Anyone who has ever struggled with depression or any other mental health issue knows how incredibly important and at the same time unbelievably hard and nerve-wrecking is to gather the courage, pack the pride away, take the shame by the hand and - seek the help we need. It may be easier or harder depending on our beliefs about mental illness and the amount of judgement we place on it, as well as how the topic is treated in our community and what is the profile of people we decided to reach out to. Whichever might have been the case for you, I think you’d agree that just the thought of opening ourselves up about the painful state we found ourselves in is overwhelming and terrifying and it is most often shame and fear of the reaction we’d encounter if we opened up to someone, that keeps us delaying looking out for support and help.
I get it. I’ve been through it and it took me years and years until finally admitting, firstly to myself and then to others, that I couldn’t get out of it alone.
But, there’s another aspect of mental health journey that I’d like to address here and that is: What if we already “conquered” the depression, went through psychotherapy, been on medication, did all the holistic, cognitive-behavioural, mindfulness stuff, came out the other end as a “depression survivor”, as a winner of a kind, placed that label on our forehead… and then it hits again?
How to deal with THAT amount of shame, self-judgment, feelings of failure, guilt for having spent so much time and money on helping ourselves just to come back to the starting point all over again? How to find the courage within ourselves to suck it up and go to the people who saw us coming through to the other side the first time around and say: ‘That depression thing, you remember? That I officially left behind x years ago? Well, it’s back again. Your efforts didn’t result, it seems.’ In lots of senses, the other time around is ‘easier’ (better the devil we know than the one we don’t) as we probably collected a wide range of tools to cope with it when it comes, but that doesn’t mean that it is ever ‘easy’. Having the tools is not what saves you, it is applying them - and sometimes, we lack the strength to even open the drawer where we stored them, let alone put them to work.
I talked a lot about depression here and I believe I’ll continue to revisit this topic many, many times again in the future. At one point, however, I felt sick of myself for bringing it back up all the time and I thought that it is better to leave it alone, let it drift away with the rivers of the past. I thought that maybe through talking about it over and over again I am perpetuating the pain that would otherwise naturally die away, if I just didn’t pick at it all the time. Then it occurred to me - it is not part of my past. It is still present in my now. It will continue to be present in my future probably as long as I am here on this Planet.
I heard a girl recently comparing this state - when we just came out of one depressive episode, but there’s a possibility of getting into another one somewhere down the road - to the so-called “cancer remission.” What is cancer remission? It is when a person who survived cancer does no longer have detectable signs and symptoms of the disease, yet there’s a high probability that cancer still exists within the body and can get activated in the future. Therefore, the person is asked to take the utmost care of themselves in order to prevent the reattack to occur.
We can also think of it in terms of having a genetical predisposition to develop a condition, illness or behavioural pattern. Although the genes for a thing exist in our cells, it depends on myriad of different influences whether the genes will get activated or not. People like to use this “bad genes situation” as an excuse and opportunity to slip into the victim role of shitty circumstances, but actually we still have a high degree of personal and decision making power when it comes to whether the thing will manifest itself or not. We cannot neglect the cards we had been dealt with - we just need to learn how to consciously play with those and how to find the hidden perks they possess even though they may be hard to detect at first few looks (and perks are ALWAYS there, trust me).
I came to believe that depression lived inside of me since I was born. As far as my memory can reach back, there has always been some sense of darkness, some doom lurking from beneath, sucking the energy away from my brain, filling it up with fog, making me lethargic which was often seen and labeled as lazy, shy or ungrateful by the adults around me - and I would believe it, as I didn’t know it could be anything else. I accepted that I was just a lazy, grumpy, never-content kid. It got fully activated when I hit puberty, around the age of 12. My mom found my first suicide poems and drawings and took me to a therapist office from which I faked myself out after just one session, succeeding in convincing everyone that I was ok, that it was just for the sake of artistic expression. And my life as a “high-functioning depressed person” went on, supported by my self-medicating habits that I picked up when starting the highschool, but which power to keep me up on my feet gradually paled away. Just when I moved away from my hometown and started Uni is when things hit the very bottom and I was left with no choice than reaching out for help.
And I got it.
