Clawing my way back

There’s a lot of things I haven’t been doing for the past couple of weeks: posting here, going to yoga classes, painting, doing the Artist’s Way, keeping my diary up to date, running, walking, enjoying things…

I had a triple whammy. A friend from university (I say ‘a’ friend, but I really mean my only university friend) finally did what he’s been threatening to do for a while and visited with one of his friends. So that meant exhausting trips out, pub lunches, getting rained on, eating fatty food, drinking too much and then not getting enough sleep. I enjoyed it but it was a bit much for my delicate system. I was drained by the time they left but willing to take a few days off to rest and recover. My body had other plans.

I got a cold.

I mean I got an old-style badass cold with the shivers, cutting sore throat, muscle aches, terrible fatigue and weakness. I basically was bed ridden for 3 days and 9 days later I still haven’t got back to my usual vibrant self.

So there’s two things, the third? The sadness, it descended on Sunday and has yet to leave me. It’s not surprising considering I haven’t been able to do much for 2 weeks that I usually do to help myself recover from the depression. I mainly just played Animal Crossing on the Wii (I’d do a link but my touchpad isn’t working) and I defy anyone who says that is a waste of time. It’s fantastic escapism for someone who hasn’t seen the real outside for days. If only I could have animal neighbours in real life… That might be preferable to my real human neighbours who seem to only want to collect rusting huge American cars in their gardens.

Anyway the thing that gets me some of my joie de vivre back is usually my well thought out routine. The problem is I don’t have one right now. The exercising is out because of the cold and the working is out because of the depression. To treat the cold I just have to wait, to treat the depression I have to… what? Run? Do lots of yummy yoga? But I can’t because of the lingering tiredness!

So I wait. Patience and it’ll be back soon, and so will I.

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Having my say

I used to like arguments and confrontation. I used to pride myself in saying I was argumentative and I wasn’t afraid of confrontation. I would laugh off arguments and say I was enjoying it, I was enjoying winding people up and hearing their comebacks and dismissing them. Now I realise that I wasn’t enjoying them, I was actually disturbed by arguing but hey, I was young.

Now I’m depressed and older I don’t like arguments. I don’t get riled up and excited or think of pithy replies. I usually just cry. This isn’t the best comeback. My arguing days are over and I’m glad of it.

I’ve noticed that for a path that’s meant to help us all achieve unity, or the inner realisation of our deepest selves, yoga creates a lot of friction. I’ve watched from afar at the various infights and taken mild interest at the debates about “what is yoga”. In the past I might have taken part, or if the old me had not got depressed and carried on being an argumentative asshole I might have taken part. Now I just read and think. I don’t say. Because I’m scared that people will say something to hurt me and I’m too vulnerable to deal with that.

I never intended this blog to be a general critique of the world, because I don’t think I’d be very good at writing about that. But then I read an article in the Guardian on Tuesday. Here it is. At first I just rolled my eyes and carried on with my headstand attempts (yes I’m still going!) It’s a typical Guardianista article, dismissing and sneering at anything that’s slightly different. There’s also the healthy dose of self-loathing in there because they know that being a left-leaning paper there will be a fair few yoga practitioners reading it and loving having the shit ripped out of them. It’s the same way they ridicule ‘ethical’ issues, exercising, cooking and many other things that Guardian readers taken an interest in too. God forbid that we embrace these things we choose to do.

The article itself pissed me off a bit and I decided that I would look at the comments to see if there was any healthy words of dissent. I was disappointed. Comment after comment after sneering comment ridiculing this practice which has helped me recover from depression. It was depressing.

Mainly I was hurt that my fellow human beings can be so callous and close minded as to criticise and pigeon-hole something they obviously know nothing about. I don’t know why I have this attitude, I (hopefully) don’t know any of these people and they’re not going to stop me practicing yoga and I certainly don’t think they have any responsibility towards me. Still, it hurts.

I grew up with this paper and I grew up with this attitude. Anything “new-age” was observed at from a safe, sarcastic distance. I was never so insulting as those commenters but growing up with the attitude does affect your own attitudes. It’s very much “us and them”.

Us= realists, intellectual, intelligent, sense of humour, understanding and appreciation of sarcasm, understanding of the vastness of the world and our insignificance in it

Them= vain, vacuous, airy-fairy, po-faced, stupid, gullible, too earnest, inflated sense of own importance

Et cetera.

It took a complete melt-down of my sense of self and a healthy dose of misery to knock this attitude out of me. Viva la depression! I just thought: I’m not coping with my current way of thinking, how about I try something new? And lo and behold yoga came into my life. So in a sense I do feel some understanding for these people who didn’t go through what I did, they never saw the light. It’s not their fault.

