Ingathering – a Portrait of Depression and Recovery

This little known book describes the inner experience of depression, in a very sensitive and authentic way. Its charm lies in the fact that in spite of the very real description of depression, It is full of hope.
In the beginning Lea, The main character, is in her deepest moment of despair. The world seemed bleak, senseless and cruel. She feels complete alienation. Her pain was so great, that she tried to jump from a bridge, in a futile attempt to commit suicide. An alien caught her and saved her life.
The first step to her recovery was numbing her emotional pain. The alien temporarily numbed Lea’s pain and locked her in a house, in order to protect her. (Fantasy equivalent to psychotropic medication? Hospitalization?) Lea felt better, though numbed. She knew that the numbness was a temporary relief, a crutch to support her during the process of recovery.

The alien brought her to a secret gathering of a community of aliens, the “people”. The people are human-like aliens endowed with psychic powers, who live in a deeply spiritual community. They were scattered around after crash landing on Earth. Some individuals were separated and had to cope by themselves, hiding their real identity a coping with their “otherness”. Lea participated in many night gatherings, During these night gatherings the participants told their life stories.
Hearing the stories, in the context of a community, was the beginning of her recovery process. Lea initially did not want to believe in the wonder of life. She was reluctant to relinquish her pain and loneliness. Those, at least, were familiar. It took time before she really committed herself to the recovery process, and started to fight depression on her own.
Henderson’s prescription for recovery is twofold. She sees community and faith as the two prescriptions of recovery and life.
Lea’s recovery took place in the context of a community. When Lea looked around and heard so many stories about suffering , she asked herself where their strength comes from. And she answered herself: “ When anyone of them cries out the others hear – and listen. Not just with their ears but with their hearts. No matter who cries out – someone listens-“
Henderson sees depression as lack of faith. The lack of faith makes the world so bleak. Only faith can restore meaning to so much suffering. Only faith can mitigate the sense of loneliness.
There are other traditions within the mental health realm that consider faith and community as central components of recovery, such as all the self help groups that are AA based. Faith and participation in community are considered a prerequisite for recovery.
Henderson’s prescriptions for recovery are challenging. As a therapist myself, Can I prescribe faith or community? I do not know. Is faith, or community, always beneficial? Probably not. However, I find her intuition, that probably stemmed from her own experience, very inspiring.
Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson


2 books on sexuality, recommended for women

If you have any concerns regarding your sexual health, or you want to learn more about your body and sexuality, start  from this book:
Sex Matters for Women: A Complete Guide to Taking Care of Your Sexual Self

Another option is the old and reliable book written by a group of women:
Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era



journal as a self help tool

Many people use a  journal to enhance their well being and cope with variety of mental health challenges.  A journal can have a wide variety of uses. The Journal can enhance a persons creativity. The Journal may also be helpful in managing the writer’s emotions. The Journal may be a useful tool in delving into, and coming to terms with one’s past.

One technique is recommended in  The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity [10th Anniversary Edition].

The instruction provided in the “Artists Way”   is  to write what ever comes to mind. You should let the written words pour out in a stream of consciousness with no regard or concern for literary value. The method is based on the assumption that no one will ever see your journal so you are free to write whatever comes to mind. In fact you are advised not to look back and reread what you wrote. It is the act of uninhibited writing that is therapeutic. This technique was initially developed to enhance creativity. Clinical experience shows that it support mental health as well.

People that are depressed should be cautious using this method. For some, it can be beneficial. Others may find that this method exacerbates their depression . They may use the free flowing journal to dwell on minor faults  and sorrows. These people may benefit more from a more structured way of journaling.

One of the simplest structured forms of writing a journal to help alleviate depression is, at the end of the day, to write down three things that you are grateful for.  It is important to persevere and to write down three real things that are unique; not to repeat oneself day after day. As simple as this may sound, studies have shown a beneficial effect of this method. It gradually alters the way we perceive our world.

journal as self help tool for mental healthFacebookmail