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Article on Depression as Mindbody Syndrome

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Ellen, Aug 13, 2014.

  1. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Below is an article by a psychologist, Julia Colwell, written in response to the recent suicide by Robin Williams, about depression as a mindbody syndrome or TMS equivalent (though she doesn't use those terms). Dr. Schubiner's new book Unlearn Your Anxiety and Depression also takes this perspective.

    Depression’s elegy
    by JULIA on AUGUST 12, 2014

    Robin Williams, our beloved cultural jester, gone by his own hand. How could this be?

    For those of us who have struggled with the mighty darkness of depression, hearing about Williams’ suicide is shocking but not surprising. We know about inner monsters, about how full of toxicity the stream of the inner voice can be.

    I have no idea what Williams’ journey was like. It sounds tortuously unending, in how the promise of new tomorrows appeared to be interrupted by the reality of how he experienced each moment. As a psychologist and a recovered depressed person, however, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about facing into the darkness. I use the below list as rules for living, ladders that I know now I can climb when I fall back into the pit.


    I first read this revolutionary idea in Cheri Huber’s The Depression Book (later re-released as Being Present in the Darkness). I had no idea that my emotions had anything to do with my depression, which now seems quite bizarre in the face of having had years of therapy and having been to graduate school in clinical psychology. Now I can see how my flatness of being has everything to do with the anger, fear, sadness–and joy, and sexuality–that I hadn’t been willing to actually experience in my body.


    The corollary to #1, being willing to fully experience the complete cycle of your feelings in your body allows your inner experience to flow on through.


    There is no emotion that is valid or invalid. What is happening in your body–the clench of anger in the jaw, the tightness of fear in the belly, the pain in the heart of sorrow, the sizzle of life energy of sexuality and joy–all of these are your birthright. You get to feel them. Any time. For any reason.


    Depression is reliable for its impulse to stay inside, to isolate and just stop. If I notice any signs of depression now, I take them seriously as signals that my body needs to sleep more, to stop relating to the outside, and to look within for what my body is trying to tell me.


    I have said many times that my real job is to help people lose their minds. “The mind does not wish the best for you”, said Gail Kali, a dear teacher. Our thoughts only reflect our emotional state. Believing them is like listening to a drunk on the street. Some of it might be useful; all of it is to be questioned.


    Since thoughts reflect emotions that are stuck in the body, if you want to change your thoughts, focus on moving the emotions through. Shift moves like breathing, moving, appreciating, wondering, and playing will support this flow.

    This rule is particularly important if your thoughts are self-destructive. If you want to hurt yourself in any way (including through addictions, over-exercise, eating poorly, not resting, overworking, or any other way of treating yourself that is not kind and compassionate), your work is in simply allowing the energy of emotions to move through your body.

    We have lost a beloved man. Let us honor his life, and his death, by learning what we can about how to be with our own darkness and to fully embrace what it has to offer us–in life.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
    Cap'n Spanky and tarala like this.
  2. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Ellen, thanks for posting this article. I'm sorry that Williams took his life mainly because of the negative message it says to everyone
    struggling with depression. And the media totally ignored the death of a truly great actress and person, Lauren Bacall. I watched the news
    but no one even mentioned it.

    When I feel low, I tell myself, loud and clear, I AM NOT GIVING UP! I REFUSE TO GIVE UP!

    And I remind myself of how much God loves me and how much he has given me.

    Robin Williams had it all and threw it away. Shame on him. The rest of us need to have more faith and courage.

    Sorry if this sounds like I don't care. I do. But I believe in TOUGH LOVE in helping others.
    Sometimes we need to give it to ourselves.
  3. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I consider John Wayne to be a real hero. He knew he had terminal cancer but accepted it,
    made one more movie, and said "If you fall off the horse, get back on again."
    He didn't shoot himself.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    There is no way to know how much pain other people are experiencing.
    Forest likes this.
  5. tarala

    tarala Well known member

    As a psychologist I can say that major clinical depression is not feeling down, or sad. I have never had it myself but my experience with people who have has taught me that it is not what the rest of us experience when we are feeling blue, or "depressed" at where our lives are at the moment. As a person who pretty much thinks all illness is a form of TMS, I still have been amazed how difficult it can be for those with major depression to have success with all of the tools that work so well for the rest of us. It is not because they aren't trying just as hard as the rest of us are, because they are. I think walk a mile in another man's shoes is the way to go here.
    Lavender, Cap'n Spanky and Ellen like this.
  6. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Ellen - thank you so much for sharing this! I found it very helpful.
    I totally agree, tarala.
    Ellen likes this.
  7. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Agree with you Walt, Robin was a great guy from the few times I saw him. He was a product of his environment, frisco, southern Marin and hollyWEIRD. My personal favorite roll he played was Popeye, a rather dark film from my recollection from seeing it years ago.
  8. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    A friend of mine said that Robin Williams was emotionally disturbed all his life and that in Hollywood everyone knew it.

    I quote what he emailed me yesterday:

    "I met Robin Williams three times while doing book tours in the 1980s and, on each occasion, I sensed that he was completely insincere and desperate to be the center of attention by doing anything antic, like a child throwing a tantrum in order to be noticed. He was always “on,” like a shark that must keep moving to survive, and my inclination in all instances was to get far away from this weirdo, lest I contract his contagious nervous tick. I thought that Williams was unbalanced then, and I am guessing that he most probably thought so, too, but he cleverly hid his innermost fears about that by always frenetically expressing himself, setting off endless and meaningless firecrackers to drown out the sound of the challenging voice of sanity. His true talent was that he was artfully able to control his lunacy by transitioning it into the kind of mindless comedy that wows pubescent children, not unlike hand puppets whacking each other on the head with large wooden mallets. Such insidious self-manipulation, I felt, was motivated by something perverse, even sinister, wherein he was using up what drams of sanity he did possess to preserve what he mistakenly (or knowingly) believed to be his strength, the evils of lunacy that created illusionary and deceptive mirth to greedily garner more and more attention, but that also, I believe, bedeviled his mind. His foremost comedic idol was the truly funny Jonathan Winters, who told me (and I also met the gifted Winters several times) that: “Robin isn’t fooling anyone. We all know he is certifiable.” Winters said this with a straight face. Williams was at the top of the Hollywood heap he always wanted to conquer when he took his life. He had a huge estate worth $35 million and another $50 million in the bank. He was idolized by millions of fans. He had three healthy children and a wife who loved him. But, by then, he was broke. He had used up all the real cash he had, his last vestiges of reason, spending it on worthless self-illusions. They say “you can’t take it with you,” but, I believe that Williams thought otherwise. Greedy to the last, he took his most prized possession with him—himself, while obliquely telling the world to join him in going to the final destination the Catholic Church indicate for suicides—hell. I know this all sounds severe and dispassionate, but I find Williams’ bow-out repulsive and ignominious, not sympathetic and worth remembering. I cherish courage and a universal love for enduring life and the credo of, above all else, “to thine own self be true.”

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