I have this fantastic Tuesday morning meditation group and we talk about all sorts of things like our week and our experiences, but mostly the focus is on helping them to get into balance with what is going on in their lives.
One of the topics that comes up is their outer projections on the world around them and how they feel about themselves.
Today we talked about depression and the stigma that goes with it. Almost everyone in the group had experienced depression at some time and all agreed that it wasn’t particularly pleasant. What the group however didn’t know and realise was that depression is actually a positive sign – a side effect of being in a relatively good space and the body using that opportunity to do something about old issues and heal.
Depression is defined as feelings of being sad, miserable or low for either a short period, or in the case of clinical depression for a longer period of time. It tends to make people want to withdraw and participate less in life, or can create erratic or excessive behaviour to cover up the feelings of being sad. It has many causes such as diet, trauma (job loss, death of a loved one, a relationship ending), side effects from medication or as a result of another illness so it requires a little bit of sleuth work to determine from where the depression may originate.
Historically, I believed depression to be a bad experience – one to be resisted and avoided through keeping busy, maniacally trying to control my outer environment and through avoiding my trigger stimuli. However, all my training and more recent life experiences has turned thoughts and feelings about depression on its head. In order to become a therapist you must first go through hour own learning experience. I trained in three key practices – Mind Detox, Reiki healing and Equine Assisted Learning. Each of these gave me a fascinating insight into the mechanisms of depression and how it really wasn’t the bad experience that I had come to judge that it was.
First of all, Mind Detox taught me that all feelings and emotions in the body comes from beliefs. If I have the belief I should be loved (should is a judgemental word) and I wasn’t then I would create an experience I would likely try and resist. This belief is likely to create an emotion, in my case it was sadness, and I will go through life looking to find more and more reasons to prove my belief right. Go back via the Mind Detox Method to determine that belief and emotion I can see that despite not being loved as much as I might have liked, I was loved enough to still be here and that whole belief system isn’t serving me so I can choose to change it to something else like “well done me, I survived and have come good even though times were tough, I rock!”
The Reiki taught me a lot about creating a safe and supportive space for people that are going through difficult experiences. It also taught me that all positive experiences come from a place of love, so by providing that space of love for myself and others I created an environment in which I would thrive and I would be able to heal and provide healing to others, whatever that journey was.
Finally, the Equine Facilitated Learning taught me about authenticity. Unlike humans, horses don’t have well developed egos. If a horse feels down they have no qualms in showing it. This fearless authenticity opens up a space for others to share and express how they really feel. It’s not uncommon for those with hidden challenges to express their emotion to a non-judgemental horse in a way they never would to a human. Horses also value balance, so given a choice and the offending stimulus removed, a horse does not stay depressed for long. They are fantastic self-regulators and have no issues asking their herd or humans for healing or for help.
In order to restore ourselves to balance when we experience depression we must address the cause of our depression. If it is emotional, this requires us to feel our sadness fully so the imbalance may be acknowledged and dealt with. This could be a change in our thinking, or receiving the positivity, love and nurture required not experienced at the time to offset a difficult experience.
Seeing as symptoms of depression only come up when the body is in a position to heal they are actually something to be grateful for. Far more worrying is the person that pushes themselves hard to ignore how they are feeling that ultimately ends up in a far worse way. You wouldn’t ignore a warning light on your car or a rapidly extending mountain of debt, so why ignore your accumulating sadness and ignore your mental health? Trust me, I’ve tried – it doesn’t go away!
There is also a positive side to the way depression makes us behave. It forces us to retreat within, which stops us from experiencing more harmful stimuli. It is also a sign to our tribe around us that we are hurt and in need of help and love. In the horse herd, depression is treated by other horses staying close, mutual grooming and extra attention from the most nurturing mares. It is a herd responsibility to deal with the emotional wellbeing within the herd as survival depends on it. Now contrast that with how some humans treat and reject depression – ouch!! Depression is difficult enough, let alone when you add an extra burden to it by labelling it as bad.
And this is why I ask, do you practice self-compassion? When you are depressed and down, do you love yourself enough to stop and deal with those feelings of sadness? Do you know when something is bigger than what you can handle on your own and let others know you are in need of their kindness? Or do you judge yourself and say you have failed and it to the list of things that make you feel down?
In my experience, as people work through their sadness and put their light of consciousness on it the depression eases and their symptoms naturally go. For some this is a small task, and for others it is larger. What is left is a deeper sense of strength and an inner resilience.
I have a lot of respect for anyone that is willing to deal with their reasons for depression because I know how much courage that takes. What I hope I have done today is taken away a little bit of the myth that depression is bad and something to be ashamed of, and that there is no one out there that understands or would help. It is true, no one has had your unique experience of depression except you – you are special in that sense, but there are others out there that understand its mechanism and what the body is trying to tell you and that want and know you can be well. My entire mission in life is to create a safe space so that others and I may heal.
So make it a mission to practice self-compassion, which is patience and loving kindness to yourself and wherever necessary reach out for help. Depression isn’t just your problem, its responsibility actually lies with everyone.