Sunday 1 January 2012

"Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow"

This is a line from one of my favourite songs ever - "Free Your Mind" by EnVogue. For those of you who remember it, it was this powerful, sexy anthem sung by four strong women in the '90's. When I hear it today it still inspires me and gives me a surge of energy. The song talks about breaking down barriers and erasing old ways of thinking: "Be colour-blind, don't be so shallow." For me in 2012 the song means something more. It reminds me that if I let go of some of those old harmful ways of thinking, releasing old resentments and hurt feelings, I will be stronger for it.

As I followed the path of my depression in 2011 I knew that there were some things that I had no control over. I couldn't control the chemicals in my brain on my own - I needed medication for that (and still do - that's another blog entry!). But there are a lot of external things that I realized I could control. And, quite simply, that I had to change some of these things in order to get better. Specifically, I had to change the way I think. The fancy term is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The name refers to the emphasis on thought and behaviour.

I think we all know that some things aren't healthy for us - eating an entire box of Kraft Dinner in one sitting comes to mind! But we still do them on occasion. I knew that the time had come to let go of lingering bad feelings about some people and situations in my life. I won't get into details out of respect for the people involved but I will say that it was a long, difficult process. Letting go sounds so easy, right? Just let go. It's not. For me it involved a few months of visits to a psychiatrist and lots of time purposefully thinking about the relationships in my life that I was unhappy with, and practicing CBT exercises.

Slowly I was able to realize that my bad feelings were really only hurting me. Why do that to myself any longer? And yes, mom, I know - you told me so! Today I feel lighter and my shoulders don't feel the weight of the world. Now please don't misunderstand me - this is a work in progress and probably always will be. I still struggle with a key relationship in my life but I am also learning that I need to adjust my expectations of myself and of other people.

CBT has proven extremely effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety. It played a key role in my recovery and I strongly recommend it. There are many great resources available to you both online and at your local library or bookstore. One of my favourite books is Your Depression Map by Randy J. Paterson. This work book has a wealth of information to help you identify your particular depression symptoms and possible treatment plans (which should be discussed with your doctor!).

As you ponder your goals and resolutions for 2012, consider this, "Grant me the serenity to change the things I can and to accept the things that I can't." Oh, and if you free your mind, the rest will follow!

Wishing you a healthy 2012!

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