Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Have you been affected by prolonged depression, or any other “mental disorder” for that matter? If the answer is yes, then you, my dear are a very, very special person.
It’s time for you to know what an incredible gift you are to this world. You didn’t come here by chance. You weren’t born in this physical body with the particular characteristics that made you predisposed to depression, without a reason.
You were not born to lose this battle — you were born to win it! You were born to heal. And more than that, you came here to heal yourself so you could help others with their healing too.
The Birth Of A Healer
Your existence is absolutely crucial in the healing of this crazy world we found ourselves living in. This may sound overwhelming, especially if you are suffering — but it really isn’t. If anyone can tackle well the feeling of being overwhelmed, and show compassion to others who are suffering, it would definitely be you! A person that deals on a daily basis with feelings of depression, isolation, suicidal thoughts and all kinds of other mental disturbances, becomes more than proficient in enduring adversities.
And you, my dear, are that person, aren’t you?
I had suffered from major depression for many, many years. Finally, in my late 30’s, I was finally able to overcome my severe depression and the suicidal tendencies that tormented me for nearly 3 decades. All this experience gave me a new purpose in life; which is to help others who are suffering, including those people who are affected by a second-hand depression — watching endless suffering of our loved ones without being able to do anything to help.
And you can do the same.
Your life and whatever circumstances you found yourself in have prepared you very well. Nothing that happened to you, or with you, was ever an accident. Although it was mostly subconscious, these circumstances have been created by you. In the language of the Universe, there is no such a thing as an “accident”. And you, above all other things, are not an “accident” — nor have you ever been — even though there may have been times when you believed so, or were made to believe so.
In fact, if you’re anything like me, you have believed a bunch of things that were nothing but pure crap. You believed that you were insignificant and that you didn’t matter, that you were weak or broken, and that only doctors and medications could “fix” you. Or worse, that you would never be okay again.
But nothing could be any farther from the truth!
Chances are that you are more sensitive than most. Chances are you see and feel that the world is in chaos, and live a life far away from what you dream of it to be. Chances are, when you were little, the good people that took care of you seemed to be too busy and too preoccupied dealing with their own issues. Or just didn’t understand how to fulfill the needs of your sensitive little heart. Consequently, they never took the time you needed to listen to you, to really listen to what you had to say, to hear you out, and to understand what you needed. And by doing so, they unknowingly inserted a message directly into your subconscious that says — you don’t matter.
But this isn’t a time to blame anyone for anything. Your parents, grandparents, teachers, and any other guardians and significant role-models from your childhood… they all did their absolute best they could, considering the understanding and the awareness they had at that time.
You cannot change your past or your experience, but you can change your mind. Now is the time to alter your beliefs.
The Only Way Out Is Through
The time has come when your entire belief system has to be re-examined, and this self-examination has to be done thoroughly and honestly. I won’t sugar coat things for you: this will hurt. In fact, it will hurt like hell! But you, my dear, have been to hell so many times already, you probably can’t even recall when was the last time you weren’t in hell… Am I right?
The only way out of this mental hell is by going through that hell once again, but this time with a different mindset. This time you will be armed with proper tools. That’s why I’m here: to share with you the tools I’ve used in the process of healing myself of a lifetime of depression.
There is no doubt that this is going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. But guess what? If you don’t, things are not going to get any easier anytime soon. In fact, things will continue to get worse until you’ll reach your breaking point, and you won’t be able to resist any longer the necessary shift that has to occur within you.
That’s exactly what happened to me. Finally, after two major brain seizures caused by a suicide attempt, I realized that the only way out is through. Rather than trying to deny and suppress the thoughts that ruled my life, I knew I had to confront them if I was ever going to change them. And this is what I began to tell myself:
“If the only way out of this storm is by powering through the very center of this tornado, then no matter how much it’s gonna hurt or how scary it will get, let’s just walk though it and be done with it once and for all! I’m done with living in this constant fear and I’m done with this constant misery!”
This storm, this tornado is within you. Some religions and philosophies may refer to these things as demons, or the devil. But all those scary “monsters” are nothing but the manifestation of your unwanted, undesirable emotions that have been waiting forever to be accepted, validated, and healed. In other words, to be loved. And you are the only one who can do that. You are the one that has what it takes to overcome those hungry “monsters”, and to take your life back from those painful emotions that refuse to leave you in peace.
Accept, Validate, Forgive
The process of healing your emotions starts with acknowledging them. To do so, you need to learn to observe your emotions very closely. Chances are that you will need to stop numbing your feelings first. More likely than not, in order to survive, you’ve learned how to avoid the emotional pain. You distracted yourself from it by engaging in different self-destructive habits such as overeating, drinking excessively, watching too much TV, being too nice or forgiving of others, or always trying to stay busy — you name it.
The habits that are usually considered to be “good habits”, such as working out, working many long hours, or even constantly doing things for others, are the most dangerous of all — because they are the hardest to acknowledge as a problem.
Now you will need to stop trying to run away from all your emotional pains, and learn to face them instead. Next time you feel depressed feelings taking over, ask yourself: “What kind of emotional pain is responsible for bringing me down in this particular moment?” Then examine the answer very closely. Are you angry, for example, because of what someone did or failed to do? Watch the anger and try to remember whether this feeling seems very familiar to you. Have you experience the same kind of rage before, perhaps when you were young? If so, who were the people that brought such emotion in you at such early age? What were the circumstances?
In your mind and heart, revisit these feelings and situations. Let yourself feel the intensity of your feelings, as much as you can. Exaggerate if you need to. Feel the pain without looking for a way to alleviate it. Allow yourself to feel the intensity of the hatred that you feel towards the people who hurt you. Allow yourself to know that although time may have passed, your unresolved feelings are valid. Allow yourself to cry, and perhaps even to scream at them, but for now, do it in the privacy of your own room. Don’t start picking up the phone and calling your parents or your ex, to let them know how much they’ve hurt you. With this inner work, you are starting to heal yourself from within, and the outside world needs to be left alone. For now, you just need to understand and validate your own feelings.
