Life Navigating Through My Bout of Depression

jenniferlouden_blog_8.28.14

I’m interrupting this wonderful run of brilliant women talking about how they shape their lives to tell you I’m depressed.

At first I was afraid that telling you this would make you not take my course because who wants to learn from a depressed teacher?

But then I thought, “I stand for living your truer life – and that means your whole life. That means all of it, the shit and the swamp, the love and the golden sunset, the 3am staring at the ceiling and the trudging down the stairs at memory care, sobbing. True means whole, means owning it, working it, all of it.”

So here I am telling you I’m depressed. Low-grade ick, just a shallow swamp that I can get out of in a week or so. Health stuff triggers it, then I feed the “black dog” with guilt over not liking my mom, fear over my new writing project flopping, and toxic comparisons to more successful friends.

I used to feel such shame for being depressed. I used to tell myself, “Why are you depressed? You have an incredible life. You could live in Mosul or Gaza, for God’s sake, buck up.” Under that, I would think, “What kind of self-help teacher are you if you’re depressed?” Even writing that makes me want to scream. That kind of self-talk not only made my depression worse, it made me believe I needed to be somebody I’m not.

What I do now, instead, when I find myself blue?

  • I make friends with my mood. Not let it run me or rule me or send me to bed, if I can help it, but also not make it wrong. I separate the mood from myself. I am not a bad person because I’m depressed. I will talk more about this if you want on the call on September 17th.
  • I lower my standards and tell myself, “Honey, that’s enough for today. It’s going to be alright.”
  • I cling to COE’s and make clear plans for each day.
  • I also “begin again” my morning rituals of yoga and prayer (instead of meditation as meditation is not the best choice for me when I’m depressed), then breakfast and writing first thing. But I make the amount of time I do these things very small until I feel better. That way I’m steadfast but also realistic.
  • I stay away from social media except to do nice things for people – spread the word about a program, offer a dash of support, wish someone a happy birthday.
  • I re-read the section about Story in The Life Organizer (my favorite section) and listen to what I’m telling myself about my mom, my project, my friends. Listening, not trying to change anything, then gently asking, “Is this story generating the future I want?”
  • I don’t try and hide how I’m feeling from Bob like I used to because I was ashamed. He doesn’t try to fix me, he simply loves me, and that helps so, so much.
  • I move my body any way I can. No judgment for not getting to yoga; if a slow walk in the woods is what I can do, fantastic.
  • I reach out to trusted friends and do exactly what I’m doing here by saying, “I’m depressed. Nothing serious. Can you just chat for a few minutes, I need to feel connected.”

I’m a little depressed right now and I’m proud as hell to say I no longer believe the story that being depressed means I’m not living my truer life or that I’m not a really good, soulful teacher that can help you shape your truer life, too.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being in my world. It would help me to say that I love you.

Jen

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Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef - August 29, 2014

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Jen. The Depression Thing affects more of us than we’d like to admit and it’s SO important that we begin to have these discussions. Sending you much love and positive juju.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    thanks Tea!! I appreciate the support so much.

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Gail - August 29, 2014

Thank you for this, Jen. You touch so many lives with your acceptance and embracing what is real – rather than resisting and pushing it aside (so common in our Western culture). You help so many, like me, feel less alone and more OK with whatever is present. Thank you, friend.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    happy birthday again!

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Jennifer Parde - August 29, 2014

Such a helpful perspective, Jen, and reminds me of why I’ve been drawn to your work since I first encountered it (and have gifted your books to about 5 other women now).

I work with dark moods often (within) myself–mental illness runs in my family–and know that our inner wisdom is always still available, even when we don’t feel good. Self acceptance and unflinching self love is the best medicine. Thank you for being an example and an inspiration.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    unflinching self love, yes!!

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eileen2000 - August 29, 2014

thank you so much for this. I respect your bravery and realness and your strength.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    oh gosh, thanks. it helps me to write about it that’s for sure.

