Sitting on the cold, hard, sterile floor, back against the wall of the psychiatric emergency room of Brackenridge Hospital in downtown Austin, I had only one question. How did I get here? I mean, I know how I physically arrived despite being half comatose from a few too many sleeping pills. From what I can remember, paramedics bust into my apartment completely uninvited, entered my bedroom, shook me awake and demanded I answer a few questions. Apparently they didn’t like my answers. From what I can recall, I was lifted from my bed, placed in a wheelchair, awkwardly carried down the stairs of my apartment and transported into a medical vehicle. The next thing I remember, I was in a hospital bed. I should’ve known better to be more specific when I asked the Universe for a man to carry me out of bed in my camisole. Note to self – I would like to be fully conscious when a man sweeps me in his arms and leads me out of, or into, my bed.
They had no right to barge in. No right to dictate I live. It was my life. I should be allowed to decide whether or not it continued. I was pissed. I was hurt. I was sad. And I was still slightly drugged. How had it gotten this far?
Before I could answer that question, I realized I had a more pressing concern. How the hell was I going to get out of this antiseptic, dispassionate, sterile room with fluorescent lights and cold air blowing above me? In my version of hell there are no burning flames and hot searing pitchforks. In my version of hell, I am sitting on a block of ice, naked, forced to drink ice water. I hate the cold. And I most definitely am not a fan of bad lighting. I felt like screaming. I felt like I was, indeed, crazy. At the same time I knew I didn’t belong there.
Truth was, all I wanted was a hug, a warm safe space and someone to tell me I was okay. In one of my most vulnerable moments, I wanted to be assured that my brokenness only meant I was human.
Unfortunately, the psych ward of a hospital is not the place you go for warm and fuzzy or compassion. To those nurses and psychiatric evaluators I was a box to be checked – something to be figured out, a monkey in a cage to be ogled and studied.
So I did what I’ve been doing my whole life – I lied. Have you thought about harming yourself before? No. Do you feel like you want to harm yourself now? No. They danced around the word suicide like a stripper around a pole. There is nothing I despise worse than bullshit and they were full of it.
With the help of a friend who assured them I would spend the night at his home, I convinced those doctors I was not an immediate danger to myself or others and they sent me on my way with an inappropriate dosage of Prozac, unguided as a rudderless ship. I wasn’t so convinced myself, but there was no way I was spending another moment in that joint. It took me about a week to regain any enthusiasm for life or desire to understand what had happened. Once I did, there was no doubt in my mind that this was my proverbial wake up call. I could no longer lie to myself. Despite my best efforts I could no longer ignore depression or continue to ride its turbulent wave. It was difficult to acknowledge that I suffered from depression, especially when many times I couldn’t quite pinpoint why it appeared. I never wanted to use ‘depressed’ as an identifying characteristic like female, or blonde or green eyes. These are obvious traits. Depression is often anything but obvious and not something I was keen to add to my CV. Admitting I was ‘depressed’ made me feel like a victim. I seemed to be able to find solutions to every challenge in my life. Why not this? Yet if I couldn’t call it out or name it, how in the hell would I understand it, much less heal it?
Besides, who was I to bitch and moan? By all outward appearances and societal standards, I lived a successful, happy life. And to a large extent, this was true. My adult years have been full of adventure, traveling when I pleased, seeing places that most only dream of. I’ve toured temples and shrines in India, hiked the highest peaks in Colorado and swam in the seas hugging Africa and Bali. I built a name for myself in the fitness and yoga industries and have appeared on DVDs covers and in some of the most popular health and wellness magazines. I seemed to have my shit together. I smiled in all my pictures. By all accounts, my life resembled a greatest hits album on Facebook. Thus, I dismissed years of underlying malaise, rationalizing that I simply tolerated and fought through more sadness than the average person. Or that I was sensitive – more susceptible to emotion – mine and other’s. It seemed even in my happiest moments, depression was always there, lurking just beneath the surface, ready to rear its ugly head and make a mockery of my picture perfect life.
In my earlier years, my demons arose from the conflict between my outer and inner worlds. Despite my successes, I longed to know a world beyond what I could see and measure with my eyes; and one in which my happiness was not predicated on the size of my bank account or my waist. I wrestled between the life I thought I should have and the one I so desperately wanted for the longest time, and there was no resolution. I simply vacillated between the two, doing my best to navigate the murky waters of both, praying for a map to guide me in the right direction.
My prayers were answered when I found my teacher in the Fall of 2011. It seemed I would find exactly what I was seeking under his direction studying yoga, Tantra and meditation. I was a diligent student for the next five years. I attended every training and workshop. I learned techniques that helped me fulfill my deepest spiritual longings while simultaneously teaching me how to navigate the everyday challenges of the material world. I committed myself to yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practices. I wrote in my journals non-stop. I actually became a seeker of darkness, looking for it in the hidden nooks and crannies of my consciousness so that I could understand it and extricate it from my life. Despite the ebbs and flows of life, I began to feel more stable, more confident. I began to recognize how my habitual thoughts of fear and negativity created a life of discontent and I was committed to changing them. I also began to develop and nurture deep meaningful friendships that would support me in my times of sorrow. All of these things helped me take ownership of my life. I no longer felt like a slave to my emotions and sensed I was moving in a positive direction.