I got all the help I needed, all the love, support, comprehension and compassion when the person in question couldn’t possibly grasp on what I was feeling. I was in psychotherapy for 4 years, took antidepressants, changed my habits and lifestyle, let the people who were toxic to me fall away, worked on my thought patterns and after a long and bumpy journey - I felt I was finally cured. I proclaimed the battle officially over once I quit my medication completely, seeing that act as of big importance and meaning, because if I no longer need the tool for fighting something, it means that the very thing I was fighting is no longer present, it no longer resides within me.
But it does.
It is hard as fuck to admit that, but it sure well does still live inside of me. It may be asleep at this very moment while I am going joyfully and high-on-life through my days, but I can feel its calm breathing in the undertone of my heartbeat at all times. I know it is there. Sometimes I can feel it moving, opening an eye and slowly waking up. Sometimes it wakes up during the night, while I’m asleep, and I enter the morning with my throat clenched in its merciless grip and heaviness resting on my chest that disables me to take a full breath in.
And let me tell you something, guys. I used to get extremely, extremely angry, disappointed and ashamed of myself when this would happen. My mind would go on a rant, calling me all kind of ugly names, telling me that I am useless, incapable and undeserving to live, ungrateful, impossible to be aided and saved. It would tell me that I am a shitty person as I have so many people that would kill for me, that sacrificed so much just that I’d feel well and here I am again, swimming at the bottom of the dark lake. You should have probably stayed on medication for the rest of your life as it doesn’t seem like you can make it on you own. Oh no - wait! Even medication ceased to help at one point, so not even heavy chemical stuff can keep you normal. You are HOPELESS, useless, you should better just… blah..blah..blah…’
It is exhausting.
If there’s any fear and shame about admitting that you’re struggling the first time around, it is 1000 times worse every next time, especially when you made everyone believe you are over it for good. I am deeply aware how much my parents suffered through the lowest points of my mental health issues and just the thought of admitting that I sometimes feel bad again and how hearing that would make them feel breaks my heart. So, I don’t. I cannot handle it. I avoid, I don’t answer calls when a day is particularly rough. To protect them and to protect myself, as well. There’s enough self-judgment on my end already that I couldn’t possibly deal with someone trying to fix me and offering unsolicited advice when I don’t want any. In those instants, however well-intended the person trying to help is, all attempts at trying to change your current state seem like invalidating the way you’re feeling, provoking a new tornado of guilt and shame. Those who went through similar would know what I’m talking about.
So, what to do? Not reach out for help?
Don’t go to Chinese restaurant for nachos, Christine Hassler says and that insight is so crucial when it comes to seeking support. Explore from every angle the state you are in and get to know it intimately. Experiment with what helps you in those moments and what doesn’t and - probably the most important thing - talk with your symptoms. Ask them why they are visiting, what message are they bringing, what are they pointing your attention to.
I worked a lot during the last year or so on befriending that aspect of myself that I here for the convenience-sake call ‘depression’ and I found it being closely linked to my sensitivity. I am an extremely sensitive human that just recently learned to cherish that trait as one of my greatest gifts, while for the biggest part of my life I tried to shut it down and get rid of it in any way I could think of.
However, being that sensitive, I have to take very good care of myself if I want to feel good and be at ease with myself, my life and my surroundings. And whenever something is out of alignment, that little animal resting at the bottom of my chest will start to stretch its pawns, yawn and start to wake up. My depression is my alarm system and it is a damn good one. It never fails to warn me when I lose the connection with my Soul, when I leave some area of my life unattended for longer spans of time, when I neglect any aspect of my wellbeing.
So, what I try to do now is to work with my depression instead of working against it. I recognize it when it wakes up, I thank it for coming and try to scan through all sections of my inner and outer life to see where’s leaking, to locate the position of the hole it entered through. At times, it is very easily detectable - lack of sleep, not enough alone time to recharge my introverted self, bad quality food, saying too many times ‘yes’ when I want to say ‘no’, accepting conditions that don’t resonate with me, neglecting my creative life, neglecting my sensual side, denying myself fun and play etc.
Other times, though, I cannot trace it down as hard as I try to.
And then I pray.
I pray for clarity, I pray for faith and trust, I pray for seeing the lessons and learning from this state I find myself in. And of all the things that helped me during my mental health journey, the biggest was and will always be - Spirituality.
