Pitch black darkness… the experience of being in an endless, damp, dark tunnel… hopelessness… exhaustion… sleeplessness… lowered self- esteem… inability to trust… fearfulness… panic attacks… suicidal thoughts…
An unbelievably large percentage of people are said to be experiencing depression. They may outwardly seem to be ‘normal’ and functional, but that is because they shy away from declaring their problem for fear of being ‘labelled’, laughed at, and rejected.
I was in a clinical depression for close to two years. As it grew worse, the symptoms included indigestion, giddiness, and all the aspects mentioned earlier. I also felt ‘guilty’ – why was I feeling this way, when outwardly ‘I had it all’. This guilt was compounded by people who insisted that I get myself together and ‘snap out’ of the feeling. In short – I lived in hell.
Here is the story of my recovery and transition to wholeness. My hope is that it might help people in this ‘black pit’. The first step in my recovery was to acknowledge the “dis-ease” and then embark on a slow process of recovery (no quick-fix solutions). To begin with, I was on allopathic medication – I am still unclear whether that was the best option.
There was the dilemma: Should I take the advice of medically qualified mainstream doctors? Or go with my own body wisdom, which revolted against drugs with side-effects, and opt instead for ‘alternative’ therapies like aromatherapy or dance therapy? I know that every type of medicine has a role to play, but for a strong non-believer in allopathy, the decision to go for the “harshest alternative” was very traumatic.
And worse still, once I embarked on this course, I had well-wishers warn – “Oh, stop it…drugs only do you harm.” Nothing could be more harmful than this kind of advice, once you have decided the course of action. You must not stop drugs suddenly. They have to be tapered off gradually under the direct supervision of your consulting psychiatrist. Knowing this, I used to feel even more anxious about my situation.
I was fortunate to have a support structure provided by my family. They were open to guidance from counsellors who cautioned them not to get sucked into the situation, to see the larger perspective, to downplay the seriousness of the situation rather than heighten it. Following this, my family remained calm and centred, and consequently aided my healing. They offered less advice, and more empathy. They were pillars of patience, caring, strength.
Then I had two hyenas who would laugh good-humouredly, saying that they were in danger of turning mad themselves with me around! Sounds okay to me now, but at that time the accusation was hurtful. And the beavers – their advice was “get busy”, stop thinking of yourself – take up tasks, clean a cupboard… why can’t you take up a job? Escape rather than deal with the situation? (!)
I must mention the few wise owls who provided insights – “get out of your head and dance”. Another who made me recall my moments of glory, and had me smiling for two full days, basking in those memories. I could have generated enough serotonin for a week, with a little more encouragement!
Initially, I encountered the delve-into-the-past therapists who wanted to get to the root cause. They revived memories that hurt more than healed. Recently, I heard Sri Sri Ravi Shankar describe this method as “taking a garbage bag and examining each item that was disposed of, with a view to establishing when, how and why!” He recommends the simple solution of just dumping the bag and moving on….breathing your way to wholeness. Garbage can be turned into gold (compost), provided it is used wisely to energise.
I also encountered know-it-all counsellors who gave me long sermons that neither consoled nor enlightened. At last, I came across a therapist who suited me. He had a holistic approach to healing. As he put it, what I was encountering was a spiritual, physical and emotional breakdown; and I needed to “get out the same way I got in”.
Step one was taking responsibility. No, not blame – but responsibility – the ability to respond. The willingness to say ‘yes’ to transformation, to be in a place where one understood the value of changing faulty thought patterns and attitudes. For example, I had to consciously change my ‘self-talk’ from being angry and despairing, to being grateful. Old patterns don’t just go away; they have to be worked on daily and consistently. Patience got me the results. I soon learned that if one has the right thoughts, one can generate the necessary happy hormone – serotonin.
While I was being counselled, I participated in high energy workshops and followed the discipline of the daily walk, meditation, breathing exercise and dance, laughter, and an appropriate healthy diet for the body, and as importantly, the mind. Life Positive was my companion through the journey, bringing hope and insights. The positive energy of the contributors seemed to pour through the written word!
People going through the dark night of the soul need a tremendous amount of ‘handholding’. To support people in depression, I am in the process of creating a resource bank of competent counsellors and therapists in the field of alternative healing like aromatherapy, music, dance, art and other right brain methods of generating happy hormones! I also intend holding workshops for proactive people who seek to strengthen their spiritual and mental muscles.