Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Mindful Monday: It’s the Climb–On Perseverance

posted by Beyond Blue

climbing.jpg
It’s rare that I find my inspiration in a Hannah Montana song, but I have to say that this little rock star nailed the experience of living with chronic illness in her refrain to the song, “The Climb”:

 

There’s always going to be another mountain

I’m always going to want to make it move

Always going to be an uphill battle, 

Sometimes I’m gonna to have to lose, 

Ain’t about how fast I get there, 

Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side 

It’s the climb

I’m on day seven of waking up without anxiety, without the dreaded feeling of “How am I going to make it through the day?” Like the frog who boils to death when the temperature of the water gradually increases, I didn’t realize how depressed and anxious I was for five weeks in August and September until I filled out the standard form at Dr. Smith’s office, where you circle a number between 0 (indicating “never”) and 4 (indicating “always”) to describe if you are feeling guilty (4), hopeless (4), exhausted (4), distracted (4), indecisive (hmmm …. 4), and so forth down the list.

She wasn’t happy to see all my 4s, but she was even more concerned by the fact that I hadn’t called her and was instead immersing myself in books about mindful meditation and ways to correct my thoughts that wouldn’t take a medication adjustment or medical supervision. My efforts in this capacity–watching each and every one of my thoughts as if it were a scene in a movie, trying to detach and concentrate on the present moment–were helping to some degree, especially with my anxiety. But, when I’m in a depressive state, the more I read about meditation and mindfulness–and try, try, try, to get my noggin to cooperate–the more I feel like a failure when I can’t let go of my thoughts (“I wish I were 80 so that I only had a few years left to live”) or get them turned around in the right direction.

“We’ve been here before,” Dr. Smith reminded me, when I pulled out my stack of self-help books. And then I recalled that morning, shortly after my hospitalization at Johns Hopkins, when she advised me to put away the meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy books until I felt better. Instead of ordering me to master the art of letting go of my thoughts or untwisting cognitive distortions, she gave me a form to go get some blood work.

Ironically I left her office feeling better than I had all summer. And it had nothing to do with harnessing or transforming my thoughts.

Why the relief?

I guess, for a second in her office, I didn’t feel like I was to blame for this slight relapse … that I didn’t caused it by failing at mindfulness. I mean, I know that mindfulness and meditation literature teach a person NOT to judge … but when you come away from endless attempts at it still wanting to die … well … you feel like you’ve failed. 

And Dr. Smith gave me hope, too, that once again I would get to a place where I wanted to be alive–or at least to be my age, rather than a senior citizen with less life ahead.

The morning after my appointment with her I woke up without the horrible anxiety. I didn’t have to tell myself as many as five times a minute: “one step at a time … baby steps … just get through this one minute,” exactly as I did when I went into labor with David. And every day after, I have been filled with a kind of joy–like I had better enjoy and savor each minute of this anxiety-free life because I don’t know when it might return.

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., writes in her book “Kitchen Table Wisdom” that “the part in us that feels suffering is the same part that feels joy.” She says that she’s learned from people with cancer how to enjoy “the minute particulars in life once again, the grace of hot cup of coffee, the presence of a friend, the blessing of having a new cake of soap or an hour without pain.”

That’s certainly true with my depression and anxiety. On my good days I grab from life as much as I can because I know that I may be fighting the usual war again tomorrow.

I’ve felt more alive in the last seven days–in which I’ve been freed from that agonizing sadness and anxiety–than I have been in a very long time. I am filled with gratitude for a moment without pain. And the fact that I got here again–just like I did three and a half years ago after my big breakdown–gives me hope that the next time I fall into the pit I won’t stay there forever either.

Ultimately, Hannah is right.

It’s about the climb.

And enjoying those precious moments that you don’t have to try so hard.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue! And click here to follow Therese on Twitter. And click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.



  • shelly

    As a daughter of a mother who was a maniac depressant (before I was born) lived a perfect life to the point of destruction. She is no longer with us, as she tried too end her live numerous times died of cancer. She, blanketed her condition. Basically, I fought as a child too understand her acceptance of loneliness and unhappiness about life. Today it still lingers in my thoughts, seldomly. She made me to have a willingness to live and enjoy this organic world. Peace.

  • melzoom

    I just had to link this on my fb status because it’s like you are reading my mind. I’ve been struggling lately and it is helpful to remember that a relapse, while scary, is part of the cyclical nature of this illness and isn’t necessarily something I’ve done or caused or have to handle on my own.

