A client shared with me recently about her intense depression episodes that she is currently having. She has hardly slept for the last few weeks.
Her family and friends are helpless. She sees doctors who tell her what to do and takes pills that disconnect her even more from her body.
The range of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse is wide. Recent studies show globally 300 million people are affected by depression, women more than men. I assume the estimated number of unreported cases is much higher.
For many people it’s hard to understand the suffering she is going through – but I have been there!
From the outside, my life looked perfect. I was 28, physically healthy and very beautiful. I had a leadership position at the Federal Employment Agency in Germany, a loving boyfriend, family, friends, a nice decorated apartment, a new fancy car and enough money.
But inside I was completely frustrated, empty, and really sad. There was no joy or pleasure in my life at all. I was miserable and deeply questioning the meaning of life.
For the previous 15 years, I had tried hard to fill my lack of self-esteem with diets or overeating, shopping, partying, abuse of alcohol and drugs, co-dependency in relationships, and over-working. My body had already given me clear signs for a couple of years to change something, but I didn’t listen.
I had recurring abdominal pain and dizziness without any physical cause. Due to constant stress and being in fight or flight mode, I had severe tensions in my head, neck and shoulders.
My energy was low and I experienced sleep disorders, which resulted in social disconnection. I had an endless lethargy, especially feeling tired of life in general.
I saw various doctors, I went for talk therapy, I took time off to slow down, I went on medication. I did it all!
I lived from weekend to weekend, from holiday to holiday, from one little moment of release to the next. Those times of breathing didn’t take away the huge pressure of shame, judgement and the negative picture I had about myself.
“What is wrong with me?,” I thought. “Why I am not able to do what I should do? Why can others do it and I simply can’t? Am I crazy? Who am I?”
Who am I? That is actually a question of awakening.
That could have been my shortcut into the light, but my soul chose to go even deeper into the dark. I had no tools, no spiritual connection and no real emotional support. No one around me had been there before.
I felt like an alien in this little town in the east part of Germany. I tried to be “normal” by paying the price of extreme suffering.
This is what western medicine actually does, trying to bring you back to “normal”. And that is fine for severe cases or phases where people feel the desire to let go of life.
But the truth is, you can’t go back to “normal”! What life actually wants you to do is to wake up.
Are you trying to play god?
I tried again and again to fit into this boxes, compared myself to others who lived around me. And I see many people trying hard and struggling.
I knew people who took their lives because the pressure became to strong, they were ashamed of not fulfilling their own values and expectations. And of course this had been projected onto them earlier in life and from society as well.
Each year, 34,000 people commit suicide, about one death per 15 minutes. By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world’s leading cause of disability and death, according to the World Health Organization.
I remember that day when I collapsed. Looking back I feel so grateful, as this was a new beginning.
I was sitting in my grey office as I had every day for the last ten years. I handled countless document and papers, deciding about peoples’ financial situations and lives, who had often like myself, lost passion and purpose in life.
I found myself in a poisoned mud of superficial safety, thinking that this is what life is all about, and what I will do for the rest of my years on this planet.
A huge dark cloud came from above and melted over my head, my body and my soul. It left me with an emptiness I had never experienced before. I surrendered, without knowing what this meant.
Later I learned that the beauty about surrender is that you don’t actually know what you are surrendering to.
As in a trance state I closed my countless emails, shut down my computer while witnessing the two screens becoming black, almost as a reflection of my own inner state of being. I left the incredible amounts of paperwork and complaints behind, without worrying about who would take care of them and what would happen to my already stretched co-workers.
I asked my workmate to drive me home, and for the first time in my life I took care of myself.
What followed were the most horrible weeks of my life. Deep depressions, one week without sleep, but the hardest were the thoughts and perceptions I had about myself.
There was the shame of having failed, mixed up with the fear of dying, and actual thoughts of taking my life. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.
Looking back, I was dying. A part of my ego died in order for my soul to expand.
Further I felt a huge loneliness. No one could understand me, my family and friends were helpless. Suddenly I didn’t fit in the system anymore.
I had fear about the future. What should I do?
At some point I began to accept what is. The doctors told me to move, so I rode my bike every day through the dark green forest. Connecting with Mother Nature gave me a small sense of trust.
I had no choice. Even if a part of me at that point still thought of going back one day to this job, to this life, a part of my higher self already knew that this was impossible. I had hit the ground and either I could stay there or wake up.
I had to learn the hard way! My experience was a mix of resignation, guilt, worthlessness and complete emotional numbness.
I took my first yoga class. There was only one woman teaching yoga where I lived. The main participants where women in their 60s. Yoga gave me something to do and the postures and breathing calmed my nervous system down. Right from the beginning I felt a sense of connection to this ancient practice.
After a couple of months of running from one doctor and therapist to the next, desperately looking for help, I realized painfully that no one could help me apart from myself.
This was my wake up call. I finally took responsibility for own self.
I said yes to a holiday invitation of my partner at that time. This man was just amazing and so supportive during the whole process.
I’m not sure if I could have done it without him and I am forever grateful. Living together with a depressed person is not an easy task.
So I found my empty soul 24 hours later in a plane to the Caribbean. The flight was turbulent, but I was ready to die.
And as the cruise ship turned in the sunset of the harbour of this beautiful island, I sensed a shift in my own consciousness. As the stars and the sparkling cabin lights melted with the ocean, I sensed a spark of light in my own heart.
Finally after four months, I could see a small light at the end of this endless dark tunnel. I tasted hope, faith and meaning in this warm tropical night.
After this holiday I decided to do group therapy. Looking back it was kind of weird. But it helped me to be with people who were going through the same things as I was. Seeing the world with similar eyes.
It helped me to learn to talk about my experiences, my emotions, and the world inside of me. For the first time, I felt somehow received and understood.
It took me another five months and a rehab to finally leave that job and my old self behind, and go on a precious adventure to explore who I am and what truly makes me happy; not someone else.
Awakening is a process that is not always pretty and easy. But I choose to not go back to sleep, and I regret nothing.
Depression means that your vital life force energy, which is basically your sexual energy, has turned against you. Not to kill you, but to wake you up.
To awaken is to see what is an illusion and to come back to who you truly are. It’s an experience of awakening that in our western society is often misunderstood and wrongly treated as sickness or something bad.
As I am writing, my heart is full of love and compassion and goes out to all people who suffer from mental health issues as well as their families. I hope these words will be seen by the ones who need to read them, and help the ones who are ready to wake up.
I couldn’t shine my light as I do today if I hadn’t tasted the dark so painfully.
I’m far away from giving any advice, as everyone’s situation is different. But I invite you to open up to the possibility that there is a bright light that wants to unfold within all of the darkness you may feel inside of you right now.
And all I want you to do is to remember and trust in the process. Know that you are not alone and that it's going to be ok.