Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Living with Depression

October 8 2004


Dear Eric:

My life seems to be one hurdle after another; once I sort one problem out another starts. I know this is part of life but it would be nice to have at least one month without depression and laziness, I really need some motivation. I just don't understand why everything seems to be a test to see how much I HANDLE. I do suffer from manic depression, which is hereditary in the family as my grandmother and my aunty both committed suicide. I am on antidepressants and have been for quite a while but I just can't seem to get it together.


I have a beautiful little girl who is four years old who I absolutely love with all my heart. I have had three jobs in the past five months because most days I just don't want to get out of bed. Most people think I am this funny, outgoing person but they don’t see the other side, I believe I truly underneath I am this outgoing person but the depression just seems to take control of my life. I have the ambition to succeed but when I do for some reason I create a drama so that I do fail, I don't know if it is because I don’t think I am worthy of anything good in my life. Being a Taurus I am very strong-willed and determined, but this depression just has a hold over me and I am at my wits end, it doesn’t matter how much I try to overcome it eventually it just creeps back.


Michelle, Australia



Dear Michelle,

As someone who has struggled with depression my entire adult life, I just want to say that I feel for you, and I know a little about what you're going through. Manic-depression, or what many experience as extreme swings of mood between elation, on one side, and deep pain and frustration on the other, is another story -- from what I understand it's very painful to live on such a roller coaster ride, and it sounds like you're really struggling. And under these conditions, anything you have to handle can feel like way too much. I know.


You have asked for help. This is the most important thing a person who needs help can do. It means you are open to help. Please keep that door open.


I suggest, before going any further, that you find a place of compassion for your situation within yourself. This is the point of stillness that will give you some rest and help you assess things in a calm way. Struggling is bad enough, but we do have a tendency to judge ourselves for that struggle. I can tell you're doing some of that because you're mixing two thoughts that really have nothing to do with one another. The first is the expression of your pain. The second is the notion that it means something: that because of that pain, you sometimes feel you're unworthy of anything good in your life.


Now, I can see how you might have come to this conclusion. Deep inside every person is the belief in cause and effect, or else we would not be here. And it must seem that there has to be a reason why your life is the way it is. I can assure you there is a reason. And I can assure you that it has nothing to do with your worthiness. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with what you were told about your worthiness, and what signals the adults in your early environment were sending you, based entirely on their own beliefs about themselves. In other words -- read this 111 times if you have to -- what people told you, and how they felt about you, had nothing at all to do with you or who you are. It was about their inner feelings and their own history. Of course, you took their treatment of you personally, as children always do; this is what people mean by 'taking it on'. The environment you were raised in, which by all indications was not so healthy, shaped your reality. But these people had their issues that existed long before you came along.


Depression is actually a misunderstood word. Most of the time we think of it as sadness or feeling blue. Actually, there is a great deal of pent-up anger and grief contained in depression. There is also judgment, which is really self-judgment that was passed along to us by our elders. There is usually quite a lot of guilt and shame. And there can be rage at the feeling of instability that these emotions cause by rocking our emotional boat from underneath; of never letting us have a moment's peace. I have a theory about depression, which is that it includes a lot of guilt about having our needs met and being taken care of, because that guilt was mixed in with our early experiences of being taken care of. Often, as adults living with such feelings, the path of least resistance is paralysis.


Depression or any other form of mental anguish are not merely hereditary. They are transmitted through environmental contact and through ongoing relationships that stream down the generations. The atmosphere, beliefs and actions that lead to depression are largely conducted or passed along in the act of relationship. They are also contained in the genetic code, just like the color of your eyes. But of the two, my take is that environment is the more important cause, and most readily available healing factor. In any event, it is the one we have the most control over now, when it counts. Environment includes relationships. I would propose that it's going to be through finding, establishing and developing new patterns of relating that you make the most headway in going beyond your current state, and getting yourself to a place where you experience some stability and sanity.


