Three Steps Out of Depression: Nearing 60th Birthday The Journey Worth Taking

| May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

When I found myself at the bottom of my depression, I believed with all of my being that I had reached the end of my journey. This can’t get any worse, I told myself. And I certainly couldn’t conceive of it getting any better. I had reached the end of my rope and, figuratively and literally, I was ready to hang myself.   

steps out of depression

Self-portrait during the period of darkness (depression)

But that wasn’t the answer. And that certainly was not the end of my story.

You see, those of us who have experienced that hollow, empty, hopelessness that depression brings, don’t believe that we can find our way out. But as long as we take the next breath, there IS a way out, no matter how young or how old we live to be. Let me share something with you.

When I was 21 years old, I fell into a depression so dark and deep that finding my way out was simply unimaginable. I had lost three of the four members of my family and desperately sought help from a psychiatrist who was recommended to me. After seven months of therapy sessions that were going nowhere, he overmedicated and sexually assaulted me in his office one evening.  

I lingered in my darkness for years afterward, coming to the conclusion that all was lost. There was no hope. There was no way out of my misery.

  1. Deleting The False Voices

I believed this because the stories my mind was telling me were the truth, or at least they were my truth.  These stories told me I was worthless, a fraud, a failed human being forever held in the grips of mental illness. Why wouldn’t I believe them? Each year that went by, as I saw myself getting older but not getting better, the voices that repeated these stories and the belief that my life would end in despair–either by my own hand or wasting away in a hospital room somewhere–became even more convincing.

The day I hit bottom was during the second week of my eighth hospitalization. I woke up one morning and saw the faces of my daughter and kid brother crystalize in front of me and knew I could not go on living like this any longer. These were the only two people in my life who gave me any reason to live, and I could not leave them. And on that day I began my climb out of darkness.

  1.  Take Just One Breath at a Time

Like anything worth pursuing, our own salvation takes time. There were days when the depression came knocking at my proverbial door and I couldn’t hold it back. There were other days when I lay on my sofa and took note of each and every breath that flowed in and out of my body. “One day at a time” was an unreachable quest, so I got through the day by focusing on taking one breath at a time. OK, got through that breath; now for another one. Now another.

Of course, I could not have sustained my climb out of darkness alone. I knew I also needed support. My daughter was too young for me to lean on her and my brother had his own demons he was wrestling with, but I had my friends. Those very few who were not afraid of my pain and who could hold space for me were allowed inside my circle of trust. All the other people in my life who didn’t or couldn’t understand my depression and shied away out of fear were invited to stay away, thank you very much.

In the end, just having one or two people in my life who could be there for me, listen to me, sit with me, was all I needed to sustain me through my healing journey.

  1.  Live A Full Spectrum Living

Today I understand that what I experienced during those 12 years of darkness was the result of multiple traumas that were either unresolved or exacerbated by dangerous people who entered my life. That was 27 years ago and as I approach 60 years old, I realize that all that I feel and all that I experience includes the full spectrum of emotion–from grief, despair, sadness to hope, joy, and happiness. Buddhist tradition believes that everything in life is transient. I believe it as well. The darkness I lived through felt like it would go on forever, but only by finding the ability to overcome my demons and look back through the lens of a healthy emotional state can I know that that darkness, too, was transient. I look at the word “hope” as an acronym: Hang On, Pain Ends.

I am all that I feel and all that I experience, but none of it has to define me. I am not “a depressed person;” I am a person who lives with depression that on occasion comes back into my existence, but I am also a person who has an abundant life filled with love, adventure, friends, children (and now grandchildren) who love me and are so very grateful that I am a part of their lives. I would not give this up for anything. My journey brought me to where I am, and I offer gratitude each day for the long–and yes, sometimes terrible– a path that has led me to this glorious place.

Bio:

Suzanne Ludlum

Suzanne Ludlum a Certified Yoga Therapist

Suzanne Ludlum, MS, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, YACEP, is a certified yoga therapist in private practice.  She works with people who suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries, and conducts training and professional development courses internationally for mental health clinicians, yoga teachers, and rehabilitation professionals.  Suzanne is a conference presenter and suicide prevention advocate and is the author of An Imperfect Pilgrim: Trauma and Healing on This Side of the Rainbow (Balboa Press, 2017).  She is an owner of Trinity Yoga Therapy in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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