Depression has been a recurring psychic pattern in my life, yet paradoxically, one providing fertile grist for growth. Depressive episodes manifested at age fourteen and intensified to the point that they interfered with my day-to-day and eventually moment-to-moment functioning. I was hospitalized, my schooling suspended, and I chose to undergo ECT.
At the age of twenty-four, in 1977, I began employment in a government position as an investigator. In the fall of 1979, I took what I call a walk on the wild side, though not quite wild enough to get fired. Instead, I was called into the Director’s office and solemnly given a choice. “Your work is good,” the director said, “and we don't want to lose you. However, we require you undergo a fitness for duty exam. Otherwise you must leave. The results will determine whether or not you can stay.”
The fitness for duty exam consisted of three separate visits with two psychiatrists and a psychologist. Afterwards, the Director called me back to his office and said, “We'd like you to stay, under one condition. You must undergo counseling.” I briefly considered resigning, but chose to stay.
Soon thereafter, I met Dr. Richard B., a clinical psychologist. He offered a number of ways we could work, one being dream analysis. “If you can remember and record your dreams,” Dr. B. said, “we can analyze them.” So, I began a dream journal.
I kept a notebook and pen next to my bed and, promptly upon waking in the morning, recorded my night's dreams. Over time, I began waking and recording the dreams closer and closer to when I dreamt them. And then, one night I awoke in the dream before it was over. I found myself in the street in front of my house jumping up and down. I actually felt that I was in waking life in the street. However, on the final jump I floated above the street and while looking down realized: I am dreaming! I am awake! And I know I am dreaming!
I had no idea what I was experiencing until a couple of years later in the mid eighties, I came across Stephen LeBarge's book—Lucid Dreaming. It was then that I realized the phenomenon had a name and a history! Other people experienced it, and it was researched in sleep laboratories.
This skill further developed by itself and soon helped me dissolve depression. One of the first times this happened was after I had been depressed for a few days. One night, I found myself in a dream trying to keep my distance from a police officer and a bank robber he was chasing. As I became lucid, the police officer closed in on the bank robber and I was caught between them. The officer fired his gun, but instead of the bank robber, I was hit in the solar plexus, right below the sternum. “I have been shot in the belly-heart!” I cried out. With those words, the depression along with the knot in my solar plexus released. The next day I felt lighthearted and was free of depression.
A lucid dream also helped me recover after my mother died in 2003, when I was overwhelmed with incapacitating sadness. I could not put more than a few seconds of focus together. This intense grief interfered with doing my job and getting on with my life.
Three weeks after her death, I dreamt that I was in front of my parents’ home where I had grown up. The house was unkempt and it appeared that no one lived there anymore. The mailbox was full of leaves and I stepped onto the porch to clean it out. Amongst the first handful of leaves was an envelope. I opened it and found a card. It was an announcement of my father's death. He had died nine years earlier, so that had no effect on me. I pulled out more leaves and with them another envelope. This time the card was an announcement of my mother's death and at that point I became lucid.
I let out an immense single cry and felt my grief dissolve. When I arose from bed, I realized that I was no longer hindered by debilitating grief. In the following weeks and months, while still feeling sad at times at my mother’s passing, my waking life functioning was neither subsumed nor held captive by grief. Subsequently, I was able to move forward with the rest of my life.
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