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Finding My Way Out of Depression

Photo by Eduardo Izquierdo
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. ~Paulo Coelho

If you had said to me at the peak of my suffering that it would be the best thing to happen, I would have thought you were mad.

If you had told me then that it would transform my life, change the direction of my career and enhance my relationships with my children and loved ones I would never have believed you.

But this is exactly what happened. I was stressed, highly anxious and thoroughly depressed at my worst. I never realised that this experience was a blessing! Up until this point I had been sleep walking through my life and it was the wake-up call I needed.

The majority of people fear anxiety and depression in their lives!

The Status Quo on Depression

I believe we have been led to believe that anxiety and depression are caused by genetic defects or brain diseases. Those that question the mainstream medical conclusions are classed as charlatans or “anti-psychiatry”. They are met with fierce opposition!

Those that are suffering are led to believe that there are forces out of themselves that cause their condition. The vulnerable are informed by those in positions of power that there is something “wrong” with them. This allows the status quo to remain.

Why keep the status quo even if there other more helpful ways to heal?

The current system leads people to believe that they are not in control of their own life. This encourages dependencies on people, professionals, medications and whatever else is needed to manage on a daily basis.

This approach effectively encourages a victim mentality. Allowing people to believe they are victims and need a quick fix solution. What we don’t realise is this approach keeps people “locked” in the depression and anxiety cycle.

We have disempowered those that need to be empowered. We have perpetuated a life of fear rather than providing hope to those who need it most.

The Truth

However, anxiety and depression are effectively emotional difficulties. They are a direct result of the way we live our lives. More often than not, they are caused by either mental, physical or emotional stress in our lives.

They are a sign that it is time to make changes! Changes that we as individuals are more than capable of doing with support from others. We are responsible for everything that is happening in our own life.

There is not some inexplicable reason for anxiety and depression. There is not a quick fix and certainly not a magic pill that you can take to cure it. You have to unravel the decisions and patterns that have lead you to this place.

My own plight with anxiety and depression was a particularly challenging time. The symptoms that I experienced came on fast and furious. It was completely debilitating and left me at rock bottom.

I am thankful that I did not accept the status quo. I did not have anyone speaking LIFE in to me at that time. I did not realise it, but my refusal to give my power away allowed me to speak life into myself.

I believe it is more than possible to be free from anxiety and depression. I believe is possible to overcome fears that rule your life. When you take control of your own life, despite your difficulties something wonderful happens.

I grew in confidence and self belief. This was the biggest gift I gave to myself. I started to grow and not only did I escape anxiety and depression cycles, I start to live my life. I now live a full life, one in which I feel happy and fulfilled.

The Dark

Does this mean that I don’t experience dark or difficult times? No, not at all, life is a mixture of ups and downs. We are human beings and this is perfectly natural. We are often not aware of this and we want to avoid feeling down or sad.

We are afraid to be open and honest when we feel like this. What we don’t realise is that our fear of dealing with our negative emotions can actually bring on anxiety and depression! Just as what Carl Jung had famously quoted, “What you resist persists”.

Once we remove the many fears we have about anxiety and depression i.e. that we are ill or that we will never get better we can learn to embrace these moments. When we embrace our negative emotions and go with the feelings, we naturally move through them far quicker.

I have come to a point in my life that I am now fully aware that these moments of despair are in fact break-through moments. Now I am not afraid to feel what I feel, I fully enter into the dark night of the soul, albeit not quite as often or as long. When I emerge from the other side there is always a clearer view of the way forward.

In these moments I have received my biggest inspiration. I neither wish to distract myself from or to avoid these times. I believe you too can learn to welcome the learning that these moments offer.

This is not new information! The most successful people in the world are fully aware of the growth that can occur in difficult times. Napoleon Hill, famous author of Think and Grow Rich tells Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit”. The difference is these people learn how to work through their adversities.

How can you find your way out of the dark?

  • Take full responsibility for your own health and happiness – you are not a powerless being. You are powerful and you have the capacity to heal yourself from your suffering when you know how.
  • Accept that your experience of anxiety or depression is an internal nudge that you need to make changes in your life. You have veered off course and this is the wake-up call that you need.
  • Avoid temptation to become dependent on something outside of yourself to cope with your negative thoughts and feelings. We can easily become dependent on people, food, alcohol, and drugs (legal and illegal).
  • Ensure that you surround yourself with people that will speak life into you. This includes family, friends, professionals, media and what you read. Make sure that you avoid people that live in fear and do not provide you encouragement and hope.
  • Listen to those who know. There are many people that wish to tell you how to live your life and yet they have not successfully achieved it themselves. Listen only to those who have successfully achieved what it is that you want. Experience is the best teacher.
  • Follow your heart. You have all the answers that you need inside of yourself. You need to learn to trust your feelings over and above what any other person tells you. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself.

