“Joy descends gently upon us like the evening dew, and does not patter down like a hailstorm.” – Jean Paul
Years ago, I was bedridden with a bad case of depression. I could hardly move, as though moving would quicken the death I was certain would come. Yet death would have been welcomed considering the dark space I was in, if not for my fears that everything I was feeling at that moment would be intensified before death would embrace me into nothingness. The paradox I faced was that I was in so much pain that I was hoping to die, but in order for death to come I’d have to be in still greater pain.
All very morose, to be sure. But every day, millions of people go through the very same thoughts I went through that day. Stuck between the fear of existing and the fear of dying, many people are confined to a dull existence consisting of only passing the time. Even without physical death, they are dying on a spiritual level – struggling to control, fix and manage the scarcity they perceive in life, in a race against time, believing that if they didn’t succeed they’d be diminished to a tiny speck of insignificant, inconsequential thing.
The fear of dying a spiritual death– to be still alive yet not quite alive – is something that plagues us at various points in our lives. If we didn’t express our deepest yearnings and become who we have the potential of becoming, it can feel as though we are cheating ourselves and a big part of us is dying a slow death.
One day, it occurred to me that maybe I did have to die if I wanted my life to change. Not a physical death but the death of my old self. As I looked closer at what I was wanting to slip away from me, I found that it was my idea of who I was. I realised that I could renew my self-identity, just by deciding and choosing something new. The rest would follow as I began to live through this new identity of myself.
That simple decision gave me a few profound insights that turned my life around.
#1 Every disempowering situation contains an empowering counterpart.
In the depth of depression, it can be very difficult to find the strength to turn things around. When your energy is so low that doing anything is a big effort, it takes a great deal of mental energy to go against the downward spiral.
Like many who have suffered from depression, I’ve encountered situations where those who did not understand depression had said to me, “Just snap out of it… You’re just lazy… Pull yourself together…” This did not help me and only reinforced in me that I was isolated in my suffering.
What I did find helpful was instead to use the natural movement of depression. Here’s what I mean: Within the movement of slipping away, there’s a way to ‘ride’ that movement by allowing an old, worn-out part of us to be taken away. All we have to do is to let go of our grip to that old part of us.
There is power even within the energy of depression. So whenever you feel yourself slipping away – the mental fogginess coming on, the dull feeling setting in, the pre-occupation with what’s missing in your life intensifying – instead of trying to work against it, notice the opportunity to choose which part of you that you want to die.
Surrender this part of you to this force of dying. Perhaps it’s the part of you that keeps creating painful relationships, or the part of you that sabotages your successes, or the part of you that is needy for others’ approval. Imagine letting this part of you slip away with the force of dying.
Rest in the remnants of what’s left behind after your old self has been removed from you. You may sense a certain sparkle, the hint of something luminous, as you begin to awaken to life. Grab hold of this and nurture it.
#2 Your self-identity determines whether your world is lacking or abundant.
It astounded me to find that when I let go of my old identity, my perception of the world I lived in changed. In other words, it wasn’t lacking in things I thought I didn’t have but full of them.
When we see ourselves as small, limited and powerless, the whole world reflects to us this belief. So often, we try to change our world to be what we want it to be so that we can feel abundant and powerful. But unless we change the way we see ourselves, unless we become abundant and powerful within ourselves, our world will never change – at least not for very long.
I know it can be challenging to get into a positive state when your world shows evidence of scarcity. Here are a few ways that can help:
- Look for alternative sources of whatever you feel you lack. It is already there. When you look for something with an expectation of finding it, it will be shown to you.
- Decide to stop seeing yourself as a victim of circumstances. When you let go of this part of you, watch the illusion of scarcity go away.
- Open your heart to the spiritual qualities of what’s invisible. Sense the abundance around you in the absence of tangible forms. Feel the power in the core of your being, latent and waiting to be expressed.
#3 The gifts are usually not as you had expected, only better.
