Shame With Anti-Depressants

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At the age of 18 I was hit with Major Depression.

Since I was in college at that time having no prior education or awareness around what had happened to me, the only way for me to escape my pain was through drinking and partying.

This, as one would assume, only made me fall deeper into a hole but I was determined to fight whatever it was that had stolen my happiness.

When I graduated, a few pretty large life circumstances occurred bringing me even further to my knees to a point where I needed to contact a Psychiatrist.

Still not knowing that I had Major Depression, I went to my first appointment to tell this doctor about what was happening in my life. My parents were out of nowhere divorcing after 24 years, I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer and I had just graduated and couldn’t seem to get out of bed in the morning and couldn’t deal with my life on life’s terms.

The first thing that came out of her mouth was that I had Major Depressive Disorder and  needed to get on medication ASAP and quit drinking right away before I hurt myself and took my own life.

I was devastated.

Why I was devastated was not having someone tell me I was severely depressed but she said I needed to be on MEDICATION!! Oh no. Not me. I am not going to be one of those girls who takes “happy pills’ every day just to be ok. Not me, never, NO WAY!

The book “Prozac Nation” had come out recently and the way people spoke about and judged those who had to take medication for their “crazy brain” scared me so much.

Who was going to marry me???? I was not dating at the time but my fear was that there was no man on the planet who would want to be with me, especially  not forever. This was a nightmare. I can’t be depressed enough to need this. These pills are going to ruin my life and I will be single forever.

I pictured myself at the pharmacy in line picking up the medication and being so worried that the Pharmacist would say the name of the medication too loud and everyone in line would hear. I feared when I would have to disclose to a guy who had taken me on a few dates, “Oh, by the way, I am on anti-depressants” and the look of horror he would give me and never call me again. This was just not the way I planned on my  life going.

I decided to keep trying on my own to fight my Depression with mind altering chemicals and sleeping pills, and the result of that landed me in an intervention with my now broken family telling me I needed to start taking anti-depressants or I was going to hurt myself and they could no longer watch me live like this.

I gave in that day and called my doctor and told her I would try the pills and if they didn’t work I would stop them immediately.

It’s funny because that was over 20 years ago and I remember taking my first 10 milligram pill of Celexa, an SSRI(Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or serotonin-specific re-uptake inhibitors are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders) the doctor prescribed me and I thought that right away all of my problems and pain would just disappear….and they didn’t.

It has been a very, very, very long road with my anti-depressants and finding the one that would eventually work. Unfortunately, it’s a trial and error process that I have always questioned because I felt like Depression is such a life threatening disease and it’s our brains we are taking these chances with, trying out all sorts of medication with odd side effects, but it is what it is.

I have tried over 15 different medications and have now finally found a combination that makes me feel like a version of my old self. The girl I was before Depression reared it’s nasty head in my life. It’s been combining meds, therapy and my own personal spiritual/holistic approach to healing that has allowed me to show up for my life.

Oh, and as for the guy? I found the perfect man who loves me for my light side as well as my dark side. He supports my Depression and has never thought twice about marrying me. He even picks my medication up for me sometimes at the pharmacy 🙂

So never lose hope when you are told you need to start medication. It’s not the end of the world, in fact, it can be a new beginning. There will always be someone who doesn’t care that you have to take them and if they do, they weren’t meant for you anyway.

Peace, Love and Light

XO

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting For The Storm To Pass

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One would think after so many years of weathering the storm of depression it would become less scary to fall into the deep, dark abyss….but it’s not.

When the lows last for more than a couple days, the pain becomes so debilitating and heavy you fear that it’s never going to go away.

You look outside at the world around you with everyone busy doing life at a normal pace but on the inside you are frozen. It starts to feel as though your limbs are numb and you have an inability to function at a normal pace or even at all. It’s as if you are not apart of the world, you are only an observer and it pains you even more that you can’t participate.

