Continued from Thoughts: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

When life feels like a chore, like one more tiresome task to check off a to-do list, depression might be creeping in. Where does it come from? Why do so many of us women struggle with it? I believe part of it has to do with the intrinsic complexity we inherit along with our gender. When describing our complexity, people often say women are like onions; we are complex and you have to peel back the layers to know us fully. However, I don’t think we are like onions: we usually try not to make people cry; and I believe that most of us prefer not to be peeled. Personally, I believe we blossom.

Specifically, we blossom like peonies.

Peonies bloom in the early spring and die back to the ground during winter. When they first begin to open, their leaves are delicate and intricate; small creatures can hide safely within their petals. As the clock changes adding more light to the days, peonies open slowly in response to the light, releasing strong, pleasing aromas as they do so.

As women, we often blossom as we find the light falling on us more. Through the years, we grow in caring and acceptance. Our world is made complete when we can reach out and help others. We eagerly cry with a hurting child or offer an arm to an elderly man walking up stairs. Even though we can be strong and achieve at high levels, inside we retain a delicacy of feeling that entices others into deeper relationships with us. It is not because we are outwardly beautiful, but because of the gifts we carry within our petals.

When we are depressed (whether emotionally or physiologically), we forget how complex we are, how long beauty can take to fully mature, and how each experience we have just teaches us more about who we are.

I confess, I have forgotten myself before.

As a child, I was a silent sufferer. I used to watch the world from within, hiding my emotions and not fully participating in the moment. At the same time, I would get angry with myself for being distant.

For a long time, that self-directed anger continued to arise, and whenever it did, it would push me further along the road to depression. But as I continue to blossom into womanhood, I have chosen a different tactic. I have chosen to learn from my childhood self by approaching her with kindness. That is how we remember and grow. Instead of being angry with myself for hiding inside my veil, I have decided to become a friend to the part of me that I believe is my protector. I see the love I have for myself and the power of choice. And as I desire to feel free I realize the protector in me has done her job. As I seek to understand myself like a friend – instead of judging myself harshly – I achieve greater clarity about why I behaved certain ways, and those age-old patterns become easier to recognize and change in the future.

As a child, you may have had a particular pattern of reactions or behaviors: Were you known as the shy kid? Did you try to control others? Were you obsessed with doing things perfectly? Did you compulsively eat sweets? Ask yourself why you did those things. Listen to the heart of the child who experienced those things. Did she feel afraid? Was she neglected? If you still engage in the same behavior as an adult woman, is it because you are confronting similar situations or emotions? Do you repeat cycles in your life that leave you feeling stuck?

In psychology, these moments or emotions are called “triggers.” Once you understand the triggers that send you spiraling into behaviors you’d rather not engage in, you can make a plan of action for change. But first, I am going to tell you to imagine and play.

Imagine you are back in your childhood room, even if it was a place filled with secrets and pain. Visit that room and find out what your childhood self wanted to be doing. What did you do when given the opportunity to play? What did you dream of doing?

For me, I wanted to be outside. The trees were my babysitters and the birds my lullaby. For you it may be something different. The important thing is remembering the moments that defined you; take the beautiful, life-giving ones and hold them close to your heart. 

If you have forgotten yourself, I challenge you to look in the mirror each morning and speak kindly to yourself for two minutes. Also take time to play: draw, climb a tree, skip stones, run in the forest, visit the zoo, or swing at the park. As you take part in activities like this, the chemistry of your brain improves and you start to see (and remember) your value.

Know this: you have the courage to create and discover yourself. As you blossom, know that you are memorable. Like a peony blooms each spring, so you may blossom each day as you remember and play.

Stay tuned for my next article, which will include practical steps for making a plan of action for change. Until then, celebrate and enjoy who you are and know that you are loved, valued and unforgettable.

 

Photo credit: http://peonyproject.tumblr.com/page/4

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