Igniting Darkness.

DepressionPain is inevitable, suffering is optional. – I think we’ve all heard that before. I don’t really know what it means, though, because how can you feel pain and not suffer?

When people want to know what depression feels like, I find myself oversimplifying it for 2 reasons.
1) If they really care they’ll keep asking questions, or stick around long enough to find out.
2) How can I explain how something so massive feels? “It hurts, and you’re not sure why,” is what I often tell people.
Yesterday was dark, and it was the first day I’d felt that low in several weeks. In the midst of the light I’ve found here in Pittsburgh, it was interesting to feel the darkness enclose on me again. Sometimes, the dark comes just one day at a time, other times it seems to linger for days or weeks on end without signs of hope or glimmers of light. This darkness was fleeting, but I don’t think that was by chance. I have a tool kit in my possession, I can pull things out and make myself better, I have that power now.
Inside, this is what a day like yesterday feels like:
You failed. You didn’t write yesterday, and now you have more proof of your imperfect nature. It’s morning and you’re running late…what is the matter with you? Are you crying? You’re sensitive, over-sensitive really. Skipping a day of writing shouldn’t make you want to cry…you’re a huge failure. Nothing you do today is going to be right. Watch where you’re going! There’s an enormous truck next to you. Everything that comes out of today is garbage, maybe you shouldn’t move out of the truck’s way…
MilkshakeHow do you explain that amount of negative self-talk, shame, and turmoil to someone who hasn’t experienced it? Putting it down on paper, I can see all the faults in my thinking – yet in my head and in my heart it all feels too dense to dance with. Having warrior strength doesn’t mean not hearing this negative voice, it means overcoming it. Being a warrior doesn’t exempt you from the pain of battling depression, it saves you from wallowing in it. Warrior strength is drinking a milkshake at lunch to cheer yourself up and then coming back to your desk and writing without caring about yesterday, acknowledging your humanity and moving on.
My favorite online yoga instructor, Adriene, has a habit of calling out her “human moments!” in the midst of her recordings. If she stutters, loses a thought, or begins to lose her balance, she laughs at herself and says to her camera “human moment.” I think she’s embraced it so she doesn’t have to re-record all the time, but she’s inadvertently teaching all of her students as well about how to act on the mat or rather how you can act however you want on the mat. The mat is a safe space, a practice arena for the real world. It’s where yogis go to reset, reevaluate and re-adjust. We’re not supposed to judge our thoughts or our actions there, just notice them and move on from them.

So yesterday, I took care of myself as best as I could while I was at work. I reached out to my best friend, someone I know can relate, and made it known how difficult my day was. Just one text, and I suddenly wasn’t so alone. I spent time organizing myself for the week, and forgave myself in advance for the lack of productivity.

When I got home, I cleaned and spent time with Aaron and his mother, but I also carved out time for myself on my mat. I didn’t follow a video, or surrender myself to something easy. Instead, I brought my emotions to the mat with me, and followed the flow my body needed for almost an hour. I swear at one point I just danced for a few minutes mid-warrior pose. I listened to the energy around me and took what I needed to heal myself. Afterwards, I meditated in child’s pose, releasing my weight to the earth, and setting my hands in prayer above my head.

The darkness can only be beat by the internal light you shine.

I asked my best friend Sami to contribute to today’s piece, to interpret what this darkness and depression feels like and looks like for her. She’s excited to be involved, so much so that I may just let her write something to stand alone and contribute to the conversation. I want more voices here, especially on this topic. If you have something to say, don’t hesitate. Write to me.

Depression isn’t one thing, and it’s not the same for everyone, but I believe anyone who has spent a large portion of their life suffering with the disease will tell you that recovery and healing comes from within. Outside forces can contribute to the dark or the light, but the truth lays in how we react to those energies. As often as I can, I choose to radiate positivity. That doesn’t mean I don’t get road rage, or feel frustrated by stupid people on a daily basis. It means that when I can, I do the intentionally kind thing, the purposefully positive thing. Maybe no one notices, maybe it changes no one’s day, but maybe it does.

Yoga_Elephant_2016.07.19Today is a new day, and for that I am so grateful. I have a delicious cup of coffee in front of me, a beautiful day outside with bright blue skies and shining sun, and an awesome yoga class to look forward to tonight. Who knew that Pittsburgh would hold so many amazing souls, and such a strong community of beautiful, inspiring yogis. Tonight, I’ll practice on the roof of Skybar, a nightclub and lounge downtown, as the sun sets and the moon rises. As incredible as my home practice has been, it’s enhanced consistently by the energy of an authentic group of yogis coming together for events like this. A big shout out to all the yogis who make that possible to look forward to.

I feel immersed here in a community of not just yogis, but independent and confident women. At lunch, I’ll get to enjoy the company of 5 other women I work with, all of us at various points in our life. One has never been married or had children, but has a career history anyone would envy. One has children who will soon be grown. One has a 5-year-old. One is a sophomore in college. Together, we’re a sample of what strong women look like, and I’m honored to get to call them friends now. I want to be both, a strong woman, and a gentle one. Is that a pipe dream? Is it possible to not have it all – which is cliche – but to feel it all? To feel empowered and caring, to balance somewhere in the middle of not letting the world break you, but not letting it trample you either?

Warrior strength means having the courage and the back bone to try again tomorrow. Release today, if it no longer serves you. Breathe. Engage tomorrow, for it is the light we can look forward to. Smile. Breathe. Namaste.

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