When you let go of your idea of who you were, you will get the opposite of what you’d feared. Often, when we’re in the throes of suffering, it’s difficult to imagine being in an expanded state as the outcome of making changes. We think, as long as I don’t suffer anymore, I’d be contented. But what I’ve seen is that people do go past neutral point and into the realm of aliveness, passion, inspiration as their new ‘default’.
You can enjoy a magic-filled world that fills you with awe and wonderment on a consistent basis. My recovery from depression has not only brought me back to an okay sort of existence but one where I can feel truly alive and delight in the many wondrous sources of inspiration. I still have moments of feeling low but my default is now one of joy and inspiration. This, I did not expect, but in allowing the gifts to unravel one layer at a time, the true opposite of what I had feared had been revealed.
What might be revealed to you when you let your old self die?
Photo by José Manuel Ríos Valiente
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42 thoughts on “How to Transform Depression Into Awe”
I really love this article.
I am feeling a lot like this for about a year now….
Thank you for sharing…
Thank you, Sri Purna. May you find the treasure beneath it soon.
Blessings to you,
You have written a very beautiful article.
Somehow, I felt a certain connection to it because I’ve been through a state of depression as well.
Caught in my own suffering and tumbled confidence, I really never thought I could be better as where I am right now.
You are right about reaching inside of yourself above anything else. I am glad I did.
Thank you for sharing this. I am sure this read will help those caught in it.
Congratulations, Jane, on your journey and finding your power. Indeed, it all starts from inside us, if we were to achieve lasting happiness.
Thanks for sharing!
As someone who has struggled with depression themselves, I don’t think an instantaneous transition is possible. I have tried. For me, it’s a process. If you managed to do it in an instant, I congratulate you.
For me it’s too intricately tied to some of the core beliefs that I have, so I have to start by reprogrammnig those by making an actual effort to enjoy different moments of life.
And sure, changing your perception can allow you to enjoy the life you already live, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for improvement. I’m going to start volunteering and try to make small but meaningful indentations on the world
If you settle for mediocrity.. that’s what you’ll live. A mediocre life. Even if you enjoy it, understand it and you’re fine with it. Strive towards something, but focus more on enjoying the journey than reaching your destination..
Hey, Ragnar – thanks for your thought-provoking comments! I agree the dynamics within depression is often intricate and complex. That’s why it took many years for me to completely get out of my depression – a relentless search for the way out before I found what truly works. I know the kind of debilitating effects being in depression has on a person – where do we find the motivation to start making changes in our lives in the throes of depression? Often, making a shift internally is what allows that door to open up, inspiring us to take steps externally.
I agree that our lives are not meant to be mediocre. One distinction I’d like to make is that someone’s life can appear to be rich and fulfilling, but if the person feels mediocre inside, he or she is still living a mediocre life! The true gauge is not on what our lives appear on the outside but how you DO your life – do you embrace life or constantly striving for more and getting further away from the source of happiness? I believe that when we’re in a better place internally, we will naturally be inspired to create a life that matches the highest version of ourselves… and what that looks like is different for every individual human being.
I had every intention of expressing that I believed how they felt on the inside was actually more important than what they set out to accomplish.. reading my comment now, I realize that I failed. So thank you for pointing that out.
I think that it’s definitely true, and now that you actually explained it as a process I think we actually agree 100%.. that first shift of mentality can be hard. And your previous thought pattern will try to fight against it, reject it, before you finally manage to make it stick completely.
Thank you for taking the time to respond.
Such a pleasure, Ragnar. Thank you for giving me the opportunity!
Nice post. Every one gets through bouts of depression in life. Some remain stuck in it, some are able to recover faster through getting round it as a river gets round a rock which it can not break. Change the scene, place, person tormenting me. Change the direction of life which has led me to this quagmire. Change perspective. Look beyond. Act.
Well said, Mahavir. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re not stuck in a state. Thanks for your inspiring words!
Absolutely remarkable! Great insights Amyra. Keep up the good work. Wishing you all the best in anything you do.