And when the dark times come………

  • Learn to accept and feel what you feel. You are doing yourself a huge disservice when you do not confront these feelings head on. You cannot hide from yourself for long. Our deepest feelings will continue to nudge us until we listen.
  • Be honest with others around you about how you feel. When you are honest with others you become more authentic. You will find in others you receive much needed support. We are inter-dependent – we need connection with others to survive.
  • Take care of yourself more than normal during these periods including, sleep, diet, exercise, relaxation. This is not selfish, it is SURVIVAL. You owe it to yourself and those that you love.
  • Slow things down and embrace the quiet through meditation. It can be tempting to speed everything up particularly if you are stressed. However, it is stillness and quietness that will allow you to hear yourself. This is when you will receive the insight that you need.

Most importantly never allow yourself to believe that you cannot come through the challenging times in life. We are stronger than we realize even if we do not yet know it!

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About the author

Kelly Niven is a mum of two. After experiencing severe emotional challenges she refused to accept the diagnosis and lack of explanation provided by traditional medicine. Not only did this lead to a full recovery, but she gained a strength that instigated many positive life changes. She believes that everyone has the ability to heal themselves provided they are empowered and want to take full responsibility for their own life. Read her blog at Life is Now.

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40 thoughts on Finding My Way Out of Depression

  1. Right on Kelly!

    I too suffered from depression and refused to go on medication. I knew deep in my heart that was NOT the answer for me. I learned to change the way I thought. I learned to view life through the eyes of love and I learned to smile at life.

    Today I wake up grateful to be alive and each day add just a bit more joy to the world.

    Thanks for your wonderful article.

    • Janet Somers

      Kelly it really is nice to read of your overcoming depression and how that worked for you. I just think thought that parts of the article referring to “you, they, and the status quo” are kind of biased and black & white. We all have a story and a way that works for each of us that will vary from person to person. I was taught to honor my own process and not to assume it was the right process for anyone else.
      Take care always – Janet

  2. Hi Susan

    Thanks for your comments. Glad to see you found the light too :-)

    Keep smiling.


  3. I see what you are saying, and you are absolutely right that things have to change when you get ill like that.
    There have just been a lot of discussion on the effect of antidepressants in my country (Denmark). And I was rather surprised to find that medicine only work on so few people ( I don’t remember the numbers).
    I just wanna state that in some cases though, medicine is required and indispensable.
    I know this from personal experience.
    Having had 2 depressions, social phobia and dysthymia over a 7 year period.
    After a long period of illness I wouldn’t agree to changing the medication I was on because I didn’t believe medication could have a stronger effect.
    – Ended up getting admitted to a psychiatric hospital because I was so ill.
    Of course I have had a lot of treatment in different forms.
    But with out medication, I wouldn’t have gotten well as fast as I have. And might not even be alive.
    So just a little cheering on the medication side from me.

  4. A few years ago when I was beginning to come out of the darkness I created, my counselor asked me if it was good that the event happened that finally plunged me into the darkness. I thought he was absolutely nuts! I now understand his question.

    Over the last few years, by making many changes including facing the truth and learning to accept and deal with my fears and emotions, I have rebuilt my life so I am now the happiest I have ever been. Your article wonderfully expresses many of the ways I brought myself out of the darkness. So wonderfully I printed a copy for a friend who is currently at rock bottom. I doubt she will believe that what has happened to her can turn out good, but I hope it will help build a foundation for her to pull herself out.

  5. I hadn’t heard of that quote from Paulo Coehlo before. Love it!

    I think it’s important to distinguish between mild and severe depression. While I admire the fact that you were able to pull through a rough patch by yourself and grow from it, I disagree that this a universal path for people who are struggling with depression. My understanding is that there are cases of depression where a mental health intervention is appropriate and beneficial.

  6. S

    I feel like you’re describing my life half a year ago. Today, I feel truly blessed to be alive and enjoy each day and moment to its full potential. Before my episode, I was the most anxious, worrisome, nail-biting, OCD person alive!