When you are hurting so much, but not in the sense that you want to cry, you just want to simply disappear, leave your conscious mind and shut off all of the parts of you that feel so heavy and overwhelming. That is when the fear sets in that this could go on forever.

After a week or more of feeling this way I will start to fantasize about all of this darkness passing and try to recall what it feels like to wake up and be happy and present. The first thing I look forward to is that sense of impending doom being lifted I try remind myself that I am capable of moments of pure joy and peace of mind.

Having a Spiritual practice in times like this has allowed me to get back to ‘normal’ or at least a lot stronger and helps to decrease the number of days that I suffer.

I created a sacred space in the corner of my bedroom where I have my meditation pillow, my altar, candles, crystals and other items that allow me to feel a deep sense of peace.

I light my candle, take out my intention journal and ask the Universe to please take this terrible pain away from me because I can’t take much more. Then I set my timer for 20 minutes and begin a meditation where I place my hand over my heart or my chest, wherever it hurts the most and I breathe into the pain. My only focus is breathing in and breathing out and allow myself to detach from my depressive thoughts and heaviness of heart.

Sometimes after the 20 minutes of meditation I feel as though I have lifted myself back up and can go about my day in a more peaceful way and other times I am given the strength to walk through the remainder of my day along with the uncomfortable emotions.

What I have learned is that my depression and the dark times will never 100% go away. That is something I actively practice accepting because I need to because it is what it is for me. I have also learned that having a strong Spiritual practice has supported me and allowed me to function a lot easier during the really dark days.

 

 

Acknowledging The Dark

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I have always been drawn to the Lotus Flower. The brightness, the clarity of it’s edges, the warmth and it’s flawless beauty, it’s always ‘spoken’ to my heart.

When I first saw the quote, “No Mud, No Lotus”, I had no idea what it meant until I heard the story of how the Lotus flowers blooms:

The lotus flower is a beautiful flower that can be found all over the world. But the start of this flowers life is not as beautiful is one might image. It’s unlike many other flowers. When the lotus first begins to sprout, it is under water, making its home in lakes and ponds in areas where the water remains fairly still on the surface. But underneath the surface, the lotus is surrounded by mud and muck and by fish, by insects, and simply dirty, rough conditions

Despite these conditions, the lotus flower maintains strength, and pushes aside each of these dirty obstacles as it makes its way to clearer surfaces. At this time, the lotus is still just a stem with only a few leaves, and a small flower pod. But in time, the stem continues to grow, and the pod slowly surfaces above the water, into the clean air, finally freeing itself from the harsh life conditions below. It is then that the lotus slowly opens each beautiful petal to the sun, basking in the worldly beauty surrounding it. The lotus flower is ready to take on the world. Despite being born into dark, murky conditions, where hope for such beautiful life seems dubious, the lotus grows, rises above adversity. Ironically, this same dirty water washes it clean as it surfaces. As the lotus opens each petal to the air, not a stain or spot of mud remains externally. The inner lotus too, has never seen a drop of mud or dirty water. It is pure, and bright, and beautiful.

To me this all signifies the process of healing. When we are each at our own personal rock bottom emotionally we have essentially hit a place in our life where we feel helpless or hopeless and see no point of continuing on with this inner struggle and pain.

We have to first acknowledge that this exact state we are in is the foundation for the potential to grow into our own, despite the ‘mud’ which is our suffering. We have to look our suffering in the eye and challenge ourselves to heal.

The process of healing after we have acknowledged the pain does not go away quickly or easily, it is only when the journey begins. However if we can keep in mind that it will all be worth something, that we, like the lotus will grow into a beautiful spiritual being, it will make it all worthwhile.

So when you feel like giving up or feel as though you have reached a point in your life where sadness, depression, rejection, heartbreak or addiction has taken over your soul, think of the Lotus Flower and remember we are all stuck in the same mud, just different circumstances. You are not alone and you are beautiful and the world needs to see you bloom so that when others are stuck you can remind them and guide them on their journey out of the dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebuilding Self Worth With Depression

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Today my depression reared it’s ugly head and all I wanted to do was disappear. It was one of those days where my brain turned on me and an ugly truth came to the surface.

