Making Friends with Depression


On many days, I’m feeling depressed. It’s a hard thing to admit. We don’t want others to see. We’re trying to keep up the nice image in front of others, on social media, even in front our kids.

It really hit me when I realized that I’m coping often in front of my toddler and my baby... When I’m pretending in front of my daughters, because I don’t want them to see when I’m feeling unhappy or depressed, what am I teaching them actually? That we have to feel good all the time? That a woman always has to smile? That we constantly have to be in a highly productive space? That we are not okay the way we are? That we need to hide behind a facade?

For sure that’s what I have been taught and started to believe early in life.



I could write here about all the different natural solutions we have available to take care when we’re feeling depressed - brain nutrients, superfoods, anti-inflammatory diet, gut health, blood sugar balance, exercise and so on. So much is brain chemistry, and by reducing inflammation in the body and getting enough of all the crucial nutrients, we can feel like a whole new person. That might be a blog post for another time. However, I want to talk today about something way more powerful and meaningful.


So many of us are on a lifelong quest for healing. We think our pain and our ‘flaws’ have to go away. I’m finding the pressure even higher as a natural health practitioner and life coach. Am I not supposed to be ‘healed’ in order to help others? And am I not supposed to be ‘all grown up’ and have it ‘all figured out’ in front of my children?


Actually no. It might feel like we should, but thinking we have it all figured out, is actually a dangerous place to be in. An attitude of ‘I made it!’, can keep us stuck in the same place, can keep our hearts closed and prevent further development.


The more honest and sweetly vulnerable we can be, in front of others, the more space there is for real seeing, for real connection, and for real evolution. First though, we need to be honest in front of the one who is perhaps our most critical judge - ourselves.

As I already said, it can be hard to share with others what we're dealing with. I've been struggling with darkness since I was a child. I always felt as if there was something dark and heavy on me. I felt ashamed of it, thought people could see it, tried to hide my 'badness' by smiling a lot and being particularly nice. I never felt I was good enough, I tried to make up for it by working on improving myself endlessly. I studied hard to get the best grades, took on one program and training after the next, I excelled in the different positions I held, exercised with discipline, was strict with my diet... all of this gave a nice framework to my life, but I knew that the moment I would stop frantically striving to achieve things, this structure would crumble. I had my regular breakdowns, seeing that all of this wasn't real and just a means to cope with a big hole on the inside. I became more and more exhausted by all the doing and equally more desperate to be fulfilled and at peace on the inside. I'd tried everything from counselling to improving my diet, all of which were definitely helpful and important, but they didn't hit the nail on the head. The source of my suffering persisted.


In my search, I came across Dr. Gabor Maté, renowned author and expert on addictions and childhood trauma. At the core to his teaching lies the premise that we are suffering, not because we made a mistake, or somebody hurt us, but because we are disconnected from the truth of ourselves. I sensed a strong resonance with this and wanted to explore what this meant for me. I started studying his approach to self inquiry, what he calls Compassionate Inquiry. I was so drawn to the work that I decided to go on an Ayahuasca journey to find the very centre of my terror. Ayahuasca isn't something I recommend or work with in my practice, but it's something that helped me facilitate key breakthroughs that remain pivotal aspects of how I work with clients concerning topics such as emotional eating, eating addictions, etc.


The night I took the plant medicine will always remain one of the most profound experiences of my life. After the first serving, I went into a cozy state and felt myself lulled into a deep restful sleep. I remember the moment when a resounding 'NO' came up in me and I sat straight up on my mat. I knew clearly that I didn't come here for good feelings, I was looking for something real, something I knew would come at high cost. As I sat up, the shaman came right next to me and could see what was going on for me. She gave me another serving. The first thing that happened shortly after that was an overwhelming sensation of being pierced by an incredible pain in my heart. It didn't just happen to me. I knew that I had made the decision in that moment to finally let it in. It was all the pain I'd held at bay. The piercing went straight through, cracking the wall of the fortress, creating entrance where there had been none. From there on, I encountered the most excruciating terror, going deeper and deeper, till I was feeling it in each and every cell. I was somehow able to follow the advice the shaman gave me in the beginning, to allow everything that would happen. I made the choice to not fight it, and, to my utter surprise, I was able to be okay in the what was an inconceivable, seemingly unbearable darkness. And then something shifted. After I could see that I was able to withstand the most terrible suffering, I had the realization that I actually don't have to suffer. There, in that moment, it let go, it was as though something released from my heart, and the suffering slowly eased off for the rest of the night. The shaman told me later that she witnessed that change in me like a dark energy coming off my heart. She said it let go, because I had let it go.


The next morning I felt completely raw and broken on the inside, but in a good way. It was like something hard and encrusted broke. I was finally being real and genuine. Certain pains, that I had carried in my body, eased off. People noticed a change in my face and in my voice. I remember that in the next few weeks after this dark night, I was having a very different experience with any difficulties that I encountered during the course of my day. It was like surfing over the waves instead of drowning. I was actually thriving on the difficulties! I'm so grateful for this amazing seeing.