Spirituality that I encountered within my own self, through my own experience, not the one they tried to impose from without. Spirituality that holds a safe space for me where I can go back to every time I need, that allows me to see the bigger picture or, if not see, at least feel that there IS something that I am not seeing and that it is all in Divine Order even if my limited vision cannot grasp it.
And then I surrender to it. And I breathe. And soon enough the Sun lurks again behind the grey clouds and lighter period sets in.
Yet I never let myself forget the little animal living at the bottom of my chest and that I have to bring myself back into alignment moment to moment if I want it to stay calm and asleep.
Sometimes it happens we devote ourselves to a project, a person or a cause, we put all of our energies into it, shed blood, sweat and tears until we’re completely empty and depleted, just to find ourselves faced with the harsh truth that the final result of all of our continuous efforts led to - nothing.
We failed and failed miserably, ended up ghosted by a friend or a lover we treated with utmost care, lost a dream job in a split of a second or not succeeded in getting one we worked so hard for. We lost money we invested in business that failed, spent hours studying to end up unjustly failing thanks to a frustrated professor that never liked us, poured all of our love and dedication to save the person who never wanted to be saved in the first place.
We gave our everything and ended up with nothing.
Or at least that’s how it looks like at first glance.
I know we all had those moments in life, when all of our efforts suddenly seem futile and wasted ‘cause we didn’t end up getting what we wanted or expected. I know the frustration and rage and bitterness that sprout from those situations and at least for a period of time make us not want to venture into anything new that requires dedication, because… what for? We may end up with nothing once again.
And shame. That particularly bad-tasting shame that comes with failing at something others saw us devotedly hustle for and now we have to deal with cynical questions on the topic, false pity trembling on the edge of suppressed smiles from people who just love seeing others fail as their own sad lives are so deprived of any mention-worthy endeavours that involve even minimal risk-taking.
“It was all for nothing. All the hours, days, weeks and months spent __________ and now it doesn’t mean shit.” I heard myself complaining endless times, mentally or verbally to anyone willing to listen. I’d shut up when they’d try to comfort me with arguments that even they themselves weren’t completely sure about, as “It will all pay off one day. Every skill is valuable. Every lesson may end up being useful in certain moment in future.” Yeah, right. Having no other choice, I’d force myself to swallow the pill that contained not more than cheap artificial sugar to push the clouds to the side for a couple of hours, hoping that the bitterness and disappointment will evaporate over time.
Then the shift came.
I cannot quite recall whether it happened during one of my meditations or in those weird, floaty spaces right before falling asleep when you are not fully and properly here nor there, but I saw it and felt it so clearly and it all suddenly made so much sense. It resonated in that deep, further-explanation-not-needed way that only the real Truth is able of resonating within our Souls.
So, let me share it with you.
One of the principal laws of this Universe, as you probably already know, is the one of Cause and Effect. Everything is subject to this law, whether we are always capable of seeing it or not, whether the Cause preceeded the Effect in this linear 3D time or it happened viceversa - the two are inseparable.
Therefore, every concentrated, focused and well-intentioned energy expenditure has to end up in us receiving the same. You will reap what you sow. We throw this phrase around all day long (usually in a threatening manner to warn someone who’s about to take some integrity-lacking enterprise), but have you ever really pondered more deeply upon its meaning and explored the layers and layers of wisdom held within it?
There are many what we called “good persons” who live by this phrase, but do so out of fear (“Karma’s out to catch you.”), as if Universe/God/Source was some bad guy just waiting for us to fuck up, so it could throw whole lot of crap our way and make us pay for it.
Throw that fear-based belief right now into thrash and open yourself to understanding, or should I say - knowing (you already know that inside of you), that the law of Cause and Effect doesn’t have to do anything with rewarding and punishing, there is no “good” or “bad” - they are just our human inventions that (we believe) make us easier to navigate through this life-experience. It is all simply about reestablishing balance.
What goes up must come down. When will it come? We don’t know. In which form will it come? No idea. But it will come. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. You cannot control it in any way or try to make it come down faster, but what you can do is - trust.
