So let’s have a moment of honesty and transparency….
Even as a yoga teacher, a coach, and a healing breath facilitator I struggle on and off with depression.
If you’ve ever been in the midst of a depression you know the feeling of hopelessness, and I would imagine you’ve felt there was something wrong with you, am I right? But have you ever considered your depression could be a gift?
I know, I know–you’re thinking ‘This lady is crazy. Depression far from a gift.” Stay with me though!!
My first big episode of depression was when I was in my late 20s. In the course of two years my father had died, I had a period of estrangement from my mother, my boyfriend of six years became abusive and I left him, then I started a very stressful job (for which I was totally unqualified). Eventually it all pushed me over the edge.
For the first time in my life I let myself fall into the depths of despair. Up till that point I was really good at being tough. I’d just plow through whatever came up—needless to say plowing through and handling life skillfully are two different things. This was the first time I let myself totally unravel. I let myself fall into the darkness….and a long darkness it was. I was able to keep functioning and working during this time. Barely. I was not the easiest person to be around though, and because I didn’t even know how to verbalise what I was going through I lost friends, but the blessing was that it was the start of finding myself.
Since then there have been a several long, dark periods, but these days with the tools I’ve learned and the support I have around me they just don’t have the same staying power. I suppose that’s the depressing part of depression. I thought after all the work I’ve done, I’d be completely done with it. I thought one day I’d wake up and be totally healed.
Not true. I’ve come to realise that healing is an ongoing process. Life is sticky, complicated, and challenging. Situations challenge us, stuff comes up to the surface, and therein lies the opportunity to heal if we choose to take it.
Lately depression has surfaced again. Notice I didn’t say I’ve been ‘battling’ depression? One of the many lessons I’ve learned over these past 10 years, and begrudgingly come to accept, is that depression is the way my soul sings out for help. It’s like a flare gun in the night. And, the more I resist it the worse things get for me. I tend to get grumpy and angry when I’m resisting. If I can accept that this is coming up, that some part of me wants to be heard, then I can much more easily move through. Albeit sometimes only to catch my breath again before getting hit by another wave, but a break through nonetheless. Which leads me to another big lesson: recognising every step forward as something to take pride in.
So, last night something set me off. A reminder that things aren’t going as I’d hoped. I could feel the darkness creeping in. After a short stint of avoidance I was able to I pinpointed what was underneath it—powerlessness. Lack of control. Seeing it for what it was didn’t ‘make it go away’ though. I went to bed and woke up this morning feeling just as weighed down and wishing I could stay in bed all day.
I got up though, only because of the kids, and made them breakfast, then went back to my bedroom for a quick reconnect. Thankfully the kids kept each other happy. As I did some yoga from bed I looked out my window and was surprised to see my prayer flags were back. The last few days the stormy weather had blown them around and eventually they had gotten stuck in the gutter. I had noticed it yesterday, but hadn’t gotten a chance to go fish them out.
This morning the wind had dislodged them and they were back, hanging there in the sunshine. They were saturated and soiled with dirt on the bottom half, but there they were.
They stood there as a testament! This was depression. Being tossed around with the bad weather and getting stuck the gutter, emerging again half filthy in the light of day.
I went into meditation and found this part of me that wonders: ‘Will I ever wake up one day and realise I haven’t been depressed in 10 years?’
I don’t know. But I do know that as long as I can be brave enough to face whatever is coming up with love and compassion towards myself, then I’ll be okay. This practice of cultivating unconditional love and compassion starts with me. And believe me, it’s true what they say: that what you can do for yourself you can more easily do for others.
So my focus has shifted from ‘ridding myself of depression’ in order to feel ‘normal,’ to getting more tender with myself. These days when I’m feeling able, I get curious about what’s under the depression. I literally look at my own underbelly–soft, vulnerable, exposed–and I create a safe space for myself to observe what’s there. It’s in these moments when I can truly be with my own pain that the most beautiful, most gentle Love comes bubbling up—a Love that is so pure it disintegrates all versions of ‘not good enough.’ If I had a magic wand, this is the kind of Love I would wish for every person to experience.
And if in some weird way depression can be called a gift, that is the gift it has given me: Self Love. It’s like what I thought this morning when I saw those dirty ol’ prayer flags: “Oh, there you are! You’re back! I see you there all weathered and sad looking. But, oh how beautiful you are hanging there in the Light.”
What do you think? Has depression ever been a gift for you? Leave a comment and let me know!