My Journey with Depression
This article was published on 10/16/19 on Elephant Journal
I have had a mild form of depression since I was a little girl. I can have no way of knowing why, and after years of self inquiry (and therapy) I have stopped trying to understand it.
The thing is, we are all born with some pre disposed condition carried down to us, or if you believe in Karma, with Karmas. But from a Buddhist standpoint these karmas are meant to be our greatest life lessons.
Often times the most depressed people are the ones who appear to be the happiest on the outside (isn’t that funny…) the smiley one, the one who is always laughing, but little does the outside world know that this laughter is covering up so much pain.
This was certainly the case with me during my pre teen and teenage years…
In school I was known as the happy go lucky one, the one who seemed to have everything. Yes, I had a blessed and privileged upbringing. But privilege does not bring happiness. I wasn’t even aware of my sadness myself…but I always needed some type of distraction to feel happy. For me personally, that distraction, was PEOPLE. Friends. The more friends the better. I wanted to be friends with everyone and and anyone. I dreaded being alone…for this is when all my demons would show their faces to me. And I wasn’t ready to face them. Not yet.
The spiritual path found me at a time when my number one distraction was taken away from me – money. I grew up with extreme wealth, and without getting into detail, one day life showed me the first lesson in impermanence.
I was living in Los Angeles at the time, a very expensive city to suddenly realize you are broke in. I emptied out my college funds (I dropped out) and left to Bali. There is no reason to explain why – this was my first major calling in life – and I followed.
Upon arrival in Bali, I met my spiritual teachers. I knew I had found home. Suddenly everything that had happened up until that point didn’t matter anymore – all I cared about, all I desired, all I craved – was to soak up this wisdom and the nectar of these teachings as much as I could. I traveled back to the States to pack up my things and put them in storage – sold my car – and returned to Bali. I ended up staying a total of one year there.
A complete transformation began to take place. I participated in just about every kind of healing modality you could imagine, and was practicing yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhist practices every day. It was magical and it was dark. It was here I began the shedding process, one that is never comfortable. I had to let go of my old identity completely – this was not easy. I wanted to believe I was still the same girl that left the States, the same girl who was rich and loved fashion, the one who I identified so strongly with – but my inner and outer world was changing, and this was difficult to accept.
Upon my return to the States I began teaching. It was not planned, more like something that organically happened. I was horribly insecure at first, having no idea why I was even attempting to teach such a sacred practice as yoga. The “who do you think you are” story stayed with me for the first two years of my teaching journey.
Yet somehow I was able to continue despite this very loud and at times convincing voice: I suppose for the first time in my life, I felt as though I had a real purpose. A true purpose for being here – which up until that moment when I had that first initiation – I had none. I had no purpose beyond spending money, looking good, and going to the best parties and travel destinations. I didn’t know what I had to give.
Yoga showed me a different way, instead of showing me what I can take, it showed me what I can give. It showed me I have a light within me just waiting for its match to be lit – and this fire was no timid flame trying to survive the winds, yet an entire force which quite literally burned up everything on its path – in a constant search for transformation. And discovery.
The more I discovered this truth, the less the depression hit, or for shorter amounts of time. And ironically enough, the more time I spent alone, the very thing I feared more than anything else – the more in love with myself I fell.
I still never figured out where the sadness truly comes from. Was it that time this happened? Or what about when that happened. Who knows, really ? And it still makes its appearance. A lot. In fact each time I break through another illusion, this depression hits again. But I have stopped looking at it as this thing which defines me but rather this very temporary passing state that comes and goes from time to time. I can observe it and know there isn’t something “wrong” with me and I’m not “broken” needing to be fixed. I’m simply a human experiencing very real human emotion, and the more I can become a witness to my feelings, the less attached I can become to them. So what if depression could be healed from this one realization alone? What if meditation really is the key, the medication that we need? Of course just like a pill which needs to be taken everyday, so does our practice. It is no different – only that it takes more work. But nothing that is sweet in the end starts off that way. It must go through the cycle of destruction and transformation first – to be born into its true nature. This doesn’t mean you have to walk it alone. I spent many years in therapy and still do call my therapist from time to time when I really just need to talk. Because sometimes that’s all we need. But we need to recognize that the root will never be healed unless we are willing to go there, be with it, sit with it, and simply accept it – so that it can continue to be transformed into love, over and over again…until one day, this becomes your natural state and vibration. Love heals everything. And this very Love is not outside of you, not separate from you, not in the form of a person or a material item, rather it is the blood which flows within you. Honestly, I truly believe all the soul craves is simplicity. The more we complicate things, the more we add onto our plate, the more we suffer. We need purpose, we need connection, this is truly all the soul needs. The rest is an illusion and will always be in passing, like that lover who you can’t seem to ever keep for too long – coming and going, to please your senses when needed – yet never truly satisfying. Nothing is as satisfying as the marrying of your own soul. To do this one must be still and quiet. There is no other way. We will never be able to talk through our deeply rooted pain or trauma, at some point, we need to sit still with them, feel them, and allow them to pass like everything always will.
When we can stop trying to be everything we are not : when we can simply be who we truly are, that simple being underneath all the layers of fabricated personality : that’s when we begin to touch something real. And it’s that something real which gives us the hope, to keep going, keep living, keep loving.
Depression is not who you are. Love is who you are.