Nature is a natural anti-depressant

IMG_6220I read a fascinating article at Tales from the Conspiratum about research coming out of McMaster University on the effects of anti-depressants on our brain’s ability to cope with stress.

It doesn’t make depression better. In fact, it could be making it worse, suggests Wade Hemsworth, author of the article from the McMaster University Daily news, “The Science behind commonly used anti-depressants seems to be backwards”. 

It’s an interesting read that suggests for people suffering from the most common forms of depression, SSRIs might actually be an obstacle on their path to recovery.

Nature, writes Tales from the Conspiratum, is still the best anti-depressant.

It is one of the challenges of depression. That which is healthy, healing and natural for recovery is also that which takes energy. And energy is not high on the list of things to expend when depression is clouding every thought, breath and feeling.

Had I gone to a doctor and been diagnosed when in the depths of a relationship that was killing me, I might have been prescribed anti-depressants.

I had no energy. My thinking was dark. I had constant suicidal thoughts. I had little to no belief in getting out of the relationship alive. Every joint, muscle, cell of my body hurt. I would awake in the morning and wonder if I didn’t have some incurable disease because it hurt so much to move out of the bed. I hoped I did. That would put an end to my misery.

And then, he was arrested and I was given the miracle of getting my life back.

Overnight, my bones stopped aching, my joints stopped hurting. When I walked, my hands were no longer clenched tight into fists. My gait was no longer stiff.

Yes, suicidal thinking still clouded my mind, but not every moment.

Without the poison of his abuse feeding me lies about my worth and my right to live, I could see clearly that without him, I had only one task, to heal so that my daughters could heal too.

It became my sole purpose in life. To do whatever it took to ensure my daughters knew, what happened to me had nothing to do with my lack of love for them. I knew as teenagers they could easily translate my disappearance into ‘I am not loveable’ and I could not let that happen. They had to know they are loveable exactly the way they are.

At the time, I remember believing what happened had everything to do with a lack of love for myself. In retrospect, miles from those dark days and nights of wishing to die and feeling like I already had, I can see that it was never about love, always about abuse.

What happened to me had everything to do with being in an abusive relationship.

Once the abuser was gone, I was free to fall in love all over again with me, myself and I. The depression that had clogged every fibre of my being began to lift as I began to see clearly, without him I had peace of mind.

I was blessed. I was in a time and space, surrounded by the loving support of my sister and her husband, to heal without fear. Everyday I would walk in the woods with Ellie the wonder pooch and breathe in freedom, exhale sadness. I would look up into the trees and see the limitless possibilities of the sky above and know, in freedom from abuse I could do anything.

I didn’t take an anti-depressant. I took nature’s natural gifts and breathed deeply into all she had to offer to help me heal. I was surrounded by beautiful seascapes, mountains soaring to the sky in rain-forested glory. Wrapped in nature’s embrace, beneath the sky and wind, beside the ocean, amidst the trees and wind-swept vistas of Vancouver’s north shore, I found the one thing I savoured and needed most, freedom.

Being in an abusive relationship is depressing. Staying in one is nullifying.

For a long time I couldn’t see that there was only one thing in the world that could change the sadness and fear that permeated my being throughout that relationship, and that was to walk away.

And then I did.

I had a lot of help and I am grateful. Walking away from abuse into living life beyond the edges of my fear has been a great gift. I don’t look back to remind myself of what he did. I look back to remind myself that that was then, this is now. And now is the gift of time to live with peace of mind, a joyful heart and restful soul.

And now is the time to walk in nature and give thanks for all her beauty shimmering in the air I breathe.



Life is the journey of discovery you’ve always dreamed of

FullSizeRender (23)
Art Journal Entry, February 16, ©2015 Louise Gallagher

She awoke and heard her heart calling, and her dreams took flight.

It was a thought that floated through my mind as I carefully crimped and folded paper for a giant flower I am making for our wedding.

“When I am sleeping, my dreams are trapped in the night, captive in my mind. Only when I awaken and open my eyes to the light of day can they take flight.”

I kept folding and crimping paper.

The thought persisted.

FullSizeRender (24)I finished the flower I was working on and pulled out my art journal. Time to give expression to my thoughts.

What I love most about art journalling is, there is no right or wrong way, there is no ‘I need to clean it up, balance it, lighten it if I want to sell it’, or hang it on a wall, thinking.

There is only the blank page calling.

The unknown waiting to be explored.

Art journalling gives me space and room to explore, colour, texture, technique, tones, mediums. I can layer, paste, paint over, embellish.

It allows me to create for the sake of creating without any attachment to the outcome — it is pure and total freedom.

Sometimes, what I create pleases me immensely. Sometimes, the end product is not quite what I wanted.

