Depression was my companion for two decades—on and off. We had a very intimate relationship. We were deeply consumed with each other. Of course, there were respites. All lovers need respites, but we spent a lot of time together.
It was quite an abusive relationship, from both sides. Depression would emerge through the vehicle of the mind as self-berating thoughts that were designed to maim and cut deeply. I, in turn, would reject and try to stave off the onslaught, but defense was futile. Little did I know that it would remain futile until I stopped and fully faced, this enemy within.
Like most abusive relationships, it was a recurring cycle. On the surface, I would feel good, but behind my temporary feel-good emotions, fear mounted as I waited for the next negative onslaught to arrive. I would flinch from time to time if an abusive thought appeared during my feel good days, just in case my abusive lover was returning.
Depression felt this rejection too. How could it not? Because if I was really honest with myself, I knew I was doing everything possible to avoid its return, everything but accepting it just as it was; just how it was. It would try to gently ease its way back in. I would endlessly push it away.
It would try sending an inner text message that said: “Feeling really heavy in my body today.” But I wouldn’t want to open the text, just in case. Then the next day, I would receive: “Feeling unusually snappy and reactive.” But I would avoid opening that text too, because then I might actually have too look at the real reason that depression was “messaging” me.
My avoidance tactics were in full effect because I feared I would end up receiving a plethora of endlessly abusive texts. You know the kind. “You’re useless.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re ugly.” “You’re fat.” “You’re worthless.” “You’re a terrible mother/sister/lover/friend/person.” etc. etc.
Little did I know that depression had been trying to send me gentle and loving messages in the form of observations, so that I didn’t have to plunge into the febrile energy of despair. It was despair that was capable of the endlessly abusive tirades. It was despair that could only find life through the total disassociation of myself from the self-love and self-nurturing I needed.
Depression came into my experience to show me where I wasn’t nurturing myself. Even the heavy feelings of lethargy and apathy it produced were signs that there was an inner hurt that wasn’t being given the attention it needed. Depression, in its true form, was the gift of clarity that I just couldn’t receive.
This insight came one day in a flash. (Okay it was a 20 year flash in the making, but I’m the stubborn type!) I felt so unbearably weary that I just couldn’t fight any more. I said: “You know what, I’m just gonna let myself really feel, this heaviness and sadness. If it stays, it stays. If it goes, it goes. I just don’t care any more.” Little did I know that this was my breakthrough moment.
I gave myself permission to stay fully in that heaviness and lethargy. I refused to move. I would not move away from the emotion and the physical feeling, nor would I move physically—except for bathroom breaks of course. And trust me, those walks to the bathroom took a long time! Depression never likes to move fast! So, I just sat in it and sat with it. I gave it my full and undivided attention. I let the energy within me just be itself.
And after a time, a long time, a funny thing happened. A weird and wonderful thing. An amazing and delicious thing. The energy went ahead and shifted itself! It just left, of its own accord! I was like: “No way! Where did it go?! Hey energy, where did you go?!” In its place was a sense of peace and calm that felt otherworldly. I was in a deeply restful and relaxed state, and that state had appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
Now this is the part in the story when the enlightened ones usually say: “And that feeling of peace and calm has never left.” Well, unfortunately, I wasn’t an enlightened one, or should I say fortunately? Because that feeling did leave. But that was fine too.
You see, that was the real breakthrough! For me, my “deepening” came in the form of an inner awareness that said: all states come and go. They wish to be fully felt and expressed, and then released to go freely on their way. They don’t want to be held onto, clung onto, blocked, or rejected. They just want to be felt. And it is only when they are not given this freedom that trouble occurs.
Don’t get me wrong—I am, generally, in a better feeling place most of the time these days. But that “better feeling place” has emerged because I don’t feel a need to hang on to any one state. I don’t try to force myself to be positive, nor do I over-indulge my negative. If I’m cranky, I’m cranky and let it pass. If I’m happy, I’m happy and let it pass.
If my bitchy side wants an outlet I give it a healthy outlet—an outlet that doesn’t involve abusing another person. I can give full vent with no one within earshot, but I know my venting it just that: venting. I know the bitchiness isn’t about another person and what they did or didn’t do. It’s about an energy that wants affirmation.
If my angry side needs expression, then I let it express itself—within reason. I don’t over-indulge it, nor do I ignore it. That way, it doesn’t have to build and build and come out as an explosion, or worse, turn inwards and start eating away at itself.
If feelings of heaviness and lethargy start to come, I notice and affirm them. Hello heaviness! Hello lethargy! You’re back. How are you, loves? Come in. Take a seat. Have a cup of tea. If I’m feeling unsociable, as if people are getting on my nerves, then I let myself really feel that feeling and give myself the space I need.
You see, I know my emotional state in that moment is not about other people. It’s about an energy that needs expression. It’s about a desire that’s emerging within me. It’s about a need to love myself and then love myself even more. It’s about giving myself total permission to just be, me.
So I can say truthfully now that depression and I are no longer lovers. We’re actually friendly acquaintances who meet up from time to time to have a catch up. We enjoy our catch ups, but they are usually quite short-lived and we say goodbye with a kiss and a hug. And I’d say that was quite a healthy “ex-relationship!”
Emerging from the depths has come to mean a total acceptance of the depths, breadths, and fullness—of myself. It has come to be the most freeing and beautiful experience, based on a recognition that true peace accepts everything; and embraces it all.