The downward spiral came around quick much like a torrential rainfall that turns into a terrible storm. I couldn’t move. All I could do was cry. My tears felt like they were coming from a very deep place inside myself from the little girl who never felt good enough or worth anyones love and protection.

I was on a phone call with a very big interview today with a woman who could change my entire life by helping me and guiding me how to start my business. I felt this huge connection and my heart told me this girl would take my career higher than I ever could alone and best of all I would be able to serve and spread love on the highest possible level.

I pictured it, I envisioned it, I FELT it!  The feelings of accomplishment, the happiness, the joy, the overall sense of fulfillment of living my purpose, it felt magical.

But then I really thought about it and I just started to crumble.

Who am I do dream big? Who am I to think I could follow my heart? Who do I think I am to wish something like this?

I think what took me down was when she told me how much the one year mentorship program was going to cost because when she did my heart sunk. I knew I would have to ask for some financial assistance and all my excitement and hope turned to dread.

I got off the phone making a promise that I would call back tomorrow to see if I could get the assistance I needed because the program starts the first week of February. I was devastated.

I got extremely depressed and low and all I could do was cry and when I finally realized what was happening it was not a pretty picture.

I have written before about how my depression has stolen many things from me, but this is by far the biggest thing my depression has taken from me: MY SELF WORTH.

All these years of believing my disease that I am a failure, I will never be anything, do anything meaningful, I am a waste of space, I am a fraud, I AM NOT WORTHY.  These types of negative thoughts that I saw as truths have taken me to a level far below where any person should be on the “worthy” scale.

Today reminded me that I have a lot of work to do and that although these dark episodes can take me down to the deepest parts of my insecurities, I have to fight back. I have to do something different. I have to go against what my brain has been programmed to think and choose another thought. I have to rebuild my foundation of self love because without that, I won’t survive.

Yes I have a disease that wants to make me believe I am a worthless person and wants me to sit in isolation and sleep my days away and never reach my full potential but I am going to choose a different way. I am going to take the tools of Spirituality I have learned to sit with those negative emotions:

  1. I will be Aware that they are present
  2. I will Accept them
  3. I will Surrender them
  4. I will LET GO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goals And New Years Resolutions When You Suffer From Depression

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It’s that time of year when all the magazines and posts on social media talk about “Be Who You Want To Be”, “Now Is Your Time to Shine, “This is YOUR Breakout Year, ”and the list goes on.

I would read these articles about making lofty goals, being the best me, making a million dollars, traveling the world and it would start to take me on a downward spiral. I would feel like such a failure because those types of things were nowhere in my mind. My goals looked a lot different than all of those things.

What goals did I have in mind for myself for 2016?

  1. Well to be totally 100% honest, just getting out of bed in the morning would be really nice.
  2. Being able to make it through an entire day (12 hours!) without wanting to go back to bed and hide from the world would be a HUGE sense of accomplishment as well.
  3. Make plans with a friend and actually show up without my anxiety stepping in and causing me to come up with an excuse.
  4. Look in the mirror and find the beauty instead of the flaws.
  5. Start to tell myself that I am not a failure or a waste of space in the world.
  6. Answer my phone when my Mom calls to see how I am doing so she doesn’t worry too much and show up unexpectedly at my house to see if I am still alive.
  7. Seek out other people who are depressed too so we can support one another on the really bad days.
  8. Have the strength to sit with my scary and dark thoughts when my disease is stronger than usual.
  9. Accept that this is my battle and not resist it so much that it makes my suffering worse.
  10. Choose to love myself.

Being able to accomplish these goals, even one a day would allow me to feel like a huge success. Although they may seem small, when one suffers from a mental illness our world does become small and in this space we go to and coexist in, we need small steps to get us out.

These goals can allow us to heal, to breathe, to show up and to feel happy even if it’s only for a moment.

Be gentle with yourself when you look at the big year ahead and be realistic about what goals are doable for you. Remember to be proud of anything you can do and anything that you can’t because we all have those days, months or years and we don’t need to beat ourselves up for unnecessary expectations.

 

Tolerating The Pain Of Emptiness: The Passage That Started My Spiritual Journey

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It was a cold, rainy and dreary day in San Francisco. The weather outside matched exactly how I felt on the inside, miserable. I was at an emotional, physical and spiritual rock bottom and I saw no end to this state of being in sight. I was hopeless and seemingly powerless to the life I was living at the age of 26 years old.

This dark state of dread was nothing new to me, it started at the age of 18 years old when I fell into a major depression but had no clue what was going on due to my lack of education and awareness regarding mental health. This despair and sadness were things that I felt from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep at night.

I had no words to articulate what was going on with me. I couldn’t reach out for help because I had no idea what to say. The pain sat in my heart and I felt an indescribable sense of doom to a life of depression and sorrow.

As I made my way around Union Square in the pouring rain, I saw a Borders bookstore that I felt compelled to walk into. I was hoping to seek some answers, solace, anything to show me what was going on inside of me.

Instead of heading for the ‘Self Help’ section that I normally went to, I saw the word ‘Spirituality’ and headed in that direction instead with a fierce determination and an almost universal pull.

My hand went straight to a small book of daily meditations called, The Soul’s Companion- Connecting with the Soul Through Daily Meditations by Tian Dayton, PH.D.

I opened the book to April 16, my birthday and the passage gave me chills because it spoke directly to my soul:

April 16

Tolerating the Pain of Emptiness

I will tolerate the pain of emptiness when it enters my soul or my life. When I am not willing to do this, I cannot get to the other side of the river, to a true soul experience. Instead, I have more children, make more money, and take on more work, all in a vain attempt to fill a void that cannot be filled. That hole within me that I fear falling into has to be felt, not filled. This is my own, private spiritual struggle; my own inner battle. No one thing can solve my life or make it so that I will never feel empty inside. Really feeling empty is the first step toward spiritual fullness. It is a dangerous society that tells us that it is wrong to feel empty, that it is a sign of failure. My emptiness is my teacher and my friend

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I can tolerate my own emptiness.

My eyes filled up with tears. I felt like I had just received a message from the Universe after all these years of confusion, pain and darkness. The passage stated I was making my way to the other side of the river, to a true soul experience. It mentioned struggle and emptiness and spoke of the void I felt that I had not been able to fill by drinking, using,dating, shopping or any other self-destructive method I could find. That hole within me that I fell into so many years ago. That was it! I did fall into a hole that I could only describe as a sort of hell with pain and despair. It said I had to feel it, all of it, the bad, the scary, the fear, the endless worry that I would be stuck in this place forever.

All this darkness had a name; it was my own private spiritual struggle, my own inner battle. There was even a first step mentioned that stated I had been doing that all along an that was to experience really feeling empty because that would lead me to spiritual fullness. Hope. All these things gave me hope for the first time in a very long time. I was not alone. All of these things that had been going on inside of me had a purpose with names and promises, things I thought would never be true because of the severity of the desperation I felt. There was an affirmation, which was my first time seeing something like this at the bottom of the passage that stated, ‘I can tolerate my own emptiness.’ I was blown away. My feelings were acknowledged for the first time and there was a sense of freedom and peace I was able to have.

I wish I could say that after that rainy night in the bookstore where I found out I was having a soul experience my life was struck 100% happy and there was no more pain, but that’s not my story. It was the beginning of my journey inside, back to the place of love that had been missing for so long, back to me. There is a name for that process as well and that is healing. In order to heal all those dark and fearful places inside of us, we need to reveal them to the light, to our consciousness.

