Jamie's Blog

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Good Grief

Not long ago I opened Twitter to a Blip.fm of Sarah McLachlan's "I will remember you" and choked up. As the song played a well of sadness opened up in me, and I realized how heavy my heart had been all week without me even noticing. What I had noticed was how stressed and overwhelming my life seemed, and that I was tired beyond reason. This poignant song from a stranger on Twitter opened the floodgates, not just of tears (which it did) but of memories I had been holding at bay—that month my hairdresser died at 32, that week my dentist succumbed to a life-long battle with depression, and the 30 year old son of friends died in his sleep.

I did not cry until that morning, and it felt good.

I know better than to bottle up pain. I am a therapist, for crying out loud—grief counseling is one of my specialties! How in the world did I let this happen? In the first place, a degree in psychotherapy does not confer immunity from the storms of life. At best, the hours spent helping people through their Katrinas can teach us what really matters, so we don’t waste energy on the teapot variety. Knowing that, I still allowed this reasonable grief to dam up inside until I found myself on the outside of my life looking in with leaden longing.

Then a dollop of grace fell on my weary mind, and tears gave me strength to feel, and to understand. There is a verse in the Bible that always seemed silly to me: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Be glad when we lose loved ones, for we will be comforted??? That hardly seems worth saying. Then I lost loved ones, and learned that mourning is a funeral every day for months. A card in the mail, a song on the radio, and suddenly we drop into a pool of sorrow. And there are unwanted thoughts of anger and guilt that demand expression. Tears of grief weigh more than mercury, and must flow out—they do not go away, and if denied will crush us from within as surely as a tumor crowds the life out of a liver. This is all part of mourning, the kind that brings comfort. We call it grief work. I was comforted because I finally felt the pain I did not want to feel.

So I say, Blessed are they who do their grief work, for they will find comfort.

PS that stranger on Twitter is now a friend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Depression is a big fat liar

I am no stranger to depression, and I know from both seats in the counseling office that depression lies to us when it tells us to withdraw from others. Hopeless, helpless, and worthless are the mottos of depression, and they are all untrue, but very loud, voices from the pit of despair. That’s why one of the simplest strategies for overcoming depression is to go for a walk with a friend: it combats isolation and, if the walk is at all vigorous, it will flood the parched body with natural morphine. That’s right, our bodies produce endorphins, which are safe*, FDA approved, no insurance needed, free, morphine!

It won’t cure depression, but it is one thing that will help.

*No animals are injured in the production of this natural pain killer: in fact, take Fido on your walk. You will both feel better.