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Deb Reynolds - August 29, 2014

Thank you, Jen. This is rather timely, as yesterday I just realized I am in the midst of a depressive episode. I’d been labeling it ‘tired’, ‘bad food choices’, ‘ lack of motivation, gumption and interest’, ‘poor sleep’…. Etc. or a resurgence of full-on CFS, which feels a lot like depression – it is often hard to tell them apart. This does not feel like a “shallow swamp”, but an up to the shoulders bog. But there is a difference from previous times – once I recognized it and named it, I did not rail against it. I recognized my need for full-on self-care and nourishment. Yesterday the limit of my activities were 3 hours lying in bed listening to yoga Indra and Camino (cd by Oliver Schroer) and having a bath. Today I’m having coffee with a friend, although it is a big push to do so. And I’ll get groceries. There will be lots of fresh veg, and makings for soup/stew that I can eat for several days. Everything else is totally negotiable. My bar is set low, but what is at that bar is of life-giving importance. Thanks again lovely for speaking truth. You so often have this amazing timing. xox Deb

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    oh sweetheart, I’m sorry. wishing you much healing and energy. you are so wonderful i want the best for you.

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Colleen Haggerty - August 29, 2014

Thanks for this post, Jen. I appreciate the opening you bring to your depression instead of the clenched fists posted at your sides with an “I’m not going to be depressed!” attitude. I find my depression moves and swirls more when I’m open to it rather than resisting it. And I appreciate your humaneness. It’s a great reminder that the best teachers are authentic teachers. Sharing your depression is very real. Thanks.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    ah thanks Colleen!

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Melissa Melnitzer - August 29, 2014

What a brave post. I have just begun to connect with your work recently, and am very much enjoying your wisdom and authenticity. This added level of depth and courage deepens my trust and sense of connection to your work even further.
I too work in the area of wellness and have suffered from significant depression, and it is always challenging to know how to flow amidst it all, especially in terms of being “professional” while maintaining authenticity. I have learned that ultimately being my authentic self IS professional and that the truth of the lows is part of the groundwork of my truth for all the “positive” stuff. I am so touched and inspired by your sharing today and wish you solace in this difficult time. Tough feelings about our mothers sure are some of the hardest feelings of all, especially when they are ill. For what it’s worth I hear you, and am sending love back your way.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    yes the mom stuff. i said to Bob last night, “I think I have some unresolved mom stuff.” he said, “you think???”

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Julie Mitchell - August 29, 2014

Wow. Jen, this is another authentic, inspiring, absolutely true post and it couldn’t be more timely as I have been blogging about — and slowly slogging through — my own time of depression and grief. I have taken in your words with a huge sigh of relief and appreciation. Remember this, from one who does not hand out such compliments lightly: You are an outstanding example of a woman who works with/practices REAL life and is courageous and generous enough to share all of it (not just the “happy happy” stuff).

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    thank you. i feel like trying to be happy happy gets in my way sometimes, not because i think i’m supposed to be that way but because i want to be useful, if that makes any sense.

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Paula - August 29, 2014

Thanks for owning your depression so publicly, Jen. I was just thinking about concepts like admitting, owning up to, claiming and opening to things today – I was thinking more about what I want, but it is also so important to own what you feel. And then that awareness lets you move to the next stage where you can be with it and help yourself through it. I am so thankful for your honesty and authenticity – even in your pain, you help others. I wish you whatever you need to move toward recovery or healing or whatever it is that shoes the black dog away for awhile again.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    shoo that dog away! thanks for all your support Paula, so appreciated.

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Deirdre - August 29, 2014

A blog like this is exactly why I am honored to study with you, share your work with others and sing your praises to the sky. You are real, genuine, heart-felt, authentic and show me the way to live that way also. Although we have never met, you are one of my most treasured teachers. And through your willingness to be so vulnerable and honest, I believe you help everyone more than we can really understand. And as we all embrace all parts of ourselves, feel able to choose how to take care of ourselves while still showing up for the responsibilities of our lives, and live with authenticity and compassion for ourselves and others when we’re not at our “best” (whatever the heck that is :)) I believe change will happen. Just love how you are and who you are, Deirdre

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    oh gosh Deirdre, thank you!! that is so wonderful and humbling to read.

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Nancy E. Gibson - August 29, 2014

Even on a dark day you still manage to shine light. I don’t need a perfect teacher I have one who walks in my shoes. What better way to teach? I can’t thank you enough for wearing my sexy kitten heels AND my icky grass-stained tennies. I can’t thank you enough for being real and honest.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    oh sexy kitten heels, that’s such a fun image.