Yet toward the end of 2015, I began to feel a large swell of discontent. My job as the Wellness Director of a resort and spa in Austin, TX was unfulfilling and I was living in a city where I never did quite find my groove. In February of 2016, I quit my job and boarded a one-way flight to India for a sadhana immersion with my teachers, unsure where exactly I would go after that or when I would return. I had no idea what was next and, like anyone with a pulse, I felt fear over leaping into the unknown. But I did know without a shadow of a doubt that I was making the right decision. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was running away from something, but running towards something.
During my travels throughout Asia, I learned more about myself with every stamp of my passport. I began to get clearer on what I wanted, the woman I wanted to be, and the life I envisioned for myself. I knew I had to write the book that had been brewing inside of me for years. After I returned to the States, I retreated to the mountains of Colorado to do just that. My summer was filled with meaningful work, time in nature, fresh food and visits with family. I was finding balance. I was content and at peace. And I almost convinced myself I had seen the last of sadness sans reason. I felt joy – a deep internal joy that was present regardless of what I did for a living, what I looked like, or whether or not I would ever press into handstand in the middle of the room.
Despite all of my strides forward, depression had been patiently waiting in the wings, ready to make its grand entry and take down the house. One evening I was exhausted from one too many hikes and quite possibly, a lack of adequate oxygen. I had gone for a particularly long stretch staring into a computer screen, isolated from much contact with the outside world. My defenses were down and feelings of anxiety and restlessness began to overshadow the peace I had found in the mountains. I was blowing through much of my savings and worries about what I would do for work and how I would support myself became overwhelming. I feared the risk of switching careers and expressing my truth. All the courage and confidence I seemed to have cultivated during my solo travels disappeared in an instant. It felt safer to crawl back into the shadows then make any attempt to forge ahead into the light….
To read the rest of the essay, please visit YogaPoetica.
March 19, 2017 at 4:45 am
❤ Thank you for sharing your difficult journey and your darkest moments in such an honest and heart wrenching story. I have followed your stories on Done and lived vicariously through your journeys. Although much older than you, I have teetered on the edge of depression for several years now always seeking positive messages and thoughts to keep me from wavering toward the dark side. I can feel your pain and understand your despair but more than anything I am SO THANKFUL that you are able to continue to fight this battle and find a higher purpose in your life!
One of my insights came through the Kelly Brogan’s book A Mind Of Your Own. Through her Words I found that Depression is not simply a chemical imbalance but a system imbalance starting with the gut. Mine is due to Gluten intolerance and I am just beginning this journey to find a cure. I hope this might be of some help to you and only sharing because I care.
Please know this… your writing is amazing and I look forward to reading many more of your inspiring, mind blowing stories in the future. You have a talent that needs to be brought to fruition so please use your craft to blaze your purpose, as you continue your journey! 🙏
With much admiration,
March 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm
i am going to look into her book. i know my friend is a fan!
March 19, 2017 at 5:01 am
Jennifer, (not to seem like a stalker) lol
Your words were a gift to me so I share this in return.
I wrote this many years ago …
Hoping you will find Peace in moving forward ❤
Is my past
Inside of me…
Outside of me…
Circling all around me…
To the right of me…
To the left of me…
In front of me…
Is my future
Hovering above me …
March 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm
Thank you Laurie. We all receive the same message if we are open to listening. This was just beautiful and I am honored that you shared it with me. I will keep it in my heart.
March 20, 2017 at 4:19 am
I understand (the best I can) my oldest fought suicide, depression, SIB and destructive behavior for 10 years. She’s been better, great actually. Graduated college and getting married. My youngest is handicapped-Angelman Sybdrome, seizures, IEB (Intermittent Explosive Behavior) she’s 15, non verbal, bites herself and me! My son, the middle child was my angel. I felt God gave me him because I had my girls. He was diagnosed with Aspergers and Anxiety. He’s had some struggles but he was always perfect. I just found out he’s cutting. My heart is broken. I’ve been down this road, its awful, bumpy, unknown. I know it’s not about me. How much can one mom take before she breaks? The worries I have scare me. I’m physically in pain. But I have to survive and thrive, for my kids. I’m not sure I’ll be able to. I feel Done
March 20, 2017 at 4:50 pm
Sending prayers of strength and love your way. You can make it through. I sincerely believe God will not give us anything we can’t handle. If you can, look up some Yoga Nidra practices. My friend John Vosler has some amazing ones as does my teacher Rod Stryker. I think they would be of great benefit to you. Much love.