I suffer from depression, and have for as long as I can remember. It comes and goes, and rarely stops me from leading a functioning life. My depression is more like a persistent weight on my spirit, one that I can't quite lift off or get out from under. I can go for long stretches without feeling burdened by depression, and I've even had times when I thought I was done with it. But when it arrives again (and if I'm honest with myself about what's happening) my depression is still quite painful.
It's incredibly difficult to be honest about the return of my depression each time it happens because I'm not in the habit. Instead, I've been trying to push depression out of my life for ... ever. Each time I feel depressed again, I get so angry at "it" (my depression) for still being there.
And it's especially frustrating because when I'm in the midst of my depression, it feels as if nothing I have ever done — the years of diet changes, supplements, meditation, healing work — has made any difference. It's as if I haven't changed at all. I think to myself, Here I am, back where I started. And I want to get the hell out of here.
A few things have come clear about my most recent dive into the darkness. The first is that there is wisdom in being depressed. It causes me to question my life — every corner of it. And I think my life needs some healthy skepticism now and then, if only to realize that I haven't been doing all the things I know help my body-mind-spirit.
As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche puts it, "Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it ... Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression ... It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden."
As a healer, I'm embarrassed to even admit the persistence of my "unsatisfied state of being." I've been working with clients on loving and healing the unwanted parts of themselves. I teach meditation practices on sending those parts loving kindness. And yet I had never been able to do this with my depression.
Why? Because I never truly accepted it. Because it has always felt like it was in the way of who I really am. While I've tried to dive into my depression, to experience it fully and learn from it, I was doing so as a way of getting rid of it.
Yet a few weeks back, it hit me hard: this is where I am. It doesn't matter how many times I've been here, or whether or not I'll feel my depression again in the future. I am where I am today.
So I began further questioning: How can I love my depression, and see it as an old, grumpy family member that can share some wisdom with me? How can I accept this unwanted part of myself? And this is when all that work I had previously discarded comes into play. This is when I realize how far I really have come as I re-enter the place I started from.
In my work, it thrills me to see so many people beginning the journey to wake up, and walk through this world in a mindful way. So many of us have a really aggressive voice inside of our heads that tell us that we still aren't good enough, no matter what path we're on. We tend to think there's always a way to be better, in all areas of our lives. And so this attitude can spill over into our healing. We turn this aggression toward our healing process: we seek "fixing" by trying to remove these unwanted pieces from ourselves.
We talk of self-acceptance, but most of us have that part that we desperately want to get rid of. For me, that has been depression. There are many ways to work with this, but I've found that we have to find a way to accept those unwanted parts of ourselves and love them. Fully and without an underlying agenda to get rid of them. With the gentleness and kindness of a mother. Bringing ourselves back to love again and again and again.
We are the only ones disapproving of ourselves. So let's let the voice of disapproval go. Even my depression is part of my basic goodness, and I can allow it a seat at my table, too.