I’ve had depressive and anxious tendencies for most of my adult life. It’s something I’ve done my best to hide from others, as it creates feelings of deep shame, separation and loneliness in me.
This past week, I couldn’t hide. I was feeling depressed and in deep pain, and in the midst of this pain, I made a big, embarrassing mistake. (Listen to the audio blog that explains…)
When I realized what I’d done, I was tempted to hide and lie. I wanted to cover up my mistake, to make myself look good, to make it look like normal human error. But I decided to speak the truth. And to keep telling it – which is why you’re reading about it here.
I’ve stayed silent about my depression for a very long time, for fear that if anyone knew what went on in my head, if anyone knew how much I struggle on a regular basis to get through a day, they would reject me. They would avoid me, in the way that we often avoid anything painful, lest the depression be contagious.
The fear of rejection goes even deeper, to the passion I have for writing and speaking – something that is as essential to who I am as breathing. On the deepest level, I fear that I’m too fragile to teach, to speak, to write, to share what I’ve learned. This is what fear whispers in my ear: If I shared how I really feel, then my dreams will go up in a puff of smoke.
A few years ago, I went on anti-depressant medication. Usually, it makes a tremendous difference. And yet it took me over 10 years of resistance to finally accept that my depression wasn’t going to go away on its own, or only with natural remedies. It took me 10 years of misery to finally accept that, if I want to thrive, I have to take a tiny blue pill every day.
And then it took me several more years of resistance to take the pill regularly. Yes, there were some side effects that were frustrating. But that wasn’t the real issue. The real reason I wanted to stop taking my medication (doing the very thing that kept me well) was that taking the pill made me feel flawed. It was a daily reminder of how broken I was. I wanted to take the medicine for a few months, be healed, and then be fixed – no more medication. Whammo! I wanted to be done with the healing and be a perfectly together person who is perfectly healthy and whole.
I felt ashamed that I had to keep taking that pill – as if I were broken and in need of repair – to thrive. It was hard for me to accept that taking the pill everyday is what creates the healing. It’s the same mindset that wanted me to think that I could stop eating sugar temporarily and I’d be healed (and be able to go back to eating sugar, but this time, without any negative side effects.)
In depression and with food – and really anything that keeps us physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually whole – I’ve learned over and over again that the care is the cure.
I had this mistaken belief that I “shouldn’t” need the medication – that if only I ate super healthy, and took the right supplements, and meditated more, and did yoga – or if I were more like Eckhart Tolle or Byron Katie or some other super spiritual person – I would be healed. I felt like the depression and anxiety was all my fault, that I should be able to prevent it. That I should be able to fix it. That I should be able to control it.
It’s been really humbling to get to such a deep place of surrender to realize that I may never change it. That it may never go away. That it may always be there.
And deep, deep down, that it’s not my fault. What if my depression and anxiety just is, in the way that someone has blue eyes, or a love of people, or a thirst for adventure? Or, perhaps more accurately, in the way someone may have poor digestion, and someone else may have to watch their blood sugar?
What’s interesting is that when I drop the “should” and accept that I have depressive and anxious tendencies, my resistance lowers. I stop blaming myself for my pain. I stop shoulding all over myself. I stop fighting against myself. I feel sad or anxious and it’s okay.
I also take better care of myself, which makes the depression more manageable. I’m ironically more able to care for myself and stop pushing myself like someone who is superhuman – in other words, I act kindly, wisely, and lovingly towards myself when I stop fighting against the depression. And this is what softens the depression and heals it a bit.
This weekend, I accepted what I most dislike about myself – my depression and anxiety – and what I’ve most wanted to change. I found such sweetness in my surrender, because I stopped telling myself, in so many words, “It’s all your fault.”
Instead, I said, “You’re hurting. I care about your suffering. Let me care for you.”
And I wept in the face of such kindness.