I’m not really sure how to talk about this in such a public way, so I’ll just try to be honest and direct. In my classes and writings over the years, you may have heard me sharing at times that I’ve struggled with depression off and on throughout my life. I am seeing now that for the most part I shared about it as something in the past. It is, however, something very present. Over the past month or so, I’ve been experiencing a particularly acute depressive period. Consequently, I will be taking a sabbatical from teaching and administrative duties through the end of January. This feels like a miracle to me, and is possible thanks to the way we’ve set up our organization and the loving care of my community.
I want you to know that I am ok and have a lot of resources and support, and am in an odd way excited for this chance to go deeply into my own healing and discovery and bring back what I find. I am already learning so much. I have been studying my patterns of depression for years, and have an awareness of it this time around that already feels deeper and different and more spacious. I can trace its progression in direct correlation to the events occurring in the world right now, that have set all my own traumas humming. I am certain I’m not the only who has been equally impacted, or more so, and some days wonder how anyone is functioning at all in the world right now.
I am seeing that, for me, depression shows up to cushion the places where I’m still just raw and wounded—pointing me towards the places I’m being called to heal. I can feel, just beneath the depression, some really big mads and sads that I’m thankful to now have the space to feel, process, and integrate. This awareness, I’m finding, is allowing me to orient towards my depression in a much kinder, almost (almost!) grateful way. I can, at times, appreciate the genius of survival that is there in my own psyche’s capacity to dampen the intensity of traumatic events—those in my own person and history and ancestry, and in what I believe is sweeping through our collective consciousness.
I have a worry that sharing all this may feel burdensome. I have a worry of being judged—which perhaps points as much to my own self-judgement as to the cultural stigma—knowing the privileged nature of my situation and choices, and that what I struggle with isn’t nearly the worst that others may experience in their life. I also feel a little worried about drawing this kind of attention to an aspect of myself that has been difficult to love.
I am choosing, though, to share because it felt like the most integrous way to fulfill on my commitment to my community, to my path as a teacher and healer, and to my self. I share to be honest about what’s going on for me and to practice showing up in my wholeness—even the parts I’d rather keep hidden. I share because of the double-whammy of depression—which may be true for mental illness of any kind—is first the struggle to be functional while living in a thick weighted fog. And second, the un-nameability of it—the silence, the shame, the stigma, the barren isolation. I know too that I’m not the only one who lives with depression—and my prayer is that, in sharing my experience, there is, if not a little more light shined on the experience of another, then at least companionship on the difficult and often lonely path.
Healing, for me, requires not hiding that this is my struggle. I’m not excited about it, but I’m not afraid for it to be known and named and seen because it is simply what is so. And this not hiding is making a difference already. In the past when I was in a place like this, I’d be so averse to the company of others—not so much because I didn’t want to be around people, but because I felt like a black hole of emptiness that sucked the life out of everyone else. I cannot express to you what a blessing it is to be able to just name the black hole, and then carry on. I can already feel the texture of the depression shifting because I am not having to pretend it isn’t there. As it shifts, I feel my Self, just there still, deep at the center, a little distant, a little fragile, but intact.
The response to my asking for this kind of space and support has been humbling and awesome. It is something I wish so profoundly was possible for everyone at those times of great need, which we undoubtedly will all face at some point in life. It’s the kind of thing that my practice and long labors of friendship have gifted me the trust in others and self-worth to be able to ask for and receive. When guilt hits, I try to remember the gift of being able to support others when they’ve asked for what they needed and when I truly had something to give. When I worry that I’m asking for too much, I am practicing trusting that those around can and will say no to anything that feels like too much. I am, in these long Advent nights, listening and praying constantly.
My deepest bow of thanks to Vania, who has responded with such genuine care and understanding, and is literally kicking administrative ass right now. Please bring her chocolate. An equal bow of thanks to all our teachers, staff, and Board stepping up to support while I’m on leave, and for believing in and helping to shape the vision of a community and organization that would allow me to do this--where what we are up to is healing, and where it is happening is on every interpersonal and institutional level.
I will see you around! I’ll be taking class and doing things here and there. Don’t be shy about asking me how I’m doing, as long as your ok with my honest answer. I’m taking my turn to occupy space as just another one of the precious bodies that we serve through love, connection, and mutual healing within Beloved Community.