It’s like a wave that takes you down and holds you under with an unshakable grip while you claw at the water gasping for air until you’re down there so long that you start to give up, believing you are going die.
Then just as suddenly as it came, the clouds part and the seas become placid once again, and you calmly swim to shore safely watching the ocean tides flow in and out, so grateful for the view.
Depression is such a difficult and taboo topic to discuss because around it there exists so much stigma and shame. I have spent so much time thinking that there is something wrong with me, that I must be broken. Embarrassed, I withdraw from the world and quietly struggle until I can come up for air.
I am writing this because I want you to know that you are not alone.
I have had significant bouts of depression for as long as I can remember, ranging from days to months in duration. During these times, sadness and hopelessness overwhelm me and I can't see a way out. I isolate myself, unable to answer phone calls and emails because I can’t fake it and I don’t want to explain myself. I hold my breath and wait until the light can finally guide me back.
When I was younger I tried everything from anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to food, alcohol, and drugs. In the end, all these provided for me was a brief escape from the pain only to leave me in deeper darkness as I came back to myself. That’s when I realized that the only way out is to go through the pain, to stay in the fire and allow it to transform me. What kept me alive through all of it was yoga. If I could only get my body on my mat I knew I would be okay. My mat became my loyal companion, a sacred space of self-exploration where I started to cultivate a deep level of self-awareness and began to excavate and let go of so many things that were holding me down.
Yoga was and is one of the most transformational healing modalities I have worked with and as I began to grow and shed the countless layers of self hatred, I felt deeply called to become a teacher myself. If I can help even one person in the same way that I have been helped, I will be fulfilled.
I experienced my most severe case of depression right after I graduated from college. I knew I needed to align myself with health and wellness in order to heal and blossom and it was then that I felt the call to teach.
With the love and support of my family, I quit my job, sold my belongings, and in a matter of weeks was in India at my first teacher training. Over the course of my training I began to feel something shifting inside me, I was coming back to life little by little. After my training was complete, I set out on my own, and led by faith I spent the next few months travelling all throughout India, continuing to evolve. It was the adventure of a lifetime. I ended up at Maha Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh, a festival that happens every 12 years, where tens of millions of people go to cleanse their karma and be released from the cycle of birth and death. I arrived at the festival in the afternoon, slept under a bridge and in the morning did my puja and bathed in the Ganges with thousands of other pilgrims.
When I eventually returned home, I stayed in a living room for five months in a two-bedroom apartment shared by three guys while I slowly built my career as a yoga teacher. What I found over the next few years was that there is no quick fix to depression. Just because I had become a yogi and dedicated my life to inner excavation, that didn't mean I would never be sad or have a bad day. In the years since then I have had depressive episodes but now it is a completely different experience. I never take my joy for granted for I am all too well acquainted with her dearest companion, sorrow.
I used to believe that experiencing depression made me weak, but now I see it as a superpower. The pain I feel allows me empathize with the human struggle and have great compassion for others who are suffering. Depression has been my teacher, forcing me to slow down so that I can see the things that are not working and make the necessary changes. It has shaped the course of my life and carved a path of healing for myself and others. Without experiencing depression I may never have made the commitment to a lifestyle of adventure, wellness and personal growth.
So remember, you are not alone, you are not broken, you are stronger than you can even fathom and this too shall pass...
Someone once told me that if you're lucky enough you will die many times within this life, not a death of the physical body, but of the ego. It is when the ego dies that we can experience oneness and eternal life.