To manage or heal?
Recent celebrity suicides have raised awareness of depression in the last week. If you follow my blog posts then you know this has been an ongoing theme for months for me. Synchronicity is why our souls connect and I chose to open up about my story due to the suicide of my friend last November. She kept coming to me in visions of what she wanted our connection to produce - and sharing my journey of healing from depression is the result. It took being back in the UK with our mutual friends to prompt this post that has been hanging in the back of my drafts.
The Lost Spiral
There is a downward spiral of depression that makes no sense unless you are within it. It takes you down into a dark place that follows you everywhere. There are many books and stories about this 'darkness' that follows you and pervades into all things, so there is no light or joy. For me - life always felt dark, heavy, weighed down and closed. I felt that I was constrained in a box. I lived in my coffin - I was not alive.
To crawl out from this despair can only be done by the person suffering. The answer, the key or moment for that person is only for them to uncover. I witnessed my friend go from seemingly well to a rapid unravelling of herself. The endless questioning about everything and the complete lack of faith in herself or life - she was becoming so lost. She became lost in being lost.
Others I have known tell me that they 'just are that way and it will never change'. They actively and consciously choose to stay in the 'safe place' of where they know is painful. They are familiar with the suffering that they inflict on themselves. There is a confidence and trust in failing of happiness throughout life.
What triggers anyone out from this place? How can the observer help?
Step 1: Managing Depression
Management of depression looks like a well-balanced life. You eat well, exercise regularly, socialise with family and friends, contribute to the community with charity work and go for holidays in nature. You have to be careful about triggers of your mental health and large life events, like changing career, buying a house or bereavement.
After my last suicide attempt at 15 years old I recognised that I was supposed to live, so resigned to this I had to find a way to manage myself. In my teens I began to work in theatre and the workaholism began.
By my 20s I took the next action to manage my mood swings from happy overworking to depression. I was aware that my suicidal tendencies were always in November so I asked the GP for anti-depressants from September to get me through my 'bad period'. A rough winter would mean staying on the tablets for the year. There were still very self-destructive behaviours throughout this period and I would send myself to see counsellers if I found my thoughts uncontrollable.
By my mid-20s, I discovered the Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp which lifted my moods and sat on my desk at work. My first mindfulness training (not that I knew it at the time) was to be aware that it was 'just one of those suicidal thoughts' and let it pass. Then I would get on with my day.
Step 2: Suppression with Management
The danger of just managing depression is that it never addresses the root cause. I never managed well with talking therapies because they made me more angry about my suffering. I have witnessed others like this.
You always have a 'guard' on duty to protect you from yourself, and others from the true you. This creates a barrier between you and the world where you cannot deeply connect. Feeling that others will not 'like' you if they know the 'real you', so you are always alone. There is no point or purpose in anything, so you cannot really enjoy anything as you do not connect to the wonder and awe of what the universe brings. When you manage depression you are living a life in shades of grey. You might get moments of a colour, but this is a glimpse.
Management is like putting a lid on the depths of the issue. You get on with life but are not living. When I managed my depression I never left my coffin - I was not alive. I ticked the boxes of life - I got married, had my dream job, had nice friends, great holidays and adorable pets.
Step 3: Does Management of Depression work?
However, when you suffer you make negative choices for your soul because you believe that you should perpetuate the suffering further. You do not deserve the happiness or easy life. Management of depression allows this cycle to continue.
For me, panic attacks appeared at 30 years old when I had overachieved my life goals. They began at work and then spread to at home. The management of depression had me more lost and my body knew it. My body was screaming at me to wake up! How your body manages the suppression of this expression is unique to you, but there will be signs.
I began by leaving my marriage. But that self-destruct pattern of over-working and partying kicked back in. I was on such a 'high' running that I did not even recognise that I was running from my fear that facing the end of marriage would re-trigger my depression.
One day you wake up and have to wipe your life clean. You have to face the root of your depression if you want to be truly free.
Step 4: Healing is Beyond
One of my first reactions to my head injury was that many people with such an injury become severely depressed. I was desperate not to go back to her again. A wise healing friend of mine said "You are not a depressed person, but depression is always a part of who you are. You do not have to go back to her, but let her be in the past."
Slowly the path began to find meaning and purpose in my life. To recover and make my life worth while for me to experience. Four years after my accident I presented on my yoga teacher training a talk on the yamas and niyamas. In this presentation I bared raw my overworking addiction and how I had worked through it according to these moral and ethical codes. What was missing from my path? My spiritual exploration and ability to surrender to my spiritual Self.
For several months I dedicated myself to this work. To explore and meet myself in this new way - many blog posts I have shared explored my fears and how to my ego. All these aspects of myself that kept me under the dark cloud of sadness. This is not easy work. It is not a quick fix. BUT it is worth it. Like taking the red or blue pill in The Matrix - once you've taken it there is no going back.
I asked before 'Am I Healed?' There are always layers of the onion that hide deeper parts of who you are. You never truly know if you have faced all your demons. Now I see the wonders of the world, there is colour, joy and laughter. For me, depression and anxiety were a lack of spiritual connection that gave life a fulfilling purpose. I see and feel the connections - they lift me up.
The root may not be the same for you as for me. But there is a mental health crisis and a desire by people for a more connected way of living. To get outside of your box. to enjoy the exploration of life. To surrender to the unknown, to allow your intuitive self to guide you and have faith that the universe has your back.