Tag Archive for: depression

As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression
throughout her life, perhaps choosing a career as a writer wasn’t the best way
to go. Writers, especially freelance writers, experience far more rejection
than the average person.
Fortunately, during some intense research I was doing on
adolescence and brain development, I discovered several studies on the power of
gratitude. When I was really wrestling with darkness, mornings were the most
challenging time for me. I woke up, opening one eye at a time to gauge whether
that semi-truck of pain and longing was heading for me before I swung my feet
out of bed onto the floor. Often, before I could get both eyes open, my mind
would begin to race and my heart would pound as I anticipated what the day had
in store for me. After reading about the way gratitude shifts our thinking
patterns and affects our brain chemistry, I decided to start each day with a
short list of things for which I was truly grateful. I envisioned it as a sort
of shield against that truck hurtling toward me.
In the beginning, it was often hard to come up with a list;
not because I don’t have many, many blessings in my life, but because I have an
innate tendency to qualify them. As soon as I think of one, I either compare it
to someone else and feel guilty that, say, my kids are healthy and I have a
friend whose kids aren’t – which effectively soils the gratitude – or it feels
trite and petty, like being grateful that I have enough money to pay my bills.
Even in my gratitude practice, I found myself wanting – either for more ‘pure’
things like love (which feels a little too nebulous sometimes, to be honest) or
for deep, profound items on my list that really resonated in my bones. I am
nothing if not stubborn, though, and motivated by the fervent desire to keep my
depression and anxiety at bay, I kept going despite the sometimes pathetic
nature of my lists. Every day, I thought that maybe tomorrow I could come up
with something beyond gratitude for my soft, warm bed, my kids, and my husband to
be grateful for.
When my teenage daughter was struggling with anxiety upon
starting high school, I encouraged her to start a gratitude practice to see if
it could help her. Every night before bed, I would text her three things for
which I was grateful and she would text me back right before falling asleep. My
hope was that if the last thoughts she had every day were ones that filled her
up rather than dragging her down, perhaps she would wake up with optimism for
the coming day instead of dread. Her lists began much as mine had. She was
grateful for a full belly and a soft pillow and a roof over her head. But over
time, she was able to open up and recall specific things that had happened
during the day that were positive – a friendly smile in the cafeteria, being
picked by a classmate to partner on a project because she is so organized, to
appreciating a trusting relationship with a special teacher. Her perspective
shifted over a period of weeks and she went from finding excuses to stay in bed
to getting up and tackling each new day and its challenges with a feeling of
competence and groundedness.
Over time, my definition of gratitude has developed and I’ve
come to understand what it is about this practice that has been so effective
for me. In the beginning, I often attempted to come up with things by starting
with, “at least I’m not….” What I discovered is that if I am comparing my life
to someone else’s (as in, “at least I’m not part of this oppressed group or
that oppressed group,” or thinking about all the ways my situation could be
worse such as, “neither of my kids is terminally ill and I’m not homeless,”),
I’m not really being grateful. That’s just another way my anxiety is telling me
my life could run off the rails at some point, so I should really be cautious.
Instead of helping me feel calm and centered, it is really reminding me that
one or more of those things could potentially happen and, for now, I’m just
dodging a bullet.
If I am making a mental note of the number of “good” things
in my life as compared to the number of “bad” things, that is also not helpful
gratitude. Weighing them against each other in a sort of balance sheet is not a
positive step. The fact is, both things exist simultaneously (and are often
intertwined with each other) in my life and in my mind, but gratitude is about
the ones I consciously choose to pay attention to. It doesn’t make the
challenges and difficulties in my life disappear, it simply allows me to notice
that there are many positive things in my life, too.
The human brain is wired to look for deficiencies, expect
sabotage, and find the things that need ‘fixing.’ This isn’t always a bad thing
– often I am happy to know that there is something I can do to make things
better. But unless I take the time to really engage in a gratitude practice, I
won’t notice the things that are absolutely right and lovely in the world all
around me. I might notice the pile of unfolded laundry lying on the couch, but
I can also choose to see that the dishes are all clean and the dog is fed and
happily snoozing in his bed and an essay I was working on this morning is coming
along nicely.
I am loathe to imply that gratitude is a complicated thing,
though, because when I am in the zone, it truly isn’t. When I am really tuned
in to the goodness and abundance in my life, the list of things for which I am
grateful grows quickly and easily. For me, the key to gratitude is to simplify
things. When I am frustrated and irritable, the best thing for me to do is stop
and look around. I see my computer and I am grateful for the ability to write
and connect with people who are important to me online. I catch sight of a
glass of water on the counter and appreciate clean water and a cupboard full of
dishes. I note my sunglasses on the table next to me and close my eyes and
thank goodness that I can so often feel the warm sun on my back. When I can
keep myself from trying to create stories or context, I can find simple, pure
gratitude and suddenly, there is more air in the room.

Knowing that every time I actively look for things that are
right in my life means I am activating the parts of my brain that produce
serotonin and dopamine gives me hope. When I started that gratitude practice
all those years ago out of desperation, I was beginning a process of rewiring
my brain to more easily find happiness. Sticking with it, I realized that it
does become easier over time to recognize and appreciate simple things that
give me joy. While I still struggle with anxiety (and rejection), I am more
able to see it as a part of this messy, glorious life I am living instead of
letting it keep me from getting out of bed in the morning.

I am someone who used to be prone to depression. I say “used to be” because it has been a long time since I really felt that deep, penetrating sense of darkness, and I’d like to think I’m cured. If that’s even a thing.

After coming out of the last dark hole without the help of pharmaceuticals, I was simultaneously thrilled that it was possible (for me) and waiting for the slapdown because I had gotten too cocky. Too big for my britches. Thought I was above it all. As if depression were some spiteful older relative who was setting me up to watch me fall, laughing in the corner as I celebrated because he knew he had the power to pull the rug out from under me.

I remember being afraid to even hear the word “depression” for fear that that combination of letters could trigger another episode. I couldn’t read about someone else’s struggle with it, nor could I watch a television show or movie that featured any characters who were depressed. It seemed contagious, like my emergence from the darkness was the result of the fact that I had simply forgotten it was part of me – a limb I was ignoring but would soon rediscover and have to deal with. Seeing someone else with the same thing would inevitably draw my attention to it and dump me right back into that deep hole.

But it turns out that depression doesn’t work that way. And on some level, I always knew that, but when you are still feeling tender from the last blow, it isn’t much of a stretch to believe that the next one is right around the corner. And so I cowered. But eventually I came out of my hiding place and started to think that maybe this time I could be ok for a while. Or longer.

And it’s been a long time. And I’m grateful.

But this week I discovered Furiously Happy, a book about depression and what it means to fully embrace the craziest, most wildly happy things in life. And I am remembering that, while gratitude is great, it is somewhere near the middle of the rise (and fall) of the roller coaster, but happiness like Lawson writes about, that is at the top, with the amazing views and the stomach-dropping adrenaline and the involuntary grin that spreads so wide you think your face will split like an overripe watermelon. And while it is probably way overused, that phrase “feel all the feels” comes to mind, with the emphasis on the ALL part.

Sometimes, when I am acutely aware of my status as a responsible adult, I hold back from laughing out loud when I see something ridiculous. I put all my energy into anticipating who will be hungry when and do we have healthy snacks in the house. I pay attention to the road and the pedestrians because I have a new driver in the car who is watching me (or not, it’s sometimes hard to tell). I look for the lessons – and, believe me, during this crazy election cycle there are plenty of lessons. Sometimes I forget that adulting and irreverence are not mutually exclusive.

Last week I was really sick. That kind of sick where you really can’t make yourself get up off of the couch and every time you try you fall over again. I mostly slept for two days. But then, even when I wasn’t tired anymore, I discovered that I couldn’t just bounce back, that emptying the dishwasher was enough to physically exhaust me and I had to go sit on the couch. The problem with this is that I normally don’t sit around much. Unless I am reading a really great book, I can’t sit still for very long and I certainly can’t watch more than one TV show at a time without getting up to do something else. So being forced to sit around was painfully boring and I started getting a little weird.  At one point I found myself looking at all of the emojis on my phone and texted them to Lola.

Because who uses a circular saw blade emoji*? Or maybe it is supposed to be a free-floating gear? In any case, who created that and why? And what about the bamboo one with the little star-like thing and the red flag/leaf coming off of it? What the hell is that supposed to symbolize? I spent a long time looking at all of the stock emojis available, imagining what prompted their creation, and bugging Lola who was busy in her room doing homework. She was amused for a while, but quickly ran out of patience with me. I think her final text went something like: Oh, God, Mom! You need to find something to do.

