What happens when external voices drown out your own? We're wrapping up our current exploration of inner wisdom at The Phoenix Soul, in honor of our latest magazine issue, SAGE. I'm honored to welcome guest author Joanna Z. Weston to the blog today. She bravely shares her experience with depression and how she's striving to hear her own voice above the noise. Join us, kindred. -Amanda
This is, of course, one woman's story, and not to be taken as medical advice.
The Sage's Way Through Depression
by Joanna Z. Weston
My intelligence and capacity for self-reflection are not diminished by my struggles with depression. I know the difference between the lies of my mental illness and my own thoughts and feelings, even if I can't always successfully act on that knowledge. But years of therapists and psychiatrists convinced me that I could not be trusted with my own life. This may be intermittently true, but is certainly not the prevailing truth over the past 16 years.
For so long, I let the well-meaning voices of others override my own knowing. I continued taking antidepressants, even as depression deepened its hold on me. I suspected they weren't making a difference, but people who claimed to know better than me told me that I couldn't be sure what horrors might be unleashed if I let my brain operate without those chemical dampers. So I stayed on them. When my depression worsened last year and I could barely function, I let them change my meds again and again, trying to believe that the next one would finally fix me. Or the next one. Or the next.
Until I couldn't anymore. Until I realized that the key to unlock the door and free myself from this prison was to learn to trust my own innate wisdom. So I began to listen, and then to act. Never one to start small, I began by insisting that my psychiatrist help me to taper off the antidepressants. He reluctantly agreed.
I've been free of medication for two months now, and my depression has not gotten worse, though it has shifted. I am more decisive, more able to act on thoughts and impulses and ideas, but am more easily upset. It's not the dreary, heavy pain of depression, but the natural reaction to living the wrong life. Ignoring your own desires and boundaries is not supposed to be comfortable. I can no longer let fear stop me from saying yes to something my heart longs for, then return to Facebook unperturbed.
Learning to trust myself, to believe that I can be my own sage, is a process I've only just begun, but I'm committed to traveling this road. Possibly because I see now that the only other option is a slow death, and that is no option at all. So I will find another way.
I have a deep longing to help others heal and to hold space for them, so I just filled out an application to volunteer at a suicide hot-line. I can't know what will come of it yet, but I choose to listen to my inner wisdom, rather than believe those who would tell me that I am too fragile for that work.
I have always wanted to write, despite being told that I lack the temperament to deal with the inevitable rejection. I choose to ignore that voice and put myself out there anyway. It hasn't killed me yet. In fact, I've made a file in my email, to remind myself that the path to publication is paved in rejection letters.
I'm trying new ways of dealing with my depression, since it's a companion I am likely to have for life, whether I like it or not. So I might as well use mindfulness to make friends with it as best I can.
It's not easy to let go of the voices of “we know better” and trust my inner sage. I am all too aware of my own failings, and all too quick to discount my own experience. I think that most of us are, whether we have a history of depression or not. However, the effort is not only worth it, it is necessary if we are ever to live with the sparkle we were born to embody. And the world sorely needs that.
Joanna Z. Weston lives outside of Boston, with her husband, a shockingly undignified cat, and a grape vine which is constantly threatening world domination. She writes about depression, spirituality, and nature at www.joannazweston.com.
Editor's note: Many thanks to Joanna for sharing her story with us. Again, this is one woman's journey with depression, not to be interpreted as medical advice. In many cases, medicine for depression is a vital resource, especially taken in conjunction with counseling, behavioral therapy, and other holistic care. Joanna's message is important, no matter how you determine best to care for yourself: listen to and honor your own voice, your own innate wisdom. Only you can decide what is best for your care. If you are struggling with depression, please seek help. You are not alone. -love and respect, Amanda