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Sandra Pawula - August 29, 2014

I’m so moved that you trust you and trust us so much that you can share the real you with all the ups and the downs. Appreciate you so much.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    ditto, thank you for showing up here with your great support Paula.

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Naomi Shabot Wittlin - August 29, 2014

So very proud of you for writing this. I think it is perfectly ok to dip below the surface for a little while. You will be ok. I admire you so much.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    thanks Naomi!

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Melissa Wadsworth - August 29, 2014

Thank you for sharing this. I’ve just been posting about how we need to allow each other to process through life authentically and to share that process, even the messy parts. I’ve been feeling anxious over the launch of my book and that has led to feeling anger. My mind wants to scold me and tell me these are not appropriate feelings for an enlightened person to have. So you’re post is most refreshing and appreciated. Love your pointers, too.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    Thanks Melissa! hope the launch goes beautifully.

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Juli Ford Alhadeff - August 29, 2014

Jen, this post filled my heart so deeply and your expression of love at the end brought tears to my eyes. Once again your courage and authenticity is nourishing my heart and I feel so grateful to you. I also want to tell you what a gigantic relief it was not to get to the end of the post and find a miraculous solution (particularly in the way of a sales pitch). Not that I expect that from you (I truly don’t!!) but I find that so often today, I open an email or click on a link that leads with what sounds like an authentic soul sharing only to find it is more like a shallow lead in to a sales pitch.

You, Jen Louden, are a glowing light of real true love in a teaming sea of people not nearly so brave (I want to believe they are trying to be brave and authentic but it is sometimes hard to see). I hope someday we meet so I can can really thank you for all the amazing, heart opening moments your work has helped me to experience. I want to also say that I love you too. xoxo

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    Juli thank you! I do worry about being too salesy, wanting to be a clear stand for my work and take care of myself – which has been a long lesson learned – yet never manipulate or use my stories or my life to “sell.” I had to check in when writing this to be sure I wasn’t sharing this story for any weird reason but the truth was I felt like sharing all the other women’s stories of their lives didn’t feel right when I was feeling so crappy. if that makes any sense!!

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      Juli Ford Alhadeff - August 30, 2014

      It makes perfect sense! xo

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        Juli Ford Alhadeff - August 30, 2014

        ps- I think you are doing an amazing job of taking a clear stand for your work and I hope that it is working to help you take care of yourself because, in my mind, you are doing the BEST job at both sharing your work and yourself in a beautiful, authentic way.

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          jenlouden - September 1, 2014

          ah, that feels great to hear.

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Micheila Storr - August 29, 2014

Thank you for sharing this, Jen. So brave and true, you are! The shame is the worst. Having suffered from shame-rooted depression since I was 16 years old, I know how hard it is to speak about it. And your advice fits with much of how I’ve coped and recovered and plan to cope and recover if it strikes again. Who knows. It could, right? Being this tender and sensitive is a workout, dearest fellow Four! 🙂 Thank you for outlining it in such an organized fashion. I’m going to save this for the future and share it with another long-suffering Four that I know. 🙂

Love you so much,
Micheila

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    thanks doll!!

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Wendy McClelland - August 29, 2014

Jennifer – just recently found your blog after a friend recommended you. Thank you for being honest and open. The more of us who struggle and share our stories, the more we allow others to be open – to get the help they need – and to love themselves through the guilt and the shame that depression so often brings with it! I finally opened up and shared my story as well – you might find it interesting – http://wendymcclelland.com/the-death-of-robin-williams/

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    Wendy I look forward to reading your post!

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Caitlin Van Essen - August 29, 2014

So grateful that you wrote this. I too suffer from bouts of depression and as a wellbeing coach I berate myself for not having my shit together more and so I play small in this game of life and view myself as a failure. Then when I am feeling good I feel I can take on the world and really make a difference but that little voice of doubt and depression are always there saying “who are you kidding? if people really knew you that wouldn’t be interested in anything you have to say”. So thank you again.

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    I guess they love as just the way we are dear Caitlin.

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Constance Knapp - August 29, 2014

I am always struck by how brave and genuine you are. I love you right back! Thanks for posting this.
Connie

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    hugs to you dear Connie.