Thank you for your lovely words, Olga! Wishing you the very best in everything too xxx
Thank you for a brave and interesting post.
A year ago I had a very serious accident where I slipped and banged my head on a stone wall. I had bleeding in my brain and nearly died. For over 3 months I had a migraine headache 24/7 and was unable to look after myself.
I learned from this experience that I was not alone, a group of friends rallied around and took me in to care for me until I got better, another group of friends looked after my teenage daughter and husband until I was able to.
when I started to recover I looked at the life I was living and I started to change it. It was a wake up call for me. I took the opportunity of redundancy from my job and have started to live the life I thought would only be available to me after retirement. I am now earning my living from writing, I am living my dream but I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this had I not hit rock bottom first.
What an inspiring story, Vivienne! Thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations on successfully creating the life of your dreams and amazingly through hitting rock bottom. Your story proves that out of adversity we can learn valuable life lessons, grow, and create miracles. I wish you every success and happiness in your new life.
Excellent! My story resonates with yours. By letting go an old and worn out self image you can create a new, empowering image of self. Your tip to feel the Invisible is super. See the richness around you without seeing it, but feeling it. Massive difference, and it moves you from scarcity to abundance quite quickly.
Thanks for sharing!
Really glad to hear how well you *get* my tips! Appreciate your comments a lot.
By the way, love your site – brilliant!
Many blessings to you,
Thank you for sharing your story in such an intimate and personal way. I really like the depth you go into explaining how to use your turmoil to let a part of yourself die, so that you can experience a powerful re-birth. I believe that gaining this type of understanding about such situations is the absolute key to overcoming them, while experiencing unforseen breakthroughs in your life. Living with this type of understanding makes you deeply grateful for each storm that shakes you – this gratefulness equips you with patience and knowledge that this too shall pass, and makes you more concentrated on the lessons you need to learn, rather than focusing on self-pity and the feelings of helplessness and pain.
Powerful words – thank you! I believe that cultivating the ability to be “deeply grateful for each storm that shakes you” is the key to becoming stronger and finding fulfilness. Really appreciate you putting it across so succinctly.
I am one who has suffered crippling depression and have come through to new realizations regarding life, my value in it and resetting my ‘normal’ waterline to a higher level. I see this article as a description of the natural healing process available through depression, not as a practical method to speed it up.
You’re right, there’s a natural healing process which we can align ourselves with that is more powerful than trying to force a healing to happen through external actions. It’s more a navigation of our inner terrain that can open up the doors to a healed place. I’m glad to hear that your own process has yielded much growth for you. Thanks for commenting!
Profound sadness and clinical or subclinical depression are not the same thing. The imbalance of serotonin and dopamine in a clinically depressed person cannot be changed by willing it away. One who is clinically depressed is in a potentially very dangerous physical and mental state. Decompensation leads to suicide at worst and paralysis of action at best. To be able to make the cognitive shift required for the movement from depression to awe presumes that a simple shift in perspective will balance an imbalance in brain chemistry. This is similar to the Christian Scientist belief that prayer will be able to cure disease. Some things get better on their own (prayer has worked) and some things progress to debilitating disease and even death (perhaps one did not pray hard enough). In the latter case, the responsibility for the physical illness is placed back on the sick one. This is a convenient, blame the victim posture for surely if the technique had been applied properly, it would have worked. We must learn to distinguish between profound sadness and clinical,and subclinical depression.
Thank you very much for posting your views. When I said “depression” I was indeed referring to depression, not profound sadness. My depression was what’s termed “clinical depression” – yes, the kind that paralysed me, made me immobile and drove me to suicide. Profound sadness is a very different thing.
I also did not state anything about “willing away” the depression – but to utilize the natural process of healing inherent even within the condition. After suffering from depression for many years, I have come to find that as deblitating as it is, there are things that we can do – we are not completely incapacitated. Beyond being on medications and waiting for the brain chemistry to rebalance, we can do certain things to help in the healing process. This, I find, is a more empowering approach than simply surrendering to the hopelessness of it. Sometimes, a slight shift is all that’s needed to open the door to possibilities.
