Nineteen years ago, I was sitting in the middle row of my enormous lecture hall as our professor peered at us over his glasses “eight out of every ten of you will have in the past, or will in the future experience some form of depression and anxiety” he said. We looked at each other quietly wondering who in this room might admit to it. It was 2001 and mental health still had a stigma attached to it even though we were all here to become mental health professionals.
Three years later I stood at the front of that lecture hall and gave a talk about the hazard of labels, including anxiety, depression, ADHD and so on. I proposed that, while it is important to acknowledge the emotionally, hormonally, and physical-health driven rollercoaster of life would it not be more reasonable if we embraced those as the human experience and focused on creating a society that made the world will live in a safe place for the full spectrum of human affairs.
Afterwards, my lecturer congratulated me for my well-delivered unorthodox ideas and amusedly reminded me that if we didn’t give people names and labels for the highs and lows of life, we would be out of jobs. I decided I didn’t want that kind of job, then, anyway.
Fiveteen years later, I am still trying to find ways to normalise the highs and lows of life, in ways that are inclusive.
Growth and healing are inseparable parts of a continuum, both reaching for wholeness, intertwined like DNA strands.
Depression is when society tells us that we cannot do what our entire body and souls ask of us: to enter a healing cocoon where you disappear for a period of time to be alone, simmer in your own beingness, learn to set boundaries, spend time alone, and in nature so you can be a completely different person when you emerge.
Anxiety is when society tells us that our inner knowing is wrong: and we a told to bypass our jittery nervous system that is asking us to slow down enough to calm down and listen so that we can see that the life choices we have made recently aren’t meant for us.
We live in a world that tells us to transcend the wisdom of our bodies in favour of the hard facts and knowledge of science and technology.
Over and over again, I come back to the question of how I can integrate the natural intelligence of life itself, which makes up all of us and our planets, cosmos and universes, with technological evolution.
In 2004 when I graduated with a psychology degree I had zero interest in the internet.
In 2007 when everyone started using Facebook, I scorned it. My boyfriend at the time set up an account for me because he wanted a way to stay in touch with me when I went away to India for 6 months. Back then I was flaky and unreliable so it was his hope to somehow still hear from me.
I love a story diversion so let me tell you what happened. Three weeks into my trip to India I did a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat during which I decided to end the relationship with him. In the spiritual heights of regaining my senses, I called him from my old silver Nokia to tell him I’d finished the retreat and we needed to talk. The line was bad and my friends were waiting for me so I cut the conversation short, in my ethereal haze leaving the phone on the wooden steps I had been sitting on. He ended up flying to India to find me and we had that conversation in person.
In 2010 I started a blog after years of people encouraging me to do so on account of the monthly group emails I’d send to my ever-growing email list from all the people I met on my travels. Back then, I was still very averse to the whole concept of the internet. I’m a slow adaptor. But, also a fast learner.
I never imagined I’d end up creating a career and a lifestyle that relied so heavily on technology and that I would make that choice specifically because it entitled me with the freedom, space, and time to cultivate my connection to nature, self, spirituality, growth and healing. The instrument that I thought would take me further away from some of my highest values has in fact offered me a way closer to it all.
So as our humanistic, scientific, intuitive, biological and technological knowledge evolves, so does our spiritual, and we have landed at the submission that the human experience is not to be transcended but to be felt fully. In the flesh. That both elation and despair belong. That depression and anxiety are sided by happiness and peace. That we cannot escape pain and grief if we want to have love and joy.
Naming one as ‘bad’ and the other as ‘good’ does not make it easier, better or sweeter. What does offer comfort is in the inclusion of it all, our deeper understanding that we cannot have one without the other, and universal compassion that every life is one hell of a rollercoaster ride.
I’m currently on an assignment to offer more insights, philosophies and tools on this topic of inclusion, where we embrace the hard and celebrate it as much as the light, soft and effortless parts of life. Where healing and growth are two sides of the same coin.
Stay with me here.
Let’s do it.
Around here, we do things a little differently...
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