My Winding, Tumultuous Odyssey with Depression
The fabric of my life has been ripped and torn into pieces by episodes of depression. I can’t even decipher some of the pieces. Review of previous lessons in the present moment increased my determination to weave a new and magnificent tapestry more beautiful than the tattered-and-torn version.
Breathing happens naturally and automatically unless I intentionally try to stop it. Becoming aware of my breath is as simple as paying attention to where I am physically, feeling my breathing (nostrils, chest, and/or abdomen), how long I spend taking in a breath (something I can control), and how long I take to release a breath. The deeper I breathe, the more I slow down my heart rate and am enveloped in release and calm. I can do this anywhere! Standing in line at the grocery store, sitting in traffic that is not moving, waiting for an appointment in an office, etc. Even taking three deep breaths can help reduce feelings of stress I experience. Notice I said “reduce”—not “completely get rid of” the stress or tension.
When I entered an episode of the “Dark Night of the Soul,” I felt completely stranded. In the fullness of the “Dark Night,” I did not know where I was ”Spiritually”, except that I felt persistent separation from God. I did not know where to turn or what I was supposed to learn. I found each “Dark Night” was a journey worth taking, with the offer of something unexpected and richer in my “Soul,” and my relationship with “Spirit.”
I started to invite and integrate the overwhelming depression into my whole being. I shifted my attention to consider the gifts of depression I’d gained, like practicing patience. I still felt helpless, hopeless despair, but I saw it on a continuum, which seemed to help me keep my depression in perspective versus solely as a view of me being torn to shreds.
My perspective of my “hamster wheel brain” transformed into an invaluable asset, in addition to its liability status. Instead of ignoring stresses as maladies of body and mind, I started to pay attention to them as worthwhile signals and reminders of what self-care I needed in a given moment. The development of self-compassion became an antidote to my tendencies to beat myself up. Along with that realization, I internalized that self-compassion is not “selfish.”
In the past it (depression) has taught me lessons, unleashed creativity, and brought me into a deeper relationship with God, but none of that is present now.