Thank you for sharing your journey Amyra. I am always intrigued how people make it through tough times. And I have found that symptoms even depression can serve a purpose For you, it was finding a new way to think about yourself, feelings, life. For others it may be getting better connected. I would love to hear more about what brought on the a-ha moment for you to start the shift in thinking.
Thank you for commenting. I think what brought on the a-ha moment for me was finally feeling so fed-up of being stuck in a semi-living state – I was neither here nor there. I could feel a lot of stuff bubbling up from beneath the surface, that there was a lot of activity and movement, yet I was heavy, dense and immobile. So I decided to take myself to where the movement was – and to do that, I had to shift my thinking. It turned out that where I went was where a lot of my power was stored.
You are just amazing, this is exact, precise and to the point.
Thank you, Ravi. Really appreciate your kind words :)
Nice post. For me, I gave up all my antidepressants. I started reading about Buddhism, then came meditation and yoga. Antidepressants would work for a few months, then I’d be right back where I started. I got sick of the endless cycle and realized I needed to change the way I thought. So I completely agree with you.
Glad to hear you’ve found a more wholesome way of dealing with depression. Like you, I gave up anti-depressants, as they made me feel like a zombie whilst sensing that there was a lot of emotional pain beneath it all that I had to face and heal. I was merely covering up my pain with the meds, although the meds did help me in the beginning when I was depressed to the point of being unable to function. For me, anti-depressants can serve as a transitional aid to living a more holistic lifestyle that promotes wellbeing.
I found your article to be beautifully written. Thank you.
I have been at a very similar place to the one you described and found my ‘freedom’ from ‘allowing’ certain parts of me to die. I remember ‘watching’ myself feel the complete hopelessness at one point back in 1995.
Many years later in 2010 I came across mindfulness as practice which I realise I was inadvertently doing back in 1995.
Mindfulness is a very powerful way to ‘watch’ thoughts and feelings come and go like waves in an ocean and eventually decouple one’s sense of identity from those thoughts and feelings.
It’s a very powerful way to realise the ‘changeless’ aspect of oneself and realise one’s identity as being beyond the obvious.
Have you practised mindfulness?
Thanks so much for sharing your similar journey. I do practice various forms of mindfulness (although I’d been doing so for many years without knowing about “mindfulness”). Creating space is what it’s all about – space within us, within our thoughts and sensations, and space around us – by slowing down our thoughts and being more attentive to what we notice. This breaks our automatic response to the triggers of thoughts and sensations which traps us in a cycle of depression… allowing a window for liberation out of the cycle – and overtime reinforcing a new pattern/way of being.
That’s how I understand it! Many blessings to you,
This was a profound post, Amyra…glad I found it!
Maybe not related, but I watched my wife give birth to our kids. Rather than struggling against the pain, she surrendered to it, and understood its purpose. Two daughters later, it all made sense. :)
On the flipside, most times when I’ve injured myself or gotten sick, it’s become easier for me to appreciate a body that has its defense mechanisms…or if not that, at least being able to participate in all the facets of life.
Thank you for this, and glad you came out the back end to share your experience,
Hey Larry – oh yeah, it is completely related. The way your wife handled giving birth and the way you handle injuries are examples of what I was talking about in my article: surrendering to the natural movement of healing rather than try to fight it. So beautiful, thank you for sharing too!
Blessings to you,
Thank you Amyra for an inspiring article. Your words hit a chord with me and your discoveries through depression are so relevant to me right now. Let the transformation continue. Thank you.
Sharon – thank you. I wish you a wonderful adventure of self-discovery in your path.
Love and Blessings,
Thank you very much for this article, thank you for sharing. It’s really touching, really inspiring.
I look forward to hearing more posts from you!
Thanks, Jennifer. Really appreciate your comments!
