Depression: How I Learned To Befriend The Darkness, And How You Can Too
Knowing the Darkness
It’s an amazingly beautiful Autumn day.
The leaves are swirling gracefully as they release from the branches of the trees where they have resided for two seasons.
They glide slowly down to the ground, spiraling happily as they fall, one after the other, to the ground below.
Autumn and spring are my favorite seasons.
Both have the strong currents of letting go and reawakening within their natural cycles.
The beautiful leaves and foliage of the season are reminders of our own life cycles.
Like the leaves and flowers, nothing lasts forever.
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I used to have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year.
While I loved the colors, the festivities, and cooler weather, I knew that everything was dying, and it wouldn’t be long until the trees stood stark and naked against the winter sky.
As the leaves fell, my spirits would plummet as well.
As night came earlier and earlier, a gloom seemed to settle around me at every turn.
I looked forward to the holidays, but there was a sadness within me that was difficult to overcome.
Soon, I would find myself in the middle of winter and a deep, dark depression.
Anyone who has struggled with depression knows it’s nothing to take lightly.
It can change personalities, relationships, our outlook on life, and can, in the most severe cases, even threaten our very lives.
I spent a lot of the years in my twenties, thirties and even my forties fighting a battle between the light of everyday existence and the darkness that is depression.
My Journey Toward the Light
After trying supplements, prayer, meditation, exercise, and reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the subject, I came across a book by Martin Philips, The Zen Path Through Depression.
Inside this small book was a treasure trove of wisdom from someone who had not only been there, but had found a way to live his life fully, even while going through depression.
This is one of those books that sheds a light into the darkness and helps one to step back and see the forest for the trees.
But at the same time, it takes us on a journey deeper within ourselves and helps us find strength, courage, and understanding that can be life-changing.
This book helped me realize three things:
- It’s okay to be depressed. There are many various causes, including everything from genetics, childhood trauma, being an HSP (highly sensitive person) or “Empath,” and chemical imbalances that affect our equilibrium and sense of well-being. It is not your fault that you have depression.
- Emotions and feelings are just that: feelings. No more, no less. They are neither good nor bad. There is nothing wrong in feeling sad, angry, anxious, or afraid. You are not your feelings. You simply feel your feelings. And you can learn to feel them, acknowledge them, and then let them pass like clouds on a sunny day. They can only grow and hurt us when we give them the power to do so through grasping and attachment.
- Learning to cope with our depression allows us to to go into the belly of the beast in the darkness, without judgment or fear. We often discover the beast is no more than the troubled parts of ourselves (the unloved parts) that need compassion, love, and the healing light of awareness.
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Even with all the manuals, tools, and tips in your arsenal, know that you never have to—and in many cases, shouldn’t—go through this alone.
While some have difficulty seeking the help of a professional, in the case of chemical imbalance and many other situations, a professional can help when all else fails.
One thing is critical, do no judge the situation or yourself.
Sometimes medication is needed.
This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. You will soon know if the meds are more detrimental than helpful, but you will never know unless you try. And in some cases of severe, repetitive depression, meds are completely necessary.
We would never tell someone with a broken arm to go home, get some rest, and heal themselves, so we should never respond this way to clinical depression or certain types of mental illnesses.
There is a huge stigma attached to mental illness in some countries, the US included.
There is no reasonable explanation for this. The brain is no different than other parts of the body.
Don’t let others’ opinions, views, and/or lack of understanding affect your actions in dealing with or seeking help with depression.
Only those of us who have truly been there—and not just felt a little blue from time to time—can understand living with this illness.
The Beast Within
As for me, well it’s October, and I’m doing good.
I no longer have a love/hate relationship with this season of beauty. I love it fully.
Through much effort and practice sitting with my depression, my fears, past traumas, and anxiety, along with a low dose antidepressant over the course of a few months, I am now living a balanced and happy life.
It is an awesome feeling to know that if/when depression comes to call, I can invite it in like an old friend, sit down, and have tea while we visit and talk.
I am no longer afraid of the darkness or the beast within.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes courage, patience, compassion, and self-trust, but you will be surprised at the amount you have hidden deep within yourself. A lot of my own healing came with embracing my dark side.
We all have one. We would not be complete without it.
There can be no light without darkness. One is just as essential as the other.
Always remember, the stars shine brightest in the velvety night sky.
Become a traveler of your own deep universe.
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