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 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott


I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

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Building back the buffers

Depression seems to be a weird mix of nothing sinking in, and everything sinking in. I either feel like a teflon-clad bystander in my own life- every beautiful moment, each hug from a child, the yellow of the leaves falling to the ground outside my window, the sound of my husband's laughter, all the good around me just bounces right off and I can't feel any of it.

Or, all the things that should bounce off, like the minor stressers: misplacing a CD, stubbing my toe, fielding a tantrum from a 2 year old, running out of jelly, sink deep deep down like little grenades, and once they are buried inside me, they explode.

The normal buffers of protection, the armor that keeps me fighting the good fight, falls off my mind, and instead, attaches to my heart.

I think anything and everything, and I feel nothing. 

Well, nothing except for anger.

I've read anger is the easiest emotion to access, so a depressed person goes from numb to rage and back to numb. At least, that's how it works for me.


I read an article in Elle magazine that says scientists who study depression no longer think it's a simple serotonin deficiency in the brain; the new view of depression revolves around stress- wear and tear, that is, in parts of the brain that regulate emotions.

"Chronic stress can decrease the levels of neurotrophic, or growth, factors in the brain...when stress mechanisms are on overdrive, causing the atrophy of neurons in such areas as the hippocampus (the region controlling mood and emotion) and the prefrontal cortex (the seat of executive thinking)."

This explains why, in the middle of my toggles between numbness and rage, I am asking total strangers what color I should paint my house; I can't make a decision to save my life.  

The article says antidepressants allow therapy's message to sink in by regulating emotions, creating a buffer between you and what you're feeling.  When your brain is hijacked by strong emotional reactions, the cognitive learning centers shut down...and evidence is building that long-lasting recovery from depression requires actually learning to behave in some new way, with brain and body fully engaged, so that harmful, ingrained thoughts are overridden by healthier ones.

A buffer. 

I see it like a corral of rubber walls encircling my mind, creating just enough space between the outside world and my interior self that I can think before I react, or I can react without overthinking....whatever the need is at the moment, the buffer is like insulated padding-it absorbs the life and death weight of every thought and emotion, brings the world back to a manageable load.



I've made an incredible friend since moving to Fort Collins. She is a doula, and on maybe the 2nd time we hung out, I spilled my guts about depression and my fear of falling apart, and in total desperation, asked her for any recommendations at all, fully aware that I might be ruining my "good candidate for a new friend" position.  With all grace, she recommended motherwort. I went to Whole Foods and bought it. 

The first time I tried motherwort, I could feel a buffer encircling my mind.  It was the first time I sensed the chemical imbalance of my depression. I didn't realize how physiological it was until I physically experienced the balancing out- literally, like the dropped down left side of my scale began to rise, and my mind/body/spirit/heart came into alignment.

I felt, for the first time in a long time, protected from myself, and from my life. And even a little bit balanced.


The Elle article says that in a perfect world, good friends, good food, exercise, low daily stress- all these factors would combine to probably build back the buffers.

I do believe that good friends, good food, exercise, low daily stress can many times cause the buffers to take shape, and the self to balance out.

But when I read that sentence, I thought "who has the time to put all those things in place? Low daily stress? I've got four kids. And even if I didn't...low daily stress in the 21st century? I am stressed out just thinking about all the things I have to do to get un-stressed!" 

All of the things recommended in the article require effort, and it's so hard at the end of the day to have any energy left to make the effort. Stress is high, self-care is low. And this can be the case in the healthiest of lives, without depression in the picture.

The insidious thing about depression is that it takes the life you work so hard to keep balanced, and without seemingly any effort, tips the scale- it blows up the buffers, sabotages the will to keep fighting, glories in the imbalance.

This is how I felt right before I tried the motherwort. Totally imbalanced, completely exposed without any buffer protection, aware of the things that would help build back my buffers, but without the will to do the work.

This was the scariest time. 

I knew, deep down in my knowing place, that if I continued feeling this way, I would without a doubt go on medication.

My biggest fear was that if I didn't give myself a buffer, either chemically through medication, or through the motherwort, or through the good friends/food/exercise/low stress bundle option, my brain would never get better. I would henceforth live without any protective armor, and everytime a new trigger occurred, the continued wear and tear would blow new holes inside of me, until eventually, all of myself would fall inside the crater, and disappear.


Taking the motherwort was the beginning of building back the buffers. It was the first thing that gave me hope for healing, and just enough fight to take the next step.





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Reader Comments (3)

Just wondering what form (capsule, dropper, other?) of motherwort you've used and if you have any recommendations. Thanks!

October 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeth

Trinity - I've been reading your blog since the fire posts and have been praying for you in this journey through darkness. Your writing is beautiful, even during this hard time. I'm so glad to hear how God has provided just the strength you need, just when you need it. I know He will continue to do so. Keep moving forward, one step at at time.

October 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheri

Loved this description of depression... you put into words what many people cannot describe... thank you. I am passing this link onto others, and I hope they love it as much as I do. Bless you. <3

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaure

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