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Cristy Coates - August 29, 2014

Thank you, thank you, thank you Jen! I plague myself with the same kinds of thoughts about my bouts of depression and the fairly ongoing, low grade anxiety I experience. They feel kinda taboo for a yoga teacher to admit to. Well, same for my role as an instrumental tutor. Of now becoming an intentional creativity coach & workshop leader. Maybe I’ve just thought it taboo in general. I’ve started to speak about it more, too. Just admitting that yes, I am human and experience human emotions seems to help me feel more connected. It is not the sum total of who I am, but I do experience darkness. It was so uplifting and permission giving to hear what you do at these times, especially around social media, meditation and just managing whatever movement is possible in the moment. Thank you for your bravery xxxx

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    yes those honest conversations are what we need, good for you Cristy!!

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Kimberley McGill - August 29, 2014

Oh my! Thank you so very very much. I am in a space like that at the moment and this has made all the difference. It’s not wrong to be depressed, it doesn’t make me unworthy. Yes. Thank you!

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    I’m glad we could help each other Kimberley.

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Sheila Bergquist - August 29, 2014

I would trust a life coach more if they have been through depression and anxiety (both of which I suffer from) than if they hadn’t. So by opening up and sharing this with people, you give yourself extra qualifications! Love your work!

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    jenlouden - August 30, 2014

    thanks Sheila!!

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    Camilla Peffer - September 18, 2014

    Hey Sheila, I totally agree. I wouldn’t be able to coach with someone who hadn’t ‘been there’. They need to have mastered the tools in order to pass them on to me.

    Love your work Jen!

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Barb Brown - August 31, 2014

You’re better able to help others when you’ve traveled the road yourself. No-one is perfect and everyone struggles from time to time. It takes courage to admit it. I often think of a bout of depression like catching a cold. There are things to do to tend to my body, mind and soul a little more carefully when I’m not feeling well, wether it’s from depression or a virus. Thanks for your honesty.

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    jenlouden - September 1, 2014

    love the cold analogy!

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Marthe Hagen - September 2, 2014

You just put all my feelings into words. I’m a motivational writer who gets depressed. Anyone else see why I feel like an impostor? But I have also learned to accept it and see it as one of my big strengths. Because, come to think about it – if I can motivate myself our of the depths of depression I sure as hell can motivate and inspire other people too! 😀

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    Jennifer - September 2, 2014

    I’m so glad we both feel less alone Marthe.

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Kathy - September 2, 2014

I’ve recently been in the same place myself. Things are better now, but not all the way back to “good.” In fact, I wrote a post very similar to yours in June: http://www.catchinghappiness.com/2014/06/before-during-and-after-coping-with.html. Here’s hoping you’re feeling better soon. In the meantime, it seems like you’re caring for yourself in the most appropriate and loving ways. Sending you good thoughts and cyber hugs :).

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    Jennifer - September 2, 2014

    back to good we will go, in time, with lots of love and kindness. thanks for being here!

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Gladys Anderson - September 2, 2014

By having these open discussions about depression, we can lessen its grip and know that we are not alone. Thanks for being authentic and sharing your experience. Sending positive energy your way.

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    Jennifer - September 4, 2014

    i agree!

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    Jennifer - September 7, 2014

    I sure hope so Gladys.

    Reply
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Paige - September 6, 2014

This is such a wonderful example of practicing self love and compassion. Thank you for being authentic and sharing these beautiful ideas xx

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    thank you Paige!

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Thanks Jennifer for being real. Trust is a key component when you work with women. I have followed your work for years and I know you are the real deal!

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Ancient Herbs - June 13, 2019

Much obliged for owning your gloom so openly, Jen. I was simply contemplating ideas like conceding, owning up to, guaranteeing and opening to things today – I was considering what I need, yet it is likewise so essential to possess what you feel. And afterward that mindfulness gives you a chance to move to the following stage where you can be with it and help yourself through it. I am so appreciative for your genuineness and realness – even in your torment, you help other people. I wish you whatever you have to advance toward recuperation or mending or whatever it is that shoes the dark canine away for a moment once more.

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ANCIENT HERBS - June 14, 2019

Thanks for sharing valuable information with us. Amazing. Jen, this is another valid, motivating, completely obvious post and it couldn’t be all the more auspicious as I have been blogging about — and gradually trudging through — my very own season of melancholy and distress. I have taken in your words with a colossal moan of help and appreciation.

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