Tag Archives: Neuroplasticity

Cue Musical Montage: Dark Little Critter is Lacing Up for Mental Health Bootcamp

The Critter and I have been battling against a hulking springtime depression. We’ve been in the ring with it for over a month, and we’ve had enough. It’s time to knock this greasy sucker down and get out from the stench of its presence.

Throughout this grisly matchup, my shadowy friend has been in my corner. Every time I flop onto the bench, she wipes blood from my nose with a soft cloth in her tiny paw and says,

“Don’t just stand there, blocking with your face. Do something.”

“I am doing something,” I mumble through the hamburger that used to be my mouth. “I’m taking refuge in Being.”

She raises a racoon eyebrow and answers, “I think you’re doing it wrong.”

She may be right. I have been trying to shake this bad boy off through avoidance. I have traded writing for reading, walking for baths, and real food for these chewy marshmallow bars made with various kinds of sweet garbagey cereal.

It has been interestingly crunchy, but not productive. I can’t really enjoy these mental getaways, because I spend them dreading their end, anticipating the cold wad of despair that will resettle in my lungs the moment I turn back to my obligations.

What has made things worse is that my kids and I have been taking turns getting sick since January. At any given time, one of us has been either aching, whining, and spewing sticky geysers of mucus, or cramping, whining, and spewing stinky geysers of ew-ness.

This has been not only disgusting, but also a surprisingly potent threat to my mental resilience. Our family germfest has blown away my survival routine. I’m self-destructing without my thrice-weekly visits to the gym where I can sweat, write, and get the hell away from the river of, “Nos!” and “Mommy I wants!” that make me want to slowly push a smelly marker all the way up my nose (right into the old Crayola oblongata, just like Homer).

Now, when I’m at my messiest, my husband has left town for work. The next couple of weeks are going to have me chained with one small, complaining child on each ankle.

It’s like this hideous depression is about to tag in a fresh new harbinger of hell.

I decided I don’t want to go to hell. I want to come back and be here, available for my kids. And for the love of everything sweet and chocolate and holy, I want to start tasting my snacks again. I need to get my brain back online.

I am ready to win this round, to climb out of the ring laughing and be done being a sporting victim.

Therefore, I’m starting on a Mental Health Bootcamp.

Like a strength training program for the brain, this curriculum is going to provide structure and move me through techniques that work.

It is based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and will involve daily exercises to strengthen the neural pathways that create calm and clarity.

MBSR has been studied extensively since 1979. In numerous university and hospital trials, it has produced measurable improvements in mental and physical health for people suffering from anxiety and depression, as well as heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain.

Starting today, I will be following the Free Online MBSR program at PalouseMindfulness.com, and sharing my experiences here on this blog. You all are going to be my accountability team, so thanks.

If you are curious about MBSR, or if you can feel something furry tickling your ear with a whisper of, “Doooo it!”, then I invite you to join me.

You don’t have to purchase anything, input personal information, or send the first toenail clippings of your third born daughter. Just check out the videos, talks, and readings.

Here’s how to get involved:
– Visit palousemindfulness.com to explore the program or try it for yourself.
Like Dark Little Critter on Facebook to have new posts, updates, and additional resources show up on your newsfeed.
– Send me a Private Message on Facebook to be added to a Bootcamp Discussion Group where we can talk about our experiences, mindfulness, and recovery from depression.

If you are terrified of cracking under the weight of stress, and think you should do this someday, do it now. There is no reason not to.

There is no cost, no travel, and no schedule. You can make it work with whatever time you have, even just a few minutes before you go to sleep each night.

The exercises won’t be easy (I know because I’ve done this type of thing before), but they will be productive. Within a week or two, you will start to feel stronger, steadier, and freer. As you build the relaxation muscle in your brain and body, it will change the way you move through each day, the good ones and the bad.

You can change your brain. You can take whatever you are doing now, whether it is self-management through exercise and diet, or getting help through counselling or medication, and add this piece (the program recommends that you let your counsellor or doctor know you are participating so they can monitor how it affects your therapy).

If it feels right, go for it.

There are a million right ways to get better. I know that MBSR is what I need right now. By the time my husband comes home from his trip, I will be waking up with lightness in my chest.

Whether you join me, or take your own path forward, the Critter and I hope to see you rise up lightly, too.