    Amazingly insightful article!

  7. Depression is something that no one deserves to go through. Actually I was talking to a friend about when I got depressed because a heart broken. That was one of the worst moments of my life but at least now I have a better understanding how to avoid feeling hurt and I can even advice some friend to recover from this state of sadness. And it is always good to help other!
    Well, you covered some good points on your post. Thanks.

  8. Many people will experience a bout of depression during their lives. In many instances, it is possible to develop the resolve to pull through without medical assistance ,however I have to agree with Alison that there are cases when people will need medical intervention.

    Too many doctors prescribe medication without due consideration so it is important to you have a doctor whom you can trust.

    It takes courage to talk about your experiences of depression. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Thank you all for the discussion. I would like to add anti-depressants trials only last 6 weeks. The discussions you are referring to are relating to research on the longer-term results. These are shocking! Robert Whitakers, Anatomy of an epidemic is a must read. I am not anti-medication. I do however believe that people should have ALL the information and be able to make an informed decision. There is not one bit of scientific evidence supporting the biological/chemical imbalance theory. Most people believe this to be a proven fact which it is not. The reason that there is a need for medication is because some people leave it until they are facing a brick wall. I know because I have been there and took anti-depressants for 3 months. It was a welcome relief. The problem is some people get trapped there, believing they need the longer-term.

    Donald – I hope your friend recovers soon and I hope the article helps.

  10. I work with many people suffering from depression, low mood, feeling flat. There are different degrees of depression. Sometimes people are really helped with medication other folk thrive on therapy. Both can go hand in hand, but it has to be checked. Too many people are living for too long on anti depression meds. Individuals should be offered a wide range of help, taking in many different therapies.

  11. Jamie D. Tran

    Very well written article, I thank you for that.

    -I often find myself in deep depression, nights after nights, and even at this time. All because everything I am doing seems like it repeats itself, whether I am doing things right or wrong. I tell myself all the time that before anything else, I need to get to know “ME” first. But, of course my words aren’t enough if there are no actions that proceeds.

  12. Kelly,
    Nice article. All of what you say is true, but the problem seems to me to be that the very definition of depression precludes “never allow yourself to believe that you cannot come through the challenging times in life”.

    It is precisely because you “believe that you cannot come through the challenging times in life” that you are depressed.

    So how do you get from believing you ‘can’t do anything’ to being determined to do it anyway? That’s where my daughter is stuck right now, in the ‘can’t do anything’ place.

  13. Wow, one of, if not the best article on depression I’ve read in a long time.

    I’ve struggled with depression because of a skin disease I suffer from. Then I get upset that I let something at trivial as appearance affect my mood. Which on make me fall harder.

    Everything I pull myself out, I try and remember a few key things.

    1. Recognize when you are feeling it. Know that this isn’t normal and for that reason you should treat your situation as abnormal. (Meaning, fix it!)

    2. Remove yourself from wherever you are. Go away for a day or just spend some time elsewhere. Physically removing yourself form the “scene of the crime” tends to offer a different perspective which can be extremely beneficial.

    3. Always remember that there are others who have things much worse.

  14. Natalie, sorry for my late response to your comment. Your daughter needs to learn to get beyond her mind and emotions. To become the watcher/observer of her thoughts. When we get to this stage we grow in awareness and see that we have choice and control. Read Eckhart Tolles, Power of Now. You can learn first and then teach your daughter. Very powerful stuff. Life changing. Good luck.

  15. I spent years taking medication for depression and anxiety, and yet I still had issues. I finally woke up one day, decided I didn’t want to continue the mad cycle, and quit cold turkey. It took about a year before I felt “normal”, and I’m so happy that I took the initiative. I love the advice you’ve given Kelly. Thank you! I agree 100% that taking care of yourself helps depression and anxiety.

  16. Dave

    Great article. I am struggling with anxiety and depression at the moment (in that order) and think it is a cue for me to be more authentic.

    I believe my anxiety and associated depression have arisen because of a constant fear of disappointing others, of being perfect, of being liked by everyone. Which obviously always fails so leads inevitably to spiraling anxiety from trying to achieve the impossible.

    My new goal is to be more honest in the moment, good and bad, and not pretend something isn’t bothering me or pretending to be ok when I’m not.

