musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


Strength in Community

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

After viewing the film Food Matters, I started reading everything I could find on the subject of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Last week I attended a seminar rooted in that philosophy.  The topic was “Dietary and Supplemental Support for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.” Some of the information presented was new to me; other parts were review of nuggets I had previously stumbled across on my own.

The presentation was really interesting and reinforced many, if not all, of my personal beliefs surrounding the role of nutrition in achieving and maintaining vibrant health.  I attended this talk with certain filters in place, keeping in mind that as an ethical vegan, I often find myself on the sidelines of many discussions involving mainstream nutrition or flavour-of-the-month dietary fads .  As always, I had to remind myself going in that this was a generalized nutrition talk within the realm of “natural medicine”, meaning I would have to do “compassionate replacement therapy” in my head every time I heard the words “meat”, “protein” and/or “fish oil”, etc.  Gah!   Anyway.  By reminding myself that the animal protein bandwagon is firmly not an option for me, and that there are always compassionate alternatives available, I took in the information relevant to my situation and set aside everything else not in line with my personal ethics around food.

In the end, it was not the content of the talk that turned out to be a major revelation for me.  The light-bulb moment that evening occurred as I surveyed my surroundings.  Looking around, I was amazed to realize that the event was not simply well-attended, but brimming to capacity.  It was a full house:  standing room only.

At this realization, one thought dropped down in my mind like a tonne of bricks:  “A sold out seminar directed at those suffering from depression and anxiety.  This is a sign of the times.”

Every person in that room was touched in one way or another by ‘mental illness’ (a term I abhor, but have yet to hear another that everyone understands or accepts).

Every person in that room was someone, knew someone, or had heard of someone suffering with major depressive disorder, general/social anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder or perhaps one of many other stress-related conditions.

Every person in that room was looking for answers, alternatives, ideas.

Every person in that room was hopeful.

Every person in that room was in community.

Perhaps it seems rather Pollyanna-ish to focus on hope in the face of the mind-boggling numbers of people struggling with the symptoms of this far-reaching spectrum of dis-ease.  But I sincerely believe that as long as people are seeking solutions there is hope.  That room was full of people seeking solutions.  Full to capacity.  Full of hope.

I believe depression can be overcome with time, patience and guidance.  And my heart is full.

I believe that suicide is not a foregone conclusion with respect to mental illness.  And my heart is full.

I believe there are antidotes to stress and anxiety available and possible.  And my heart is full.

I believe there is love and healing in community.  No matter what that community looks like.  And my heart is full.

It is my intention to incorporate orthomolecular medicine into my own experience of depression and anxiety in a way that works for me.  I am hopeful.  In community.

My heart is full.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Marin Luther King, Jr


The Elephant Has Left The Room

All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.
Dr. Seuss ˜

According to author Susan Cain, “introverts prefer less stimulating environments and tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk and think before they speak. Conversely, extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet.”

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be an extrovert.  One of those outgoing, happy-go-lucky types who can go anywhere, anytime among any number of people known or not and, completely at ease, strike up any old conversation.

As you might have guessed by now:  yeah, I’m most certainly not one of those.  Let’s see.  Socially awkward?  Check.  Chronically shy?  Yep.  Horribly anxious?  Uh huh.

I am textbook introvert.  Well, maybe not in the ‘listening more than I talk’ scenario, but to be clear that’s specifically in one-on-one’s with people I know well and trust a lot.  Aside from that, my ability to converse with strangers off the cuff or carry on idle chit-chat is pretty much non-existent.

Beyond classic introversion, I am often anxious in settings involving larger groups of people, particularly where I don’t know anyone or what to expect.  Chatting with a group of people I’ve never met in contrived social situations such as parties, fundraisers or meet-and -greets for me, and I suspect for many introverts alike, is akin to walking into a death trap.

There is no better example than what I experienced attending an event this evening.  The whole process went something like this:

* Decide to attend event
* Put said event firmly out of mind until event day arrives.
* Spend day of event debating whether to go or not with varying degrees of freaking out.
* Decide not to go.  Full Stop.  Sort of.
* No, wait.  I’m going.
* Changed mind (at least 10x).
* Fuck it.  I’m going.
* Have complete meltdown about what to wear.  Like this has *ever* mattered to me.  In the history of anything.
* After bucking up buttercup and getting ass out door, sigh of relief ensues.  “How bad can this really be?” I nervously tell myself.
* Begin mercilessly questioning whether I’ll be scrutinized for being new, out of place, for dressing too casually, for saying the wrong thing, for standing in the wrong place, for…breathing.
* Arrive at event.  Walk in Door.  Another deep breath.
* Survey room.  Realize I know NO ONE.
* Looking around for a place to stand back and out of sight, I realize there is nowhere to go.
* Small room, big crowd, noisy, no one making eye contact.  I smile awkwardly here and there, nod.  No one says a word.  Even if I wanted to, I can’t.  My voice box is paralyzed.
* I begin to sweat and swoon.  The walls close in.  Everyone sounds like they are speaking into a tin can.  I am separating body from earth.
* I am alone in a crowd.  The loneliest place of all.
* I feel awkward, afraid and deeply embarrassed.
* I realize I need to take in fresh air, and this propels me forward.
* I leave.

The self-perceived Elephant Has Left The Room.

And that is just fine:  the elephant is the strong silent type and she’ll be back when she’s ready to introduce herself.

To all the introverts out there that I’ll never meet because you and I are way too busy avoiding parties:  I get you, homies.  You know what?  We can’t all be extroverts and that’s a-ok.   Those of us who are not are gonna be just fine.  Preferably over lunch for two at a cozy, non-chaotic restaurant.

Elephant In The Room