This healing process has been the means of me becoming a stronger person, a wiser and more compassionate human being. Back when I was 18 years old and first fell into the dark hole I was told I needed to ‘befriend my pain’, which at the time made no sense to me but this passage still speaks to me 20+ years later when it says ‘my emptiness is my teacher and my friend’. My pain and emptiness have been both of those things and more and I am forever grateful to this passage that sent me on my way back to the light.

 

Seeking The Light Within

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Today I received an email from someone who had read my article “Don’t Let Anyone Or Anything Dim Your Inner Light”  on TinyBuddha.Com:

Courtney, I want to thank you for the article. For the last few years I feel as though I lost my light. Almost as though I no longer have a soul. I’ve been trying everything to get it back. I started to think I was crazy until I read your story and realized that I Was not alone. I have to ask you though. Do you think its possible to get your light back once you’ve lost it? Thank you!

Here is what I believe to be true.

I think when we realize we have lost our inner light it is because things outside of us start to create our reality within us. 

People pleasing, fear based living, mental illness, addictions, anything that can make us question our self worth. The light starts to dim and we begin to move further away from our true authentic self. We never questioned our worth until other people started telling us things that we believed to be true. 

The way we perceived situations when we were treated badly or deeply hurt, thats when we started to believe these untrue messages about ourselves. Our natural response is to sink into fear and that is when our self worth begins to make a decline.

The inner light is now covered up because we lost track of love. Our soul becomes a dark hole that we desperately want to fill back up to where we used to be when fear wasn’t running the show. We are lost and we do think we are going crazy because we know this is not who we are intended to be. We search for happiness and look to others for approval and love so that we can fill this hole up but the only person who can do that is you.

That’s the journey. That’s what the great poet Rumi means when he says, “If light is in your heart you will find your way back home.”

That is what the pain is trying to tell you, that is what suffering arises from, our fear our assumptions that we are not good enough.

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in. -Alan Alda

Trusting Life’s Roadblocks

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Powerless at the Ocean..

Tonight I decided to take a solo trip out to Santa Cruz and stay at a hotel room on the beach to find out where I am at my deepest emotional level.

The beach is where I am reminded that I am powerless over a lot of things in my life and it’s a place where I have to remember what I can surrender, what I can let go of and which way I need to head when my path has come to a roadblock.

I no longer look at roadblocks as punishment that my life is not going how I thought it was ‘supposed’ to go. I now look for the lesson and the message the Universe is trying to show me and tell me.

My whole life up until about 4 years ago I lived 100% in my own stubborn and somewhat destructive will. I would sit at a closed door and try to break it down to get past the place on my path where the door had appeared. I didn’t know that doors closed, people leave, certain situations that you thought would last forever all of sudden change at the blink of an eye because they are no longer part of the ‘plan’.

That is where my suffering came in from as far back as I can remember. I thought I knew better how my life was supposed to look, who was supposed to be in it, where my career was supposed to head….. I suffered because I resisted the roadblocks, I resisted what the Universe was trying to show me and lead me next. I didn’t trust. I relied solely on my broken self and my stubborn will that had taken me to some of the darkest places I have ever been. I fought what was right for me and when you continue to sit at the closed doors or keep walking down the same streets with the same potholes that you continually fall into, you become desperate and fearful because you are not having Faith in the one thing that is trying to gently lead you in the right direction.

When I first heard the term, “Let Go, Let God or Universe” (or whatever your Higher Power is) I had no idea what that looked like and I desperately wanted to feel the freedom of handing my pain, confusion, depression, addiction, broken heart, disappointment… all of it, hand it all over and try to see what the lessons are in all of these heartbreaking experiences.

That is when I realized that all of my experiences, especially my most excruciatingly painful ones have been lessons. Lessons that have had to be so difficult and soul crushing that I was forced to my knees or lying on the ground sobbing unable to stop. All of these times that I could call my darkest hours, they forced me to see what I was truly made of.

No one is born wise. They say the definition of wisdom is “healed pain”.

