Mindful descent.


I’m finally beginning to resurface after sinking into the internal void a week or so ago, which manifested as severe depression.    Monday it reached a crisis point.  I hadn’t been able to sleep at all on Sunday night and I called my therapist, extremely agitated and crying.   I felt like the black emptiness inside me was going to absorb and devour me.  So we set up an emergency therapy session, in which my therapist had me mentally “climb” down into the black hole, as if it were a real hole in the ground.

I imagined descending on a rope ladder–solid enough, but flexible and unlikely to break.   As I descended a little, I looked up and could see the blue sky up above, and as long as I could see it, I was safe.   The ladder also made me feel secure enough to descend a little more.   He asked me to tell him what was below me.   I couldn’t see anything at first, but after awhile my eyes adjusted and I said there was some kind of mist down below that obscured what was below that.

“Is there a bottom?”  I knew there was a bottom even though I couldn’t see it.

“Yes, but it’s obscured by some kind of mist or steam.”

“How far down does it go?”

“I have no idea.  Could be ten feet, or ten miles”

“Descend a little further, into the mist. What do you see and feel?”

I climbed down cautiously until the mist was up to my neck, looking up every so often to make sure the opening to the hole was still there.   It was, but was a little smaller.   The mist around me didn’t feel bad, but I couldn’t see my own body through it.   It felt damp and slightly cool.

“A little wet and a little cool, but not terrible.   But I don’t want to go any further down because then it will cover my face and I won’t be able to see.  I don’t like that feeling of not knowing where I’m going.”

“So you’re afraid of not knowing what’s going to happen.”

“Yes, that’s it.   It’s not that being in this hole is so bad, it’s that I don’t know what’s beyond it. Or something might jump out at me!”

I opened my eyes and realized I felt less agitated, almost relaxed.   That night I slept better, though not well, and the next day I just felt ornery and snappish. I didn’t know where all the anger was coming from, but it was an improvement over the black depression from hell.

A few days previously, I had called my son in Florida with a question.

“I have to get out of here,” I told him.  “I want to start over.  I have too many bad memories associated with this place.    How crazy would be to just pack some stuff in my car, sell the rest, drive down there and live in my car for a few weeks until I get a job and a new place?”

“Mom, you can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“This is a high crime area.    Yes, your idea is crazy.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

Talking about this conversation today in therapy,  I realized how crazy it did sound.  You take yourself wherever you go.  Maybe I just need to learn how to re-frame my current location and create new, positive memories instead of trying to escape from myself by escaping somewhere else.   Leaving suddenly with no real plan was running away, not running toward.

I think this depression had several triggers, but was probably going to happen even if there hadn’t been any triggers at all, because of the point I’ve reached in this therapeutic journey.   My mind would have turned something–anything!–into a trigger, and it was close to that point anyway because almost everything was triggering me.  My emotions are a lot more accessible to me now than they were at this time last year, but I haven’t learned how to regulate them well yet or make them work for me.   Right now, it’s hit or miss.  Whatever outer layer was protecting me from accessing these feelings before is no longer there.  Being this vulnerable is scary, but only because I expect it to be scary, not because there is anything to fear.

Looking down below me into the chasm, I know there are a lot more feelings and memories I have yet to access.   I don’t know how far the chasm drops or when the mist dissipates or whether anything is going to jump out at me when I least expect it.   But I’ve got a rope ladder to ground me as I continue to climb down farther, knowing I’m in a safe place with someone I trust as a guide.   So far, what I’ve encountered hasn’t been so bad at all; my fear of what might be there is worse than the reality of what is actually there.


10 thoughts on “Mindful descent.

  1. A read something a poet wrote and in the quote he said. The difference between depression and grief is this, in grief you embrace your pain and willingly descend into the feelings. In depression you fight the grief and so a hand reaches up and drags you down into the darkness. I feel you have made a huge step forward. I noticed for myself the urge to make a physical change of location has come when I faced the prospect of having to nagivate that deep dark black hole of feeling. I aborted one therapy and moved at that critical time and it was the SINGLE WORST THING I HAVE DONE IN MY LIFE. I am so glad you are at this point. You are one the brink of entering the heart and no longer being barred from it by you head. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, so this wanting to physically escape your surroundings happened to you too? And you tried to do it? I know now that leaving for another part of the country would be a mistake, at least right now. And especially because it would mean “aborting therapy,” at this critical point. That’s definitely not something I want to do!
      I felt almost “normal”today which for me, means a state of mild dysphoria. But my therapist thinks I’m making progress and I know I have too. I didn’t have any great “a-ha” realizations after this depression lifted, but I’m learning to navigate this new landscape, which isn’t as bad I thought it would be.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Intense. Wow. Awesome post.

      A few years ago I found a therapist who seemed perfect for me. She was in her 70s and very brilliant. I saw her a few times and each session was tremendously productive. She was a survivor of World War Two, a holocaust survivor. Although she was only three years old when her eastern European town was bombed, she remembered it happening with crystal clarity. She told me she lost her family, her city, her country, her native language, her whole way of life, in that war. She said that she had been very bitter for many years… until she found a way out of her misery, to health and happiness and even forgiveness.

      She was going to show me the way she had found to wholeness. I got scared and I didn’t go back.

      Two years later, I felt ready to try again. I searched her name online to get her office phone number. I found her recent obituary, instead.

      Like emergingfromthedarknight said, aborting good therapy is a HUGE MISTAKE. I understand wanting to, though! But I am so glad you didn’t. YAY for what your son said, even though the truth hurt!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the way your therapist did this exercise with you, very cool perspective. I find myself very afraid of the unknown sometimes and have to remind myself that whether I worry about it or not what will be will be. I also had the brilliant idea of moving to get away from bad memories but was talked out of it. I know I need to recreate happiness but I still feel as if a fresh start would be nice, but when I am ready. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Awesome! I love hearing about people having positive experiences with therapists because I had my share of horrible ones and wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Thankfully I have now found a therapist that is very good at what he does at well.

        Liked by 1 person

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