It is a lesson in acceptance of what is.

I want to keep changing, adding, painting over, ‘making it better’.

I want to make it all pretty and nice and easy on the eye, no matter how much time it takes!

Sometimes, living with the discord grating against my senses is as important as finding the harmony in every heart beat. Sometimes, it is in the dissonance of where I’m sitting I discover the essence of my being alive.

In the dissonance, I feel my breath catch, my fear of discord rise up and push me towards the edge of running away, of taking off, not in a flight of fancy, but a run of terror I might be caught, I might be seen as something other than perfect!  It is in those moments I discover how important it is to stand in the broken, to be present in what is within and around me and accept, I’m okay just the way I am.

Just as with writing I have to allow myself to ‘write bad’ to get to the good, in painting, I must give myself space to create for the sake of creating without measuring what I’ve created against some hidden yardstick telling me it’s not good enough.

It’s not about the outcome. Like life, it’s about the journey of discovery.

For today, take your thoughts off of what you’ll get out of your day and focus instead on what you’ll discover. Open your eyes wide to every moment unfolding and feel your dreams unfurling their wings in the freedom of being present to the awe and beauty of the world breathing all around you.

Go ahead. Do it. Who knows what wonders you’ll discover?



Anything is possible if you are willing to do the hard.

He was in his late forties, early fifties when I met him. Almost black eyes. A crooked smile that moved all the way up to his eyes to push the skin into deep, well-worn lines. He liked to laugh. A quiet laugh that shook his body. He spoke slowly. Measured his words as carefully as the sugar was measured out at the homeless shelter where we met. Sugar is gold in a homeless shelter. He used his sugar wisely.

I’d seen him around the shelter for quite some time. Quite often inebriated. He was always friendly. Laughing. Loquacious.

On the day we officially met, he was sober. Had been for three months he told me proudly. “That’s how I got into this course,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me take it if I was drunk.”

‘This course’ was a three-week job readiness training course the shelter ran to support clients moving on with their lives. I was a guest lecturer, there to give a  half-day workshop on self-esteem.

“What is self-esteem?” I asked the 12 participants.

Someone replied quickly. “Something that’s hard to get.”

“What do you think makes it hard to get?” I asked.

At the end of the long table around which we sat the man with the measured words, considered the question. “I don’t think I ever had any self-esteem,” he said. “Residential school beat out any I might have had when I was a little boy and then, I never got sober enough, until now, to even think I might need some.”

It is the same answer for many First Nations. The attempted purposeful destruction of their culture tore apart their familial, social and spiritual roots. Rootless, they have drifted for years searching for what is missing, what was destroyed, what was stolen from their pasts, what was hidden from their futures.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’m sober. My friends here know I want this. I told ’em it’s important to me. But they keep wanting me to drink with them. To get stoned. Why?”

“Why do you think?” I asked.

He shook his head. Side to side. His body slumped deeper into his chair. “It’s hard. Being sober. My friends. They make fun of me. Tell me I’ve changed. That maybe now I think I’m too good for them.”  He paused. Scrunched up his face. Smiled. “I don’t think I’m too good for them. But I can’t be around drunks. They’re not good for me.”

And we went on to talk about the challenges of sobriety in a community where ‘getting sober’ is both the dream and the nightmare of everyone involved.

“Is it possible that your getting sober, a guy who’s been drunk for 30 years, is a sign that they could do it too? Do you think they’re afraid?”

He laughed. “Of my getting sober? Nah. But they sure as hell are scared of getting sober themselves.”

He wanted to be a role model, he said. To be an example for the youth on the reserve where he could never go back to if he’d not gotten sober. “I’ve got two sons. They’re adults now. Haven’t seen them in years but I want them to see me as a man they can look up to.”

He never got the chance. Three months later a massive heart attack hit, and he took his last breath.

But the memory of our encounter has remained with me. This morning, while reading Ian Munro’s post at Leading Essentially, “When Did “Busy!” Become the Correct answer to How Things are?”, I was reminded of that encounter from several years ago.

Ian suggests we have to Watch how we measure ourselves. Be cognizant of where we are putting our energies, how we are measuring our time. He mentions in a response to a comment from one of his readers that he is coming off his addiction to ‘busy’. He is happier now. More fulfilled in his work, yet, people at his workplace keep asking if he shouldn’t be doing something more urgent.

For Colin, the man at the shelter who had put a lifetime of energy into being drunk and now was committed to sobriety, his courage in taking those steps away from the past, were a reminder to everyone around him that it was possible. In the possibility that Colin represented, their fear wanted only to drag him back so they would not have to face the truth.

Anything is possible if we are willing to do the hard.

