In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark woods
Where the straight way was lost.
-- Dante Alighieri
I believe there comes a point in everyone's life when you feel lost and utterly derailed. There is a moment, a season, a year or even years, where we are being asked to let go of what is known and step into the unknown, exploring ourselves on a deeper level. Will you listen? Will you answer the call from within and walk through the door of the unknown?
Many people don't know this about me, including some of my closest friends and family, but I've struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. I'm actually pretty sure I came out of the womb in the middle of one giant anxiety attack and it never went away.
Its varied over the years from crippling, can't get out of bed, massive amounts of fear and tears and paralyzing stillness and worry, to feeling just numb enough to put on a fake smile and exist. I'd show up and contribute to life all the while trying my best to hide my pain from others.
I've analyzed myself a lot over the years, questioning when and where this all began At one point I feared I suffered from bipolar disorder after someone very close to me was diagnosed with it when I was in my teens. I've never admitted that out loud to anyone. But getting honest with yourself can be hard and I'd often shut down after getting to a certain point.
But over the last few months I've dug deeper and had an incredible shift. What I have come to realize over the last few months is that my depression and anxiety stem from a lack of self acceptance and love for who I truly am. I have spent so many years wearing various masks trying to gain acceptance and validation from everyone else.
Through therapy and Reiki over the last few months I've learned a tremendous amount about myself and have felt a beautiful shift within. It's subtle, but incredible and different. Its like nothing I've experienced before.
I'd like to share my story a bit more with the hope that maybe it will help you in some way. If you need it that is.
I was a wildly dramatic child that felt everything. I was curious and full of wonder. I felt things much deeper then most people did and to this day, still do. I naturally watched and observed people with a fine eye and often knew things about them without them even having to tell me. I could feel and pick up on their energy very quickly and would take on their emotions without knowing what was happening. I had no idea what this meant back then but learned years later that I am an empath.
Growing up I regularly heard from people closest to me that I was too sensitive, dramatic and emotional. As someone who already felt incredibly different then most kids around me, I was desperate to belong and be accepted and what I heard was that this side of me was unlovable.
I too began to view this side of myself as unacceptable and unlovable and thus, shut er' down. The problem with shutting down one side of ourselves is that we replace it with something else. We replace it with what we think others will love and accept. That something else is built out of fear, a persona that was everything a sensitive person was not; hard, stoic, moody, and angry.
You don't want me as sensitive, kind and loving, well, okay then, maybe you'll love me and give me the attention I crave this way. And that was the mask I put on.
Now, none of this was on a conscious level mind you. And, I don't believe those who constantly told me I was too sensitive meant any harm by it. They were merely uncomfortable with it for reasons that only they may, or may not know. However, as a child or adolescent, we are just seeking love and acceptance, we are impressionable and trying to find meaning in the world and we'll mold ourselves in any way we possibly can to get that.
However, at some point, and I do believe this happens to everyone, our authentic self is so desperate to be seen that this facade, the masks we put on so long ago, start to feel uncomfortable. So now we are caught in that middle place, fighting the in-between of what we know is safe and what we know to be real.
So we grow anxious and worried and fearful and confused. There is a war going on inside of us and at this point, who wins depends on if we are truly ready to accept who we are ourselves. More or less, it depends on how aware we are of the fact that we are aloud to change. We are aloud to take off the mask and be who you were born to be.
This is terrifying at first.
When you first realize you have the right to change, to grow and evolve. It's really f*&King scary. A lot of people stay right here, unable to move forward. Believe me when I say that I know this place very well.
At a very early age I dabbling in self-discovery and personal development because from some intuitive place, I knew this was the way to the truth. This was the way, for me, to understand myself more, to heal and grow and overcome the darkness. I was, very much, lead down this path. I'd move forward, stay there awhile, then jump back to my place of comfort.
Over the years I'd have moments of happiness, of feeling light and alive. This was when I felt connected to myself and my decisions and my choices reflected that. However, the darkness would always find it's way back in, creeping in like a fog rolling off the sea in the early morning. I would be left wondering if this was what my life would be like. Feeling lost and confused, desperate and unfulfilled. Would happiness always be fleeting? Would I never understand why I felt this way?
I drifted forward in life, walking around in a confused state of wondering and questions started to surface. A lot of questions. Maybe you are or have been experiencing this too?
However, I had never experienced what I went through over the last few months. I guess the only way I've come to understand how to explain it is that is was some kind of awakening. A major shift on some level. All these questions were coming at me full speed and I finally had to courage to answer them truthfully.
Whether you choose to start answering them depends on a lot of things but one of the greatest learnings I've taken away from the past few months of healing my depression and anxiety and from living with it for years is this; YOU HAVE TO FEEL IT TO HEAL IT.
And this means feeling into some dark places.
Abandonment, resentment, fear, lack of acceptance, betrayal, rage, not feeling enough, failure and the list goes on.
But this is where we often stop. Right before we start to truly feel. I mean, who really wants to feel? As a collective whole, we do just about anything to NOT feel. Human beings are incredible at not feeling. We have alcohol, drugs, sex, caffeine, sports, social media, gossip magazines, reality TV, and so on.
One of the most powerful conversations I had in therapy so far was about this idea of feeling my pain. I believe we don't go to that place because we are so afraid that if we do, we'll never find our way out. We'll be eaten alive by the horrible pain.
That was my biggest fear and why I avoided a lot of my pain for years. Admitting and ultimately, accepting the truths meant I could no longer settle to live within those stories anymore. It meant that I had to drop that mask, drop the act and find a different way of existing in the world. It meant possibly discovering things about those I love most that would change our dynamic, shake up our normal and who wants to be the person who does that?
I knew I could survive with the way things were. Even with, at times debilitating depression and anxiety, I could survive because I had done so for most of my life. But something had shifted inside of me and I knew I couldn't avoid it any longer.
This was a HUGE awakening for me because it shined a light on why I struggled with depression and anxiety. I had spent so many years wrapped up in so much anger for never feeling accepted for who I truly was. People closest to me wanted me to be different. They were uncomfortable with me being who I truly was, sensitive and emotional and too expressive, that I drowned out one of the most beautiful parts of me for one that I thought would be more lovable.
I realized I had so much subconscious resentment for others and for myself and I was scared to let that go. I was scared to drop the act because then I'd have to drop the story I have known my whole life. If I let go of that old story and accept the real version, it means that I was going to have to let them off the hook, forgive them and myself and truly show up in the world as me, whether people like it or not.
The potential risk, the unknown, once again, feels so scary but so did staying where I was. The old was too uncomfortable now. I'd grown out of that mask and I just couldn't bare the thought of putting on another one.
For the first time I want people to see me for who I really am. So here I sit, naked and raw, exposed to the elements ready to see what happens next. I don't want to go back and put on those old masks.
And here is the thing, self-discovery isn't easy. Most, if not ALL of the time, it starts with a lot of pain. We are so afraid of the pain, aren't we? We will do anything to numb out the pain, thus, staying where we are. We'd rather live with our depression, anxiety, fear, and numbness then be seen for who we really are.
It reminds me of this quote I stumbled upon:
Transformation isn't sweet and bright. It's a dark and murky, painful pushing. An unraveling of the untruths you've carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting before becoming." - Vicortia Erickson.
But now the fun begins my friends; the becoming. Are you ready?