    Reading articles like this from people who have been there helps so thanks.

  17. I suffered from severe chronic treatment resistant depression, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder for more than 20 years. On top of those were chronic pains, muscle stiffness, bizarre sensations etc.

    2008 I stopped completely caffeine. Panics disappeared in a couple of days and after a week I could toss my walking stick away for good. Depression and anxiety went completely ballistic for 4 months, then they all of a sudden disappeared completely in a week.

    I have studied the science behind this and I know that caffeine causes more than 80% of all mental problems, dependencies, violence, physical illnesses etc. I can also prove this with scientific evidence of the molecule causing the problems in a patient in a few days only.

  18. Lossa

    I love your article !

    I was looking for ways out of depression on google when I came across your article , and Im glad I did , I’ve been depressed for there years and still am , but I want to fully heal and enjoy my life again, and your article helped me to find what Im looking for , Im going to change everything in my life (bad things) I’ll do whatever it takes to recover , cause I really miss being happy , and I hope I do , I beleive I will :) .

    Thank you a lot
    Much love
    Lossa <3

  19. dalia

    I totally agree that it is important to feel that you are not a helpless victim….to be able to see things from different perspective because it is all in the mind. We are what we think. Yes one should accept and embrace the reality that there is a problem when faced with one to be ready to find solutions if possible. In case one faces a situation that cannot be changed, then acceptance and being aware of our thoughts and attitude can have an enormous effect on how the person is feeling. We can control our thoughts.

  20. Hi very well said, a great article indeed. In life, everybody passes a stage called depression. People tend to get stuck and feel sorry for themselves, the different ways you mentioned were really great and very helpful, surround yourself with positive people who loves you and believes in you. Stay positive and learn to walk through our adversities. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Kristina

    Very nicely articulated Kelly!

    My depression days were like the others very very bad and unimaginable, but I am still grateful towards my mother who was always there to support me to come out of depression. She helped me mentally and supported me emotionally. And also asked me to meditate and get myself indulged in aromatherapy. She got me introduced to Cycle Pure incense sticks and scented candles. She made me to get involved in DIY aromatherapy and stuff and honestly they have been very useful in bringing me back to my useful self. I would say for everyone different things help with depression!

  22. ashirvad

    read bhagvad geeta and find purpose in always always helps

  23. I agree with you about becoming honest to others what you feel because you might not know, they will understand and may want to help you. All have ups and downs and it is not good to keep your depression to yourself.

  24. I’ve struggled with depression 2 years back because of my financial issues. One day I decided that I need to eliminate this habit before it spoils my health and I did it. The truth is our negative thinking builds depression . The best thing to do is to make a positive affirmation and read it daily in the morning . Thanks Kelly for sharing:)

  25. kerri

    Thank you Kelly a million times!! Brilliant article, I can so relate! Often the only problem is that we think/have been taught/conditioned that there is a problem. That there is something wrong with US. We suffer so much from misperceptions about the true purpose, nature of , and approach to dealing with anxiety and depression!!! Our preconceived ideas and beliefs about ourselves and others and the way we think things “should be” keep us disconnected from ourselves, others, and truth when these are the very things we want! I think anx and depression are actually at times natural results of the way we are thinking and living in this society currently. But we assume there is something terribly wrong with us and so go to a GP who is also clueless and gives you a drug which I believe often is said to “work” only because it sedates you just enough to keep living how you’re living!! Not addressing the true root or cause, just maintaining the status quo. There is a book I want to get, called You’re not going crazy you’re just waking up. Thank you so much Kelly for your courage and sharing your experience. I believe just that alone clears up so much for so many. We learn we’re really not alone and ironically the more vulnerable you allow yourself to be in sharing honestly the more aware we become of our interconnectedness and the ways we can help each other, primarily by helping, learning to anyway, ourselves and become conscious of the ways we are creating our lives in order to learn to become empowered and take responsibility for ourselves. Our greatest fear often turns out to be our greatest teacher and keys to freedom. Lotta irony and paradox ug!!! True love and connection between people which is what we want, consciously or not, is impossible living and thinking in a fear based paradigm. Ironically the more you let go of old beliefs, expectations and assumptions the more connected you become. Independent yet interdependent too. I am still in the beginning stages of learning to live this stuff from the heart as opposed to just knowing it in my head. Thanks for the chance to express my view if you read this far, haha. ~Kerri

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