You can sit down after a long day in which you gave your best, in which you put your heart, brain and stamina into an endeavour you hold important and worthy, even though the final destination is no more than a question mark wrapped in a fog at the end of a long, abandoned road. You can still sit down and be calm, because… you sow. You swung the pendulum to the left and it will make its way to the right, eventually. You can be sure about that.
However, make sure that your mind and heart are open to noticing the fruits of your well-intentioned labour once they start to enter your reality, as they may not have the form, colour or scent you were expecting them to have and you might miss them and falsely start seeing yourself a victim, “the one that pulled the shorter end”.
The last thing I’d like to address here is the critical importance of the intention that sits at the bottom of our action. We may work our little asses off, hustle all day long and still reap some low-vibe energy. That is so because the sole action doesn’t mean much if the intention behind is rooted in fear, hate, revenge or any other place of low frequency. This is a vibrational Universe where the “concrete”, physical action is but a delicate mask enveloping the vibration that the intention holds.
So, get clear on your intentions before doing anything and make sure you are operating from a place of love, compassion and desire to uplift - then you’ll be able to rest peacefully with sweet knowing that what you planted is soon about to peep through the soil.
How does it happen that something we love to do so much simply ceases to be the priority and falls into the background of the everyday rat-race while we’re trying to keep up with the pace of our life and the world?
What it is that pushes us away from our medicine in times when we need it the most, blurs our sight and tricks us into thinking that there are more urgent, more important stuff to be done than connecting to our inner flame, the Source within us, the soul?
Ironically, what happens in those situations, when we deny our soul the medicine it needs, when we let ourselves fall off the track for a day, two, three, a week… it gets harder and harder to swallow the pill. Days pass and the resistance increases, we don’t even want to open the pill container, let alone take those pills that would bring our soul back to life. So, we hide the box in the dark, humid place and forget about it - even though, let’s be real - we never really forget about it.
It stalks and haunts us during those restless nights, it appears in the foggy visions at the dawn when our minds are not yet alert enough to shut the images down, push them back to the black hole where they emerged from. Paradoxically, the more we avoid the medicine the more present it is in our lives - the dance of the starved soul and the ever-increasing resistance to feed it never stops, bringing the unexplainable malaise and excruciating pain that we cannot track down to its source.
Feed the soul and things will fall back into place, I heard.
Yet, I didn’t obey.
Until I was forced to.
Even now, when I finally sat down and took time to write - which is my medicine, my sacred tool of understanding, releasing, expressing, connecting with my soul and my inner wisdom - even now I feel immense amounts of resistance. However, I know I cannot continue delaying and avoiding - there’s only so much starvation a thing can handle before it completely withers down and God only knows if and when will it be possible to bring it back to life again.
So I write. I am trying to get quiet enough to hear the voice of my soul again against the loudness of my mind’s bullshit. It is hard. I am trying to remember the tone of her voice as I left it behind for last few months, swept away by the events, emotions and general overwhelm of life. I put aside writing ‘cause it felt too much, it felt too much to feel, to process, to see the things black on white, to feel the realness of the tornado that passed over just when I felt I reached the calmer ground. I was feeling too much and being vulnerable, even if just in front of myself - seemed like too big of a challenge at the time.
What I want to say to you today, dear friend, is…
Make feeding your soul the priority.
A starved soul cannot wait too much before it starts to decay, infecting the rest of the body with its poisonous fumes, stealing the colours, one by one, from our world and turning down the vividness of our perception.
Then it takes tool on our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, washing us over with the waves of sudden and inexplicable rage, frustration and bitterness, coming finally to the densest of all - our physical body. Aches and pains start to pinch from here and there, even to those of the greatest health up to that point. The sparkle in our eyes dies out from one day to another and soon enough we fail to remember it was ever there in the first place.
Finally, a starved soul decides to enlarge the territory of its dominion, desperately wanting to fill the profound dark hole that it is, so it starts to suck the energy from around, making us act out and treat unjustly and badly those around us, even if they come with nothing but love and openness lurking from their pockets.
A starved soul will do anything and everything to satiate its emptiness, yet there’s only a scarce palette of options that can really feed it and each one’s palette contains different set of colours, so you better get to know what yours are and you better get to use them often - as often as you can - until it’s too late.
Because a starved soul can wait only as much before it starts to decay.