The point of this was that it was useless and fun and goofy and that’s something I haven’t been in a while (well, I hope I’m never useless). And it rocked. And it reminded me that I can crack that door of irreverence open whenever I want to – not just when I’m deliriously sick – and that it is restorative. And since then, I smile whenever I think of something funny, even when I’m the only one around. Like this morning when I drove by a guy walking his pug (who, incidentally, looked exactly like the human version of his own dog) who thought he was alone and mimicked his dog’s whole-body-shake-the-pouring-rain-off-of-me maneuver and stuck his tongue out at him. I laughed out loud. Or when I heard a song in my head as I stepped out of the shower and instead of trying to banish it or ignore it, I decided to dance to it. By myself. In the bathroom. And that dance move was the first one I’ve done in a while.

My poor kids. I think I’m going to start being weird a little more often. It’s pretty fun.

*I just looked up that emoji on my phone because I was going to post a picture of it here and I think it’s supposed to be a gear, but in my defense, that is still a fairly obscure thing to have on one’s phone. There is also a table clamp one which is beyond ridiculous because, really? And, as someone who doesn’t often use emojis because, well, I’m 44 years old, both of them are now in my “frequently used” emojis that pop up whenever I text someone. So I’m going to start using them both to see if I can confuse people and make them wonder what the hell I mean by that. Because that’s fun, right?

When I was in the 4th grade, I started shoplifting.  Actually, the first thing I stole was something from my friend, Jacque’s, bedroom.  We took piano lessons one after the other at her house every Tuesday afternoon and while I waited my turn with Mr. Fox, I sometimes explored her perfect bedroom.  She didn’t have to share with her sister in this enormous white colonial house with black shutters on the windows.  It looked for all the world like what I expected a plantation would look like in the deep South – wide bay windows with window seats for reading, and light streaming in from every angle.

Jacque (pronounced “Jackie”) had everything. And I wanted in on that.  While it may have appeared as though I, too, had it all – two parents, a large house, enough extra money for piano lessons – there was an undercurrent of danger in my life.  Beneath it all was a deep fault line that threatened to shift and rumble at any time and I used to lie in bed at night wondering how it would go.  When the ground opened up, who would be swallowed and who would scramble clinging to the edge, screaming in stark fear?  I had my moments of wishing for certain individuals to fall endlessly down that dark chasm but that always left me behind. Alone.

And so I felt entitled to any small trinket that would make me feel better. I reasoned that my life was nowhere near as safe and secure, neat and tidy as Jacque’s, and she had so much stuff she wouldn’t possibly miss whatever I took.

She did. And I got caught and that was the end of shared piano lessons.  After that day, Mr. Fox with his bulbous alcoholic’s nose streaked with red veins and impossibly large pores, shuffled in to my house once a week, his leather briefcase full of loose sheet music and his pea-green trench coat flapping around his shins.  I had been exiled.

And so I started stealing things from the local mini mart, instead.  I had lost a friend in the last round of theft and I, who was so desperate for affection, could hardly afford to lose any more.  It started with lip balm and I was shaking so badly I had tunnel vision.

I never used it.  It sat to the side in the drawer of my nightstand for years.  Other items gathered next to it – a butterfly barrette, licorice taffy, a box of candy cigarettes.  These were symbols of my entitlement. They were my great, silent, “Screw You!” to the Universe that had placed me with two parents who couldn’t be what I needed them to be.  They were a sign that I was allowed to have something that I wanted.

By the time my parents divorced and spread themselves a few states apart, I lost the desire to take anything more.  I felt so conflicted about the shoplifting; knowing it was Wrong and that, somehow, it wasn’t going to fix anything, anyway (clearly not, since my family had just come apart like so many dandelion seeds on the wind). Was this Conscience? I didn’t remember details of the bad times – the angry arguments or physical abuse – but I recall everything I ever took that didn’t belong to me.  I trace the edges of that Bonne Bell lip balm in my mind’s eye, the opaque wrapper of the black-as-tar salt water taffy.  I can still smell the sugary, waxy, dark licorice scent of my drawer every time I cracked it open.

I still feel shame.

Many years ago when Bubba and I were traveling with the girls I did it again.  He had been so sick off and on for two years and I was terrified to be so far from home in case he relapsed. He wasn’t scared. That was part of the problem.  He was never scared, even when I was calling 911 or racing to the ER myself, two toddlers strapped in to car seats in the back seat as I whipped my gaze back and forth from his ashy face to the road in front of me.  His lack of fear meant that I had to hold it all – every sour-smelling drop of it – for all of us.

And then it happened. One night in the middle of the night in a foreign country, he got sick.  And I didn’t panic. I got him to the hospital and they spent an entire day inserting IVs and pushing fluids and taking photos of his internal organs.  And I spent the day trying to entertain two small children in the park, among a sea of strangers whose language I didn’t speak, not knowing whether he would emerge from that big brick building at all.  I fed them and played with them, changed diapers and didn’t let one tear fall.  I deflected curious questions about where Daddy was and when he would be back, all the while feeling that old familiar fault line beneath my feet.

He did emerge, grey and tired, and we holed up in the hotel for several days. I put the children down for a nap, got him some tea, and crawled into bed and sobbed.  Every time I closed my eyes I saw me, fingernails dug in to the red clay at the edge of the Grand Canyon, alone and dangling.

The next day we ventured out to the lobby of this old hotel, sitting by the fireplace, looking at the views, checking out the gift shop.  And I stole a necklace.  An inexpensive but beautiful necklace.  I told myself that if I got caught, I would simply claim exhaustion and tell them to put it on our tab.  But I didn’t get caught.

I love that necklace. I wear it often, but it has a loose clasp and a nasty habit of coming unhooked and sliding down inside my bra from time to time.  Every time I put it on I think about that dark, dark time in our lives and feel ashamed.  And I think that maybe this is Conscience.  I could have afforded that necklace a hundred times over. But that wasn’t the point, was it? The point was that I felt entitled to something. Something free. Something compensatory.

But it didn’t compensate for any of the pain I was feeling any more than that barrette did when I was nine.  And none of the things I took had the power to change circumstances in my life. They reminded me, in some small way, that I had self-worth, however misguided.  These were symbols that I mattered to me, that I still valued myself enough to give myself something nice.  I see the twisted logic in all of this and don’t condone my behavior, but I will forever be grateful that, throughout the darkest periods of my life, I was able to retain some small measure of belief that I deserved something.

Occasionally, I re-realize things that send shock waves through my life. Generally this happens after a bit of struggle and strife and when the shining moment comes for the pertinent message to penetrate my thick skull, I am astonished. And then, the more I think about it, the less astonished I am at the actual notion and the more shocked I am that I forgot this lesson in the first place.

My most recent realization? Humans need their actions to feel meaningful in order for them to be motivated.

I know. Duh.

Author Dan Ariely puts it so well in his book The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. He conducted experiments to determine whether people will continue to be motivated to complete tasks they knew were meaningless even if they were paid to do so. Not surprisingly, he discovered that the interest level falls off sharply when the work is disregarded or set aside without acknowledgement. Somewhat surprisingly, he noted that even the slightest form of acknowledgement (looking over the page of work and nodding your head before setting it aside) was enough to keep most people going for a long time despite the fact that they were paid the same amount as those whose work was not acknowledged.

I began thinking about the implications of this when it comes to my life. I know that when I had a job that made me feel as though I was making a difference in someone’s life, I was not likely to grumble about it or drag my feet to get to work. I can’t say that I am ever excited to get out of bed to the tune of an alarm clock before the sun rises, but I have always been much more likely to do so if I felt like the tasks ahead of me were important. (This may be why I hate packing school lunches so much. If the kids acknowledged the food as delicious and appreciated and I didn’t see much of it come home and go into the trash, I might be happier making lunches every morning pre-dawn.)
When I quit my job to stay home with my kids I can honestly say that the monotony got to me. It is discouraging to change diapers again knowing that there will be more coming soon. The same tasks day after day, performed in the service of a non-verbal companion seemingly incapable of truly appreciating them didn’t exactly feel meaningful.
Then I thought about the implications for my kids. The one year Eve went to the local public school, she came home with reams of papers to complete every week as homework. She quickly became discouraged despite the fact that her homework was always completed and turned in on time. Or maybe because of that. At some point her teacher learned to expect that from her and Eve was no longer acknowledged for being a student who was timely and efficient. At her first conference, the teacher verbalized her lack of concern for Eve by saying, “Oh, she’s fine. I don’t worry about her. She sits quietly in class and turns all of her homework in.” That was nearly the extent of the entire conference. Eve felt meaningless. By December, she knew that the only way to get any attention at all from her teacher would be to misbehave. She couldn’t intuit any sort of global meaning or ultimate pinnacle that all of the paperwork was leading up to (nor could I, for that matter), which led her to believe that it was all just busywork. Meaningless.
She checked out mentally and emotionally. She began pretending to be sick every day and begged me, in tears, not to make her go back to school. She was not being bullied or harassed. She was not performing poorly in school. She was somewhat bored, but more importantly, she was frustrated with the lack of meaning her days contained. I wonder how many kids feel that way. I wonder if we could find some way to help them understand the context of their school work and help them feel as though the assignments they are completing are important in some way, whether they would perform even better.
I also thought about the implications this lesson had for my relationships. How often do I let people know that they matter to me? I suspect not often enough. I suspect that there are times when Eve or Lola or Bubba would love some acknowledgement of their efforts. I know I would. When I was really struggling with depression several years ago, it was truly a crisis of confidence that I mattered. At my lowest point I truly believed that I was entirely replaceable. Bubba could hire a housekeeper and a nanny to take over my daily duties and nobody would miss me a whit. I know now that they would have missed me, but I still struggle from time to time wondering what value I bring to the world. Spending five years researching and writing a book that never gets published is a particularly effective way to become convinced that your work stands for nothing. Especially when so many of the other tasks I perform on a daily basis are “consumed,” like the food I cook and the laundry and the housework. I know from experience that something as simple as a comment like, “Mom, great dinner tonight! Would you make this again?” can sustain me for days as I shop for groceries and do dishes.
As so many people find themselves out of work right now, I wonder if we wouldn’t all do ourselves a big favor by finding ways to occupy ourselves that feel meaningful. Whether or not it brings in money, volunteering to help organizations in our communities or friends or family members can give us such a big boost in terms of our own self-worth that it may just elevate our spirits to the point where we catch the eye of a potential employer. Short of that, I think I will make a concerted effort to remind the people in my life how much their actions mean to me personally.

