Plain Alchemy Brain 2: The Depression Groove (The Call)

Last week, I talked about the innate trainability of the gorgeous brain machine. This week, I want to talk about depression and an incredible book I'm reading. The book is called Unstuck, Your Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression and it popped out at me while perusing my parents' endless bookshelves this weekend. I've struggled with depression on and off for years -- and it's taken many forms. Recently I had a kind of wake up call when I was feeling off for several days. Moody. Strange physical sensations. Headaches. Nausea. It culminated in a super intense stomach flu wherein I was basically knocked out. And so, I had time and space to think about this gradual buildup off weird energy and the intense release that followed. As I write this, I'm on the mend -- but the groove is still there — as it takes energy and practice to create new pathways and moves in the brain.


So — back to the book. I love it because it demystifies depression and puts the power in the experiencer’s hands. The author, James S. Gordon, has created a seven-stage journey out of depression that I’d like to detail in the Plain Alchemy Brain Series, one week at a time. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s work with mythology and also Gordon’s own medical and personal experiences — the approach is super practical, poetic, and useful. My offering to you is to break these stages down and pull out the highlights while adding my two cents.


My favorite thing about this approach: It sees depression as not an end in itself — but the beginning of a journey of growth and self-awareness. Yes please. This has helped me to drop some of the drama around the word depression. It gives permission to not feel depressed about feeling depressed.


Let’s talk about stage 1. Or, The Call.


The Call: the awareness that we are depressed and that some kind of change, a journey, is necessary.


This will not be new to those of you who are familiar with twelve step programs. Acceptance and awareness sounds easy breezy but can often be deceptively difficult. It requires a shift in perspective, a willingness to look at the situation anew.


Listen to the call. My instinct, I find, is to scurry away from the call. It’s so important to sit with the awareness. It’s not as important to scramble for answers. Magical things happen when we sit with discomfort and allow it to integrate. Perhaps most magically, it leaves us sooner. If we run, it remains with us, plaguing and stagnating. Calls arrive in different forms. Physical symptoms or discomforts. Emotional pains — little pangs of sadness when we go to work or spend time with certain people.


Here are some questions (I love questions) that Gordon encourages during the working-through of this first stage. I find these questions to be useful no matter where I am on the journey. They encourage forward momentum.


-What’s going on right now?

-Where do I want to be headed and what changes are necessary?

-What are my first steps for getting where I’m going?


I will go deeper into this first and very important stage this week. Sending my love. Please write to me with any questions or consider scheduling a Plain Alchemy Plan.

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