  • MIchelle

    One thing that struck me about this post was that you described yourself as a “failure” at meditation and mindfulness. As a student of these practices myself, i experience it moment to moment practice. not a destination. Practicing Buddhists only encourage us to think of meditaiton as “process” rather than a destination. You need to be kinder and gentler to yourself. There is no failing. It is something that you just try and do over and over again. Some days it is easier than others. Release those thoughts of failure and allow yourself to gently come back to the moment again and again. The point of power is in the present moment.

  • Your Name

    One thing that struck me about this post was that you described yourself as a “failure” at meditation and mindfulness. As a student of these practices myself, i experience it moment to moment practice. not a destination. Practicing Buddhists only encourage us to think of meditaiton as “process” rather than a destination. You need to be kinder and gentler to yourself. There is no failing. It is something that you just try and do over and over again. Some days it is easier than others. Release those thoughts of failure and allow yourself to gently come back to the moment again and again. The point of power is in the present moment.

  • http://www.vitabits.de/korperteile/ zunge

    I’ve been struggling lately and it is helpful to remember that a relapse, while scary, is part of the cyclical nature of this illness and isn’t necessarily something I’ve done or caused or have to handle on my own.

  • Margaret

    I hope this happens for me too.

  • Maureen

    Okay, I confess. I am a closet Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) fan. My two girls love her, and I get excited every time she has a new CD out! “The Climb” is one of my favorites for the very reasons you mention. I struggle with chronic fatigue and low grade depression, and this song reminds me to find joy in this journey wherever I can, because who knows when I will make it to the other side? Thanks for all of your wonderful, inspiring posts, as well as your courage and honesty in sharing yourself with us.

  • Maryann

    I suffer from maniac depression and it is a struggle. It has been very hard for me to function for the past six months. I love when it’s time to go to bed, because I can close my eyes and sleep away another day. Who wants to live a life like this? I start and stop taking my medicine because it makes it hard to function. I have a wonderful husband, a lovely daughter and so much to be thankful for. I feel like a failure to my family when I feel this way. I wish that one day soon, I will wake up and feel normal again. When I feel depressed, I find it hard to pray and function. I just wish somebody could give me some insight on how to feel better.

  • Your Name

    Mindful relaxation and meditation is needed by more and more often; it is sad we need to become real sick sometimes first to appreciate this place. True happiness can elivate too in this way although it often times does not. It would be good if it did. It something to strive for.

  • Your Name

    Thanks!!! It is helpful to have a place to share your thoughts and feelings. I do not think one can really understand unless they have suffered some form of depression.

  • mary margaret

    Therese,
    My feelings wish to hug yours..I enjoy reading you, I can identify with you most of the time, and on those days when I cannot quite get it, I can let it go…or not, depends on who’s at the helm…
    “I failed again” means I tried again..
    You, Therese, have been one of my life lines for, oh let’s see, perhaps almost a year now..time and memory are not working to full capacity at this time….I am thankful to know just a little of you. I am happy to say that many quips and quotes from you are in my journals..you have graced quite a few post it notes in my office (which the idea of setting up was a distant wish upon a star until just recently).
    Sometimes you were a rope, often a thread..Pleased to feel happy to be alive…not better off dead….
    Wishing you a day of the universe granting your every wish…
    On we climb.

  • Joy

    I love the content of the emails I get from this site. They always enspire me but this one really took heart because, as a mother of a teenage girl……Miley’s songs are a part of everyday life. The first time I heard this song…..I knew it meant something deep to me. It is all about the climb. I am very outspokenly optomistic, my friends even comment on my facebook quotes as being inspirational and profoundly uplifting. I struggle everyday, most often when I am alone in the eve……but I gravitate toward those alone times……WHY??? I love life but have found that if I don’t keep myself going and up…..I fall hard! It is a lot of pressure but I totally wrap myself around the word of song’s such as “The Climb”!!!

  • http://www.floridaspagirls.com Loretta

    Hi, thank you! I’m so glad I clicked on the link! I love this song by Hannah Montana. It has sooo much meaning for me. I’m going to add it to my playlists on my websites. I’m memorizing the words already. I struggle often myself. Its hard, but not impossible, to pull ourselves back up and music has the magical way of helping us. Everyone can relate in some way with whatever genre or style of music they prefer.
    Thank you! god bless!
    AdventureMom and Spa Diva

  • http://blogs.forbes.com eadgercren

    sres developing protocol business ongoing action

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