I read this today for the second time, really appreciate so much how you share your life experience. In this current depressed state, I have been working on letting parts die. People are dropping away, there is more space, but still I find it hard to push myself to the studio to work. I enjoy good response from friends, when I put pictures of my work on the internet. I like to think is not needy, but sharing. Of course, it encourages me, but am I falling prey to vanity? Walking this new path is tricky. What do you think Amyra?
This reading has also helped me cancel a visit from some people I do not want to see, who emailed, they were ‘dropping in for coffee’. So many thanks for that. Namaste.
David – thanks for commenting. In the space that you have cleared, after you have allowed the old parts to die, focus on your core of authenticity for a while. Align yourself with it. Be inspired out of that place. You will feel pulled to do the thing you need to do – in alignment with the more authentic version of you. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to force yourself to do things, out of a place of “I should”, you won’t get the momentum to accomplish it.
I think a bit of vanity isn’t so bad. Don’t be too hard on yourself. A bit of sharing and a bit of vanity. How do we really know where the line that separates altruism from egoism is? We can impose this argument on the most apparently altruistic individuals in our history and we still would not know where that line is, within themselves.
Love and Blessings,
Thank you so much Amyra, I try not to use ‘should, have, ought’. Not always easy.
And, I’m glad you agree that we can share without being vain.
Sometimes, I am very happy with my work, and wish to show friends.
For me surrounding myself with good music is an important part of this process of taking myself back from the demons that surround and threaten me. And by “good” I don’t mean “enjoyable” or “classical” but “empowering” and “in harmony with my values.” Sometimes the words we hear are our words, but sometimes they’re musical words that speak to our subconscious in background music without us even realizing it.
You may have just saved my life with this article, I had lost all hope. For 12 years, I’ve been walking in a fog, a mess, lost,can’t focus, angry, spiraling even further down after severe heartbreak over a very ruthless break up by my now ex wealthy husband who also after many months and thousands of dollars and many court appearances got custody of our two young children. It was cold, cheated, awful…I still can’t breathe..I’ve never recovered, lost everything…I’ve tried a thousand ways to move forward and I fall on my face, another toxic relationship, can’t get a job…I use to be a successful actress, so confident, so everything…but, we’ll you get the picture. Reading your first paragraph, I never thought of it like that! To go ahead and let parts of me die! Please tell me more! I really want to live again,I have just accepted that without my kids, I will always be sad as now they are very alienated from me. It’s the HOW .HOW do you forgive yourself, let go, love yourself, all that I’ve heard…HOW? You have given me something to do when I lie paralyzed in bed hoping to die but God just won’t let me. Thank you so much. So much. Maybe one day, my kids will come back around, I want to be up and smiling when they do.
I really really really liked this article… I have never even thought of it this way; that you might need to completely let go of some parts of yourself… Parts that maybe used to benefit you, but now, however, are the very reason why you are in pain, feel isolated and so forth. I’ve been trying and trying to force myself into doing things that might be “good for me”, ex. running, eating healthy, being social, you know, just getting some of the “good things” done. However, the energy I recieve out of these things that I do, is not enough to change the way I feel about myself. I still keep feeling sorry for myself, blaming myself for not achieving whatever it is that I want to achieve, hating myself for whatever mistakes I’ve made throughout my life, trying to find exactly where it went wrong for me, until I realize once more, that there is no way out of this mental state of mind, and that I will probably just have to keep suffering, until I find a way to end my own life, which I can’t really do either, ’cause I’m not in too much pain, that I can’t overcome it and get used to living with it. I could really relate to the way you expressed how you felt it, living in depression, and also how you were dealing with it psychologically. However the part of just letting go, and letting a part of you die, felt really renewing, I hadn’t thought of it like that before. I mean, I’ve had the thoughts of maybe considering that change might be a good thing and that I might be able to change into something or someone that made myself happy more than once in a very rare while. But the thing of actively chosing to let go, or let a part of you die, that doesn’t benefit your well being anymore, is something that I will be working on and giving some thought for the time being, that is for sure. Very inspiring, thank you so much.