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How I Found My Way Out of Depression

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I still remember the sticky, August night that I finally inched my way off the ledge of blind insecurity and into the wide-eyed free fall of healthy self-love. Another weekend was closing in on us, along with another hot summer and its sunny months of blissful ignorance.

We’d been dating in circles for years — no direction or forward motion, just the same, well-worn circles that were driving me deeper and deeper inside my fortress of insecurity. By the time it all came crashing in on us, the only thing left standing on the sidewalk that night in a cardigan and cut-offs was a very frail and deeply insecure woman.

“I like where we’re headed. I’m just not ready to propose,” he said, with a casual shrug. I felt my stomach tighten and legs start to tremble beneath me, as if they were preparing for the free fall I didn’t quite see coming.

“That’s exactly what you said a year ago, and we still haven’t moved forward,” I heard myself saying. “You still don’t know what you want and I’m not OK with that.”

The humid air weaved through his overgrown curls as he stared at the sidewalk for what felt like hours. But I could feel the words long before he said anything.

That was the night I first encountered it: the beginning of the unraveling. The slow destruction of the life I had established on the belief that I was unworthy of love and belonging. And with every step I took toward healthy self-love, another slab of my self-rejection-soaked life went spiraling to the ground with a thud.

Until the unraveling began, my career was becoming something of a black hole. One minute I was traveling the world, writing, adventuring and dreaming of the books I’d write one day. The next, I was wasting away in a dungeon-like cubicle with no sunlight or fresh air or much of anything at all besides a few fake plants I’d acquired.

I spent hours cranking out promotional content about as engaging as an obituary section for a nonprofit that spent most of its revenue on new Ikea furniture and secret Hawaiian getaways. I had signed for a job I’d dreamed would take me around the world and ended up with one that shut me entirely out of it.

And let me tell you something: There’s nothing like a dead-end job to drive you straight to the crossroads of two delightful paths: depression or confrontation. I could choose to stuff my feelings of worthlessness and meaninglessness until I could no longer feel anything at all, or I could confront the fear that haunted me on the daily and risk losing everything from my health insurance to every trace of dignity.

But as Anais Nin so beautifully put it: “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Whether I liked it or not, that day had come. The bud was killing me. It was claustrophobic and aggravating. Not to mention I was stuck in there alone with no one but the miserable woman I had become.

So that’s when I set out in search of the woman who had so thoroughly buried herself away from the pain of failure and rejection that she had disappeared completely. Where was the fearless one who knew what she loved, and did was she loved and loved what she loved?

And once I found her, there was no turning back. The path toward digging out the self I’d buried was full of dirt and destruction. It meant throwing in the towel on my career as a promotional writer. It meant walking away from the relationships that held me back. It meant the slow unraveling of all that had come forth out of the lies of my unworthiness — which turned out to be a lot more things than I expected.

In my healing, I started down the path of becoming a healer. It was a treacherous path at times, but it was filled with meaning and purpose. No matter the cost, I knew my direction. I knew my worth and I would settle for nothing less. There were valleys of loneliness and peaks of triumph along the way, but when all the smoke began to settle, I saw a new life beginning to form around me.

I landed a career I loved with superiors who valued me. I surrounded myself with people who spoke words of life over me and brought me closer to my truest self. I found the voice that had been silenced by years of emotional abuse and I used it to give confident yes’s and no’s, to establish healthy boundaries, and to express genuine compassion and empathy in a world that despeartely needs it.

I found the way out of the stifling bud and blossomed out into the unpredictable, sometimes painful, breath-taking, life-giving world I was meant to live in. The stakes were high outside of my protective fortress, but the sun was warmer, the fresh air was invigorating and the colors were astonishing and vibrant.

When I came fully alive, I found out I had a lot of life to give. And for that alone, the risk it took to blossom was worth it.

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Unsplash image via Nikola Jovanovic

Originally published: June 19, 2018
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