I have been in a funk. The end of January/early February is always a tricky time for me, mood-wise. I have good reasons to feel particularly sensitive this year, living in a new part of the state with few familiars to ground me, and coming off of a month-long upper respiratory infection, and arguing with my boyfriend, and money issues, and other things…Plus, I have not been practicing asana or meditating; I haven’t even been able to breathe! This virus really got me good. I am on my second inhaler. It has been over four weeks since the fevers, and I still have the sniffles. My body has weakened and major joints have a more limited range of motion. I have lost and regained weight. I feel flubby and tired and winded.
The worst part, to me, is that I have reverted to hauling around a sense of shame about having recently spent so much time in bed, because I kind of loved it. Such guilty pleasure being able to escape, even though I was really sick and slipped into depression after so much time at home. Rest is a luxury most people choose not to afford. People are forced to work really hard. I have made concessions in response to my need, from time to time, for these spells. In our aggressive culture, this sort of luxury is misunderstood. I feel ashamed, too, about the way I look – I need some exercise and a haircut. My eyes – my entire body – are puffy and I am moving a little like I have glue in my veins instead of hot blood. I feel ashamed about my mental sluggishness, about the slowness that accompanies depression, because I am usually quick and chirpy. I am afraid that everyone can read the depression on me and, therefore, can read my diagnosis. Which is the original shame: this sudden and baffling diagnosis at the age of 23, my struggle to understand bipolar disorder and how it moves within me and, then, in the context of the world, being somehow different. Oh, the shame. Alas, I am in recovery.
There is a sense of responsibility that I vigilantly steer , both as a Yoga instructor and as a community member with bipolar disorder. The “should”s are in evidence, my personal, ironclad rules that invariably get broken by life. Here’s the short form:
Eat right, exercise, think good thoughts, wear vibrant colors, be kind, look good, be calm.
Living alone, in a familiar town, with a support network established, this was easier. I knew the roads, the weather, the countryside. Now, I am grieving the life I left and am being rocked by the waves of a life where everything feels really alien. I find myself wearing dark hoodies, eating late at night to ensure a good send-off into sleep, only walking my dogs, not practicing Yoga, being grouchy, feeling uptight and going into anxiety. And sleeping a lot.
Because it has been such a balm for my wounds, I become most down on myself for not practicing Yoga. On a mat. With other people.
Except that I am! I practice in little ways that don’t require a mat or a membership. I practice all the time, in fact. If I could only credit myself more often in these darker times for my private practice, the depression probably wouldn’t go so deep.
Here are the victories (I do believe that there are always victories):
- I am maintaining an awareness – of my moods, my energy levels and my appetite, of my desire to practice and to feel well, of my desire for change.
- I am practicing self-care by resting and retreating. Rest helps the body heal. Retreat is a necessity practiced by sages from time immemorial, useful to relax, to study and to gain momentum for the next session of life.
- I am signing my emails with an “AUM” at the end. The drone of AUM is a soothing sound for the nervous system, described by Paramhansa Yogananda as a synthesis of all the sounds of the highly vibrating life forces. He wrote that if you become very quiet, one can hear AUM at any time and in any place. This is the unifying sound of the cosmos in eternity, as some Yogis explain, of which we are all a part.
- I am cutting myself some slack wherever I remember, including both physically and socially, with respect to my regular winter “down”s and to the newness of my environment. Easy does it, as they say in twelve-step recovery. Easy does it.
- I am being honest with myself: This is where I am now, this is temporary, this is the best of my ability. This is a moment in a lifetime of cycles and an “up” is certainly around the corner. Good times are nigh.
- I have value.
I remember that even three letters at the end of an email can affect the tone of the draft – and my attitude – for the better.
These victories may not all be written in Sanskrit, but they are all Yogic practices.
“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you.” -P. Yogananda