Lessons from Depression

I always hesitate to discuss my ongoing story with depression because I always strive to serve others with this blog, and sometimes I can’t see how sharing my personal pain would help you. But having an open discussion about depression is probably one of the best things to encourage in our society, as myths, misconceptions, and judgment about depression abound – as well as lesser known causes such as diet and chemical imbalance. So here goes. 

I suffered a bout of depression in July that was fairly serious, at least for me. Not serious in terms of dangerous to my person, but a deep and painful stretching of the soul which left me at times feeling desperate, alone, confused, and with only a small dim glow of hope in my heart. Some days my heart flame burns deeply and vibrantly, shining love into all dark corners of my life. And sometimes it is only a flicker of warmth in a world of darkness.

 

 But it never goes out.
There are things that feed your heart flame and things that dampen it. Hormonal imbalance, severe lack of magnesium, PCOS, shame, and profound anxiety over climate change all dampened my flame to the lowest it has been in a while. I knew intellectually what was happening – knew that this was a product of an imbalanced cycle with the perfect storm of shame triggers, and that only made it so much more frustrating that I recognized the problem but still felt miserable.
I felt so because I couldn’t control it and I couldn’t fix it. I knew WHY I was feeling down. I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but I couldn’t make the process happen any faster. I had to dig very deeply to pull myself up to meet the day and greet it with gratitude and to have a spirit to find love and positivity when all I could see was the negative. I went through endless reasonings in my head why there was reason to hope for better environmental stewardship from our people. I started praying to God to relieve me of my desperate desire to feel better. And sometimes I just outright told my ego to go away because I didn’t feel like dealing with it. And the fear was still there.
All these coping mechanisms helped temporarily, but all I was managing to do was stifle my grief. Reading the book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson helped to start cracking the edges and letting me open up to myself about what was really going on.

The greatest lesson I learned was to have compassion for myself.

I wanted so badly to fix myself, to heal, to find and blame one specific thing in my life for what was going on. First it was my body, then it was my ego, and finally it was some deep flaw I had that had me so anxious about climate change and the environment that it could drag me into depression. It was more all of these things put together – an awareness of what was happening to me but a refusal to surrender to it. Even though I thought I had all the intellectual answers to what was happening and why, I still felt I was doing something WRONG. As if knowing the answer to something is the same as healing from it. The only way I know how to surrender myself to the idea that I’m not doing anything wrong, that I shouldn’t blame myself for being depressed at times, it to have compassion.
So even though I knew I was working against the forces of hormones, nutrient deficiency, fearful ego, social conditioning, and possibly even an imbalance of gut bacteria that could cause physical symptoms of depression; I still blamed myself for having it. I blamed myself for not getting better instantly, just because I knew what was the cause. I blamed myself for not being able to open up and share my struggles, because my first instinct is always to protect the ones I love from my pain. I blamed myself for waking up and the first thought I would have is dread for the day and how I would feel. I blamed myself for feeling low when I knew that this was only a temporary cycle and things would, eventually, get better. Blame blame blame blame. Self-criticism on top of judgment compounded by loneliness.
Perhaps if I had let myself grieve sooner…for finally, once I was on the mend, though still in fear of a relapse, I began to think of my depression not as a vicious circle, but a release of toxic fear as a result of spiritual growth. I had opened up hidden pockets of shame, blame, and fear, and my soul needed to release them in order to resume spiritual healing. If anything, this bout of troubles has taught me that spiritual healing comes first for me – and physical healing won’t happen until the blocks to the soul dissipate into love. So when I knew the worst of it was over – when the emotional weight, which made itself felt physically, had lifted from my chest – but I was still afraid of a trigger that would have me fall back into fear; each time I had another fearful thought or feeling, I just imagined it flowing out of my body, like a poison being released. Then I imagined it traveling out into space, where it wouldn’t hurt anyone, and traveling around until it’s negative energy turned into love. Energy is never destroyed, but so often we turn it inward on ourselves rather than acknowledge and release it.
So I’m slowly draining, draining, of the heartbreak that flows out of my chest in spurts and trickles. There is nothing for me in the past, and when the future is too heavy to contemplate – all I do is think about today. Today is the only thing that exists, the only thing that is real. Before, I was angry at myself for letting my fears for tomorrow ruin the joys of today. But each day I plucked out a little moment of joy, and little moment of sweetness, that seemed to glow brighter because of the darkness that surrounded it. I’ve been able to slowly recognize the existence of other candles, other heart-flames, and mine is on it’s way back to burning brightly again. It never goes out, and it has the power to feed other heart-flames, to light other souls on fire, and to give my guidance when my world goes dark. That is the power behind depression – we value the light so much more.