The Despair of Depression
For anyone that has depression, you know the feelings. The emptiness. Feeling completely alone, even if you’re surrounded by people. Despair. I had what I would call “working” depression. I was able to get up, go to work, put on a smile, interact with others. But inside I felt like I was.. suffocating. Trapped. Drowning in an energetic thick, black goo. Most people don’t want to know about it. Most people, on a regular basis, will say, “Hi, how are you?” and expect to hear the same automatic response of, “Good, how are you?” To say anything else would skew the norm and most people can’t handle that. They don’t want to hear that you are hurting inside even though everything looks fine on the outside. That the world is constantly closing in on you.
“You have so much going for you. Look on the bright side of things. Be grateful for the life you have. Snap out of it. Try being positive. Change your outlook.” All these things are great. But only those who have actually experienced depression know it’s not that easy. I don’t want to feel despair, sadness, emptiness. It’s just there.
Knowing that I didn’t want to do anything rash, I decided to give myself one more year. My plan was if I still felt the same after a year, I would take my gun and my Jeep, go into the woods and shoot myself in the head. I started searching. Looking for answers to my question- does this really make sense? Am I completely sure this is the path I want to take? I denounced religion several years ago, so it wasn’t an option to “pray and fast” or read “the good book”.
I had recently come across a flyer for a new yoga studio with an offer for new students. I had done yoga at home with videos in the past and I knew that it had made me feel a little better. I mustered up the courage to go. Initially it was mostly for exercise. It felt good to stretch and to focus on activating muscles that had been dormant. I felt energized. I read about the various classes offered at the studio- vinyasa, hatha, restorative, and found one class in particular was quite different from the rest. It was called LIFEYOGA. Intrigued, I read everything on the LIFEYOGA website. It felt different. It felt like more. It was. During my first class, I learned about energy. Not just “feeling energized” but actually experiencing it physically, within my own body, my meat sack, my bag of bones. I experienced, for the first time in a long time, truly being in tune with and connected to my Self. Lynne explained how to, in an instant, connect breath and energy, to connect Self with Life and how it is all intertwined. Fascinating!
Choices: Live or Die?
Shortly after attending my first class with Lynne Gardner , a cherished family member sent me a gift of the book LIFEYOGA Manifesto. It’s a difficult read. I read and reread chapters, each time gaining more clarity and understanding of the concepts within. I pondered. Life. Energy. Breath. Release. Transformation. Connection. Body. Soul. I wondered, is it possible to will oneself to die? To will the soul to escape the body, or to will the heart to stop? I focused on this concept, read about such possibilities. I determined that if that is a real possibility, it would only be attainable if my thoughts and energy shifted away from the energy of depression and despair. Hmmph. Fine. That’s not the answer I “thought” I wanted. Nonetheless, it was an answer. Ok.
Although I was only able to make it to two LIFEYOGA classes, I attended other yoga classes frequently during my new student one month pass. But I was met with heavy resistance at home. “You’re being selfish. Taking time away from the family. Now I have to make dinner and take care of the kids by myself.´ It hurt. Yoga was something I knew I not only enjoyed, but something I needed. It was clearing the fog of depression. And I was made to feel like I was wrong or a bad person for doing it.
I sank back into the depression hole. I had briefly experienced some relief from those feelings and instead of being encouraged and supported, I was resisted against, discouraged. “I don’t deserve it. Just bury your head again. Comply. Endure. Go back to just existing,” my head told me. So I did. Four months went by. Time was ticking. I was nearly halfway through my year and I still felt the same desire to stop living. But somewhere within, deep within, underneath that mountain of black goo, a tiny speck of my Self still shined. It nagged, urged me to fight for life. To take a stand for my Self and return to yoga.
I fought. I explained why I needed to go. For the first time ever, I was able to verbally admit my depression, talk about the suicidal thoughts that raced through my head every day, shouting at me from every direction. For me, this was a major feat. I’ve read stories, watched and heard others talk of their “struggle with depression”. Buzz words. Buzz phrase. I could never bring myself to openly verbalize those feelings; the farthest I had ever gone was to make vague references. I’m honestly not sure what had changed, but something had. Perhaps from my experience in the LIFEYOGA class?
I returned to the studio and signed up for six months. Six months. That will just about coincide with my one year mark. Perfect. I attended as often as I felt “allowed” to go. I was still discouraged and criticized for going, but I went. I didn’t get to go to LIFEYOGA as often as I wanted to, but was able to make it once or twice a month. I applied the things I learned there to my other classes. Connecting with breath and energy, and more. Things I can’t explain fully, but I felt them.
Slowly I noticed I was feeling better. I regained interest in my hobbies. I felt desire. Mainly a desire to go to yoga, and gradually almost a desire to… live. The intense screaming thoughts of suicide began to subside to a dull murmur. Several months in, a friend mentioned going to a meditation class. I’ve never been able to meditate. My mind would wander, I would get sleepy or distracted and never got anything out of it. But my friend wanted to go and I was excited at the idea of sharing this treasure of the studio with someone. The studio offered one weekly meditation and it was late in the evening. There were numerous excuses that swarmed around my head, “reasons” why not to go. Self nagged again. Go to meditation.
