Travel light. Live light. Spread the light. Be the light.
- Yogi Bhajan
I love this quote. It sums up my aspiration for life and constantly reminds me to keep moving forwards. As someone who has spent a significant part of the past 10 years feeling my way through the depths of depression and anxiety and have come out the other side in one piece, I realise how hard it is for some to find lightness in this frantic world.
Navigating The Darkness: My Experience
For the past ten years I have suffered with bouts of anxiety which came and went fairly quickly. Then three years ago I hit an impressive height of anxiety and spiralled into a deep depression. I panicked several times a day, I found it hard to go to sleep and even harder to get up in the morning. I felt so slow and exhausted I barely had the energy to make it into work. I also had a brief fling with anxiety's uglier friend, paranoa which was pretty scary and left me feeling like I was going mad. I often thought people on the bus were going to stab me or follow me home and at one point I thought the pidgeons in the park were going to attack me - pretty crazy stuff!
I didn't really think much about the situation at the time, I was simply being swept up in it. It wasn't until my boyfriend at the time suggested I go to the doctor that I realised that something was quite wrong. Admitting I felt how I did was really tough. I felt ashamed, weak and scared to tell people what was going on with me. So I retreated inwards until I found myself crying in the doctors surgery feeling desperate and overwhelmed. I don't remember many of the details of when I was ill - it's really a blur of tears, ugly thoughts and darkness. I do remember my journey to reclaiming my life though and how much effort and work it was.
Going to the doctor was the first step in a long journey but an absolutely vital step to getting me through. I was prescribed anti-depressants (SSRI's) which were monitored weekly and increased several times. I would like to mention here that I felt a huge stigma attached to anti-depressants. Many people argue that doctors hand them out like sweets and that they don't work. I can tell you now that if I did not take those tablets then I would not be here today. I had many thoughts about ending it all and would often plan out in my head how I would do it. This is the first time I have spoken about it so frankly. It makes me sad to think I was that desperate but even sadder to realise how ashamed I felt about it that it has been my dark secret. The tablets helped me to gain a bit of space from these thoughts and a sense of clarity and order in my head.Once calmer I was then able to start treating the problem. Yes the anti depressants had some side affects but they calmed down after two weeks and they were like a walk in the park compared to the depression and anxiety. They also stopped the paranoa and this alone was enough reason for me to continue taking them.
I then had a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I found this quite helpful but once it finished I felt that I needed to do more. Only a handfull of people knew about what was happening to me and I really felt like I was struggling. I read up on therapies to help ease depression and anxiety and articles to help me understand my brain and the nervous system. I took up gardening and knitting and enjoyed that for a while until I started going to the gym again. The endorphine release became a drug to me. An instant endorphine rush can be amazing after feeling so low but it never lasted too long. I got a little bit obsessed with it and was going five times a week and feeling guilty for the rest of the time.
Since moving to London the year before I had wanted to find a yoga class. Yoga was always something I had enjoyed since I was 17 but had found my attendance at classes patchy over the years. I took up yoga again as I remembered it had been quite relaxing. After my first class of Vinyasa flow I remember feeling a little sense of relief and loved how strong the practice was. I had practiced lots of types of yoga before but Vinyasa flow was new to me. I instantly got a class pass to my local studio and went four to six times a week. It was a tough journey as I often got frustrated by my lack of balance, had many thoughts of being rubbish and often was in tears during savasana - there was a lot of stuff that I needed to deal with. I was going to all types of yoga at the studio and found the mat to be my haven. A place of lightness. I enjoyed the routine and the ritual of the class. After a lot of tears and a lot of yoga, things started to get better. I started to let go of a lot of thoughts that didn't serve me and move forwards. I had found lovely housemates, sorted out my work and found some stability in my life which had been missing for so long.
Yoga and meditation has given me so many useful tools for coping with everyday life, stressful experiences and dark times. After completing my first teacher training a year and a half ago yoga has enabled me to completely reassess my whole life, look at my values and explore my Dharma (purpose). I've achieved things that I never thought were possible with both my body and my mind. I often think back to three years ago and how I wanted to disapear from the planet forever and then I think about all the things I have achieved since then. I've completed a Marathon, reached my 30th birthday, qualified as a yoga teacher and a pre and post natal yoga teacher, got a steady job in a charity I respect and am growing my own business. I am now a little lighter and a lot stronger.
Spread The Light
These days I find I am traveling and living lighter in my mind. I love teaching yoga and I want to offer my students the tools that helped me so much. Through this blog I hope to offer my take on a yogic lifestyle, offer insights into how I navigate my way through my own journey and offer yoga tips and recipe ideas. Yoga is not just about what happens on the mat but how it transcends into everyday life. This is my journey and I'm writing it with an open heart for you. Hope you enjoy.
If you or someone you know is sufferening from depression or anxiety you may find the following resources useful. Don't suffer alone: