Depression is something that I’ve dealt with on and off for a long time– it’s like a dark friend that I’ve tried to ignore and defeat with prescription drugs, illegal drugs, anything to deny its existence; but in the back of my mind I always know he’s there. I’ve come to a point in life where I’ve gone through these highs and lows, and then relative normalcy so many times that I’m not scared of the dark side anymore. It sucks when you feel like you can’t get out of bed, all you want to do is shut your eyes and then by night fall you can’t sleep a fucking wink, my body physically starts to hurt, hips and shoulders aching as I lay in bed trying to escape into comatose dream world at a time when the street lights have gone dark and the rest of the world seems to have shut their eyes and found peace. I spent countless hours laying there and telling myself tomorrow will be better.
I’m currently on a magical island in the Greek Cyclades, and yesterday I felt the low mood slightly creeping in– and I did a little self reflection, but honestly, I found no substantial cause, there’s no reason for me to feel low, my life is great, it’s everything I’ve dreamed of– really it’s more than I believed possible. And then tonight after going to teach yoga and having no students to teach, I left feeling really low again, I had dinner plans, but I didn’t want to be around people, I felt like I couldn’t form a worthy conversation with anyone, I just wanted to retreat inward. So I pseudo-canceled my plans and grabbed a snack alone at a Greek taverna and wrote this description of my feelings on a napkin:
Faint sky beckoning an oncoming storm, Bright clouds, Foggy grey pale blue, Wash out the twilight like the weight of my mood, pushing down a smile into a look of melancholia, I’ve seen this face many times before, I know it well and I no longer fear it, No bother contemplating how long it will stay. I’m patient. It passes. Everything passes. So I curl my hair, take a whiff of perfume and doll up my drowning eyes, pretending just a little bit until my spirits rise. Because they always do.
I was still hungry after I ate, but I didn’t care much, I felt like I wanted to go home and just read a book or do some writing, really anything to avoid other people; but then the friend I was supposed to have dinner with messaged me that he and some friends were going to a place I hadn’t been yet. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a connection with anyone, but I made a split second decision to step outside of my comfort zone, sent a text that I’d be there and forced myself to go anyway.
At first, I felt a bit awkward, I didn’t know the other people, and I don’t like the way my face feels when I just smile to smile, when it’s not real. After a while though their conversation picked up and pulled me in, and soon I was laughing and forgetting all the low, reclusive feelings I was experiencing. It was really nice, not easy, but I think necessary. I don’t want to live my life as a depressed person. I’m not overly social, and that is fine, but when there’s an opportunity to change your state of emotion, it is up to you to make the move and sometimes it is as easy as saying ‘yes’ and not allowing your conscious mind to think twice about it. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous that my low mood would be immediately apparent and bring others down, and naturally no one wants other peoples first impression of them to be a downer, but sometimes you have to take that risk– I think this risk taking could be called ‘self love,’ or something like it. Or maybe the Greeks are just fantastic mood lifters!
Either way I feel much better having spent the night with a group of incredibly interesting and fun humans, and I think that small move out of default zone of retreating inward might have just save me a few days of sinking.
The Next Day:
I woke up feeling, for no apparent reason, low again. I laid in bed thinking oh no, please not a day of blindly schlepping my body around disconnected. I learned in my recent yoga teacher training that meditation is not a good tool to use when you are feeling depressed, it’s best to try and do Asana, get the movement flowing. I sat down on my mat, but the weight of my limbs felt more like heavy clay rather than a living, breathing, blood filled body capable of divine energy. I did my best to push past the desire to just lay back down and sink into inertia, I inhaled my arms up to the sky, exhaled them down to the floor and repeated this a few times. Stretched out my neck and did a few rounds of cat cow and finally pushed back to down dog. Oh the weight of my body felt so heavy, so I came down to child’s pose for a few breaths.
This didn’t seem to be working. So I sat in Sukhasana and decided to do some Pranayama. I took a deep inhale and a gentle exhale and then went through a few cycles of Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), I was starting to feel better. Then I did a 2 rounds of about 100 breaths each of Kapalabhati (shining skull or breath of fire). After the second round I exhaled, took a gentle inhale and then held the breath for about a minute imagining a white light in the center of my forehead. My body felt lighter and more energetic, so I did a few rounds of classical Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations), and a few gentle twists in chair pose.
And once again, I am feeling better.