Depression is such a tricky thing, and I am no expert by far. I am not claiming to have all the knowledge and I have certainly not been trained in the traditional medical or clinical approach to depression. But I have healed and recovered from depression and have done significant research into the many facets and aspects of depression. I have followed an alternative route to the conventional approach to the treatment of depression, resulting in me not having used any form of medication (conventional or alternative) since 2008 after suffering from severe depression since the early 1990’s. What I am sharing here is based on my personal experience and healing journey. I found the support needed and done the work, even if it was uncomfortable and sometimes even scary. It was not always easy but looking back, it was worth it. Today I live in a space of grace, peace, serenity, balance, and connected to self. I understand my triggers and I have certainly done a significant amount of shadow work.
It was during one of the worst and darkest times of depression that a Facebook post came across my laptop screen and it read… “Depression is the STOP sign of the Soul”… This stopped me in my tracks for deep inside I knew this to be true. I was living (or at least in part) a life that did not honor my soul. And I came to the uncomfortable realization that if I wanted my life to change, I needed to change – I had to make some changes and find the “tools” with which to manage and heal my depression. Ultimately, it was all up to one person and that person was ME!
From my personal experience, this is my take and some of my personal wisdoms on depression and healing and recovering from depression:
1. Take responsibility
This is a basic concept in my healing practice today. To be able to heal we need to acknowledge that, at least in part, we are responsible for where we are in terms of the health and wellbeing of body, mind, and spirit… or the lack thereof. We are, after all, a full participants in everything that happens to us – not always by choice, but still. Nobody else out there is responsible for our life – only we are!
2. Making the effort
If we are responsible for getting to where we are at, it is also our responsibility to get ourselves out of there. And it is going to take effort, dedication, and just plain hard work. Every day. At first it will be a daily and a conscious effort until we develop new habits and behaviors and a new way of being.
3. Creating daily small victories
In a state of depression even the smallest anthill may seem to be the Himalayas, especially when it comes to setting and achieving goals in our journey towards health and wellbeing. Personally, I have moved away from to-do lists – they are overwhelming and completely counterproductive on a road towards health and wellbeing. I do Ta-Da! Lists which consist of small, realistic, and achievable things that I need to accomplish on a specific day. Initially, this just started with getting up, showered, dressed, and putting on make-up. Ta-Da! I have accomplished something and had a sense of achievement. And as I became my own hero, the number of daily victories grew, and life became normal again where I participated fully in my own life.
4. Becoming aware of your thoughts and triggers
This is critical, especially if you’re an empath. That thing of “go where your soul feels nurtured” is very applicable. It is important to become aware of the people, places, and situations that pull you back towards the doldrums of depression and avoid those – at least until you have healed sufficiently not to be negatively impacted by such people, places, and situations. Make an effort to spend time with people and be in places and situations where you feel appreciated, supported, and loved.
5. Finding your support network
There are those who drain you and those who support you… and you have a choice where to spend your time and energy. Your support network is not there to do everything for you or give you oodles of sympathy. They are there… and that is all there is to it. They accept you for who you are and how you are without constantly trying to fix you or fix things for you. And you know that if you need their support in your healing process, they will give it unconditionally and without judgment. Keep these special individuals close, with gratitude for their presence and support in your life.
6. Do not rely on antidepressants as a cure
The prognosis of only taking antidepressants without the support of some form of therapy is not particularly good for healing and recovering from depression. There have been numerous studies in this regard and some Google research is worth it in evaluating the evidence! Relying only on medication often negates the fact that somewhere along the line you need to take responsibility for your healing process. Medication could be very supportive, but it is not the cure! This brings us to the next point.
7. Find therapeutic support
Should you be taking any antidepressants it is important to understand that it is only part of the “cure” and the road towards being healed from depression. The healing process should be a holistic approach – of body, mind, and spirit. In your pursuit of healing from depression, find complementary therapies that would support you and give you the tools to manage your depression and all its layers. Hypnotherapy, yoga, Reiki, homeopathy, CBT, and counseling are but a few therapies to consider. The important thing is to find therapeutic support that resonates with you, and which will positively affect your process of healing.
