Author: sbniemann

Lessons of Depression

Lessons of Depression

Before we begin

The depression I experience is relatively mild, and I want to be clear that this is NOT a message about “thinking positive” or “looking on the bright side” or trying to diminish the experience of those with more severe forms of this disease. I can only write from my own perspective, and I am open to hearing from you if this resonates or if it is unintentionally dismissive.

What depression has taught me

A few weeks ago I scribbled a random thought on the bottom of a page, and promptly forgot about it.

“Lesson of depression = love yourself more

Love without shame”

Last night I stumbled upon it again just as I was about to lead an hour-long meditation, so i spent some time with it, feeling into the intention.

The feelings I had around this also intertwined with a story I’d heard on the radio earlier about restorative justice. A judge required a drug offender to write an essay about how she ended up in the criminal justice system, and she wrote about how she had been diagnosed with a fatal illness 24 years earlier and her life had taken a turn toward hopelessness and drug addiction. After she read the essay in court, the judge said, do you realize you beat that disease 23 years ago? Then the judge described the moment – observing as the woman realized how much time she had lost, how many years she had let the diagnosis beat her instead of realizing she had beaten the diagnosis.

That flip in perspective echoes in my scribble about depression. I can push back against depression defining me. I can see it as a visitor bearing gifts that may outweigh its pain. I can frame this as a lesson in how to take an obstacle and treat it as an opportunity: to cultivate the ability to love myself tenderly, unapologetically, unconditionally. To develop the resilience to protect and forgive myself on the days when depression wins. To resist its lies. To use my good days to build structures and practices that will cushion and shelter my heart.

Depression has taught me about boundaries. I am learning to say “no” even when I feel like I should do something, go somewhere, or perform socially for someone else. If it doesn’t feel right, I am learning to put myself first and to do it with integrity – no white lies, no evasiveness, I can say no in service to my own spirit and let that be the answer. I also set boundaries with my inner voice – the liar in me that tells me I’m not enough. I can say to that voice, in much the same way I teach my children to hold their boundaries: you can’t talk to me like that. That is not okay, and that is not going to happen.

Depression is teaching me to say, I am perfect just the way I am, and fuck off if you don’t agree. My mistakes don’t define me or reduce my beauty. I am perfect on my good days and my bad days. I am perfect and I am good and I am wildly, deeply loved. It’s reaching me to be stronger when I’m okay so I’m stronger when I’m not.

Depression has taught me not to compare myself to others. I recognize that everyone has strengths, their strengths don’t need to be mine, and that doesn’t make me any less. I catch myself when I despair over the “Five Hundred Things Happy People Do Better Than You” type articles. I laugh when I see that Beyonce has the same 24 hours that I do… dude, Beyonce has STAFF. I have ME and I’m doing just fine, even when I’m not.

Depression lies to me and tells me I’m a failure, everyone hates me, no one is listening, no one truly cares. Some days I believe it and I even hear myself saying those words. I am still learning to make amends. I will adapt and I will thrive.

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it’s true

You’re perfect just the way you are.

108 with an asterisk

I made a commitment; I said there was nothing to keep me from it.

I didn’t keep it. I learned a lot about myself, how I show up and how I hide. How maybe the promise I made wasn’t the right one, was a little more of a stretch than I was ready to take.

I still really believe in myself and the beautiful life I’m devoted to. Lessons learned, I’m starting again. Stay tuned.

045 you’re perfect

I have a lot to say about Life Coaches and this industry. I look at a lot of ads and offers and promises and marketing. Seven figures this and that. Skinny white girls doing yoga on the beach in Bali or whatever.

I used to think: I really need that and I would feel yearning and sadness. I would wonder how someone who needs help building their business already has $10 grand for a PREMIUM ALL ACCESS COACHING PACKAGE while here I am, best of intentions and all that, hovering around the 3-figure mark and doing every damn thing myself. What is wrong with me?

Then came a shift. These days I see that fear-based advertising, and as I scroll past I think: I’m just perfect, thanks.

I’m perfect. So are you. I will never tell you otherwise. My coaching does not arise from something is wrong with you and I’m the one to fix it. My orientation is I think you’re awesome and if you want to be reminded or feel heard or search deeper or do better, I’ll help guide you to your own answers.

 

092 done

092 done

In the past I have advocated for Danielle LaPorte as a thought leader. I have loved her work since before I was a coach, before The Desire Map was published. I was one of the original Desire Map workshop facilitators and used her work as the basis of my coaching career. Although I was resistant to offering a prefab experience, I found comfort in having a structure laid out for me instead of having to start from scratch.

Privately, I had reservations – I had feelings to process around feeling like a follower, like I was joining a cult of personality. I was committed to teaching the basics of the Desire Map in a way that felt true to me. And all along I felt that something was missing.

A year ago, I stopped being a licensed facilitator. I honestly think my private reservations were manifesting in difficulty getting the workshops off the ground – I didn’t express my doubts, but they were coming through all the same. Message received. Also, I’ve spent the past year focused on massage and giving my coaching business a fraction of my attention.

About a week ago, Danielle launched a new program called LIGHTER. Yeah, in all caps. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I’m not adding anything new to my life these days, and I just haven’t felt attuned with her in general. Then the explosion came: the name, imagery, and the wording associated with it were found by women of color to be hurtful and offensive. Many comments were added to her launch post. This is when I looked closer and – how did this happen? How did this ever get published? Does she have no one on her team to say – whoa – let’s think this over? A collage showing a body with multiple skin tones, with text celebrating how it is sacred to be LIGHTER???

