Years ago, I read an article in the local paper about a woman who had run a marathon. She was a senior and if I remember correctly, she was in her 80’s. The race officiators extended the time limit of the race because she was determined to finish. The interview she gave the paper included a quote from her that I think of almost daily. She said, “Nothing could be easier than putting one foot in front of the other.”
I almost canceled the nature retreat I was leading yesterday. Only a few people had signd up, and I knew that preparing for it was going to be time consuming – and time is the one resource I just don’t have right now. I had already spent 3 hiking days looking for a good open, safe spot for the yoga portion of the retreat and couldn’t find anything that wasn’t crowded, full of poison oak, or hot and sunny. A little voice inside of me though, told me to hold it anyway. Then, my doctor told me to as well.
You know you’re not making things up when you explain where you’re at to your GP and she nods along and looks like she wants to give you a hug. My doctor was a great listener and I was reassured that she wasn’t just a meds only kind of doctor. We talked about where I was with my depression, and she said that the therapy, the yoga, the meditation, the stress-management was going along just as she would suggest. So here I am once more, back on meds for a while.
Why is it so hard to talk about? So hard admit? I know where I’m at – I’ve been here before and I want to nip this in the bud before I digress too far. I’m not embarrassed to ask for help, or admit that I need it. Still, it would be dishonest not to admit that there’s a little part of me that feels like, “is there anything I can master? I’ve done this before, why am I back here? Why isn’t all of the management working?” There is definitely a part of me that is disappointed in myself for not being more of an optimist. And somewhere lurking down deep is the thought that I am supposed to be the teacher. Even though my conscious mind knows I am the eternal student, the tangible ego-ic world is quick to remind me that I should be the master. After all, I’ve helped many people through this before. I’ve managed my state of mind without medication for several years now.
I know how ridiculous that sounds. I know that I am one of the most positive people on the planet most of the time. The big truth for me though, is that everything really is impermanent, and for me it’s humbling to note that nothing is more impermanent than my own state of mind.
I’m dealing with the internal and I’ve become pretty good at that. Dealing with the external was something I’ve learned to manage through boundaries and saying NO to doing too much. So here I am realizing that if I want to keep my life as dream-filled as it is, I have to do more than is ideal for me personally. That means that there is a lot more stimulus going on both externally and internally, more than I can keep up with. Being mindful and accepting is really helping.
I say it to my students so much it’s become a joke. “Suffering is optional”. So this time around, as I notice that it’s really hard to make it through a day without yelling at someone, composing myself and apologizing, or I’m just not sleeping because I’m anxiously running over all of the things that need to be done, or I’ve just lost that desire to do anything – I know it’s time for help. I’m not going to suffer this time until my family is suffering with me. So, I’m trying a new medication called Pristiq. (I’m very skeptical of the name… terrible name!) As with most depression meds, there is an adjustment period. So for the next couple of weeks I’m dealing with a bit of nausea, being tired, and shaky hand syndrone. Kind of like being pregnant again. But, it’s all good – I feel like I’m climbing out of the hole again except this time it’s not scarry or overwhelming. It’s just is what it is.
Yesterday, the retreat was amazing, simply amazing. The six of us rolled out our mats on a wide stretch of cleared and packed trail. We were next to a creek-bed and huge trees wove overhead providing shade. I spoke as little as possible so that rather than worrying on form, we could move organically into our own natural expression of being. The birds chirped, the breeze sung through the branches of the trees, our drishti was a leaf, the spiders crawled around our mats and our feet rooted right down into the earth. Sirsasana (headstand) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (backbend) gave me a liberating new view of my world upside down with blue skies peaking though the branches of the big oaks. Those sirsana feet were reminded to reach up into the clouds just like the trees. It was downright magical.
Nobody cared that we had to shift plans slightly or that we started out a bit late. We all shared food and climbed through the beautiful foothills and canyons of Mt. Diablo, really enjoying a real connection with each other. I enjoyed listening to my friends and getting to know them better. For a whole morning, I forgot how tired I was, and how I couldn’t keep myself from shaking during yoga and how I almost wanted to throw up, or about what I needed to do next or where I needed to be on time. I felt so grateful to live in such a gorgeous world. We climbed up the last steep hill and it was so effortless for me.
Climbing out of this hole of anxiety and depression feels good. There’s no fear or despair this time, just acceptance of where I’m at. Nothing is easier than just putting one foot ahead of the other.