I was hesitant. Because of previous failed attempts at meditating. Because of the “reasons”. On the day I finally committed myself to go, my friend wasn’t able to make it. I was disheartened, but I went to my usual yoga class right before meditation and stayed. Feeling guilty and bad that I would be home late, I stayed. Another friend (and teacher at the studio) was staying too! I trust and admire her deeply; knowing I’m “not alone” relief washed away my concerns. It was unlike any other experience with meditating I have had. I breathed. I chanted words I did not understand but knew were full of power. I could feel, sense, almost see the energy. Swirling, dancing in, around and through me. Through me. To breathe in energy and feel it pass through me on a microscopic level. In that instant a whole new and different world became available. And accessible. What was once a locked door was now wide open for me to walk through freely.
Fighting to Live
Winter began to set in. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s easy to succumb to depression. Depression pushed at me. This time I pushed back. I fought. I continued to attend yoga several times a week. It was a struggle. The “struggle with depression”. What I learned and experienced in meditation and LIFEYOGA took a backseat to Depression. Some days I had to force myself to go. Some days depression won. But I continued to push back. I started seeing physical results; slimmer body, definition in my muscles, how previously difficult postures were becoming easier, better circulation in my extremities. This was the encouragement I needed and I used it to get me through the icy chilling months.
The resistance from home was intense. “You’ve been going to yoga for months and we aren’t seeing the results. You want less and less to do with anyone else but yourself”. Very much a “what’s in it for me” attitude. I agreed that no results were being shown. I wasn’t showing them because not only was I not being encouraged, but I was being discouraged and criticized. I am not going to show my happiness, my Self, when it is just going to be castoff or chastised. The fight at home subsided after that. Not much further was spoken, but there was still the energy and feelings of indignation towards my yoga practice. depression suicide yoga.
One day the internal battle was overwhelming. I dragged myself to yoga. By the end of the class I was sobbing. Literally sobbing, uncontrollably. In a room full of people I don’t know. My friend/teacher saw me sobbing (actually I think everybody saw…) and came to me after class and we talked. I felt so loved. I cherish her. She was inspired to share with me a book, The Alchemist. I devoured it. Read it cover to cover in two days. Then read it again in a single day. I uncovered a major piece in the puzzle of life. How important it is to follow your dreams and pursue what makes you not just happy, but truly fulfilled.
Winning the Battle to Choose Life
The words from that book rang in my ears for weeks. What is my purpose? What is my Personal Legend? What gifts do I have that bring me true, pure joy and peace that I can let shine, share with others and even inspire others to find their purpose and their Personal Legend?
The end of my year was approaching. The thoughts of suicide were becoming less and less frequent. But they were still there, looming in the background. Knowing I’m not quite ready, I once again picked up the Manifesto. I started over from the beginning, reading slowly, internalizing and doing my best to apply the concepts. I agreed to give my Self an “extension” on my year limit. I dove deeper into yoga. Into feeling yoga; feeling and experiencing my Self.
I sensed that meditating was another major piece in the puzzle, somehow fusing together the LIFEYOGA concepts and my yoga practice. Following what I had learned from that single class, I meditated on my own and I soon realized something greatly profound. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. My mind was still, and without question or doubt I accepted and welcomed LIFE into my Be-ing.
The screaming of suicide was silenced. Depression was losing the battle; I was winning the battle. Major victory! I felt liberated. Despite the turmoil and angst at home, I began to feel peace. A calmness I can’t fully express in words, only in feeling. The fight within was subsiding. The fight from my beloved became easier to dismiss, to step aside it and let it pass on by.
With my new found sense of Self and a real desire to live, I continued my yoga practice. Each class, I focused on varying aspects of my life. Physical strength. Clearing out the black goo. Peace. Maintaining connection to source energy. Breath. Calming the mind. I meditated again. And again. I discovered that as I continued my meditation, and my yoga, my mind became clearer and clearer. Like the day after a heavy snowfall, when the air is crisp, the world is still and peaceful, beautiful and pristine, when you can see immense detail in everything around you. That kind of clarity. That kind of peace. Inner peace. More buzz words. But I finally experienced what those words really mean. I’ve heard about the search for inner peace for decades. Yeah, yeah, inner peace. Eye roll. But to truly be in those words.. is breathtaking.
Yoga Saved My Life
I wanted to live. And once again, questions arose. But they were new questions. “Do I really want to die?” was replaced with “what is my purpose? What do I offer to this world?” Meditate. My mind still and quiet, I asked. I didn’t force my Self to “snap out of it” or “change my outlook”. I couldn’t. I’ve tried before to force it and always found myself still stuck in the same pile of goo, sometimes even deeper than before I had tried. It was a progression of nature. It just happened. I released into it and it happened. I was so at ease, it so quickly became my new normal that it only recently dawned on me that the suicide thoughts were gone. Replaced with silence. Peace. The desire to die replaced with the desire to live, to create, to Be.
Yoga saved my life.
For reasons of her own, the author would like to remain anonymous. If you or a friend is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts or considerations, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Yoga Saved My Life" as the subject line. Do not hesitate, compassion and understanding awaits.