Depression: The Physical Body You Inhabit

To provide light entertainment, here is a clip of Will Ferrell from the movie Elf.     You can get more of this good stuff once a week by subscribing to my newsletter.  Thanks!

In 2005, I wore a dress with big pink flowers to a friend’s wedding; I danced on my toes and I smiled big and my hair went everywhere and the rhythm was not there and I probably looked like a virginal 15 year old even though I was 23.

My friend pointed and laughed at the way I moved in front of a lot of people.  We were similar flavors of angry, me a virgin (and not happy about it), and she in love with characters from Lord of the Rings and self conscious about it.  I stopped moving and I yelled at her.

All the ticklish, fun feelings were gone; the good memories with her, dancing on the bar at a very, very big club on Sunset Boulevard and dancing in our apartment and fighting over the one Thai iced tea that was delivered to our apartment door.

It took me a really, really long time to realize I could start over in my body.

That sweating and moving and continuing to beat to my own drum would help set me free; well that has not been an over night lesson; that has been a mythical one involving lots of “no, no, no not that way Renee, not Renee don’t fall out of handstand that way” and “no, no do not have knots in your throat, but do not sing off key either.”  First of all, these obstacles in the path were both external and internal.  There, it seems, will always be people who have unsolicited opinions about how you should be on this earth.

And also that this thing called horizontal violence is happening constantly in little minor ways everywhere and it’s not just in my head.

I was the nerd or brainer or girl who was going to find a cure for AIDs, except for at 23, I didn’t really feel like I was that girl at all.  I don’t think I had the words for it yet, but I wanted to be able to feel all the feelings and hold other people’s hands or eyes, if they preferred, while they felt all the feelings too.  I wanted to feel beautiful; and have someone who actually wanted to be my girlfriend say my tits looked fake.  I wanted all of my internalized homophobia to go away.

Okay, so how does depression come in?  And how does this relate to the Physical Body You Inhabit?

Yoga gave me permission to start feeling all of my feelings.  For about a year, I cried in almost every single yoga class I took.  It felt good.

Depression relies heavily on negative thought patterns being drilled into the skull.  Yoga practice relies on one paying attention to the present moment; and restorative yoga and yin yoga rely on the freedom to feel all the feelings.  Feeling everything meant it was able to move and change and not dig its teeth into my being in the same way.

Being able to find some child-like joy and wonder or peace within the body is a really great thing.

Here’s my Self-Help Exercise for Getting To Know The Physical Body You Inhabit:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes; empty your bowels; and set up a space where there is room for you to move around, bigger is better.
  2. Play music that you like or you may like
  3. Lay on your back and listen to your breath.  Say out loud three times, “Inhale, exhale.”
  4. Can you keep your eyes and fingers and toes soft? And then roll along the floor in one direction (think tootsie roll)? And then roll in the other direction?  Can you do this for five minutes?
  5. Now stand-up.  Put on your favorite song to dance to.  Blind fold yourself & dance.

For those of you who like more rules or guidelines, make up your own rules and guidelines.  I personally set a timer because as much as I crave being more of a free-spirit, I also feel free with a timer.  10 minutes is good.  If you are a total dork like me, you can imagine you are dancing with a bunch of animals in the wilderness.  Pretend you are like 5; you don’t have to know what animals actually inhabit a temperate forest or the desert; you just make it up.

Right now, I actually am pretty happy with my physical body and how I move, but honestly it’s not because I have the perfect girlfriend who tells me how beautiful I look naked all the time.  It’s because I’ve done the work to love myself.  It’s because when I’m home, I turn off all the lights and light the candles and put on a leotard (which is a actually a very practical garment), and I dance.  And I do the shit I want to do that many, many people have pointed and laughed at me about and continue to do (I’m still not a great singer, but I’ve gotten past the point of needing your permission or my voice teacher’s permission or any humans because I do this singing thing because it makes me feel alive, and that matters).  Because somewhere between 10 and 100….many people are told it’s better to give up on feeling alive, and so they do so, and they walk around passing that thought curse to me, you and whoever will listen.  And I can say from experience that if that curse has been drilled in your head, it takes time to get out.

I think the aphorism, “The first step is always the hardest” is a load of crap.  I’m not trying to take the hope out of your balloon, but what I would say instead is “It’s hard, but do it anyway.”  And find people who inspire you to keep going; and be patient with finding those people.

Namaste y’all,


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