Why write Dreams Along the Way? Let’s talk honestly about mental illness.

 “If I should pass the tomb of Jonah

I would stop there and sit for awhile;

Because I was swallowed one time in the dark

And came out alive after all.”

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I have thought to write about healing depression ever since my inner voice insisted, “Write dreams along the way” The amazingly deep fear of breaking my self-imposed silence is well expressed by Jesse Lair in his book, I don’t know where I’m going but I sure ain’t lost.You want to write, but only if you didn’t have to say anything too strange. I had to go wild to get your attention.”

Don’t say anything strange. Don’t say anything about wild and crazy inner voices. Hmm. That is a perfect description of why it has taken so long to find the courage to share my experiences. In 2008, my dissertation, The Apple and the Talking Snake: Feminist Dream Readings and the Subjunctive Curriculum was published online by the University of British Columbia. I resisted writing it and I resisted publishing. Thanks to my adviser, Dr. Dennis Sumara for his insistent encouragement. In Peru in 2013, I went online to find a quote from the dissertation. I found some horrible comments. Just let it be said that there are those who from the anonymity of the worldwide web feel free to make the most appalling, bigoted, ignorant comments. I admit. Angry people scare me silly. Even if I can’t see them.  I can deal with those who think differently. I welcome honest responses. I can’t refuse the agenda of my soul. I will write dreams along the way. I have convinced myself that my story will help others … people who get up in the morning, look after homes and children, go to work, help in the community … living with depression is like that. It looks normal. Depressed people don’t go around “looking” depressed. I hid all the horrible stuff.  All the while desperately hoping and praying I could hang on another day. Recently, a friend mentioned an employee suicide. A neighbor suicide. “If only I had known….” That’s what we all say. So, this blog isn’t written so you can know about my depression. It is written so you can heal your own. Or, encourage a friend. No SHOULDING on others, please A simple statement, “You might want to try out the power of dream work.”

I can tell you that you won’t know if someone is suicidal. You don’t know. You can’t know. And if I tell you, what will you do then? What will you say? Will you tell me to “get yourself to a good doctor?” I was told that at the age of 43. I had been seeing “good” doctors since I was 15. At the time of the comment, I was seeing a “good” psychiatrist. Will you tell me, “You can’t really be depressed. You don’t look depressed.” Really? What does a clinically depressed person look like? Or when you hear my story in a dream workshop, will you say, “You should have told me. I would have been more supportive if I had known you were depressed.” Serious? Or, like a very good friend told me, “No, you can’t take a leave of absence to deal with this, Pearl. You will never be allowed to return to your job. The district won’t support you.” I listened. I stayed in my office. Or, like the many doctors I did see over the years from 15 to 43 , will you suggest MORE pills, the always available pharmaceutical cure? Yes, this will mask the symptoms and enable the depressive to function but drugs only help to deal with the current day, not the root causes. By the time I got to dream work, I was too desperate to give a damn what anybody thought. I would have danced with the devil if she promised healing. Perhaps if I write about my experiences, one other person will pick up a book about dreams and healing. And find their own way through the maze.

Our culture does not deal well with mental illness. A recent program on CBC re the shooting deaths of several young people in Toronto makes this very clear. (Go Online and find the Podcast) We are afraid of the descent to the unconscious. In the many years I sought healing through psychology, prayer and medicine, I learned nothing about dreams. I took several psychology courses in my Education degree. Dreams were mentioned, glossed over and given a biological explanation. The Churches? Well my church surely believes in the dreams of prophets and saints. In fairness, Carl G. Jung died in 1961 about the time my depression experiences were manifesting in outer illness. What do you know of the work of C. G. Jung? If you ask ten people tomorrow how they learn from dreams, what will you learn? Our culture has a very long way to go to learn to dive deeply into the unconscious and learn about the wounds we carry within the psyche. I am grateful for the gift of that first book on dreams. It may well have saved my life.

I am planning to write my experiences as precisely as the English language allows while working with psyche and inner experience. I am very glad I kept a journal as the events of my life unfolded. My Mom died April 9, 2001. Thanks for keeping the letters I wrote home from the Catholic Girls’ School in Midnapore, Alberta. Mom, thanks for keeping every letter, every report card and a whole treasure trove of information. I am able to confirm my information because you cared enough to hold on to all that “stuff” for so many years! And thanks for telling me over and over, “Educate a woman. Educate the world.” My Mom longed to go to school. The 1930s depression intervened.

What about responsibility? I take full responsibility for my depression. Sometimes, when I speak about my life, blame gets splattered here and there. But no, it isn’t my Roman Catholic heritage, my parents, my community, my family, my husband, my children. NO. I take full responsibility for the agenda of my soul. Yes, I had to unearth my beliefs about sin, impurity, confession and the role of women in the Church. I became a flaming, radical feminist. And the reason I write is so that the reader can assume their own responsibility. I have been blessed. Deeply blessed by the symbolism found in the heritage of my beloved Church, the love, support, care and concern of my family. Ask yourself: What was known about mental illness in the spring of 1961? I was 15, nearly finished grade eleven. I just checked my report card….it shows that I missed seven days of school in March. I missed every midterm that spring. I remember being given an iron tonic to help boost my energy. The field of psychology was young and I had no knowledge of it. And, in retrospect, Freudian psychology was useless to me. I can’t imagine my parents or doctors knew much more. To judge 1961 in a small rural community by the standards of today with information and knowledge available on the touch screen, is to be self indulgent, ill-informed and irresponsible. Depression has been my soul’s journey. It has led me through deep darkness. And in that darkness, in the unconscious, I found the sweet taste of the breadth and depth of love present to us in the universe. My soul’s journey is to WAKE UP.  Today I have a home filled with books about dreams, healing, Jungian psychology, depth psychology and spirituality. In fact, I have so many books that one grandson asked with all the seriousness of an 8 year old, “Grandma, have you read every book in the whole wide world!!” No, buddy, I haven’t. But I sure would like to!!

Today is February 22, 2014. I will post this blog just as soon as my inner courage kicks in.

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