Over the last twenty years, I have assisted a number of people in getting off of anti-depression medications, and it is always a deeply moving experience when a person makes that transition successfully by doing their emotional recovery work and making real progress in healing the roots of their depression. And it always brings home the truth about recovery, which is that it is a humbling and liberating experience to allow yourself to go through the process.
A client recently completed a two week outpatient program to get off of medication and into a functioning emotional life. I assisted before and after those two weeks, and my client is doing well. Her success inspired me to share some thoughts with you about the challenges of recovery.
In looking at the process of emotional recovery that is the heart of any recovery – abandonment, abuse or addiction – the word recovery for me is literal: we need to recover the healthy choices that were lost in our families and relationships, like being able to feel our emotions and communicate them safely. Or the choice to not have to internalize other people’s emotions as a way to try to feel safe with them. We need to recover our personal space in which we can prioritize what we need and build our life around that freedom of choice.
Within all of those choices, the essential choice we need to recover is to be able to choose self-empathy. We need to be able to invest the time and conscious growth needed to journey into the heart trauma that comes from the way love fails in families and creates dysfunction and depression. Heart trauma is not well understood, yet it is very common, as is the emotional shock that lies underneath it.
Recovering from heart trauma and shock are deep processes that require us to make increasingly intelligent choices about how we honor ourselves, set our boundaries and allow the grief that lives inside of heart trauma to move within us.
The recovery of emotional choice, time and space is absolutely essential if we are to ever heal the grief that sits inside of depression. Once we make that commitment and do the emotional work to create a healthy, respectful relationship with our own grief, we have anchored our recovery process in a secure way that can liberate us from trauma and dysfunction safely.