How a Spiritual Awakening Lifted My Depression and Anxiety
As perhaps many of you with depression will understand, there’s a level of shock and resistance when a medical professional says you’re experiencing major depression. “Wait, you’re telling me all these thoughts are depression? Isn’t this just thinking? You’re telling me that not wanting to wake up tomorrow means I’m suicidal? I never said I ever thought about harming myself!” I quickly learned that acceptance is the first key. My intellectual stubbornness in accepting that depression was even a real thing eventually allowed me to understand the power of thought. If depressed thoughts actually triggered physical symptoms, thoughts can absolutely have the same power in the other direction. This is a powerful realization that was setting the table for a full-blown spiritual awakening.
Now, let’s go back so you can step into my shoes, and possibly better fit into your own. How did I get this depressed to begin with? I have always interacted with people and the world with a high level of compassion and love. I can’t remember ever judging people by the color of their skin, by their financial status, or where they came from. I have my parents to thank for encouraging this way of being, which I came to find is inside all of us. When we intuitively operate this way, it becomes very easy to view society and the outer world as this separate, incomprehensible operation. It seems so easy to share power and build a world of equality. Hasn’t science shown we are basically 99 percent the same? Why doesn’t society reflect this? It’s too easy to be hopeless and give up. As a child and young adult, this entirely drew me inward and created immense levels of anxiety. I was completely unaware of the way anxiety was ruling my life until the grand awakening, which I will address shortly.
I always had great interest in sports broadcasting, which led to a journalism degree and professional jobs as a newscast producer. As you can imagine, working in this environment exacerbated this feeling that my intuitive way of operating was totally separate from how society operates and what I was seeing in my daily work. My intuition was telling me I wasn’t supposed to be on this path, but I followed it anyway because I was successful. What I realized is that success has to be defined by my terms, not by someone else’s story of how I am supposed to live my life. I had to remind myself of my intentions.
I hit this age of 27 and knew I had to start breaking down the walls that boxed in my true self. Intuitively, I knew I would hit this point in my life and take it from there. I arranged finances so I didn’t have to work for a while. I was ready to go! But boy, was I totally unaware of what was about to come. In a world centered on “doing,” I became terribly anxious and insecure without a “good job” propping up my identity. Think about it — “What do you do?” is typically the second question people ask when they meet you. That’s only after “What’s your name?” I was totally not comfortable giving the answer of “nothing.” I worked around this for awhile, but this anxiety-based thinking started spilling over into other parts of my life. I entirely stopped pursuing relationships with women and let unhelpful negative thoughts dominate my brain. “Ah, who wants another guy who has no job?” This is where I became aware of the shame and guilt that was driving my anxiety. I was totally isolated. As I’ve come to find, there’s no place for it! It benefited me in no way, but I first had to become aware of how these things were at work in my life.
I feel it is absolutely necessary to admit that I self-medicated with marijuana. When I first started ingesting this plant, it was extremely helpful. I was able to care less about things I should care less about. But at this point in my life, my pattern of use was simply addictive behavior. I urge everyone, please become aware of addictive patterns of behavior in our lives. It has nothing to do with substances being a problem. We can become addicted to many, many things beyond substance. It has everything to do with the feelings and emotions that the addictive behavior is shielding us from.
Without getting too much into the realm of Carl Jung psychology and synchronicity, too many things were connecting for me to ignore during this time of discovery and growing awareness. All that remained for me to do was fully experience the anxiety that had been unknowingly driving my thoughts. And it had to happen without cannabis, my go-to “out” that was shielding me from this experience for years.
I soon experienced the anxiety episode that broke me down to the floor, but opened the door for me to immediately step out of depression. There’s no other way to put it. I experienced racing thoughts that felt as if they were collapsing. I felt as if I had to write the thoughts down or I’d forget them, but they were coming so fast, I found myself incapable of remembering what I physically put myself in position to do that very moment. This is where I would typically turn to cannabis to help turn off the thoughts, but not this time. Suddenly under the weight of the collapsing thoughts, my entire body went numb. Reality before my eyes distorted, and I can only describe what happened next as a separation from my human body. The next moment I felt reconnected to my human body, I was on the floor in tears. Ever since this moment in time, I have experienced a sense of ease that cannot be fully articulated. Here is what I learned.
Until I let myself experience emotions in their entirety, I believe I never fully understood what they were and how exactly they ruled my life. The subconscious operation of our brain dominates behavior and thought. If we processed the millions of stimuli that hit us every single second, we’d be rendered incapable of functioning as a human. This is exactly what’s happening in newborn babies until the time they learn to talk and beyond. I have my new cousin Will to thank for this realization. Baby brains are building that part of the operation, which runs like autopilot and allows us to develop further in an incredibly complex, but also limited human body. This building subconscious operation is influenced by so many more things through childhood. As an adult, I had to let myself feel emotion entirely to get to the center of that subconscious wiring, which is dominating thought and behavior like autopilot.
For me, experiencing anxiety entirely-through opened the door to seeing all emotions in their complete definition. The separation between my compassionate, loving self and what was once perceived as a different outside world, ceased to exist anymore. I now saw the oneness in everything. As a human, I see two paths to dealing with emotion. I keep myself from experiencing it fully and thus get the illusion of separation or an illusion of an Other. Many wonderful people have stated this idea — “If you spot it, you got it.” I hadn’t even let myself experience the emotion to understand it, so I simply saw it reflected in other people like a mirror. I did this for a long, long time! I moved so far away from my family because of that reflecting anxiety which only magnified the intensity of the experience. I thought I was born to run. I couldn’t run from myself.
The second and only other path to handling emotion is to allow myself to experience it entirely to create the space for love, compassion and non-judgment to understand the oneness. I now understand happiness and sadness, calm and chaos, as I perceive light or sound, and it has lifted me from my struggle. For I perceive light or sound as constants, but often forget that light and sound require up and down vibrations of energy for what we see and hear as one constant. I now see that happiness and sadness need each other one-in-the-same in order to exist, even if I perceive them as separate. I can see them as the same, allowing me to give the same weight to all emotion.
The experience of depression is quite paradoxical. It’s a solitary experience that only allowed me to gain the awareness which reconnected me with people and the surrounding world. So… what in the world do I do with this now? I’ve learned that we cannot make each other see no matter how much we try. We must spread love to give each other the space to feel comfortable enough to take the painful dive inward. For it is dealing with inner turmoil that I now believe can lift us to a place of pure equality, full of love and compassion we all seek. It is a love and compassion that I rediscovered in myself and I believe we are all gifted with from the beginning. This is history. My story. His story. Her story. And this is how a spiritual awakening lifted my depression.
If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
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Image via contributor: “from SE Oregon on a cross-country road trip that helped build the awareness that sparked this awakening.”