by Emily (and Trista)
So, I posted this earlier, and then realized to make this post a more honest opinion, I needed to get my awesome friend, Dr. Trista Carr, to add her two cents. Trista is a psychologist, and a super wise, insightful woman. On matters of mental and emotional health, she as an excellent person to talk with (see her full bio below)
Not too long ago, I was severely depressed. Life had handed me more lemons than I could make lemonade out of, and I was falling apart at the seams. It was almost more than I could handle to put clothes on in the morning, or brush my hair. One of my dearest friends (hi, Abra!!) came to visit. The house was a disaster. Dishes piled high in the sink. Toys cluttering the floor. My boys still in pajamas (at 4pm). Myself still in pajamas. (Dr. Trista Carr: This is actually a very common presentation of depressive symptoms, Emily. A lot of people who are experiencing depression lose the desire to do things they used to enjoy or keep up their appearances. Hygiene and enjoyment tend to be some of the first things to go when we are depressed.) I could feel how sorry she was for me by looking at her face as she walked through my house. Quietly, she walked into my kitchen, cleared a space on one of the chairs, and sat down.
“Do you know what you need?” Not a lecture, I thought to myself. (Trista: Definitely not! And it wouldn’t have worked either!) “You need a tablecloth. You need to have beautiful things around you, and if you put a tablecloth on the table, it will give you something beautiful to look at. Your soul needs to see beauty.” (Trista: Abra is right. When we feel apathetic about appearances due to depression or dysthymia—mild depression—it helps kick our brains back in gear when we take even the smallest step toward something that represents the opposite of how negatively we feel. In this case toward beauty!)
I bought a tablecloth. A deep purple one (no surprise to anyone who has seen my hair or glasses.) And slowly, the dishes disappeared, the toys started getting put away, clothes started being worn. Deep inside, I could feel my heart take a deep breath, and scream: “YES! I need beauty!!” (Trista: Yes, you do! Even the smallest gesture toward “normalcy” helps us start feeling a little better one small step at a time.)
Many years ago, (10, if you want to be exact), I was torn because I was expected to attend the womens’ Bible study at my church, but it was at the same time as the show, So You Think You Can Dance. Bewailing my fate to my mother about how I needed to be at Bible study, but wanted to be home watching the show, my mom asked why I liked SYTYCD so much. “It’s because part of me feels alive when I watch it,” I told her. My mom promptly demanded that I stop going to Bible study and watch SYTYCD instead. “God can speak to you more if you feel alive, than if you are doing something because you think you “have” to.” (Trista: Mom is spot on! When we do things out of obligation we can easily become resentful of the activity or the people who encourage us to take part in the activity, even if it is supposed to be a life-giving event like a Bible study. It is not giving life if we are resenting it. In reality what is happening is we are allowing our boundaries to be compromised and we are not allowing our true selves the opportunity to do and experience what really brings us life. And for many of us, what brings us to life are the things our souls find beautiful. And it is often in those things, and when we are open to beauty and life, that the God of love and life can speak most clearly to us.)
As humans, we need beauty. It makes us “alive”. Beauty may mean something different to everyone. It could be a sunset. A perfectly cooked meal. A clever puzzle. A car. A… (Trista: A view of the ocean…or even a piece of dark chocolate raspberry ganache!) You get the idea. Fill in the blank. You know you have found something beautiful, when your soul inside feels like it might crack open inside you, and you can suddenly breath deeper than you thought you could. You come alive.
Never underestimate the power of beauty. It can save your life. It can make you alive. (Trista: Hear, hear! Well said, my friend!)
Pandora: I really can’t think of anything to add to this. It’s perfect!
Trista L. Carr, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist for a state prison in the Central Valley of CA, a consultant for individuals and organizations, and a conference speaker. She completed her master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, where she was a research assistant for the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. Dr. Carr also obtained a master’s degree in Community Counseling from The University of Akron in Ohio. Her research and clinical interests are in the integration of Christian faith, psychology, and sexual and gender identity concerns. Dr. Carr can be found at http://www.tristacarr.com.