That experience has left since then... I'm back to not liking difficulties and struggling - sometimes on a daily basis; however, I still know the truth of what I knew in the midst of all the darkness and all the light that I was in. It didn't come from the hellish or heavenly experiences, but it was already there, in me. That truth is right there, in the moment I pause and am willing to look at what’s really going on underneath. And every time I let honesty in, it can be heartbreaking again, but in a good way. Yes, it hurts when we let the outer protection of our hearts being pierced, but it hurts so good and it creates access for something real. We can be seen and reached, we can see and reach. We can start over from a genuine place.


From this heart space, we can see that it’s actually okay what we're currently in. It doesn’t really need to change. Then the pressure, we've put onto ourselves, can finally dissolve and we can simply rest in our heart. Just by not pushing against what we're feeling, by not trying to keep up the facade anymore, by not holding ourselves artificially together anymore, the illusory prison we’re in, can collapse; we relax inside, and, suddenly we can breathe with ease again. There we see that the ‘matrix’, we felt was so real in our experience, is just a mirage. And then, in that moment, we can realize that nobody did that to us; it was only ourselves. We actually didn’t need to carry all that burden, anxiety, terror in our mind and heart.


I know all of that, but keep on falling, I keep on believing the matrix; however every time I emerge out of the darkness, I get this light bulb moment of a deep seeing that I don't have to suffer. We can decide to suffer or we can decide to be nourished. And we might even ask the question: Who are we without the struggling? Who are we really? Or better even: what are we?


While we might believe that our wounds, difficulties, distortions are keeping us back, they are the real gifts. What we think is our worst enemy, can be our friend. Dr. Gabor Maté says that rather making it a problem, we can see it as a ‘treasure to be explored’. There is actually nothing to fight against or hide from.

Dr. Maté is talking about so called ‘stupid friends’ that have helped us since childhood to cope with the world, with the pain. We use negative emotions, unconscious beliefs about ourselves and the world, and habitual patterns to keep up a barricade that serve to protect us from pain that we think we can’t bear. In a way, they have helped us to survive, but they aren’t really helpful in the longterm, because when we believe them, they keep us back from what we truly want to be: authentic, open, and connected.


When I relate to the pain, as a friend who is trying to wake me up, rather than a dangerous foe that needs to be vanquished, I can soften and find compassion with that part of myself. The patterns did help me to cope and survive in a way. They served me, even if not in a real way. Dr. Maté is calling them stupid friends, because they don’t learn or evolve. Every time a negative emotion, belief or pattern comes up, we can say “thank you, I know you’re trying to help me, but I don’t need you any more”. That can loosen the grip of that tight energy.


What we thought to be a big, scary monster, turns out to be only 7 years old, 4 years old, or 1 year old (it has the age of when we developed a certain belief or pattern). When we recognize this child in us, we can stop being afraid of her and instead hold her dearly and be the grown-up that she needs.


What is the little girl asking for? What is it that she needs? What is it that she needs to hear?


"It's okay. It's okay that it's there. You are okay.

It's not really you. You are so much bigger than that. I love and see you...."


What is it that your young child needs to hear? Tell her. Be that for her so that she can see the truth of herself when she's lost. We can be both, the child and the parent. It’s both in us. We are being whatever we give our power to. We can become anything.


"Compassion is like an elixir that can heal the deepest of suffering.
We are all the same in that we are all human with deep feelings - even if it doesn't appear that way on the surface. There is always room for more compassion in any situation or relationship, and with compassion comes the healing energy of Grace and non-judgement. When we have compassion for ourselves we have compassion for others and sometimes we have to experience something and forgive ourselves before we can have compassion for others in a similar situation. When we can have compassion for our 'mistakes' then we begin the healing process for ourselves and for everyone.
With compassion still comes boundaries - we can love others unconditionally and still choose to keep healthy boundaries for ourselves.
As I look into the eyes of another, I see myself reflected back." ― Sandra Kunz

While there are practical things we can do on the outside to improve our situation, on the inside there isn’t really anything to do. There isn’t anything to fix or to change first. There is just something to be. Change and healing happens as result of what we’re being, as a fruit of what we’re rooted in. From there, nourishing action can emerge effortlessly rather than a desperate doing to be.


When I stop pushing my depression away, when I stop fighting it, when I stop needing it to go away, when I stop judging it - I can finally be with the little girl in me without an agenda or trying to accomplish anything. From there I can really take care of her.

From that place, I can truly take care of my daughters. I don’t have to fix anything in myself first and can be genuine with them. Only by being a good parent to myself, I can be one for my children.


Thank you depression for this opportunity.


I wish for you that you can find kindness with yourself every day

That you can see your struggles and your pain as 'treasures to be explored'

That you can pick yourself up how you'd wish to be picked up, every time you fall

That you can see that you already are what you are longing for.


With love, Christiane


"Your conflicts, all the difficult things, the problematic situations in your life are not chance or haphazard. They are actually yours. They are specifically yours, designed specifically for you by a part of you that loves you more than anything else. The part of you that loves you more than anything else has created roadblocks to lead you to yourself. You are not going in the right direction unless there is something pricking you in the side, telling you, “Look here! This way!” That part of you loves you so much that it doesn’t want you to lose the chance. It will go to extreme measures to wake you up, it will make you suffer greatly if you don’t listen. What else can it do? That is its purpose." ― A.H. Almaas


 

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