8. Educate yourself on all the dimensions and layers of depression
Understand the difference between mental illness and our inability to cope with deep seated and unhealed emotions, particularly around self-esteem, past hurt and trauma. Sometimes depression is simply an overwhelm due to NOT having the right “tools” to cope with what life is throwing at us. Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf is a specialist in this field of research and has much to offer in understanding depression and what the tools are to enable and equip us to be able to cope when we are being engulfed by our depression.
9. Watch your diet
Again, there are many studies that show that there is a direct relationship between the health of your gut and the state of depression – healthy gut, healthy mind! It is important to pay attention to the quality and quantity of your food and drink. And be guided by your common sense… not diet fads, social media, and the like.
10. Pay attention to exercise and grounding
One of the prevalent aspects of depression is that of spending unhealthy amounts of time in unhealthy states of mind – overthinking and chasing your own tail in the process. Regular exercise is a good and healthy idea and even more so if you suffer from depression. It is a mindfulness practice that is grounding and which releases endorphins… all necessary tools in our toolbox to manage and heal depression. Regular exercise can also tick a few of the other boxes mentioned previously, e.g., making an effort, achieving daily small victories, finding your support network, and not relying on antidepressants alone.
11. Incorporate meditation and other mindfulness practices
There are many benefits we gain from regular meditation and the benefits of meditation in the management and healing of depression are well documented. During meditation is also highly beneficial to visualize yourself in your healthy, non-depressed state and thereby triggering aspects of your healing process. There are also an array of other mindfulness practices and exercises that you can learn, e.g., mindful breathing, mindful observation, mindful awareness, mindful listening, and mindful appreciation. Journaling also comes to mind, and it is an immensely powerful mindfulness and processing practice.
12. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude brings us into the present moment with an appreciation of everything we have. Vibrationally, gratitude is supportive of high-vibrational living and the state of being that we strive for as healed and healthy individuals. By practicing gratitude, we are constantly reminded of that and the more we focus on gratitude, the more we will have to be grateful for, thus creating an upward spiral into the light and out of the doldrums of despair.
13. Do something creative through a hobby or new interest
This is usually something that comes a bit later along the journey towards being healed. It is, however, a good healing principle to do something just for yourself and purely because you enjoy doing it. Whether this is reviving a neglected hobby, finding a new hobby, or pursuing a new interest is of no significance. What is important is that it should be YOURS! And if creativity forms part of this hobby, interest, or pursuit, so much better as creativity helps us process and work through many of the aspects we need to in the process of healing our depression.
14. Finally, value your Reiki self-healing
Everything up to now form part of an integrating and holistic approach to our management, healing, and recovery from depression. This is by no means a small feat – it takes conscious and constant effort and dedication. It is challenging work, and it is exhausting. And the easiest thing to do seems to be to give up. But here it is worth going back to or starting the practice of daily Reiki self-healing. Through this simple daily practice, you are able to lovingly consolidate all the other practices and support into your self-healing… into your self-love, and self-worth. Through the subtle shifts and healing brought about by daily Reiki self-healing, the doldrums, and the darkness that depression so desperately clings to can slowly but surely be transformed and transmuted into the light and lightness of your being. Through your daily Reiki self-healing you become your own best support network.
Many of my clients suffer from depression, even more so over the past two years of the Covid-pandemic. Being able to support them within the context of the “wounded healer” is a great honor and privilege for me. There are many supporting therapies and coaching that one can use but I have found Reiki healing invaluable. Self-healing and healing with Reiki bring self-love and self-care into your body, mind and spirit guiding you towards a point where you can start loving yourself, honoring yourself, accepting yourself and respecting yourself, and where you can start to fully heal from depression to live a fulfilled life as the best and truest version of yourself.
**By Thea van der Merwe