“Suffering is not caused by pain but by resisting pain.”~Unknown
Prior to my twenty-second birthday I was spiraling down a self-destructive path, partying at all hours of the morning and drinking excessively to numb my pain. I was a rebel with a cause, as the lure of the nightlife kept me away from my dysfunctional home.
I was searching for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, but the universe stopped me dead in my tracks, both literally and figuratively, when my brother committed suicide.
Devastated by the loss of his presence in my life and the close bond we once shared, I felt utterly alone. I couldn’t fathom my life without my beloved brother. His death was not something I anticipated.
I needed answers and some sort of explanation as to how a happy-go-lucky young man had changed into a moody and depressive person.
In my grief-stricken state, I went to the public library and retrieved books on suicide and mental illness. I needed to categorize his disease. Was it bipolar, schizophrenia?
Coincidently, I had a medical appointment with a general practitioner. I was a new patient and had never met this doctor before. But I immediately felt at ease with him, and though I went in for a physical reason, I left his office with a plan for self-healing.
After a few sessions with the doctor, I learned about depression, dysfunction, abuse, and addiction. Initially I didn’t know what those terms had to do with me and my brother’s death.
I was completely overwhelmed, and as I excavated my past, I plummeted even deeper in my darkness. I remained stuck in stage four of the grieving process—depression.
My pain was so unbearable I even contemplated my own death. When the doctor offered antidepressants, I declined.
I chose talk therapy as opposed to antidepressants, not because of any stigma, but because I envisioned myself in a vegetated state for the rest of my life.
I already had family members in this predicament and I vowed that it was not going to me. So I was quite aware that I was genetically predisposed to manic or bipolar depression.
After one year of dealing with my issues, I abandoned my own treatment. I was caught up in a whirlwind romance with my prince charming. We got married and built a life that my girlfriends dreamed of.
Yet, I was still unhappy and, after a nine-year relationship, I found myself divorced, picking up the pieces of my life, and headed back to the doctor’s office.
I was severely depressed and diagnosed with bipolar tendencies. Still, I stubbornly refused antidepressants.
In my mind, I had already established my happiness was not going to be found in a pill. So I kept searching for what I believed would make me happy, only to self-medicate by stuffing my emotions in binge eating, alcohol, and co-dependent relationships.
I was a walking contradiction and I really “thought” I resolved my past. So why was I still unhappy? Once again the universe stepped in, and third time was definitely not a charm.
For two and a half years I endured a turbulent relationship that had me consumed with passive-aggressive behavior and endless drama. When I severed the ties, I hit rock bottom. It was time for me to confront myself.
I was fed up of repeating the same patterns and I was ready to get serious with my life. I resumed my therapy sessions. I started journaling, and I gradually established a holistic approach to take care of my entire well-being, encompassing mind, body, and spirit.
• Saying positive affirmations three times a day (morning, mid-day, and at night)—such as “I love and accept myself,” “I am at peace in my life,” “I deserve to be happy,” “I feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally”—dispels the negative chatter.
• Focusing on the solution of what’s bothering you is highly effective, instead of fixating on the problem. Worrying only increases stress-levels.
• Reaching out to friends and/or a professional offers support.
• Practicing yoga or any form of exercise increases your energy.
• Eating a balanced diet with lots of greens, reducing processed sugars, and drinking lots of water is not only healthier for your body, it also nourishes the mind. In the book The Ultra Mind, author Mark Hyman correlates how “junk” food can affect our moods and diseases such as depression.
• Sleeping is important, ideally eight hours. You’ll feel refreshed and a lot less prone to making poor choices.
• Acknowledging your emotions instead of burying them with alcohol, sex, food, etc is much more responsible, because you’re 100% in charge of your own happiness.
• Finding at least five things to be grateful for shifts the focus from what you perceive as missing in your life.
• Forgiving others and most of all yourself is necessary in order to let go and move on.
• Praying, journaling, and meditating increases inner calm.
• Listening to your intuition can save you from needless suffering.
The key is consistency and repetition in order to create healthier habits. I know that life can get in the way and some days it can be challenging to cope.
By no means am I advocating against the use of antidepressants. But I’ve always believed in the mind-body-spirit connection, and I don’t think antidepressants are the sole means of dealing with a mental illness.
After a nineteen-year battle with depression, I can attest that treating the mind-body-spirit is not a quick-fix solution—and that it is possible to feel whole again. But have you have to choose to put effort into healing.
Do you practice any rituals to keep your mind, body, and spirit connected? Are you in a combination treatment, if so what are they?
About Andrea Lewis
Andrea Lewis lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Dramaville is a not a place; it’s a state of mind. Her memoir promises to be filled with drama, emotional turmoil and an inspiration to never give up! Connect with Andrea at http://www.andreamlewis.com.