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Monday
Nov212011

Mindfulness

So you’d think a midwife with nearly 30 years experience would have living in the moment down pat, right? Not quite. In fact, I’ve struggled with “meditating” and even “breathing”; as much as I’ve tried, I’ve continuously failed.

Not anymore.

I’m in the throes of a deep clinical depression. When I’m depressed, which has happened far too many times in my life, I sink into a place where I, eventually, am unable to write even short pieces, hence my lack of posts over the last few months.

This depression was a culmination of several difficult experiences including leaving homebirth midwifery and Zack’s coming out transsexual. There are other, more personal, reasons, but those major two are enough for the purpose of discussion.

In my quest to stay out of the hospital, I’m in an Intensive Outpatient Therapy Program (IOP), attending group therapy 3 days a week for several hours each day. I also see my private therapist and psychiatrist, each having a hand in re-creating my sanity.

I’ve been in therapy much of the last 30+ years, but in the last couple, an entirely new method has taken hold and I am benefitting from the immense changes in mental health today.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Psychology began in earnest about 2006 and despite its fancy name, it basically means The Power of Positive Thinking & BEing in the moment. For those that do yoga or who meditate, this is old news to you. I’m sure seeing these methods used in psychology is a big “duh!”, but know that, for the first time, I get it. I can finally see the negative self-talk I’ve done my whole life and see how I ruminate and worry my life out of the present moment. In my IOP group, I am learning skills to keep me in the moment, not as a goal towards success in life, but to help me understand and accept and find peace in what is and to let what isn’t float away like clouds on a breezy day.

This all sounds so woo, doesn’t it? Monks and yoga teachers, Buddhist lessons and Hypnobabies classes all teach how to stay in the moment. Even as a midwife, how many times have I said, “Stay with this one contraction. All the ones past are gone; the ones in front aren’t here yet. Be Here Now.” Yet, I couldn’t even do what I was teaching. I’m using these lessons to not feel like crap about my lack of insight into the advice. (Float away, judgment!) In fact, it sounds so woo, I am shocked this is part of my therapy, the major part of my therapy.

Yet, I do feel better already and I have barely begun to understand what I am learning. A wonderful NetFriend read of my distress when I came out on my Facebook Page and sent me the most amazing book: Mindful Way Through Depression. Normally a very fast reader, this book requires I read it in short stints. It comes with a cd of guided meditations (which I have not listened to yet), but the book is so good, I’ve begun reading it to Zack. I figure if this is a new way of life (and mental health) for me, he should know what I am doing. Long understanding Be Here Now, Zack is thrilled I’m learning the skills he’s used his whole life.

So, here I am, 50-years old, digging my way out of clinical depression with the belief of To Think Is To Create. For the first time in ages, I feel, in the here and now, a great deal of hope.

Reader Comments (11)

Barb: First, courage and peace to you. I've been speaking to the healing aspects of mindfulness/present moment living/CBT for many years, often, into the wind : ) I'm so glad to know that you're finding these marvelous and in truth, ancient paths towards healing and wholeness. Many of the people in our "community" know that I was trained and certified as a Spiritual Director a few years ago, just as I too, was leaving Midwifery and coping with some major grief, life changes, menopause--the usual life-stew concoction that allows us, ultimately, to arrive at a genuine and rooted transformation into our Crone years. I knew that my own healing had to be accomplished within a context of spiritual and emotional transformation, if not complete metamorphosis, if I were to arrive deeply rooted in such a place of calm and centered peace that I could truly give back to my community as an Elder in the ways that are most meaningful and real for me, primarily, through my writing and work as a spiritual mentor/guide to others, primarily women, who are seeking their own healing/wholing. Please know that I am in solidarity with you, and support wholeheartedly the courage and wisdom your life is showing you in order to allow you to heal; let me know if there is anything I can do/be for you.

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I'm glad you are finding a way towards happiness. Good luck with your journey.

Meditation and even mantra repetition aren't all that woo. As more research is being done, results show that they have a positive effect on the brain. (My mom is even volunteering at the VA near UCSD to help with a study on Mantra repetition and PTSD.)

The neurological benefits are slowly being understood from a non- "woo" perspective. Plus, if it is working, that is the most important part when you are in the depths of depression. If it still feels too much like woo you can figure out how to separate it out or understand it differently when you are bit better.

I hope you have a speedy recovery!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I feel your pain. I'm in my own wicked depression because, among other things, I lost my job and figured out I can't get any more federal student loans, so no CNM for me. I did a PHP/IOP a couple of years ago and it helped SO MUCH. I hope it does the same for you!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChe

You are so courageous to share your struggles with us. You've given me today exactly what I need to hear, thank you for that gift. Remember I am here and I will ALWAYS love you!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersherry saunders

Barbara, for quite a while I have been aware of the fact that you seem to have mood swings -- possibly before you were even aware of it. If you would like to correspond privately with me, feel free to use the email connected with my login [can you see it? It is listed as "optional" primarily so that it ensures my legitimacy].

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntigonos

This is very timely--I struggle with depression myself and have gone to therapy in the past too. I was experiencing some negative thinking patterns over the last few days, and this post was an answer to my prayers. Thank you for writing this!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura--The Sushi Snob

I'm sorry to hear that you have been struggling but happy to hear that you are finding help. The joy and energy I saw when I started reading this blog seemed to have been absent lately. I hope you continue to find that CBT resonates with you. You've been buffeted by a lot of very real losses and changes lately. Who wouldn't need new, stronger coping strategies?

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristie B

Thank you all very much for your kind thoughts and words. I'm also glad my own stuff has touched others, encouraging movement (of all kinds) in your own lives. It's what I strive to have this blog do!

Antigonos: I've been diagnosed with BPD1 for around 20 years now, so the "swings" are well-documented, even though I have hypomania, not mania (except a couple of times that gave me the BPD1 instead of BPD2 designation). I've mentioned my BPD a couple of times, but because I have boundary issues, am wary of sharing things in the throes of depression. When I'm not depressed, I don't even think of the BPD stuff except twice a day when I take my meds. (And I can, indeed, see the email verifications, but thanks for your private email. means a lot to me.)

Lauren: I know that UCSD is doing cool work with scanning people during meditation. One of the doc's husbands where I go is on the UCSD team, possibly scanning your mom! What a small world, eh? It is the science behind it that moves me from thinking it's all woo, hearing how the brain reacts to the meditations and awareness vs. the standard reactions to stress. If that's woo, I want to be on the woo side of this! I do know it isn't woo anymore... there is a lot to To Think Is To Create.

Thanks to all of you again!

November 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

<3 <3 <3

Keep on keeping on.

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerri C

I don't know you, but I enjoy reading your blog. I too have suffered from depression and I know how much it sucks! I'm sorry. Somethings that I have done that have helped are working with a Calyco Healer and myofacial theraphy. I wish you the best and hope that you find healing in your life

November 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Good luck battling the beast and don't forget the power of exercise. It is transformative, especially w depression!

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjengod

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