“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” – Buddha
I was 13 when the clouds gathered within, as dark and ominous as the ones that shook the Zimbabwean sky beneath which I grew up. Those ones I loved – with their flashes of lightening and roaring thunder. The ones within were frightening.
It began after my father died, bringing feelings of hopelessness, dark thoughts, and endless emptiness. Very quickly, the dark clouds became my constant companions.
They journeyed with me throughout the rest of my teenage years, accompanied by alcohol which I became dependent on in my futile bid to escape the pain. In 2001, when I left my home country due to the farm invasions and moved to New Zealand, they came too, growing in strength.
By 2002 my entire being was permeated by darkness. My mind was warped, I believed there was no escape, that those I loved would be better off without me, and I tried to end my life.
It wasn’t meant to be, and though I didn’t know it at the time, when I woke in the psychiatric ward, I woke to what today has been 17 years of healing and rediscovering my inner self, intuition, sensitivity and truth. A journey of reconnecting to my heart and an in-depth study of the human condition, fueled by determination to understand depression, not in terms of a medical diagnosis, but in terms of depression within me. One of the most vital steps was befriending the clouds within, and what worked for me in doing this was acknowledgement and acceptance, not trying to fix or change, meditation, and journaling.
Acknowledgement and acceptance.
The very word depression used to evoke feelings of rejection. In a society of happy, beautiful people, social media, and advertising – everywhere I looked I saw messages that said, ‘this is what you’re meant to be like.’ I felt ashamed and judged myself harshly. I felt judged too – the voice in my head said, ‘no one wants to be around someone who is sad.’ When I look back now, I see all I was doing in my incessant judgement and denial was adding another layer to an already heavy load.
Through a combination of therapy, self-talk and journaling, I started to learn how to accept myself and my feelings. As I did so, something shifted inside me. I was no longer fighting my feelings but instead letting them out and giving myself permission to be who I was in the moment. I began to accept that I was suffering from depression and had been for a long time.
Not trying to fix or change
Once I had truly accepted and acknowledged, I was guided by my therapist to explore not trying to fix or change. This was a huge step – and its one I still use when, from time to time, the dark clouds gather.
When there is pain, fear, and discomfort, it is natural to want to fix and change it. But one of the greatest lessons I learnt was that the more I could sit with the uncomfortable feelings without trying to change them, the less control they had over me and the more I started to see that I didn’t need to fear them, and I stopped trying to run away.
As anyone who has or does suffer depression knows, when the clouds are heavy the mind is consumed and there seems to be no escape. Through the guidance of a spiritual teacher and life coach in 2006, I was introduced to meditation. What meditation taught me was that there was a part of me that existed beneath my thoughts and feelings, and when I connected to that space I was able to be there and from that space observe my thoughts and feelings without identifying with them. This was one of the most pivotal points in my journey to wellbeing.
Journaling and reflective writing
Journaling is one of the most therapeutic techniques I have in my wellbeing toolbox. What I came to learn about journaling is that it is so much more than simply writing thoughts and feelings down. In my journal, I learnt how to objectively analyse my writing and see the thinking patterns that were driving me. There are also different writing techniques that can be used, such as writing in third person, letter writing and so on. Once I started to see my driving patterns, I was in a position where I could change them and in turn, transform my moment to moment experience, which is exactly what I did. It does take time and experience to do this – and it’s something I now teach through courses and 1:1 coaching.
Through everything I have learnt, I have come to see that the dark clouds within me were not an illness, but a path to growth. Through depression came to explore the shadow side within and brought to light the many parts of myself I feared. I came to understand what true self-love and compassion means to me, and how to practice this in daily life. Were it not for depression I would not have taken the healing path, and trained in Holistic life coaching and other modalities.
When I have low days now, I know it is a sign to go within and ask myself what I really need in that moment. I have noticed that always the answer is to be loved and to be understood. The two wings of enlightenment.
We all have our own individual experience of depression, and the traumas that lead to its manifestation. But I believe that every one of us has the capacity to experience inner peace and wellbeing. Transformation is possible, and it starts with learning how to befriend the parts we reject and fear. The key is to stop comparing self to others and stop looking externally for the answers, for they lie within.
For anyone that is interested in the courses and services I provide to help people move through issues and experience increased wellbeing, details are below.
About Belinda Bennetts:
Belinda is the founder of Belinda Bennetts: Mind Body Soul. She is an intuitive holistic life coach, therapeutic writing facilitator, and author of Fear to Love – An Inner Journey Home.
You can find out more about Belinda on her website here: https://belindabennetts.co.uk/
Or follow her on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/belindabennettsmindbodysoul/