Sometimes, no matter which direction you feel yourself pulled, life has another lesson.
“Something in me is being pulled out at the roots, thrashed on the ground, the tender bared, beaten, left to dry and blow away like so much chaff. Something is dying. The clear sky of the mind is obscured by cloud of illusion. The moon neither rises nor sets now, and the debts of a lifetime demand payment. This is when faith is tested. The choice to discredit what I know and crawl into a hole of my own making will leave me bereft of any consolation. To be present in the pain is the only path worth taking. To acknowledge light is not denying darkness, but oh, how hard is it to recall there is a choice, a chance to ask for strength and grace. And in the asking, there is the subtlest of shifts, an opening, nearly imperceptible: an opening to receive. There is one ray of light, then more. I open the door, take one deep breath, and begin another day.” – Danna Faulds
It isn’t easy for most to ask for help. I found myself asking for help a few weeks ago, and I am so grateful I had. Everything was set for a busy and productive fall. I made my schedule manageable and scheduled a variety of different classes, workshops and events. I thought my personal life and relationship was going quite well. I was getting back into my comfort zone. What is a comfort zone, really? This Huffington Post article has an interesting perspective of what a comfort zone is. I find true that we believe what we are comfortable with keeps us from our true potentials. Comfort is something that I thought I was longing for. I now know it is something very different. For this moment, I thought that I wanted a comfortable relationship, a busy schedule, hanging out with friends, visiting coffee shops, and buying food at the co-op. I thought this was my comfort zone.
I think too damn much.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know” – Pema Choron
I was at my favorite coffee shop in Anoka, as I often am. My friend Dan and I were talking about how I looked better than the previous day when he saw me. Earlier that week, I was feeling down and frustrated with more than a few things happening in my personal life and at work. I left the coffee house on that Friday trying to convince myself that I felt better. Then the proverbial shit hit the fan…
I made it to the yoga studio parking lot and saw Karen. She asked how I was doing. I responded with a mechanical, “I am okay.” She offered me a hug before she got into her car. I am the last one to ever turn down a hug from Karen. When she embraced me, I was struck by the gravity of reality and completely lost it. I broke down.
“I can’t do this anymore. I am done. I am exhausted and sad. I am sick of it all and on top of it, I am sick”. I actually had a cold in the middle of summer… I never get sick and this was the second week (it lasted for another week after that). We talked for a while and came to the conclusion that I should take some time off. Karen said that she had never seen me in this way, and was worried about me. Significantly, she supported me through all of my 2016 life changes and this is where the concern was found (see https://whenshifthappens.org for more blogs – FYI website is under construction). I know that I needed to take time off, but how could I afford it? We talked it through, deciding that Labor Day weekend would be the best time to get away and think. The guilt I felt for taking time off slowly began to ebb.
“She was drowning but nobody saw her struggle.” – unknown
Most people didn’t know anything was going on. I have been teaching yoga for 21 years and can play the part pretty easily. I was starting to feel defeated physically along with the feelings of helplessness, confusion, and numbness that were flooding me with negativity. I was exhausted all of the time even if I was getting enough sleep. It took effort to smile and laughing was something of the past. I would stay home despite knowing I should do something. I wasn’t eating much, and I was losing weight. I said to myself, “I am depressed.” Then the bells went off in my head… ask for help before reach the point of no return.
For a second, I had a glimpse of clarity. I realized I was going down on a sinking ship, and I needed to reach out. I scheduled an appointment with my friend, Theresa, who is a life coach. I began to ponder why I was not happy.
“She was brave and strong and broken all at once.” – Anna Funder
I was grasping for some sort of stability and could feel that I was sinking painfully fast. I awoke on Sunday morning, dressed, and then attended church with my boyfriend. I sat beside him and could sense a barrier between us. After church I sent a text to Karen saying, “It is about to happen, he is going to break up with me.”
And he did.
This was the most emotional breakup I have ever encountered–a heart wrenching experience that will forever be a defining moment in my life. At that moment, I knew that my entire existence would never be the same. The break-up wasn’t the beginning of my deep dive in to the darkness, but it was the final piece that pushed me over the edge of loneliness, shaking my very foundation.
That night I cry myself to sleep in hopes that I would awake as if from a nightmare in the morning. I didn’t, but oh, how I wished I had. I was in that place I never wanted to visit again, the place that some never return from.
On the following Monday, exhaustion and loneliness filled every cell of my body. I passed through the day as though a ghost of my former self. That morning was one of the scariest days. I was barely functioning. I wandered around the house. I tried to do some of my routines but was struggling to keep the overwhelming negative thoughts from clouding my head. Every breath I took, I was hoping would be my last.
Finally, I told Karen that I was going to take nap. She told me to go for a walk. Stay active, she said. But no… how I longed for sleep. Between the sleep deprivation, the emotional rupture, and the physical exhaustion, I was completely spent.
“She buried her head in fate’s chest and cried, “Why must it be this way?” And fate cradled her head and sighed, “Oh, darling. I promise you, you will see, and it will be beautiful.” – Anonymous
For me, depression is putting off my work. Though I feel exhaustion, I struggle to fall asleep. I feel numb, questioning my place in life. There’s a lack of concentration that follows. Normal things are quickly forgotten, and I make mistakes by overlooking the simplest things. I knew in the back of my mind that everything would be alright, but the pain of going through this was excruciating. I felt awful and pathetic. I knew that people loved me, but how could they love someone with such negative thoughts? I knew that I wanted to feel better but I just didn’t know how.
I slept for half an hour before a text from Karen awoke me, letting me know that she was coming over to see me and she had contacted our friend Barry.
Barry was the Prevention and Trauma Response Coordinator for the Anoka-Hennepin school district. I needed to get up and take Rufus for a walk, maybe get a coffee. Breathe, help is coming. I wouldn’t need to struggle alone anymore.
Then another round of hateful self-aggression came. I am a failure. How could I be a yoga therapist who works with anxiety and depression and not be able to pull myself out of my own depression.
“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength for tomorrow.” – Unknown
I got my coffee and walked back to my house. Karen held space for me as I bashed myself further into my nastiness and then came to a bit of insight. I was not only dealing with depression, but I had taken on more than I could handle. Karen pointed out that I had been through more in the last two years then most go through in a lifetime. After our talk, I felt numb. I needed to go to work.
I was glad that I did.
That night numbness blanketed me with a temporary felling of peace with no thoughts, no feelings, just a numbness. I felt hollow all the way to my core. It was a welcomed relief from the feeling I had before. Each day that followed was one step forward and a half-step back.
I visited with her later that week and she said that she was scared for me. She said that I looked vacant, like my soul was gone. And to be honest, that is how I felt. Today, I type these words and reflect on what really happened that day. How did those events play out? I am so thankful that I asked for help. I am so grateful that I have friends and people around me who text me daily and hourly to make sure that I am okay. I am grateful for the time that Karen took from work on that very frightful Monday to hold space for me and talk me through what was happening. More to come on the personal practices and thoughts that followed…
“The most beautiful people that have known defeat, known suffering, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kubler Ross