“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin
About eight months ago, I resigned from my job as a high school college and career advisor.
I didn’t hate it. In fact, I derived the ultimate feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment from knowing that the work I did directly impacted the lives of the students I served.
At school, I knew exactly what my role was. But outside of the building, my sense of identity had begun to deteriorate. I wasn’t sure who I was and what I wanted anymore.
For so long, I had based my sense of self on the needs and expectations of others. I was afraid of upsetting the people I loved so I gradually re-aligned my life to fit their concept of me.
On the surface, it appeared as if everything was great. I had escaped my small hometown and was living the big city life. I had a vibrant social network. I was very successful at work and being vetted for a promotion that would double my income.
But, my body told the whole truth.
My mind became foggy and it was difficult to concentrate on any one thing for very long. Even efforts to think about what I wanted to do next were met with a mental haziness.
Somedays, I just didn’t have the energy and I would allow myself to sink down deep, vaguely aware that I was losing ground but finding the descent so deliciously comforting.
My thoughts felt heavy. My emotions felt heavy. My relationships with other people felt heavy so I isolated myself. Because I was so acutely aware of the changes in my body, I was convinced everyone knew something was wrong with me. This was something stronger than sadness.
I was ashamed at how low I was but realized I would need support to help pull myself out. When I spoke to my therapist about what I was going through, she evaluated me and eventually diagnosed me with depression.
Initially, I was shocked but not because I didn’t believe myself to have the symptoms. I clearly met the criteria. I was unable to accept the diagnosis because it didn’t fit the self image I had constructed.
I was the one everybody looked up to and drew strength from. I was supposed to have it all together. I had spent my entire life perfecting the art of being OK. Depression shattered those illusions and left me disoriented.
Even though I had studied depression as part of the psychology curriculum in college, experiencing it in my own body completely negated everything I thought I knew about the illness.
My therapist suggested that I speak to a psychiatrist who after several consultations and much protest from me, prescribed me anti-depressants. Within a week or two after starting the medication, my mood started to improve.
I wasn’t exactly happy but I could focus and make decisions again. My productivity increased and I realized I had energy to get things done which boosted my confidence in my abilities.
When I was able to think clearly, I had to admit to myself that my depression had been triggered by my unwillingness to listen to the inner voice that was urging me to grow beyond the experiences I had tethered myself to.
I was living in a city that left me feeling cold and disconnected. I was doing work that was no longer aligned with my vision for my future. I had stopped writing completely and had delayed the relentless and inexplicable urge to travel to Southeast Asia for one too many years.
Not only was I feeling guilty about not following my dreams, I felt like a fraud. I received weekly emails from readers who had been inspired and empowered by articles I’d written on courage and authenticity over the years. Yet, there I was, paralyzed by fear, living a life I knew no longer fit my way of being in the world.
There came a point when I was more afraid of what might happen if I continued to ignore the whispers within my spirit, than I was of quitting my job and venturing out into the unknown.
I gingerly excavated my dreams of writing and traveling the world. I decided that I would finish out the school year and travel in the Fall. As soon as I set a clear intention, I began to witness little moments of synchronicity. I called to myself all of the support and resources I would need in the next phase of my journey.
Though I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, for me, being diagnosed with depression has been a gift in disguise. It has shown me the power and necessity of truly connecting with and being led by my intuition. It stripped away an outdated identity, giving me the opportunity to redefine who I am and what I value. It forced me to strengthen my relationship with myself and to be more intentional about self love and self care.
Most importantly, though, it provided a much needed warning that spurred me into action and reminded me that I am able to create my own reality. Once I remembered my power and took back control of my thoughts, my life, and my journey; my mood shifted significantly.
I would not go so far as to say that I am “healed” from my depression but my newfound sense of hope has created just enough space in my mind to consider the possibilities of what my future might hold for me. For someone suffering from depression, hope can be everything.