We are all handed lessons that are unbearable to us while they are happening and we all question to ourselves, “Why me? How much more pain can life hand me? When will I be free of these tough times? Why do others have it so much easier?”

What I know is each heartbreak, each time I had to go to rehab for my addiction, each time I couldn’t get out of my bed in the morning because of my depression, each time my feelings of shame and guilt for breaking up my family took me down to my knees in pain, each time a friend wronged me or turned on me…..all of it, it was all a part of the plan to break me open to become a more compassionate person.

Yes, I am powerless over what life hands me on a day-to-day basis but I know the following for sure:

I will continue to trust that whatever is taken away or whatever roadblock I hit on my path, I will know it’s a sign that I need to move in a different direction. I will trust that I am being guided and taken care of on the deepest level and that I will always be ok, no matter what.

 

When The Dark Consumes You


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It happened again. I fell down that same familiar dark hole and there was no light in sight.

It was one of those days where the pain is so intense it sears through my heart, into my chest, down to my stomach and my body becomes numb with fear. I have been here before but this was different, I lost hope completely and it scared me.

I couldn’t distinguish the true from the false and the false became my prison cell in my mind.

It’s one of those days when I look in the mirror and I don’t even recognize myself. There is a vacancy in my eyes, they are dark, lost and filled with sadness.

It feels like an emotional rock bottom and on this particular day I am not sure if I can handle the pain. I feel tired and the weight of my incessant negative thoughts are weighing me down to a point where facing the world seems impossible.

It wasn’t until I had the courage to reach out to a loved one and tell them about the place I was in was I able to see this was not a safe place. My world had become so small, every single thought seemed real and when all your thoughts are dark, it’s not a good place to be and I needed someone to help me out of this space.

The hardest thing about depression is that it’s such an isolating disease. The further down the black hole you go, the more you want to be alone and try to fight the demons off alone and this time there was no way I was going to think my way out.

I went against what my disease told me to do, I emailed someone and let them know where my mind had taken me and they helped me get back to a better place.

When the dark consumes you and you want to go it alone, remember that there are people who love you. Reach out to them so they can remind you that the prison in your mind that you have created is all a lie and it’s only a temporary state of madness.

After the storm passes you will see that you can do it. You can beat this and after you do, the sun shines a little brighter the next day because you made it.

Sometimes The Most Beautiful Things Can Grow In The Dark

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This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and I came across this quote today which made me feel compelled to write.

It reminds me that even though my world feels dark, scary and lonely when my depression comes on, that does not mean there is not something beautiful and light still present in my heart.

When my mind tells me I should be in fear and it would be best to just give up,  I have to believe that my heart would tell me a different story.

My heart would tell me that I am not hopeless and I am worthy. It would say to keep fighting even though it’s difficult, because it’s certainly worth it.

On the days that my heart speaks louder than my mind I am at peace. The sun shines a little brighter and getting out of bed is so much easier. I know this lightness in my soul is temporary but it’s absolutely beautiful and I never want it to go away.

When my mind is in charge I can’t help but think I would be better off as an angel. Angels can float around their loved ones and   protect them and love them from afar but they don’t feel the deep searing pains of depression. They are light and free without worrying that they will soon be taken back to a deep dark place.

The world needs to see that some of the most beautiful hearts grow from darkness.

Ignoring mental health issues and making heartless judgements about it while people are silently suffering needs to stop. It pains me to see the lack of love and compassion there is regarding this disease where people are voluntarily taking their lives which in turn affects the lives of so many people around them.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, no matter what age they are, there are state of the art facilities available to help them fight the disease. The love, care and concern others show by rallying around their loved one is incredible and the goal is to never allow the person who is walking through this scary experience feel alone. It’s a beautiful thing.

Please tell me why it’s so different with mental illness?

The lack of services, support, compassion and attention to this issue is devastating.

Pain is universal. Pain is real. Darkness is not a choice.

Please choose love. Please let those who suffer see that sometimes the most beautiful things can grow in the dark.