years ago i was depressed. the depression was triggered by the breakup of my first romantic relationship. that breakup, combined with my childhood wounds, shredded my heart for a really long time. i could not get over it. i tried to get over it by getting into some unhealthy relationships. no matter where i went or what i did, i couldn’t shake the sadness. i was in a place full of pain and anxiety. those feelings crippled me. for close to eighteen years, though from the outside i behaved quite normal but i was limping through life with a seemingly endless supply of tears."Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." ~ Excerpted from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
by the time i came to Mary, my therapist, i was a mess. Mary (God bless her) helped me understand that i didn’t have to get over it. i just need to get through it. what a relief that was! a big part of my depression stemmed from feeling guilty about not being able to “get over it”. i felt like there was something wrong with me. i felt weak and worthless. “get through it” those three words set me free. eventually, i learned to accept my depression (because love would be a very strong word). and then, i began to heal – however long it took. it has taken a long time for me to truly believe this, and it requires ongoing effort to change my pattern. if I’m not careful, it is easy to spend long, boring hours ruminating about my losses and my fears. if i don’t stop myself, i analyze my life from every conceivable angle in a desperate but doomed search for a solution to my problems. but in this context, thinking is not the answer. it only keeps my frustrations on center stage, and accelerates the engine of anxiety. i’m fully aware that i have the emotional tendency to slip into long-term sadness. i’m not embarrassed. i’m not worried. i’m not the kind of person who can ignore her emotions, and i feel things very deeply. this is just who i am and it's okay. whatever i need to feel, now or in the future, i’ll feel in my own way, at my own pace.
and i have managed quite well… until these past few weeks.
unintentionally, i offended someone. i thought I was helping and though i meant no harm, my words upset that person. that got me thinking (uh oh) and triggered my old patterns. my anxiety hit the roof and i feel a little more depressed everyday. my “fear of rejection” pattern due to “defectiveness” schema is in full operation (very scientific!). the fact that maybe I had given someone reason to believe i was horrible, because maybe i was. i tried to soothe my anxiety by reasoning that my intention came from the heart. what went wrong i cannot wrap my head around it?
it has been two weeks since i last sat down to meditate because i am so anxious i can’t sit still with my breath. the truth is i avoided meditation in order to not have to witness and watch my thoughts for fear of what will come up. but i also hate walking around knowing every cell in my body was sad. it feels like carrying around a giant backpack full of bricks, i am physically and emotionally exhausted.
so I sat down to breathe and focus on what my heart is trying to say. slowly the thoughts came untangled and my head feels light. only then, I realized …
… kindness doesn’t always win.
not everyone wants kindness to visit and stay. kindness also has adversaries, like self-hate, self-doubt, and self-criticism, and those enemies must be ousted (hence the irritability/hostility) before kindness can have a safe place to dwell. people have to get used to kindness. at first, kindness can feel scary, uncomfortable… even unwelcome. one has to develop a strong preference for kindness before one will feel the willingness and courage to choose kindness – insist on it – on a daily basis.
when i decided to seek professional help i was beginning to perceive that unkindness no longer worked for me. i was getting tired of the angry voices of addictive thoughts and behaviors, low self-esteem, self-criticism, and others’ critical voices that replace the potential for joy with pain and sadness. it can be quite challenging to make the leap from unkindness to kindness without someone to help make the transition. i was lucky to have a great psychologist and friends, family members – angels really who show me kindness at key points along the way.
but ultimately it was my choice to be happy. too often we look for others to solve our problems, provide fulfillment or soothe us when we’re stressed and anxious. it is simple (yet difficult) to put the control of our happiness and relationships in our own hands. rather than be a victim of circumstances, get active in solving our own problems. although there are circumstances and events which we are powerless to change, we can change how we respond to them and how we take care of ourselves during difficult times.
i have faith in myself, my emotions, and my abilities as a human being. i no longer insist on perfection from my self or from others. all i can hope for is to be myself, to love and to accept myself, even on those days when i act insensitive. we all have those days when we are not at our very best. however, it is how we come to term with ourselves and our actions that sometimes remind us of how far we have come.