When I see exuberant people who seem so full of energy and luster for life, I wonder if they’ve ever felt weighed down by depression. One or two people who I view as role models in the mental health world admit they’ve never had the experience of feeling crippled by fear/anxiety or being bogged down by existential sadness. (Imagine!, I think. Never feeling depressed or anxious?! What a reality!). Indeed, we are born with different brain chemistry. I could wonder “why” I am like I am; but ultimately, I find it most helpful to appreciate that I am uniquely me so that I may offer specific gifts to the world that unfold because of the life-struggles I endure.
Here, I’d like to share a snippet of a journal entry that emerged when I decided to explore through writing and yoga the root of uprising feelings of anxiety and depression that have reared their heads this post-holiday season.
Leading up to these paragraphs, I spent a few pages writing about personal experiences at work and frustrations/questions about the future. Also, a sorting through of reasons why I’ve felt resistant to finding a therapist, wondering how to “help myself” with the tools I have. In deciding to put my tools into action, this is when I experienced a breakthrough, which is shared here:
In an instant, I’m out of my funk and onto the floor, in reclined hero’s pose (one of my favorite asanas to lounge in, which I haven’t done as much lately). I breathe. I feel. I scan my body. Instead of creating stories around the emotions, I dive into the somatic experience of them. I try to disconnect from labeling things as “anxiety” and “depression,” and instead just feel the flow of energy in all its expansion and contraction and tingling and settling. It’s like diving into a dark, swirling pool, vast and spacious.
I lay reclined, back slightly arched, waist extended, heart open. My arms reach overhead along the floor, in a state of surrender. Urges to “do” are invited to ease along on their way, passing through my mind and onward into the ether.
Dive into the discomfort, I coax myself. My body feels a sigh of relief, but my mind feels tense around a feeling. I wait… and observe… and invite with curiosity whatever thoughts might underly the mental contraction.
I sense this despairing feeling was stirred up by an earlier inquiry, “Well, what are you going to do with your life, huh?” Anxiety, stress, fear of not-enoughness. Then a small, loud voice cries from within, like a scared little girl; overwhelmed by the enormity of such a question, she declares in desperation, “I don’t want to do it! I don’t want to be here! This is terrifying! I cannot do it!” She is so deeply true in her desire to be— dare I say it?—dead, instead of trying to figure out all this earthly insanity.
This voice is familiar. I remember her wailing in the forefront of my psyche for who-knows-how-long, through my young adult life and through my twenties, and still now she dwells here within me. I remember breaking down beneath the despair of this thought many times in my past, wondering, “What is wrong with me? How do people seem to be doing so well, when this fear is so palpable within me?” Of late I haven’t been so familiar with her presence, but here she is, crying out to be recognized. Pleading to be held.
In the past, I’ve let myself embody this scared little girl (which looked something horrifying to loved ones who witnessed it, I’m sure). But this time, something shifts. In an instant, I feel a sweeping warmth of love, of compassion, expanding through my being. I weep, not out of fear, but out of deep love for this part of me. The loving glow envelopes her, and a resounding message overflows, “Oh, darling, I feel your pain. I know it is so much to bear. But I am here for you. Always. You are safe. You are loved– just exactly as you are.”
I lay on the floor in a timeless state. Basking in this glow like the embrace of a cosmic Mother, the little girl is soothed. And my witnessing self is overcome with the awareness that this is a breakthrough from an old pattern, a beautiful little flower that has pushed its way through the cold earth of a darker season. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I whisper.
My prayer is that in sharing this experience, others who are experiencing mental and emotional struggles will realize there is hope. There is Grace. It is already there. The truth of who we are is love and joy and bliss. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this. When life feels impossible and pointless, we can gently remind ourselves to have faith that Yes, only love is real.
If you are seeking guidance, please reach out: CourtneyShakti@gmail.com