The hard work of getting sober, of getting ‘unbusy’, of taking time to stop and smell the roses, to savour the possible in this moment, right now, no matter how frightened we are that if we don’t fill this moment right now with ‘meaningful work’ we will be wasting our lives away.

Colin only had a few months to savour his new life, to lean into his new possibilities. I like to think that in those months he found his meaning not in the past, but in his courage in letting it go. And I like to think he knows that in his life and his willingness to ‘do the hard’, he keeps inspiring me to step beyond my fear of letting go of the well-worn path to soar bravely into possibility.


we are enough, just the way we are.

Let your heart take flight 30 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas Louise Gallagher SOLD
Let your heart take flight
30 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas
Louise Gallagher

The energy of life is an endless circle of renewal.
It is always renewing, repeating, recreating itself.
There is wholeness and harmony in life.
There is darkness and light.
Truth and lies.
Beauty and ugliness.
Simplicity and complexity.
Life is an eternal force, calling us always to dive deep into all its dimensions.
To explore completely its many facets.
Life is moving all around us, calling each of us to come home to the truth of our existence.
We are born full of life’s possibilities.
We are born magnificent, beautiful, complete.
We are perfect, just the way we are.

The world is a different place today.

I didn’t know when I wrote my blogpost in the early hours of the morning yesterday that destiny had crashed into the life of someone I knew.

I didn’t know that where life continued here, out there it had ended for five people hurtling down a road to the intersection of their lives ending in one catastrophic crash.

I did not know.

Would I have written any differently? Would I have stopped to pay tribute to a man I greatly admired, then instead of now?

I do not feel right writing of this man. I do not feel worthy. Yet, I feel compelled to put into words my sense of sadness, sorrow, loss, if only to say, “You were a great man, Michael. I am honoured to have known you.”

Michael was tireless in his commitment to push the boundaries of his art out into the universe. He was committed to supporting others, furthering his craft and creating opportunities for others to further theirs.

Michael Green died on a Saskatchewan road on Tuesday. He was not alone. There were three others with him and one other in another vehicle. There was a third vehicle but the passengers in it live on. It is a blessing that not all lives were lost on that wintry stretch of road.

It is a tragedy that five were.

I am confused by the suddenness of death. Startled by the quickness of its arrival and in its wake, the deafening silence reverberating in the departure of those who followed it to ‘the other side’.

I want to reach out and say, Stop. Don’t go. Wait. There is still much to do. So much to be said. To be accomplished.

And only the silence remains.

I want to remind Michael that we have to plan that coffee we talked about when last we met just before Christmas. I want to apologize for not calling to set it up like I said I would. I’m sorry. I thought I had more time.

And now, there is no time to do the things I intended. There is no time for Michael and the others to continue to create and inspire and impact the lives of the thousands of people they touched, and would have touched, if tragedy hadn’t struck on a lonely stretch of road when three vehicles collided and forever changed the course of their lives and the lives of many.

Death is a lonely companion. It hears no song but its own voice calling those whose voices meant so much to the world around them, into the silence of its embrace.

I didn’t know him well, but well enough to know that the world has lost a great human being. A man whose gifts were shared with grace, whose generosity of spirit made it possible for others, no matter where they stood on the economic or social scale, to find their voice and sing out, loud and clear.

There are so many things that would not have happened without Michael Green’s vision carrying them into reality.

I am grateful for the things he did. The times his genius created space for wonder and awe in our world.

David van Belle’s, The Invisible Project, would not have happened without some of Michael’s brilliance opening the possibility of its creation.

This is My City’s inaugural year and its production of Two Bit Oper-eh-Shun? would not have been staged without his passion.

The panel with then Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean in attendance, needed his commitment and persistence to making it happen.

And these are just some of the things he did to create space for art and expression that bridged the world outside with the world inside the homeless community. And the list goes on.

There is so much he accomplished, and so much more he could have done if destiny had not decided his time was now.

His passing is a reminder that there is only this time right now to get whatever needs doing done. To make the phone call. Book the coffee. Create. Express. Share your gifts. Celebrate your life. Live. Be. Do.

Good-bye, Michael Green, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, Michele Sereda, Narcisse Blood and Morley Hartenberger.

The world is a different place without your presence.


Take me to the edge of reason

Journal entry Feb 8, 2015
Journal entry
Feb 8, 2015 She never imagined she could fly until one day she decided to believe in herself.

I awoke early this morning. Sleep slipped away as I listened to the dark of night sounds outside the open window beside me. In the far distance, a truck lumbered along the highway, the road wet hum of its engine tugging at my mind, urging me to leave the place where I lay to journey out into the night.

I resisted.

