Creative Expressions, Art Therapy Blog

always learning

I am a member of a wonderful online discussion group called Always Learning. It’s for radical unschoolers, and people who want to learn from radical unschoolers about how to improve their relationships with their children, spouses, and themselves. It is an in-depth analysis of thought process, language use, and how these translate to relationships, parenting and education.

Sandra Dodd

On this list, there is a lot of discussion about what unschooling is, both in broad, theoretical terms and in specific and concrete details. Lately there has been some discussion about choice, anxiety, how a parent’s “leftovers” can cloud their relationship with their child, and what to do about it. I lifted this, with Sandra’s permission, from that discussion because I think it says some really important things very eloquently – about depression, about choosing small concrete bits of happiness, deciding not to choose the building blocks of unhappiness and depression, and how to help yourself parent more happily, peacefully, and in partnership with your children. Sandra Dodd is a moderator of that list, author and speaker, and creator of, a fantastic unschooling resource (also listed on my resources page).

Therapy helps people get one step away from suicidal depression, or one step away from being so frustrated that their lives are being ruined.

If you have a broken leg, the first time you can walk without crutches, the orthopedic guys will say “cured.”

There’s a book called Slowing Down to the Speed of Life that’s comforting and encouraging.    Because there are two authors, I can’t say who says… but they’re talking about mental health as being MUCH bigger and more important than just the lack of mental illness or of depression.  HEALTHY!  Walking painstakingly without crutches isn’t “healthy.”  It’s still gimpy.  🙂

I’ve had three big depressions in my life.  I would have had more, if I hadn’t figured out (with self-help and help from a therapist when Kirby was a year old) what it was, so in retrospect I saw that it was the second time I had been in such a state.   A third one came (situationally triggered, and got worse) when Holly was two.  I went to the same counsellor, then.

Prozac was employed, for a while.  I did not want to live there.  I wanted to find natural, honest ways to maintain my upbeat and joyful self.

Since then I’ve felt depression coming, and a couple of times I took prozac pre-emptively, to bouy myself up so that the other tools I had gained over the years would work more easily, and I was afraid to slip down again.

The past few times that I’ve had the feelings (which have become easier to recognize and deal with as I’ve gotten older and more experienced) I didn’t even consider prozac.  I used the maintenance tools I had.

Many years ago, in an unschooling discussion (either on or in the early days of the discussions at, neither of which message board survived), I had said if someone was feeling depression coming, to listen to happy music, watch comedies, eat comfort food, don’t watch the news.   Someone else (someone I knew, who also had personal experience with depression) attempted to shush me, and shame me, but I was untouched, because I knew I was right.  She said nobody can do anything about depression because it’s chemical and one MUST go to a therapist or die, pretty much.  And that if I advised people that they had any control whatsoever over such things I was giving dangerous advice.

Listen:  I know how to make myself unhappy.  I bet I could, with a few well-chosen stories artfully presented, make hundreds of you feel so horrible you wouldn’t sleep tonight.  Maybe not for a week.  If I repeated the application of depressing ideas twice a day, and you weren’t bright enough to get the hell away from me and stop reading it, we could just start counting the sorrow and violence that was likely to result from that.

I WILL NOT DO THAT!  I don’t want to.  But I know how.  And if you think about it, you probably know how, too.  So whatever stories or moods or thoughts just came to your mind,  THOSE are the ones you should avoid, at least while you’re responsible for the happiness of your children.  And probably you could go the rest of your life without wallowing in sorrow and grief and woe.

So If you know that you can make yourself unhappy, then you must know that making choices in the other direction could make you happy.  So that’s the deal.  Each choice you make takes you nearer to one or the other—dark hole or happy light.  YES, absolutely, some people are “even keeled” (and were from birth) and won’t be depressed, ever, nor will they (because of the same biohemical realities) ever experience giddy elation and the squealing giggles.   Those whose sine wave is small can watch the news and listen to John Prine and Joni Mitchell anytime.  Those with a more extreme range need to find their own personal ways to avoid the pit, and to remember, if they are IN the pit, that the curve will rise again, and they can help themselves up and out (or a therapist and some drugs can).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *