I spent Halloween ’11 in mental hospital.
Well, technically, it was a “Medical Center for Behavioral Health.” But, because I keep it real, we were all sorts of crazy up in there. The staff even put on horror movies for us on Halloween. They wouldn’t allow me to keep the drawstring of my favorite sweatshirt, but watching endless Freddy Krueger I guess was okay.
All that aside, this Medical Center for Behavioral Health, it’s really a place for rock bottom, and I was definitely at my rock bottom when I landed in there for my depression.
I survived my depression by making one decision with four simple words.
Depression is a disease, just like cancer, and when the disease wins, we die. So, for my disease not to win, I had to live. That’s the decision I made the first night in the hospital – more of a promise or a pact, really, to myself – that I wouldn’t take my own life.
I won’t kill myself. It was the only decision I made each day after that for a long time. Sometimes it was the only thing I did all day. Every time one of those thoughts came into my mind wanting me to dive into the dark with it, I repeated my promise to myself: I won’t kill myself.
I was in the hospital for five days. They try to set you up to not land back in there again, but it’s such a short time with people at their darkest points, that you leave with the hardest part in front of you – climbing out of your depression. Although I decided I would always choose my life, I still had to figure out a way to actually live my life not depressed.
I had a lot of support from friends, family, and even teachers. Some of my fellow hospital mates had no one. I thought I had lost hope but I realized I had just closed the blinds on it. I had no idea what I was going to do upon getting out of the hospital, but I knew I was choosing my life and that I was going to try something. That’s all you can do.
You don’t have to succeed at everything you try and, in fact, you won’t. But even more, you won’t like everything you try. That’s the beauty of exploration – you get to keep trying, regardless of whether you fail or succeed. It’s about finding what works for you and what lights your fire, and that’s going to be completely unique to you as well as your path in finding it.
In order to explore the outside world to it’s fullest, I felt I had to explore the world inside of me first. When I couldn’t understand or care for myself there was no way I could do that for others. So, I went inward, mostly with the help of yoga. Reading, journaling, cooking, eating healthy foods, and getting a lot of alone time helped, too. But, yoga hits all aspects of the being – physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual.
My yoga practice #everydamnday isn’t handstands and fancy poses. It’s sitting quietly with myself with no distractions, breathing, remembering I chose my life and I choose how I react to what comes my way today; it’s listening to my body, moving in a way that best supports what it needs in that moment, and being intentional on how I want to feel and love that day. That’s yoga, connection.
The poses, asanas in Sanskrit, are just one of the eight limbs of yoga. They help support a functioning, healthy body. But we are so much more than our bodies, which is something we can easily forget. The Niyamas, the second limb of yoga which is all about how you interact with yourself, has five branches, one being svadyaya, self-study. I had to study my Self to know, trust and love myself. The yoga mat was a safe place to do that, to witness, experience, and explore my Self. All I had to do was show up for myself on my mat and breathe. And, at the end of the day, it’s about showing up, first for yourself and then for the people you love and who love you.
Self-study is life-long work. I’m still exploring myself and working through old though patterns and habits, but, thankfully, I don’t have to make that same decision to not kill myself each day. Now, I decide how brightly I want to live each day. If you’re alive and choosing to stay alive, it’s so much lighter and nicer to also choose to embrace life for everything it is; to witness yourself instead of tear yourself down, to experience yourself and the world instead of judge it, and to love instead of build up walls. That’s total acceptance.
I went from having to make the decision to not to kill myself one dark night in a mental hospital, to not only accepting myself, my past, and my body but also being madly in love it all… it’s magical, but that’s yoga and extreme self-care for you, and it’s possible for every single one of us.
If you are depressed, or think you might be, I encourage you to seek some professional care, either directly or ask a trusted friend or family member to help you set an appointment.
Sending you love and support on your journey,