There have been times in my life when I’ve fallen into depression. It’s hard to admit it when it happens. It’s a slow decent and the signs can be subtle when you’re the one that’s stuck in a rut. Learning how to get out of it when it happens is even tougher.
Depression begins slowly within normal lives
When I was in my mid 30’s I had a lot to deal with. I had just quit my job to start my own business and most of my day was stressful. I honestly didn’t know what to expect during my workday and I had a lot of anxiety about the future.
I also had 3 young children, one of them being a newborn baby girl that was waking up at all hours of the night. With everything from paying for and changing diapers to severe lack of sleep I was running on empty.
Depression can come and go for different reasons.
Fast forward to 2016.
I now have a thriving business but it’s still stressful at times. Dealing with employees and clients and always making sure that sales come in. We’re constantly trying to keep up and the process of “feeding the beast” is never ending.
My children are older now and self-sufficient for the most part. But my 3 kids play baseball. Baseball is time consuming. Every night is a rush to decide what we’re going to have for dinner and to get the kids off to their games. My wife and I usually see each other briefly and then head off in different directions.
This year my wife also found some new friends and started spending a lot of time with them. They’re constantly texting, finding reasons to be together and to go out to dinner and to bars to hang out. She started dressing differently. There was a lot of change in our interactions and our relationship.
I felt a lot of jealousy because all of her time was devoted to our children and the rest to her friends. It became a severe source of anxiety for me.
In both of these situations in my life I fell into a mild depression.
Depression comes in many forms and in different levels of severity
I don’t want to say that I was severely depressed. I could function and I was generally able to function as needed. But there was an underlying unhappiness. There was anxiety and churning. It became hard to sleep. I tended to pull back from my own social relationships because I was trying to devote more time to my kids and my wife. It was hard to find the motivation to exercise and I started to gain weight. I didn’t watch what I was eating. I was not able to be appreciative about my place in the world. I was not able to pull back and see my life in a positive way.
Getting out of a depressed state can be challenging. Even if it’s mild. Most people will tend to head to their doctor and they’ll usually get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication or something specifically manufactured for depression.
This is where I ended up.
I was told by my doctor, both times, that I should begin taking something for my anxiety. The first time they put me on a pretty heavy dose. It helped, but I felt numb, physically and mentally. When my wife and I had sex, my senses were dulled and it was sometime hard to perform. My attitudes toward health and being mindful about making good decisions was dulled as well. I continued to eat in an unhealthy way, and, combined with the medication I gained even more weight.
These are just a few examples that contributed to my realization that medication was not my answer. Medication just replaced my old problems with new problems. Yea, I felt better because I was numb and shielded from my depression and anxiety, but it didn’t make my life any better.
Meditation to the rescue
As I began to realize that I needed to look at other options, I started to look at natural cures for anxiety. I was always attracted to buddhist ideas and zen practices so I began to research meditation.
It took me a long time to actually begin. When I did it was sporadic at best. I just didn’t believe that sitting and doing nothing would help with anything. I’m a very active person that finds great satisfaction in accomplishing things every day. Just sitting and doing nothing goes against everything that I crave in my life. I want to produce things and experience life. Sitting still with my eyes closed and not moving goes against my very nature.
When I first began meditating there was a lot to learn. There are different approaches and it’s definitely more than just sitting still with your legs crossed. There are many types of meditation and not all practices will work for every person and every need.
Mindfulness Meditation was the medicine that I needed
What worked for me was mindfulness meditation. It’s one of the simplest forms of meditation where you sit in a upright posture and focus on your breathing. The goal for me was to focus only on being in the moment.
I put on my noise cancelling headphones and I chose relaxing, interesting and inspiring music to listen to. Many mellow songs from movie soundtracks did the trick for me. I sometimes spent up to an hour just sitting still, focusing on being in the moment, feeling my breath and listening to my music.
I did this for months in the morning when I got up in the morning and I began to find my groove. Sometimes I’d find time to do it before bed and during my recent bout of depression this night time ritual became my primary window for meditation.
What I experienced was transforming. We’ll talk more about what happens in your brain and body during meditation but let me just say that it’s more that just wasting time and sitting still.
Meditation can be transformative
When I was meditating I could honestly get to a point of being in a blissful state. I came out if it feeling like I had just had amazing sex and slept for 3 hours. It’s hard to explain until you experience it. It can be transformative when you learn to control your mind and find your way to a state of bliss during meditation. It can take time and education to get there, but it’s worth every minute.
Learning to meditate and to dedicate time on a regular basis to a practice was one of the most important things that I’ve done in my life. It can be so hard to start because you feel like it’s a waste of time. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. There are so many benefits to meditation and, for me, one of the most important is having a tool to fight anxiety and depression.
The road to recovery
I can say now that I’m feeling better. You can never say that you’re completely, 100% ‘good’ when you have to fight ongoing feelings of anxiety and depression, but having meditation in your tool belt is like having a lightsaber in a sword fight.
Give it a try. Start today. Spend 5 minutes sitting still and being alone and quiet. Focus in on your breath and try to empty your mind. Meditation is the open door to a whole new world.