Surfacing Through Depression: A Personal Story

Today I’m going to tell you a short personal story about how I turn something not so great into something good for myself. I’m inviting you inside my head to sort of see a process I go through in the hopes that maybe you might be inspired and excited about examining your own process.

I consider myself to be a well-adjusted person. I have some wonderful periods of time when I feel incredibly connected to my sense of purpose in life, the people I love and an overall perspective of contentment. Life can be especially challenging in the valley of those peaks. There have been long and tiring periods of great despair and depression. I’ve learned the hard way that grief isn’t just about death, and that even after you feel like you’ve dealt with it, it can still show up uninvited at your heart’s doorstep. After weeks of letting it sleep on my welcome mat, I finally let it in. And, I confess, it sucked.

This powerful emotion spent some time sledgehammering through what I thought and hoped were previously healed towers of pain, leaving a very dangerous mess. It’s dangerous because, for me, this mess turns to quicksand, and I step into it, and I drown. When I drown on the inside, I sloth on the outside. For the record, slothing can be pretty amazing when done in a balanced way. There’s calmness to doing less, and shutting off your brain. As I allowed myself to go through what I call a ‘contractionary period’, most days, it felt like a huge accomplishment to even get up and go to work. Eventually, a few days turned into a few weeks, and then a few months. Weight Gain. Exhaustion. Sadness. Binge eating. Isolation. Anger. Frustration.

When you choose to follow a path of growth and connectedness, the challenges you face along the way often threaten to shrink your spirit and disconnect you from everything and everyone that strengthens you. This week, I spent much of my free time contemplating why this happens, and why it will continue to happen. I’m reminded of something a personal trainer once explained to me about how our bodies build muscle. In order to get stronger, the muscles have to go through some level of breakdown and then there is momentum gained from the body overcompensating during the rebuilding process.

It’s like sinking down to the bottom of a pool and then using your sinking body to push against the floor to jump out of the water. Let’s say that it is your soul’s goal to reach a particular point of ascension.  In order for that to happen, you might keep going through this process of rising and falling. And you might feel so frustrated with yourself, and your progress, and the distance between you and your soul’s goal that you fail to notice how the floor of the pool has elevated slightly. The cycle continues again and again, and every time you rise back up, to jump out, you’ve reached a new height of growth. And the next time you fall, you’re still higher than you ever were before. That’s the secret. That’s the piece no one ever tells you. I’m telling you right now.

Part of the frustration I felt with myself also came from an expectation I placed on myself that I should be ‘better’ than I am. If I should be better, does that mean that I’m not good enough right now? Am I really just saying that I’m not good enough when I’m overweight, or lethargic, or depressed? Am I unlovable in this state? Am I repulsive when I’m sad, or grieving? These are all really important variables to consider because they can feel like bricks, weighing me down in the bottom of this pool when I try to jump out.

So here is what I did.

I cried. I ate. I slept. I hibernated. I went shopping. I watched a lot of television. And then I considered how nice it was that I was giving myself permission to all of these things without any expectation of stopping at some point. There came a point where I finally felt tired of feeling tired. I went for a walk and paid really close attention to how my mood had shifted afterwards. I watched a documentary about juicing and thought it might be fun to try. I got back into the kitchen and started to cook for myself and remembered how much I love to create. I sang at the top of my lungs in the car. I savored simple moments with my dogs. I took a few deep breaths whenever I was alone to remind myself that I’m alive. As the momentum upwards continued, I found myself wanting to clean the house, and reach out to people to hang out. I started making healthier choices for myself again. And none of this happened overnight. It was little by little.

It’s so important to know what activities and thoughts anchor you to the bottom of that pool, and what actions and feelings help you to jump out. I knew that cooking and music were really big helpers for me. I knew that fresh air and light exercise also helped. There were so many little things I figured out as I went searching for ways to jump out. But the biggest of all of these was compassion. Compassion is the most important gift we can give ourselves when we are going through pain. It’s the key that helps us unlock the door to allow grief to leave our bodies.

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I invite you to consider your own process for growth, how you tether yourself to your pain, and how you can show yourself compassion as you push up to the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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