In my personal experience and from what I have witnessed, the most powerful influence in maintaining depression is perpetuating the family relationship patterns that created it in the first place. Often, because depression creates dependency, the (toxic) family 'support' network is the same thing that is keeping many people sick. Telephone calls can be more than enough. It can be a very vicious cycle. These same cycles can and almost always do spread into relationships outside the family, making it seem like the entire world is a giant conspiracy.


Healing depression involves getting a sense of the complex emotions you feel inside. The first step is often deciding what is yours and what belongs to someone else (sometimes called establishing boundaries). In the midst of inner chaos and sadness, it can be very difficult to sort out the feelings of others from the feelings of your own heart and soul. The total fusion of all those voices and identities with yours can create chaos that is very painful and debilitating.


I can give you an example. For a long time I experienced feelings of resentment. These did not exactly dominate my character in an obvious way. But they did have a way of ruining my fun dependably, and poisoning my relationships. As I became aware of this feeling, it started to remind me of my biological mother, who was a very angry woman when I was growing up. Then I started to notice her voice attached to the little resentful thoughts. It was like I was her when I was feeling them, and as I noticed this, at first it was painful and a bit shocking; at that time I was in my late 30s. Then I began, slowly, mind you, really slowly but steadily, to consider how she perceived the world, as a separate idea from how I perceived the world. I began to remember little things from my childhood. My mother resents men. My mother resents that every time there's a shell in the linguini with clam sauce, it breaks her filling and nobody else's. My mother resents that she's not free because she has children. My mother resents she's not a singer and actress. My mother resents my father. My mother resents her father. My mother resents me.


This went on and on for a while until it occurred to me that she resents everything! And everyone. And every situation. This whole business of resentment, which I experienced as this deep, nearly silent inner voice within my own mind that I thought was all my own, was enticing me quite literally to hate myself. Then I finally realized that this was not me speaking. It had nothing to do with who I am and how I feel. These feelings were emotional patterns that had been engrained into my body and feelings from the outside, by things that were said to me, by what I was told about myself, and by what I witnessed going on around me.


Slowly, I've been able to sort out the influences of different early caregivers, including my grandparents. These were not always negative influences. The people who treated me with kindness, sometimes even with a moment of kindness (such as a guidance counselor I had one session with in the third grade, named Peter Viggiano), provided an influence that left a door open to that type of assistance or role in the future. And nobody's influence is wholly negative; it's just that in the healing process, we often need to start with observing the shadow side -- with what comes across as pain and negativity. In this process, I have slowly been able to find a sense of who I am in the midst of all these other influences and voices, and choose more healthy ways of relating to myself and to other people.


I can tell you this -- one thing that's been very helpful has been learning to accept help without feeling guilt.


Now, you've written to an astrology web page. And I've spent a lot of time with your charts, but more time considering the words you've written. I think by now, for those who read this column, my reluctance to answer pain with astrological interpretation is pretty transparent. This is just my way of doing things and I work this way, in part, because interpretation can be wrong, it can be inappropriate, it's usually unnecessary and generally it's not so helpful when what you need is compassion. It also takes a heck of a lot of words to explain an idea that leaps out of the chart in a moment, and the idea can be applied without any of those words.


Healing depression is, in my experience, never a mental exercise. It is not quite behavioral, but choices do count. It is always deeply emotional. But there are times when information can help. I can offer these few ideas from your chart, with a little prayer that they help you.


I can see what look like different threads or currents of influence coming from your two parents and the two sides of your family; I have alluded to several of the themes they convey above. Perhaps elaborating these will give a ray of light. Both sides of the family have their problems, which you would do well to sort out.


