Three years ago, I came down with a bout of severe depression. Perhaps triggered by the loss of my seven year partnership with a person I thought was ‘the love of my life’, and the death of my 96-year-old mother, this depression was particularity painful and resistant to treatment.
Even the breath, which I had already been practicing for some time, didn’t quite offer relief from the unrelenting pain and the voice that said “you’re doomed to suffer for the rest of your life, why not put an end to it now?”
Many times when the pain was so unbearable, and I contemplated entertaining those suicidal thoughts, I would speak to God, and ask “why is this happening to me?” and would get no answer. But at times, there was also another voice whispering to me: “don’t ask why, ask how could this depression teach you to help others”
Two experiences made a significant turn in my recovery from the depression.
One was when my psychiatrist and friend Dr. Richard Brown called me one day and said “I have been in practice for over thirty years, but have never seen a depression like yours before… I don’t really know what to do, but I will keep doing whatever I can…”
I felt relief, and a sense of compassion. Part of my self-attacking-voice’s agenda was that “I bring depression on myself”… and “if I only wasn’t like this….,” or “if I only was more like that… I wouldn’t get depressed…”.
Richard also asked me why I had no problems with having compassion for the people – with life threatening illness, deep loss, and catastrophic events and trauma – I had been working with for over 25 year, but couldn’t have the same compassion for my depression and accept that it was an illness etched in my brain?
Then, came the earthquake in Haiti. Not knowing really why, I was riveted to the TV, waiting for something to happen.
One evening, on the eleventh day after the earthquake, a 72 year old woman was pulled out of the rubble – alive. She was the longest surviver ever to be found alive, more than three days after being buried, with no food, and no medical help. When asked how she survived, she said “I was praying and singing the whole time.”
I heard her say – “I was breathing coherently, (which singing and praying can be) which kept my brain oxygenated and my heart open. The moment I would stop and succumb to fearful thinking, I would be inviting death.”. I thought “if this woman could do that while being buried alive, why can’t I put my attention on breathing, having compassion for my depression, and keeping my heart open…praying….singing…moving…dancing… I started to feel better after these two experiences, and within a month, I came out of the depression completely.
I also made a commitment, at the time, to never again entertain attacking, judging and beating up on myself. Nothing in the world justifies that I thought. “We are here to learn and grow.” In a perfect world we don’t repeat the same mistakes, but not in this world. It’s OK to repeat mistakes, and not to have to learn under the gun. The self pointing gun – that is. This was spoken by my hard earned, open heart wisdom of the breath.
These days I’m very quick to remind people who are telling me about their challenges and difficulties, to start by first having a heart for themselves, no matter what. By having a heart for yourself, and breathing with ease, you can change your brain chemistry, and fine-tune your energy, and reunite with the flow of love. You can do what needs to be done, learn and grow, in a way that is more calm, more joyful, and more fun.
When I came out of the depression, one of the first things I did, was forgive myself for getting involved with a partner who left me. Forgiving him at this point was a piece of cake. I couldn’t wait to tell him that, and also urge him to forgive himself.
Our relationship deepened and lightened up and went to another level.
Since September 10th, a year ago when Stan died, I have been feeling love, peace and appreciation for the wisdom, power, beauty and laughter he shared with me, and which I have emulated in my body, heart and soul. I have let go of the mess. It really doesn’t matter anymore. The dream we had when we got married ten years ago continues to be alive.
A couple of days after Stan’s passing, a mutual friend called me and said she had a dream in which Stan told her that he wanted to continue working with me from the other side. I had no problem believing that. I made an alter for him, and opened my breath and heart to include him on the team of Artists of Living.
I trust in the breath – as a living organism, that’s in everything, everywhere, connecting us to all life and to the flow of love, including the deceased. In the world today we need more than ever to remember that connection, and I feel grateful to help making it.
Image credit: ruurmo