capture the audience.

“Today I saved a life, although it was my very own, which won’t serve a greater purpose til I rescue lives unknown.”

I began to open the book and her intro, “Why now” felt as if she was speaking about me. I could only imagine how much we would have to talk about, how much of an understanding there would be, how we would complete each other’s sentences, feeling heard and understood. For a moment I walked down memory lane and remembered that very feeling I was lucky enough to experience at a prior point in my life.

I didn’t had to go far into the book and within the first two pages something captured me that I never heard of before. Existential anxiety and depression. In order to understand the meaning we need to break this down a bit. According to the Cambridge Dictionary existential is defined as a philosophy according to which the world has no meaning and each person is alone and completely responsible for his or her own actions. Further research revealed that existential depression is considered the mental illness of the gifted and talented.

We often tend to assume that depression is caused by a situation, by something that triggered it, an event, a dissatisfaction. It can be seasonal, situational, or intrapersonal. But existential depression can occur during periods of deep reflection about the meaning of life. When we seek answers about the very purpose and meaning of our existence. It might even revolve around topics of death, isolation, freedom and meaninglessness. We might also experience existential depression after major life events such as bereavement, accidents, natural disasters, job loss, failed marriages and so on.

Some believe that gifted people, gifted children and adults, are more likely to experience existential depression in their lives. Those creative, gifted, and talented who actively search and question life’s meaning are often thought to be more prone to existential depression. This includes the deep thinkers, the scientists, the sensitive people, the gifted individuals attuned to everything around them. And yes most likely the empaths as well. Gifted children may find it especially difficult to navigate life if they have that intellectual excitability or thirst for knowledge, to explore more intellectually than others who may be around them.

While existential depression may be a part of, or a form of, a spiritual crisis, it can also be a positive catalyst for change and growth. It is said that especially gifted and creative people do learn and grow in a positive way from what they experience through traumatic experiences and life crises. Finally I found myself on familiar territory. I too had asked an eternity the question “why” while drowning in a sea of despair, not knowing what was going on, that there was a name, a title, a term for what I was experiencing. Like Melissa, I was in my fifth decade of life, still believing I was a visitor from another planet who would never be understood, who would never fit in or be embraced here on Earth. And while I often cherished and celebrated my uniqueness, my individuality, not being like everyone else, a cookie cutter version of everybody, I realized that there were also painful elements to this celebration. There was isolation, a loneliness, a sense of not fitting in, and yes, even a sense of something being wrong with me.

Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980) spent his lifetime studying the mental health of intellectually and artistically inclined children and adults, recognizing that extreme intensity of their emotions and sensitivities was actually part of their psycho-physical makeup. In fact Dabrowski, in his clinical practice, saw many creative artists and writers undergoing profound spiritual crises. This forged his primary mission to “save and protect those who were tuned to the pain of the world and its dangerous trends, but whose voice was not heeded.” He saw those who were open to higher realities were often poorly adapted to this world and thus at risk for not succeeding or even surviving.

Having this knowledge now, perhaps every single moment, every single emotion and fear makes sense and can be seen in a new light. A radiant light of understanding and transforming the darkness within. Maybe the veil has been lifted, a mystery has been revealed and perhaps we can learn to understand ourselves a little better yet. Maybe we can see why we reacted the way we did, why we protected ourselves the way we did and why we seem to struggle just a little more. The enormity of this in itself is breathtaking and terrifying, but perhaps it can also be a tremendous relief to what seemed such a life mystery for so long. And my hope is to share this with you to bring you the same kind of peace, to be heard, and understood, and know that you are not alone.

Posted in Balance, Depression, Mental Health

Fighting depression

Another shot of my painted cabinet, housing my two Welsh healers in the Tiny Abode

The holidays can be a time for extra stresses to surface. It’s also a time many find themselves alone and fighting depression. Sometimes these people look like you and sometimes they look like me. We would never know about the battle that is going on inside of someone who keeps it all so well together. Sometimes we don’t know until it is too late. If you find yourself down from time to time, or if you know somebody that is struggling, there are a few simple things you can do that might be the difference between life and death. Here is a short list and a great start.

Being around understanding people

Cuddling a pet

Journaling

Crying it out

Going for a drive

Being gentle with yourself

Going outside

Taking a shower

Taking a walk

Playing music

Cleaning and redecorating

Proper medication

I never knew that some of these things help lift our spirits, but I recognize quite a few activities and habits I already do. I see them in a different, in a soothing light now having found and understood their purpose and meaning. It doesn’t always have to be something big and sometimes the smallest things hold the most amazing magick.

Posted in Chronic illness, Health, Mental Health

Living well – mental stability

On the health front I have come across an article covering Stephen Covey’s 7 cardinal rules for life. It offers wisdom and insight on living well in general and with bipolar disorder. I think that these rules can be applied to every day life, with people that are healthy and those that are suffering and are affected. Somehow it caught my attention. Let’s get started…

Have you ever encountered someone which mood seems to change instantly? I could mention that this is said about my astrological sign, Cancer, which is often labeled as a moody sign. Does that mean I am bi-polar…I wouldn’t think so, but too me it means that I feel deeper than most. Over the years I have not only observed myself, but I have known some people that seemingly ran hot and cold almost within the same sentence. It’s not that all of a sudden a mean streak attacked these people, shifting moods in an instance, but what is it then? By no means am I an expert, but I can’t help but wonder if being bi-polar is somewhat connected to feeling too much. When we feel too much it’s usually because a memory, an experience, a wound is triggered. We are reminded of something, an experience, trauma, something that brought us pain in most instances. We become vulnerable, we feel exposed, we have to defend, we have to protect.

Bipolar disorder includes behavioral issues that happen when we are not stabilized. It greatly affects our relationships and choices. Bipolar disorder includes grief work and grief work takes time. And at times we, ourselves get hurt when we don’t recognize a low in someone. When someone is off and is fighting with something internally. When something sets off the usual warm and fuzzy nature that has touched our hearts with kindness so many times before. Sometimes we get stuck in the middle of it and sometimes we just take the brunt of it all. It’s hard not to take it personally or to remember that that someone might be dealing with a condition such as bipolar disorder. Mental illness is such a vast field, branching into so many different directions, it’s easy to take for granted if not affected yourself, or even understood and found compassion for when it seems so foreign and strange to us. It’s quite amazing how complex and delicate we really are. The slightest imbalance can set us into a downward spiral at any time. Stephen Covey’s cardinal rules for life is something we can all strive for to upkeep a healthy relationship not only with ourselves but also with others. It might even instill some understanding and compassion for someone that we know is struggling. We remember that we might just be that thread that someone is holding onto and needs. Let’s take a closer look at what we can do to help.

1. Make peace with your past so it does not spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

2. What others think of you is none of your business. It is how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

3. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and who we are, they challenge us and force us to be strong.

4. No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

5. Don’t compare your life with others; you have no idea what their journey is about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

6. Stop thinking too much. It’s alright not to know all the answers. Sometimes there is no answer and that just might your answer. Accept, and move on. Next!

7. Sometimes talk-therapy can cause you and me to overthink everything. Sometimes you just have to stop thinking about some things and move on.

And there we have it. 7 cardinal rules to a better life and a better understanding. Cheers.