When I'm teaching a yoga class, and look around the room to notice several people struggling in the same pose, then I know it's time to give a demonstration.
I stop the class for a moment and we all take a good look at the thing that's causing the difficulty or the pain. Then we look at the actions that will be required in order to ease that pain. If I'm pretty good at identifying the culprits, and the solutions, then it's only because I've had great teachers and years of practice doing it. Where pain is concerned, I have developed X-ray eyes.
Recently enough people have asked for help with a different kind of pain to convince me to stop and look at the culprit.
I know a thing or two about depression.
You may already know that about me. Some people do. It's not something I talk about all that much but it's not a secret, either. It's just private. Or, it has been until now, I guess.
Depression is rampant in my family. It's all over the tree, on both sides. I won't get specific because I only tell my own secrets, and these aren't mine to tell, but I'll say this much: we've got more suicide attempts under our collective belt than Dr. Kavorkian.
It went like this:
At first I just just didn't feel like going out anymore. So I didn't. Then I stopped feeling like calling people back. So I didn't. Then I decided answering the phone took too much effort altogether. So I stopped. I alienated myself from, well, pretty much everyone. I practiced a vacant look in the hallway so I wouldn't have to say hello to people I used to be friends with. It was just easier.
I cut out of school so I could go home to sleep. I didn't go at all because it was too cold out.
I was young. Healthy. Bright. Blonde. I had everything going for me.
I just didn't care.
I think it was junior year of college that I stopped attending class entirely. One day I went to bed and didn't get up. I couldn't think of anything that was important enough to get up for. Night was day, and not in Krishna's good way. I couldn't explain it and I couldn't snap out of it. I wanted only to be alone and to sleep. Sleep was the only time I didn't feel bad.
After about three weeks of refusing to get out of bed, I was pulled out of school for a semester and sent home on suicide watch, and for good reason. I didn't want to live anymore. I was forcibly dragged out of bed, deposited in the shower, and made to brush my teeth. I was delivered, against my will, to the office of the psychologist who sent me to the psychiatrist who prescribed the antidepressants that saved my life.
The psychologist (she was so great) informed my parents that I was neither to be allowed to spend an entire semester in bed, nor was I allowed to have too much unstructured time on my hands. I was told I could take two classes in anything at all but that I must choose, and attend, two. It took too much effort to put up a fight, and I could see she wasn't going to take no for an answer, anyway, so I acquiesced and enrolled in writing classes at The New School, which, in spite of myself, I loved.
I spent the spring semester and that summer at home, taking prozac, going to therapy and attending writing class. I filled journals with agonizingly bad adolescent poetry. They're still in a box in my basement somewhere and I can only hope they were destroyed that time the basement got flooded.
I started to feel a little better.
That fall it was decided that I was no longer a threat to myself and that I should return to school. I kept taking the pills and had some phone sessions with my therapist. Back at school people sort of knew I'd had a breakdown, and were overly careful with me in case I went off the deep end again. I was that girI,which I hated. I was, and am still, far too private to want everyone knowing my business, especially the painful business, but I survived and it could have easily gone the other way. I had been perilously close to the real suicide attempt that would have been successful, as opposed to my other half-assed flirtations with it.
The only reason I'm telling you this is because I get it. I am not the kind of Anusara teacher who started out all open to grace, and who has double rainbows coming out my ears. I wish I were. I envy that kind of easy optimism. Mine is far more hard won than that.
I've been off anti-depressants for a long, long time now but that's only because I have a lot of really good depression ass-kicking tools in my tool box. Yoga isn't the only tool I use for dealing with the melancholy demon who lurks, and who I know is always waiting for an opportunity to thrust his foot in my door, but it's a powerful tool, a tremendously powerful one.
Over the next few days I'm going to be writing more specifically about pushing back against depression because more than one person has asked me, and because life is far too precious to be spent in bed.
I mean, unless you've got really good company there, that is. Then it's okay.