But then again, why do they have to be so unbelievably close minded about it? Why bother dismissing something you know nothing about?

In the end it is their loss and they can’t stop me doing something that is so beneficial for me. Something that is helping me recover from depression. No job, no pill, no doctor, no counsellor, no well meaning friend could do that. Yoga does.

 

Summer Sadness

Depression posts have been a bit thin on the ground here lately. Maybe that’s because the last time I posted I got a very insulting comment and I’ve been a little once bitten twice shy. Also because I think I’m scared of scaring people away but simultaneously I worry that I’m not depressed enough to write about it. I exhaust myself sometimes.

My recovery from depression chugs along, mostly ok. I find myself laughing more, rediscovering a self I forgot existed but seems very familiar now she’s here. I’ve been working at my painting steadily and my yoga practice has caused me to venture out into more classes.

But for most of this summer I woke up sad. The first thought upon waking up: oh fucking hell, not another day to get through. I have had to cope with non-existent decision making skills, bad memory, sudden crying fits, the dread ache in my chest that refuses to budge and all the while knowing I have to do things in order for it to lift. So I exercise, I paint, I do yoga, I read, I walk and by the evening I feel fine. Then I go to bed and I wake up sad. This happened day after day for weeks. It began to feel normal. I remembered that it happened last year too and I hope for the best…

Then it lifted. More and more it’s been I wake up and I think: I’m awake. That’s it, no dread for the run I’d planned, no fighting back tears, nothing. It’s a miracle! I’d almost forgotten what that was like.

This is bizarre for me because I love summer, I love the light and the green leaves. Come autumn and it’s a different story. I suffer from the winter blues so bad and I always have done but summer is a friend to me. So what is it? My favourite theory is the early morning bright light is disturbing my sleep. We don’t have full window coverage in our attic bedroom and in our northern home the sun only properly sets for a few hours in the summer. There’s nothing like being woken up by brilliant sunshine at 4am to make you long for the days when it’s pitch back at 4pm.

So autumn is here and I feel conflicted. I feel like I should feel sad but I feel happier, more productive and enthusiastic and content. It just makes me wonder, will I suffer from summer sadness from now on? What with that and the winter blues will I only have small pockets of happiness in spring and autumn?

Or I could just cover the windows up…

Week 5: Moving toward balance with Rodney Yee

I haven’t been wanting to post on here. Partly because I’ve got out of the habit and partly because I’ve been painting painting painting painting. Look…

I have been loving it too, when I haven’t felt so brain dead I forget what brushes do. So that’s for the first 30 minutes of painting then…

When I haven’t been painting I have been mostly doing yoga and cooking. I haven’t been doing much of my Artist’s Way but I do want to pick it up again. In the meantime here is my long overdue recap of week 5 of Moving toward balance.

Inversions this week! Pretty exciting. I have to say I don’t really understand the term ‘inversions’ as a class of poses. I am sceptical of the benefits that are attributed to them, the reversal of time for instance. The studio I go to is very keen on having at least one inversion in every class, even when they don’t have a single standing pose or backbend. Personally I have found this strange, I mean a headstand is a very different animal from a shoulderstand and when they announce a headstand at the end of a class I’m ready to kill! I just don’t have the energy to wrestle with that blasted pose then.

But this week is not about the headstand, just the handstand and shoulderstand. I have been competent with the shoulderstand for about 2 years. I did have a shaky start when it terrified the hell out of me, bizarre I know. Handstand is still a complete unknown to me. I have tried some half-hearted hops every now and again, usually in the classes where everyone is very keen to do handstands. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to do it but I just don’t think I’m ready.

This week was perfect for me. The handstand in a doorframe was a revelation! No fear at all and the most amazing feeling in my arms and shoulders afterwards. I just couldn’t stop doing it! I highly recommend it if you’re scared of handstands like me. I’m relieved to see another handstand prep Rodney likes, the walking your legs up the wall, is a lot easier than it has been when I’ve tried it before. I must be a lot stronger now.

So the week was fun, lots of handstand prep, standing poses and backbends. I can find myself getting more and more acclimatised to going upside down and putting weight in my hands. Still nowhere near to doing a handstand against the wall though… but I’ll keep trying!

I was surprised at the lack of emphasis on the shoulderstand. There was a lot of shoulderstands against the wall, which to be honest I didn’t see the point of. You only do a full shoulderstand in first and last days of the asanas and then it’s only 30 seconds! Bizarre. I was disappointed because I’ve been wanting to work on my shoulderstand and thought it would be incorporated into the course. Extra-curricular activity for me then! I recently got a fantastic adjustment in shoulderstand and realised that my legs were waaaay too far over my head and nowhere near vertical. This shocked me and I corrected it but now I find it is so much harder to hold! Need to work on that too.