I lay in bed, yearning for sleep, seeking its soft, pillowy comfort.

My yearning was in vain. Sleep evaded me.

I got up. Came to the office and in a newsletter from Spiritual Directions, read a poem by Susie Tierney, that began with the line, “God, take me to the edge of reason”.

Where is the edge of reason, I wondered? And how do I find it? Do I need to? What happens when I do? Will I recognize it when I do or will I simply keep pushing into it thinking the answers lie beyond its edge? Am I willing to live the question of not knowing where the edge of reason exists without having to go and find it?

Good questions for an early morning wonder.

My fingers began to move across the keyboard. Consonants met vowels. Words crept onto the page.

I let the words flow free. There was no need to train them, or urge them into making sense. They had their own mind, their own desire to form into being without my insistence I knew the answer to their meaning or that they do it in any particular way.

Take me to the edge of reason, and let me fall, laughing, into the chaos of my thinking I know the way.
How can I know the way when I must trust the way will appear with each step I take?

Take me to the edge of reason, and let me leap, light as air, into the nothing that is all the courage I need to be fearless.
How can I step free when I hold onto my fear of being vulnerable?

Take me to the edge of reason, and let me float, effortlessly, upon the waters of life flowing in every direction.
How can I know peace when I am holding back and resisting my soul’s calling to let go and be present?

There is no edge and no reason, to what happens when I allow the process to be the way.

There is simply the way becoming the path to seeing what can happen when I get out of the way of making it happen.

When I get out of the way, the way appears.

May you live your day balanced effortlessly on the contradictions and harmony of living full of life beyond the edge of reason.


May you walk in beauty today

The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their image. ~Zenrin Tao & Zen
The wild geese do not intend
to cast their reflection.
The water has no mind
to receive their image.
Tao & Zen

Many years ago, when my daughters were still little girls who liked to play dress-up and run through the sprinkler, I took them on a holiday to Gardum Lake, a magical place in the Okanagan. There were no televisions, no video games, no electronic devices to disturb the peace and tranquility of the space. There were only people, engaging together in community, sharing summer fun by the lake.

We stayed in a tiny one room cabin, complete with wood burning stove in case the summer night got cool. It never did.

During the day, we would take a canoe out into the lake and drift aimlessly on its smooth waters or paddle along the shore counting Painted Turtles scuttling about along the water’s edge. We saw beavers and lake otters and geese and ducks and played on the beach and built sand castles and played make-believe.

Make believe I am an angry dragon spewing fire everywhere! I would cry. And the girls would run around and squeal and hide in the bushes and I would chase them and make-believe I gobbled them up when I caught them. We’d laugh and tell stories and even the angry dragon lost his ferociousness when it was discovered he was angry because he loved ice cream  and every time he went to eat it, the ice cream would melt beneath the fire of his breath. Because I was the angry dragon, I would have buckets of lake water dumped upon me in the girls’ efforts to douse my fire. Once the dragon’s flame was tamed, we’d pile into the car and off we’d go to the nearest grocer’s to buy ice cream cones and other treats.

One night, when the girls were fast asleep, I sat on the porch of our tiny cabin and savoured the stillness of the night. Far above, the moon and stars danced in the heaven’s glow. The lake was ice still. A sheet of glass skating off into the darkness all around.

The stillness of the night called to my heart to step deeper into the silence.

I pulled on a life vest and let the woman in the cabin next to me know I was going for a midnight paddle. After a busy day chasing after her toddler son and daughter, she too thought it was a brilliant idea and donning her life vest climbed into the canoe to join me.

Silently, we paddled away from shore, mindful to keep our cabins always in view. When we had gone far enough, we both stopped paddling and let the rocking of the canoe ease into the stillness.

Above us, the ink black sky shimmered with a thousand x a thousand stars lighting the night-time sky with wonder. As we sat silently in the canoe, not moving, the waters around us stilled and once again the surface of the lake reassembled into a mirror streaking off into the dark.

I sat, barely breathing as the stillness embraced me. In the distance, a loon cried. An owl hooted. And silence descended once again in the dark.

I looked below into the inky waters surrounding me and saw a thousand x a thousand stars reflected up from the lake bottom, as if all the stars in the sky were dancing below shining up into the night. I felt as though I could reach down into the water and pluck a star out and hold it in my hand.

It was magical. Mystical. Awe-inspiring.

Surrounded by starlight above and below me, I felt the oneness of being part of something so magnificent, so enormous as this universe shimmering in the dark, breathing as one with me.

And I knew in that moment, the words of the melody I had sung with the girls around the blazing fire pit that evening were true,

I walk in beauty now, beauty lies before me, beauty lies above me, behind and below me. 

May you walk in beauty today.