How to distinguish YOU from your depression and anguish
“You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle.”
― Julian Seifter
There have been times in my life when I felt deeply resentful towards people who had what I would call an ‘easy’ life.
People who don’t struggle with being in their heads All.The.Time. and who have never known what it’s like to want to leave the world because it just feels way too hard and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of the anguish.
People who haven’t endured trauma that changes you forever.
People who have lived seemingly sheltered lives and never come across ‘bad people’ or ‘bad things’ that would affect them deeply and leave them scarred.
People who think they can tell you what you need to do to ‘heal’ when they have no f*cking idea what it’s like to be you or to live this hell.
People who think they understand depression because they had a couple of off days once, so they presume that’s what you’re experiencing and they criticise you for not ‘getting over it’ or ‘just getting up and out there to do some exercise or something to make yourself feel better’ — when your body is frozen and weighted down by an inertia that feels like 20 weighted blankets are on top of you.
Depression isn’t a physical ailment that can be band-aided or symptomatically treated (physical ailments shouldn’t be either, because your body speaks your mind…but I digress).
When something lives as openly in your mind as depression does, a band aid approach just won’t cut it.
It’s the lens through which you perceive the world, so how can you separate your thoughts from anything?
You can’t just put a plaster-of-Paris cast on it and get on with life like you can with a broken bone.
A broken bone doesn’t constantly feed you a stream of stories of how useless you are, how little your presence in this life means to the rest of the world (or those around you), what a loser you are because you don’t have tons of friends or you don’t like to be in big crowds, how no-one would want to hear your sob story about how worthless you feel so don’t bother to ask for help (who wants to be around someone with a big black cloud around them? Who wants to have that cloud brought into their house?).
A broken bone can be lived with for the 6 weeks it takes to mend.
When I realised that I wasn’t a victim to depression; that I was in charge of how I responded to it and to the world, I began a journey back to myself.
I was gifted the book, Shift Happens by Robert Holden, in my early 20s, when I was deep in the throws of a severe clinical depression diagnosis.
A poem in Robert’s book stirred something in me, and even though I wasn’t quite ready to understand it, it sowed a seed that would grow into my eventual awakening to the concept that we are not our illness.
“That Which Suffers Is Not You”, was the chapter, which contained a poem that I wrote out in my book of inspirational and healing quotes and poems:
I am not an illness.
My symptoms are not who I am.
No single failure is my entire biography.
Mistakes are moments, not name plates.
Pain is an experience, not an identity.
That which suffers is not me.
Thoughts are just thoughts.
Fears are just fears.
Pain is transient.
The past is over.
Here’s what I have come to understand about my own experience with wanting to leave this world more times than I can count, despite having a life that many would give their eye-teeth for:
1. Realising that I’d been walking around with complex PTSD for 30 years was an eye-opener, and discovering that the ‘freeze’ response of the nervous system looks like depression — hence the weighted blanket reference (Disclaimer: I am not an expert on nervous system stuff, so don’t go quoting my observations — do your own research. Irene Lyon has a simple, informative video series that I believe everyone should watch).
2. If I was going to walk around comparing myself to everyone else and telling myself I was not worth anything, that would be a sure-fire way to spiral myself further down and in the opposite direction of where I so desperately wanting to be.
I would be perpetually in the struggle and in victimhood and placing my power outside of myself, instead of accepting where I was, doing what it took to re-pattern my nervous system, and allowing the path to healing to continue to open in front of me one step at a time; one day at a time.
3. Telling myself that this bad thing happened and I’m powerless to do anything about how it made me feel would definitely keep me trapped in pain and away from how my experience has sent something out into the world that could change things for thousands, if not the entire human race, by my doing something with it, by sharing it, by overcoming it and then inspiring hope in others…and that — if we get a little ‘out there’ and look at how from a soul perspective there are those who were brave enough NOT to choose a sheltered life in order to create ripples of change on the planet.
The divinity woven into the ‘bad thing’ is beyond what humans can comprehend, and acknowledging and understanding this holds the key to our liberation and that of humanity.
4. Claiming my ‘flaws’ as the things that were pointing me to my genius (what your unique thing is that you KNEW you wanted to contribute in the grander scheme of creating ‘heaven on Earth’), instead of criticising myself for not being enough of ‘this’ or enough of ‘that’ gave me a perspective shift that reframed how I viewed myself.
5. Realising that individuation is order of the day — not ‘herd mentality’ — and that I ‘belong’ by virtue of being part of God, not because I needed to be anything other than ME in my fullness to be contributing; that my not wanting to belong was my inner knowing telling me that belonging isn’t actually even a thing (just like worth isn’t).
Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, described individuation as the process of “transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious” so that the individual personality can be developed and cultivated.
6. Awakening to the idea that living mostly ‘in my head’ meant I had the capacity to ‘channel’ my magic through the energetic information receptor that is the brain, my game changed forever, and my mind started to become my greatest asset in creating a perception that life IS worth living and that I have the power to be, do and have anything I desire (if I pull up the will to do what it takes to make my dreams reality, to take the necessary action fed to me by my intuition, and to stay the course, NO MATTER WHAT, no matter how perilous the path appears).
Here’s what I know for sure:
I don’t need to resent people who haven’t ‘suffered’, because I don’t need to compare anymore (comparison comes from not being deeply rooted in Who We Are as God).
I don’t need to look to anyone else to validate who I am.
I don’t need to be like anyone else.
I don’t need to see the world like anyone else.
I don’t need to do things the way anyone else does them.
I don’t need to have had less traumatic experiences in order to live a drama-free life.
Everything I’ve lived has given me CLARITY beyond what I could have imagined about what it means to want to STAY in this world.
Everything I’ve lived has been woven with so much deep love (in its purest form as unconditional energetic tone of all creation) and divinity that none of it can be considered ‘traumatic’.
Everything I’ve lived helps others who are caught up in the ‘human condition’ to see that it is a self-imposed place of suffering that CAN be overcome.
What I — and all human beings — bring to this world is beyond what our human can begin to conceive. It is magnificent.
And it can only show itself when we make the decision to stop believing our human thoughts about not being anything other than ‘all that’.
‘All that’ feels much better than ‘worth less than nothing’.
I have discovered that reconnecting to yourself (or connecting for the very first time, if you have been in nervous system dis-regulation since birth) is a lifestyle, not a one-off cure.
There is no overnight fix. There is no silver bullet.
There is no right way or wrong way to traverse it.
The journey is as unique as you are.
But there is hope. There is a way out. It can be changed…with a commitment to show up for yourself in however small a way or big a way that you can in any NOW moment.
We can distinguish ourselves from our depression and anguish, and even though we may find ourselves in the thick of shutdown, or of immobility, or unwanted thoughts, or chronic anxiety, we are NOT our ailments.
Our power lies in never forgetting that we are more than flesh and blood and bone.