So much to do!

Week 4: Moving towards balance with Rodney Yee

So I had a big shock and a little break. Now comes the rebuilding of all my little habits and routines. It’s easier said than done, particularly when you wake up to find it’s September and raining and the misery monster has decided to camp out in your chest.

Having said all that I didn’t stop my working through the Rodney Yee course, I’m just behind writing about it. I’ve just started week 6 but still got weeks 4 and 5 to write about, so here goes.

Week 4 was twists. I quite like twists, or so i thought. Turns out I like standing twists like deep twisting lunges and revolved triangle, and lying twists are good friends to me too. Seated twists are something else entirely. I do at least one seated twist in each practice, usually ardha matsyendrasana (lord of the fishes twist) but they’ve always been a bit of a challenge for me because of my stiff ankles. I just can’t ground myself, my hip won’t let me! So I’m used to this discomfort but what I’m ashamed to say got me in this week is boredom. I found it boring to sit on my bum and twist one way and then the other, twist one way and then the other, twist one way and then the other. Legs crossed, (attempted) half lotus, lord of the fishes, marichyasana 1 and 3… too many seated twists for one practice! I had a painting behind me that I was thoroughly sick of looking at by the end. Plus the thing about twists is they actually need quite a lot of mental agility and determination. The week I was doing this I didn’t have much of either, my brain was dull and sad. I did it but I cut it short.

On the good side I found that one pose that has been the bane of my heavy-legged life is finally becoming possible. What Rodney calls reclined straight-leg twist or in sanskrit is jathara parivartanasana has been so unbelievably difficult for me. Yet it’s one of these movements that people in classes seem to have no problem with. So everyone’s calmly keeping their torsos straight and backs flat and lowering their straight legs to the left and hovering, to the centre, to the right and hovering, to the centre ad infinitum. Whereas I’m almost falling over, everything’s shaking, my shoulders want to leave the floor, I want to leave the room, I’m straining and straining and feeling incredibly weak. I’m tempted to say it’s a question of proportions (to save my ego), I have very long, heavy, meaty legs and a little tiny torso. My poor muscles have to work extra hard to swing those substantial legs around. My theory anyway. I’m working on it and it is getting easier.

So next time I’ll be writing about inversions!

Rejection and identity crisis

I’ve been thoroughly sick of my computer this past week. I’ve been avoiding it, having a break. Dealing with things.

About a month ago I applied to be an artist at a gallery. I’ve been selling paintings at this gallery and felt the time was right to be represented by them. Last week I came back from a very rainy but happy run to find that I’d been rejected. Worse than that, the email was confusing and vague, full of contradictions and fluff. So while I was selling well (and giving a fair cut to the gallery) I wasn’t ‘developed’ enough. Basically, we’ll have your paintings and your money but you’re not good enough.

I was devastated. I spent the whole day crying and for a whole day my eyes were red. It was like the depression only there was something real and hard and concrete upsetting me. I could tell myself it was just feelings but the feelings were too much. I woke up in the middle of the night and the feeling of despair was so overwhelming I couldn’t close my eyes again. So many thoughts, so many feelings were bombing around my head: If I’m not an artist what am I? What will I do? Was I stupid to believe I could actually do this? Are my paintings too scruffy? Am I not educated enough? Am I not as clever as I thought? Am I not as good as I thought? The email was so bad I was left completely stranded. The rejection sentence was so vague I had no idea why I was being rejected and no idea how I was ever going to meet with this undefined standard.

I survived though, the fallout from bad news is very rarely fatal. I went through so many emotions: shock, anger, resentment, bewilderment, despair. I felt my identity was completely shook at its core. It’s bizarre how much I believe I am not my paintings and I am not how I make money but how when I comes down to it I don’t think that at all. I over-identified with myself as the artist so when I was told I couldn’t be the artist I was an empty shell with just my emotions rattling round inside.

I healed too, after the break. I’m still dealing with it, the gallery are being asses in my opinion but I may get some ‘mentoring’ out of it. I put my pride aside and let my curiosity take over when I was offered this.

I took refuge in my yoga practice, doing Rodney Yee’s course and going to lots of classes. I could still feel good in my body I discovered, still feel good in trikonasana. I also discovered some very good advice in dealing with disappointment and rejection. I also found this quote on the latter site:

“Success is sweet: the sweeter if long delayed and attained through manifold struggles and defeats.”

–A. Branson Alcott

And I took with it all the feeling that I’m in good company: what good artist is ever accepted by the institution?