There appears to be one line of influence that was just pure rage, and its cousin, resentment. I can see this vividly because Mars is parked exactly on your 4th house cusp, in Pisces. I would call this an inheritance of anger, but as it's arrived in your psyche, it's the simmering kind of anger rather than outward eruption. And usually it may well be directed from you back to you rather than at the world. In Pisces, it can translate directly to the kind of fear that eats the soul. This is elaborated further by the presence of Pholus (a centaur planet whose first keywords are 'three generations') and Lilith (an asteroid who represents the original woman deep within us) in the 4th house. This suggests to me that there is a long tradition in your family of hatred toward women. This potentially translates (because you are a woman) to self-hatred, which is another word for guilt. Both Pholus and the involvement of the 4th house offer big clues that this is a very old problem. (When you visualize the 4th house cusp, imagine a spiral going down the chart, off the page, and into the distant past.) The fact that two older women in your family committed suicide provides some evidence of this hatred. Suicide also suggests many other problems in the family. Suicide is like a mask for deeper issues and often functions as a cover-up. You may know some of this story already.


There is another line of influence suggesting that the idea of emotional balance was simply nonexistent in your childhood, and that this condition set you reeling at a very young age. This appears to have something to do with your mother. Follow the logic: Moon (mother, childhood conditions, emotions, needs) conjunct Uranus (shock, erratic energy) in Libra (relationships, balance). There is no balance at all in that picture. This is exactly opposite your 5th house Aries Chiron, suggesting that there is a neglected child within you who is very angry about all of this. This child wants experiences! Fun experiences. Instead, all it gets is a wild ride that seems to lead nowhere. This opposition is the most clear chart image of the bipolarity you describe. And it can be associated with a lot of anger. You have to get to know and be friends with the raging child inside you. Or this child will keep wreaking havoc.


Last interpretation. Someone has dumped the burden of grief onto you. I sense that you have been scape-goated with grief, that is, blamed for something, or many things, that had nothing to do with you, and made into the ritual bearer of these emotions. (I read this into Vesta conjunct the centaur Hylonome in Cancer on the 7th house cusp. It's as if you're a 'grief surrogate'.) I would say that the first time you can have the experience of a relationship (even if it lasts a day) that is not based on you taking on someone else's sadness and grief will be a big step in your recovery. Even if you were to merely notice this happening once, that would be a fine step. The transaction of taking on this grief may be so subtle and so integrated with the sense of purpose you were given as a child that it feels totally normal.


What is normal is the hardest to see; after all, it's normal and we're not supposed to notice. As you get better, a lot of totally normal things are going to change, and seem pretty darned weird.


I'm going to end with a pitch for therapy (particularly if you're using mood stabilizers), and with an idea about therapy that may be rather unfamiliar. There's a notion in the world that we go to a therapist to talk about our problems. There is another idea, proposed in the book A General Theory of Love, that says that the purpose of therapy is to develop a relationship with the therapist; from that relationship, we learn to relate in a different way, and thus relate as a 'different' or more evolved person in relationship to another (at first, the therapist, then others). A therapeutic relationship is one that encourages a healthy growth pattern. This experience or pattern we can take into life with us, and cultivate further. Learning is a process. Relationships take time to develop. Therapy can take anywhere from a few sessions to two years to start showing solid results, but the best results are often experienced in the long run. So it's necessary to be patient and persist and let learning these skills of patience and persistence be part of your healing process. But the most important thing is wanting to get better above all else. There, pain serves as a good motivator.


A couple of other points. You need time outside, in the sunshine. You also need time to yourself. As a mom, this can be hard to get. But you simply must have some time on your own. I also suggest you get some regular help cleaning your house. If you don't know anyone who can help, put up a sign at the local church or health food store. "Please help me clean, free." You also need good food. Your body must be properly nourished for your mind to feel good. This adjustment can go a LONG toward helping the healing of emotional crisis, particularly in getting the first initial lift; ask a few people who specialize in this field to confirm. Stuff like flax seed oil, spirulina, B vitamins (mind food!), and a LOT of water all can benefit a person immensely.


And it would be truly, truly beneficial if you found one way, one single way, that you feel good expressing yourself, and that you have a desire to keep coming back to. It could be painting; it could be writing; it could be the study of Tarot cards; it could be playing chess; it could be dancing. But one thing, one space within your day where you really feel yourself, a space that is totally dedicated to you, would likely do you a world of good. Perhaps a small world, but it would grow, as worlds often do.


And remember this: every single person who has read this response is sending you loving vibes right now.