I have made no secret of the fact I have experienced episodes of depression over many years. I have found lots of strategies to assist me to deal with life on a day to day basis – most recently, Stoicism and other philosophical ideas. Alongside these strategies I have been taking prescribed medication (tricyclic antidepressants) for around three decades. I noticed over the last 12 months that they were having a negative impact on my memory and mental functioning. I decided it was time to get off them!
I sought medical advice and am pleased to say that I am no longer taking the tricyclics but it was really tough coming off them – it took about 4-5 months. As part of the transition I met a doctor who is studying to be a psychiatrist. I was asked if I would be willing to take part in psychodynamic psychotherapy with him over 40 weeks (once a week). He is required to do this work as part of his studies.
This was an interesting proposition as:
I didn’t believe I needed therapy
I wasn’t too keen on Freudian ideas but was more inclined toward Positive Psychology
I was concerned it may unravel my relatively peaceful and happy life.
However, I agreed to go ahead and we have had 7 sessions so far. By the way, it is provided free due to it being part of his study requirements. So far it has raised some significant issues from the past but I feel I have the strength, wisdom and experience of a longish life to be able to handle it.
So, what would you do if you were in my situation? I am interested to hear what people’s thoughts are on psychotherapy today.
I promised I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the sessions as they are very personal but hopefully I can share a little about the overall experience.
I have wanted a new dining setting for a long time. We ordered one and were pleased it arrived after only one week when told it would be two. I enjoy the task of putting the pieces of the puzzle together; having tackled a few Ikea projects in the past. I really do enjoy the challenge of focusing on what is in front of me and being lost in the task. At times I was more lost than others! The table package came with no instructions so it took a bit of figuring out.
First the boxes
The table top box was EXTRA large and heavy.
The four chairs were in two boxes – they took me about 20 minutes each.
And then the biggest challenge: putting the legs on the table (without the instructions!)
We are just back from a couple of days away in Bridgetown – just over 100km to the east of where we live. I took some photos of flowers from the garden where we stayed and one of the view from the back verandah. It was very quiet and peaceful. Just what I was seeking!
Sometimes I find life overwhelming. I don’t think I am alone in that experience! Just thought I would put together a list of some easy things to remember when feeling stressed/depressed etc.
Remember there are some things in my control and others are not (inspired by the Stoics)
Remember that it is not things that upset us but our beliefs/judgements about them (Stoics)
Be grateful for life, health and the many good things in my life
Be in the moment, as in “when doing the dishes, just do the dishes”
I sometimes break the day down to hours or minutes e.g. “for the next hour I will shower and make my bed” I can do more if I want to but the goal is to just get one or two things done. (works for me).
I try to remember that others are fighting their own internal battles (we don’t know what it is like to be them) so try to be compassionate and try to see where they are coming from.
I find something to do that lightens my mood – I love taking photos of flowers or editing photos so I can set up a small project (go out to the garden and snap away and them come inside and edit the photos) and it can help me lift my mood.
Listen to a podcast. I am currently into learning about Stoicism and there are heaps of podcasts and YouTube video to watch or listen to.
If every thought in my head is coming out bleak I need to consider it might be my thinking that is out of kilter and not the rest of the universe!
Sometimes I write in my journal and maybe do a mind map (in my journal) to get a more objective picture of where my life and thoughts are at the moment. See what I can change and what I can’t.
I try to resist making big decisions when stressed. I sometimes want to do something straight away but encourage myself to review the idea at a later date – maybe three months, depending on the issue.
If all else fails, I go and have a rest for a while. Often I feel better afterwards!
I was on the treadmill at the gym this morning. They have a screen where you can choose to watch TV or have different outdoor scenes etc. I chose Channel 54 on TV. They featured different holiday destinations in Australia. I was surprised to see Echuca, Victoria and the Murray River as I used to live and work there. A paddle steamer was chugging down the river.
I remember I had a job managing a ‘corner store’ that sold just about any convenience foods and takeaway lunches. I worked from 5am to about 10pm at night six days a week. I have never worked so hard in my life! I was twenty at the time and we were living in a tent (true story for another day) in the caravan park adjacent to the store. The owners wanted to take a couple of months holidays and offered us the job with the house behind the business.
On Sundays I would take a ride on the paddle steamer and just stretch out on the bench seat and relax! I had a precious few hours off and I really soaked up that leisure time. When I saw the paddle steamer on the screen this morning, that was what immediately came to mind.
I haven’t really thought about this question until now. On completing a five week course in Creative Writing today I am almost ready to hang up my pen! I didn’t research the course in great depth as I just thought it would be great to do during this time of home isolation. In fact the course was geared very much toward writing fiction novels and the development of character, scenes, point of view, momentum etc.
I found that the only way I could develop a character was to base it on the character I know best – ME! That got me thinking and I quickly realised I am not in the least bit interested in writing fiction. I have often thought of the possibility of writing a memoir but I am not even sure about that now.
I have had this idea of “writing” in the background (the name of my blog for example!!!) for many years but maybe it is time to take a different path. After all, why do people write memoirs? Is it to reassure themselves their lives had some meaning and purpose? Or is it to reconcile life’s experience and to find peace at its conclusion?
Maybe it is the COVID 19 affect that is perhaps making me stop and think about where I am headed and to look at possible alternatives for the future. that can’t be a bad thing.
8. Just for Today, I will have a programme. I will write down just what I expect to do every hour. I may not follow it exactly, but I’ll have it. It will save me from the two pests – Hurry and Indecision.
I am finding that having a ‘to do’ list is really helpful in this time of being isolated at home. I have done some really mundane tasks that were at the bottom of my priorities but it felt good to get them done. I also plan some leisure time and exploring hobbies that haven’t progressed much in the past. For example I have tools and guidelines for calligraphy but haven’t invested much time or effort. Today I decided to go back to basics and start afresh – take time to check I have the right pens, ink, instructions etc. It turns out I have all I need so I just need to practise.
Needed to get out of the house today and enjoyed a short break at the beach. I took a few photos with my phone and edited (cropped) each of them a little differently. The bottom right was just taken from a different angle from where I was standing and the sun reappeared. What is it about the beach that is so calming – especially when there’s not many people about?
How are you holding up with the current restrictions? It seems that most people are finding some positives in slowing down the normally fast pace of life.
Here is another quote for your consideration/reflection:
7. Just for Today, I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible, talk low, act courteously, be liberal with flattery, criticize not one bit nor find fault with anything, and not try to regulate nor improve anybody.