Women I deeply respect (Layla Saad, Alexis P. Morgan) provided intense educational responses on how and why this was so problematic. Their words were largely ignored, then the entire thread was deleted – a cowardly act of erasure it itself. The thread was a genius resource for education in how to listen and reflect on white feminism and racism. It was deleted.

Danielle offered an apology that just didn’t ring true. Didn’t take responsibility. Didn’t incorporate the lessons offered.

Next, the imagery was removed… and replaced… with imagery that appropriated Native American culture.

Done.

I am not doing this to trash Danielle LaPorte. She is human. Mistakes get made (even tho, seriously, women have tried to educate her in the past and shit like this is still happening). I am certain this has been a painful and expensive lesson. However, she’s done nothing publicly with the education she received. As far as I can tell no further/more authentic apology has been published. LIGHTER is still available for the low low cost of $1200 per year. Except for removing the images people specifically complained about and making a non-apology, I don’t see what has changed. I am not confident that the message really got through to her, that she is willing to truly do the work to shift her image as a shiny white woman spiritual guru type to true, authentic service. I am open to possibility- she has the brains and the resources to really make this right. But I’m not confident she will.

In the meantime I have realized that this is my moment to release the years of unease around following/teaching another person’s work and deepen my own contribution. I am ending my association with Danielle LaPorte and shifting all my energy to developing my own body of work. My job as a privileged white woman is to listen, to amplify, to learn. My coaching will still be what I am best at – guiding women to see their own genius – but I can’t do it in isolation from the larger world. I will not ignore the larger systems of oppression that have affected every aspect of my life (as the privileged) and keep destroying black women’s lives (as the oppressed). I will not use other people’s skin, symbols, or lives as a platform.

For further reading:

start with this post by Edeline Wrigh

On White Leaders Who Dehumanize Black People and Danielle LaPorte’s New Program by Sarah Haile-Mariam

An Open Letter to Danielle LaPorte and All the White Women Who Will Fuck Up in the Future by Sara Alvarado

Tip for Racially Recovering White People by Glennon Doyle

 

070 opening

070 opening

I’ve been taking on more volunteer jobs lately, which means meeting more people, which means introducing myself (gulp). And I realized a few things along the way.

I have a deeply felt sense of my purpose, but I don’t put it out clearly or comfortably. I live it, but I am not communicating it with ease, with flourish, with conviction. I desire to lead other women toward their purpose, I feel I have the tools and leadership to do so, but I am [still] not walking my talk to the extend I can/should.

I have internalized the societal discount of mothering. This is my first job, highest priority, sacred calling above all else. I have never used the phrase ‘just a mom’ – I know better than that – but I have silently flogged myself with ‘not good enough’ a million times. I have been bringing myself into daily connection with the beauty and mystery of them, the lessons they bring me, the growth I have experienced (without selling myself short) and still must leave myself open to experience (without beating myself up).

This social anxiety shit has got to stop.

The more peace I find in yoga and meditation, the more I want to share. I am also trying to be mindful of the issues with colonization of yoga so I can practice and teach with the utmost respect and authenticity.

Caring for myself, loving myself, filling my cup. Keeping my damn promises to myself. Devotion. Treasuring my moments of solitude, connection, sweat, tears, effort, ease. Retreating powerfully so I can emerge wholeheartedly.

061 psoas

Today I purchased a video training about how to stretch and care for the hip flexors. Sorry to geek out on you but I am REALLY excited about this. I have read enough about the psoas to know that caring for it can be life-changing. Will report back soon… after I watch the videos!

058 just really

One day this week, I wrote a post but I forgot to hit Publish. Now it’s here somewhere in my drafts but I’m not sure where.

Another day I did something brilliant on Instagram but lacked the brain power to figure out how to share it here.

One day I was so tired I went to bed at 7 pm even though I knew that meant I wasn’t keeping my promise.

I’m so tired. I haven’t even recovered from the sensory overload of the conference last week – haven’t written about it, haven’t reviewed my notes. I miss the creative energy and the brilliant women and the flow of ideas. And, so much of it was overwhelming and I came straight home to excited children & Easter family gathering & a CRAZY busy week of massage and I am spent.

055 I said

I said I would be here every day.

I said I was devoted.

I said I would keep my promise.

I didn’t.

I have THOUGHT about posting every day but a script in my head – not interesting, not original, not clever, not heard, not enough – kept repeating in my head.

Then I remembered this isn’t about being comfortable. It’s actually intentionally about being UNcomfortable. My promise is supposed to be about learning new things, not hiding behind what is known. So: promise renewed. I am smarter and braver than I was yesterday.

041 new moon

The new moon was 2 days ago. I am still steeped in darkness and renewal. Every day that I have not posted it has been on my mind – accusations and peacemaking going on in my head. Loving myself just as I am and wondering why keeping a promise is so hard for me. I have worked on my business pretty much every day behind the scenes – but that’s not what the promise was. The promise was to show up here.

I am still learning: how to keep a promise every single day, however small it is; and how to share it without shaming myself into invisibility.

I am also teaching: how to keep returning to yourself. I believe I can do it. I believe anyone can. I believe the lessons I learn as I live along this path will make me a better coach, human, mama, wife.