Nearly fifteen years ago, before I had children, when I was working at a job I truly loved but wasn’t sure I was smart enough to have, I had a bout of anxiety. I didn’t recognize it for what it was, maybe because of its benign beginnings.

I had an hour commute to work that I didn’t really mind. I had recently purchased my blue-collar dream car – a cherry red Ford Ranger pickup truck with a king cab and a manual transmission. I felt invincible in that thing as I sat high above all of the compact cars and listened to NPR’s Morning Edition on my way into the city. About two-thirds of the way to work I had the sinking feeling that I had left the iron on as I went out the door. I knew, despite the long round trip home, that I had to go back and check. We didn’t have any neighbors I could ask to pop in and have a look and Bubba was on a business trip. I got to work, explained the situation to my boss, and took off for home. The iron was off.
A week later, I had the same moment of panic about the toaster oven that I had used to make my breakfast. Luckily, Bubba was in town and only fifteen minutes’ drive from home so this time he could go check it out. The oven was off.
Nearly a week later again, I had the same anxious feeling as I climbed into the truck to back out of the garage. This time it caused me to stop and wonder what was going on. I was struck with the notion that I was becoming OCD. And then I realized that what I really wanted was an excuse to just stay home. Despite loving my job, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was “faking it” to get by and even when my co-workers and my boss praised my efforts and abilities, I felt as though I was fooling them all. I was also lonely. Bubba had begun traveling a lot for his job and I didn’t have many close friends. What I really wanted was to stay home with my cats and work in the garden and feel safe in my own space.
Since that revelation, I have had many more opportunities to understand that the things I am often afraid of are also the things I am most fervently wishing for. Not really, of course. I was relieved each and every time that the iron or the oven were off and I didn’t truly want the house to burn down, but if it had, it would have been an accident and people would have rallied around me in support.
When Bubba was sick for so many years, a horrible fantasy used to creep into my mind before I could slam the door against it that he would die on one of his business trips and not come home. I hated that thought. I hated that I was capable of thinking it and that my mind could go there. It wasn’t superstition – that if I thought it it might come true. It was the knowledge that, if he died, my fears would be validated and everyone would come to see that I hadn’t been crying, “Wolf!” when there was none there. I would have a reason to feel anxious and upset that nobody could dispute.
While I still shun those dark thoughts as quickly as they pop into my brain, I have also come to realize that they serve a vital purpose for me. Whenever I conjure up some terrible scenario of doom and gloom in secret, it is a cry for help. It is the way that my psyche lets me know that I’m feeling unsure of myself and frightened and alone. During one such time when my anxiety overwhelmed me to the point that I crawled beneath the covers and sobbed, Bubba asked me what I wanted. What I needed. The answer that came to my lips before it reached my brain was this, “I want someone to take care of me.” Nobody was more shocked than I was to discover the truth of that statement. I wanted to be cared for. I didn’t want to have to run the house, parent the children, make any important decisions. I just wanted to be. And I wanted to know that someone else was making sure things were okay in my absence. I didn’t want to have to justify it with a major illness (I fantasized about contracting horrible diseases from time to time) or a family member’s death or some other excuse for incapacitation. I just wanted to take a break from being “in charge” and “responsible” and “strong.” But I didn’t think I could.
It is still difficult for me to admit that these thoughts crop up in my brain. I’m beginning to work on allowing myself to feel overwhelmed and anxious without needing to justify it to anyone. And it’s not as though anyone has asked. Or accused me of histrionics. I think that as I become more realistic about my limits and how hard I really do work, I can prevent the need for these periodic alarm bells in my brain. It’s okay to take a day or two off. And I am not faking it. I am the real McCoy.

