Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"If you're going through hell, keep going"

Winston Churchill said this, but I think I will adopt it as my new mantra to get through postpartum depression... because it certainly is hell.

Churchill's bit of wisdom reminds me of the experience I had while walking the labyrinth at the Kentucky Foundation for Women's Hopscotch House. I was participating in a workshop for birth professionals centered around Birthing From Within's Laborinth philosophy. At the end of the workshop weekend, we would walk the labyrinth - quietly, mindfully and surrounded by the beauty of the area. I knew that I would be meeting my Love Warrior once I reached the center of the labyrinth, but I was not prepared for the message she had been waiting to deliver to me.

I took several deep, cleansing breaths before setting my foot on the path of the labyrinth. The labyrinth is not a maze. One cannot get lost inside the labyrinth. You must simply keep going - you will arrive at the center - you will begin exiting the labyrinth once you reach the center - and you leave the same way you came in. So, there I was - one foot in front of the other. Walking mindfully - being aware of the way my feet felt as they rolled from heel to ball, lifted up in the air, rolled from heel to ball, creating a circle of energy at my feet. My "monkey brain" started thinking, "Wow! You'll be here forever if you keep walking that slow! And what are you going to do if you have to pee??" Afterall, I was 5 months pregnant. So, I began intensely following my breath - in and out. Feeling the air as it moved past my nostrils, filling my lungs - sneezing (it was fall in Kentucky, mind you). Finally, I found my groove - focusing on the path in front of me, my feet and my breath.

Upon reaching the center I took a deep breath. Here I am, where are you love warrior? Oh, okay, there you are. Let's go.

So, I began making my way out, only this time I was accompanied by my love warrior. I began exiting the same way that I began my entrance - mindfully, quietly and making myself aware of the others who were traveling the path of the labyrinth. Somewhere along the way, my love warrior began pushing me from behind. "Go!" She commanded. "Faster! Faster! I'm with you now!" So, I listened to her and before I knew what I was doing, I was power walking the labyrinth. And the whole way all I could hear was "I'm with you! Keep going! I'm with you! Keep going!"

Fast forward to the present...
Following an amazing homebirth attended by no less than exactly who needed to be there for me - successfully breastfeeding my newborn son - enjoying the fact that I was home and not being harassed at the hospital - feeling like superwoman after the feat I had just accomplished...I found myself in the deepest, darkest, dankest place I had ever been in my life. I had traveled the labyrinth to the center...given birth in the center...and was now making my exit into my new life. Only I didn't realize that before I could leave the labyrinth, I had to walk through hell. And my love warrior was telling me that I was going to have to keep going through hell in order to get out.

Sometimes my love warrior makes an appearance as I live my daily life. She comes in the form of revelations about what I am learning about myself through all of this:
  • I am learning the difference between what life feels like when I'm exploring the things that make life rich and juicy, and when I'm depressed.
  • When I'm depressed it feels as though I'm living in a fog-filled bubble of gloom and doom.
  • When I'm not depressed, I can explore philosophy, spirituality and the "living questions" of life and feel fascinated and fulfilled by what I find, not terrified by it all.
  • When I'm depressed, nothing makes me happy - not even the sight of my husband dancing like a hillbilly to the sounds of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."
My love warrior was trying to tell me something that day that I am only just now hearing: Go! Faster! Keep going! I am with you now! Yes, it's hell and you will get through it. Be patient with yourself and keep going...

So, in the great words of Winston Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going." What's on the other side has got to be better than this...

If you are interested in learning more about labyrinths and what they represent, I found a good description here: http://www.lessons4living.com/labyrinth.htm

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful Leslie! Thank you for sharing this. I think it can be used in all sorts of situations, to keep moving, see things out, feel the panic out... I love you!!