Almost everyone is challenged with depression at some point during their life. For many people, depression is a passing phase that comes and goes according to life events, and generally subsides on its own. For others, depression can be a debilitating experience lasting for weeks, months, or even years. I have experienced both forms of depression, and have come to understand that there are multiple factors involved in depression, stemming from the layers of the human experience: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. These layers are profoundly interwoven, affecting one another in ways that modern science is just beginning to uncover. By understanding each of these layers more fully, we can cultivate the ability to transform depression back into joyful life energy.
My Descent into Depression
My first experience with depression occurred when I was 12 years old. I was just starting junior high when my father was killed in a car accident. Over the following months and years my perspective on life took a nosedive. Becoming cynical, anxious, angry, and frustrated, I closed down to life, feeling more and more alone and isolated. Holding in the pain from the loss of my father caused me to restrict my energy in numerous ways. I lost an interest in everyday life, becoming very introverted and withdrawn. Physically, I became tired and lethargic most of the time. My chest sank in, and I began slouching when walking. Continual anxiety and stress caused me to develop recurring stomachaches and panic attacks.
Eventually this repressed emotional energy manifested as disease in my body. By the time I was 21, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of the intestines called Ulcerative Colitis. The symptoms of U.C. put a major damper on my life, and included frequent diarrhea, blood in the stool, abdominal cramping, depression, and anxiety. I was prescribed medication to be taken three times a day, with the occasional dose of prednisone for when my symptoms got really bad. My life became focused on survival, and I continued to become more depressed and removed from the everyday joys of life.
My Search for Meaning
After 8 years of living with this disease, something shifted within me. As my life became seemingly more empty and hopeless, I developed some self-destructive patterns, such as binge eating, drinking, and using sex and romantic relationships as a means of escape. Life seemed like a bad movie, and I was the main character. Out of desperation, and amidst all of the internal chaos, I began to search for greater meaning and purpose in my life. After coming across the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, I started a practice of mindful awareness, watching my thoughts, emotions, and the mechanism of my ego. Over the course of a few weeks of diligently observing myself, I began to go through a deep process of unraveling, and thus began my journey of healing.
As I watched my ego, I began seeing the layers of negative thoughts and emotions that were constantly repeating in my mind like a broken record. I saw how the root cause of my suffering was not due to the events of my life, but rather my thoughts and reactions to life. I realized that I was the one creating this suffering within myself.
Waking Up Spiritually
Something significant happened during this time, which culminated one day during an introductory meeting for a counseling internship I was about to begin. While sitting in this meeting I suddenly “woke up,” and saw these truths about myself so clearly. As I was getting ready to introduce myself at the meeting, I saw how my entire identity was based on mental concepts and beliefs about myself, and had very little to do with who I really was—It was at that moment that something within me cracked. I excused myself from the meeting, and as I stumbled outside I began crying, and was amazed to see beautiful colors emanating from the trees and buildings around me. I felt this huge weight being lifted from my body, and felt a joy, bliss, and love that I had not experienced in a long time.
The next two weeks were spent in this indescribable peace and joy, and I spent most days walking the streets, just so happy to be alive and experiencing life. My mind was very quiet during this time, and I felt a deep connection to life around me. A miraculous side effect from this awakening was that the symptoms from my disease disappeared. Negativity in my mind and emotions were being released, and my body was healing as a result. Throughout this process I also intuitively began eating healthier, drinking fresh vegetable juice everyday, and performing periodic fasts when my intuition guided me to do so.
Though the initial joy and peace from this experience subsided, and my mind slowly became more active, I had been given a glimpse into the possibility of experiencing heaven on earth. The subsequent years following this awakening have been a time of deep learning, observing which thoughts, emotions, and actions return me closer to that state of unconditional love, and which do not. With greater self-knowledge and self-awareness come greater responsibility, and I am continually learning how to act in harmony with life, and how to offer my energy in service for the highest good of all.
What I have learned through the process of healing has been invaluable, and has created a new depth to my life. Though I still experience moments of depression or anxiety from time to time, I have learned the tools to quickly move through it, reconnecting to love and peace. It did not seem like it at the time, but my struggle with my disease was actually a blessing in disguise. For me, illness served as a doorway into a richer experience of life when I was finally ready to heal. I am grateful for the lessons that I learned from these experiences, and I feel blessed to now be able to support others along their journey of healing.
Photo credit: Ray M
Mica Akullian offers holistic counseling via skype and by phone http://holistichealth-counseling.com, and is also a contributor for Answers.com in the healing category, http://healing.answers.com/. Mica enjoys yoga, meditation, singing, and ecstatic dance.