Camel terrifies me. The yoga pose, not the cleft-footed, cleft-mouthed desert beast.

The first time I ever tried it was about eighteen months ago in my favorite yoga class. I was feeling pretty jazzed because I had been coming two to three times a week for about a month and was beginning to notice some subtle changes in my body shape. I was also pleased that I seemed to be able to hold some poses longer or get into them easier and deeper. Camel hadn’t been a part of this class, but I had seen it demonstrated and illustrated in yoga magazines, and I was pretty sure I could do it without looking silly.

I moved my knees to the top of my yoga mat, shins flush against the floor along with the tops of my feet. Knees bent, I faced the instructor at the front of the room as he asked us to sit up straight and tall. So far, this was good.

“Rise up through the crown of your head and expand your lungs, shining the beacon of your heart to the front of the room. Now, pull your shoulder blades down and together, letting your chest rise up even more. Gradually begin to reach your hands back to the small of your back and arch into it. If you can, reach your hands to your heels and rest them there, shining your heart up to the ceiling.”

I had my palms to the small of my back for less than a millisecond before I had the sensation of not being able to breathe. My esophagus slammed shut and I literally flung my upper body forward into a neutral position. What the heck? I shook it off and tried again. It took three attempts like this for me to accept that if I pushed myself into this pose I was going to have a full-blown panic attack right here in front of everyone. Tears knotted in my throat and I slid into child’s pose.

Back at home, I did a little research. Camel pose is aimed at opening up the heart. Nearly everyone gets an endorphin rush after being in camel pose and it is supposed to help with lymph drainage, massage the internal organs, and strengthen the spine. I am apparently not the only person who gets emotional or experiences difficulty performing camel. According to one site, LexiYoga, camel pose, “represents the ability to accomplish the impossible and to go through life’s challenges with ease. If you feel disconnected from the world, family/relationships or are struggling with forgiveness, practicing camel pose can help you express your feelings and find compassion towards others.”


The thing is, I don’t feel disconnected. In fact, I feel more self-aware and compassionate than I ever have. Even without my antidepressant (woohoo – going on three months, now!!), I feel centered and grounded and pretty joyful. So WTF?

I began to think about the poses I do enjoy. The ones that feel effortless. The ones I feel strong and accomplished at. Like Happy Baby and Pigeon and Warrior 4. Oh. Those are all hip-openers. Happy Baby is great because it releases any tension in my sacrum. Oh. What about that?

As someone who has been molested, I personally find it a little disturbing that, despite the years of therapy and the absolutely honest belief that I have forgiven the boy who perpetrated the abuse, I prefer a hip opener to a heart opener. Poses that, while not remotely sexual, have the potential to open up my hips and “offer” that part of my body more readily.

At yoga today, I was dreading the possibility that the instructor might have the class do Camel Pose. I had my excuse ready, “It scares the sh*t out of me.” ‘Nuff said. Only she didn’t include it in today’s class. And I was relieved. I got into Full Pigeon Pose and reveled in it. Imagining the tendons and muscle tissue in my hips releasing with the breath and relaxing into extension.

And when I got home, I decided to try Camel Pose on my own. In my bedroom. With the door closed. As always, just before my hands settled on top of my heels, the bile rose in my throat and I began to hyperventilate. I quickly pulled out of the pose, breathing heavily, and felt tears build just above the notch in my throat. A tingle in my nose was all it took for them to begin falling in a torrent. I feel utterly out of control in Camel. Utterly helpless. Utterly useless and worthless.

I am beginning to wonder whether my issue with this pose has less to do with my connection with others than my connection to myself. Perhaps my heart can’t shine that way because I don’t feel as though it is worthy of letting its light out into the Universe. I don’t know for sure. But, once again, I am grateful to my yoga practice for showing me the way to the next hurdle.