Take as much time as you need to go through this process. Just remember not to remain stuck in this step, and to move forward whenever you’re ready.
The next step is even harder than the first one; now you will need to consciously forgive. Forgive that person who upset you in the present moment, as well as the people in the past who first caused you this particular pain in you, all those years ago. Force yourself if you have to. I had to! You will encounter feelings of resistance, which it’s very normal — but don’t get discouraged. In some instances it took me days, in others it took me months before I was ready to forgive a particular pain. But it was always up to me.
Just remember, the sooner you’ll forgive, the sooner you begin to heal.
A very important thing to remember is that a true forgiveness comes with a total acceptance. This doesn’t mean that you act as though those situations never happened, or that they didn’t hurt you; forgiveness is about accepting the reality of whatever it is that you’re trying to forgive, knowing that you cannot change the past, and deciding to have a better future anyway.
Forgiveness isn’t about them, it’s about YOU.
You absolutely must stop trying to change things outside of yourself. For example, if the behavior of your significant-other reminds you of one of your parents, pushing an emotional button you developed as a child, that relationships can keep driving you nuts. But nagging him or her will not force a change, and nor will acting out that pattern together, over and over. Keep reminding yourself that your spouse is acting the way he or she does only to show you (mostly unconsciously) your old unresolved issues, as well as their own. With this in mind, be grateful for this reminder and have faith that once you heal and let go of that hurt – the past pain at the root of your depression, and not just the symptoms you’re feeling today – the situation in your relationship will also heal.
Also remember this; forgiveness takes time. You can’t just snap your fingers and declare that you forgive everything and everyone, and suddenly feel better. It doesn’t work that way. Forgiving is like giving birth without an epidural. Be prepared to be tested, because you will be. As a matter of fact, as you begin this process you may start noticing that things even start to feel worse in the short term. And that’s a good sign; as long as you are confronting and accepting your feelings honestly, powering through the center of the storm, it means you are on the right path.
Remind yourself that all this pain is temporary, and keep faith that whatever issue you face and whatever emotional pain it will bring, it will go away soon enough. Reminding myself that there was healing waiting for me at the end of the storm was absolutely crucial to me.
So, when you start experiencing deep sadness, be very glad. Emotional honesty is the first step toward your healing. Let go of your old distractions, and stop trying to replace your sadness with being joyful, or anything else for that matter. Feel that sadness with all your heart, and ride the storm. That deep sadness you begin to feel is a very first sign that you are connecting honestly to your feelings, and the forgiveness in you is starting to take place.
The Gift Of Depression
One of the most useful tools that helped me with forgiveness was having compassion and trying to put myself in “other people’s shoes”. None of us is perfect, and we’ve all done things that hurt others just like they have been done to us. Mostly, people don’t mean to hurt each other. But the fact is that more than often, when we fail to forgive someone and we judge that person harshly, we judge ourselves, and we become just like that person. And if we continue down that path, and refuse to accept and forgive, we guarantee we will keep repeating those feelings and keep hurting ourselves and each other.
But remember, my dear, in the language of the universe, everything is perfect just the way it is. All the depression and all the hurt you have felt for so very long has taught you more about compassion, forgiveness and healing than anything ever will.
That’s the gift of depression.
If you struggle with letting go of something that seems too big to forgive, remember not to try to find any kind of explanation for what happened. If you were abused or raped or neglected, like I was, you will never find a good reason that can explain why it happened. Believe me, you will never be able to make any sense out of it, and that’s OK. Make peace with that, for your sake, not theirs.
The more you forgive, the more understanding you will find. You don’t need to understand everything before forgiving; the clarity and understanding comes after you learn to forgive. With your new understanding, it will be much easier for you to see your own set of beliefs, how you got there in the first place, and most importantly, how to replace your reality with a new one that will serve you, and not work against you.
Also, while going through this painful but also very rewarding process, it’s very useful to start teaching your mind to visualize how we want the things to be. At some point you will need to stop focusing on what you want to change and how you wish it was different, and make the effort to begin focusing on the life that you desire. Eventually, as you retrain your mind, your focus will remain on those things only.
Finally, I want to share with you an article I read this morning, which sheds a different light on our common perception of “mental illness”: What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital.
As always, thank you for being here.
The Amazon-bestselling book by Elzbieta Pettingill…
Despite what modern medicine tells us, depression CAN be overcome. Elzbieta Pettingill’s book Life Realized is an inspiring personal memoir in which she bravely shares her personal story of overcoming decades of depression and suicidal tendencies, naturally and without the help of the medical and psychological health systems that failed her (and so many others like her.)
Elzbieta finally realized that only she could change her mind, and now ‘self realized’, learned to use her suffering as an engine to propel her towards not only overcoming her ongoing depression, but to understanding who she really is – and who we ALL are – on a much deeper spiritual level.
Open, honest and vulnerable, Elzbieta’s account of her personal experiences, and the lessons she learned along the way, is both uplifting and enlightening. It is Elzbieta’s testimony that, no matter what life throws at us, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter what, we are always loved… even if it seems to be the exact opposite.
‘Life Realized’ is available here on Amazon.
Recommended articles by Elzbieta Pettingill:
- I Suffer From Depression: Don’t Be Afraid of Me
- Overcoming Depression: The Birth of a Healer
- Being Too Nice Can Contribute to Depression
- Everything Is Perfect Just The Way It Is
- The Trouble Is… We Think We Have Time
- Depression and Spiritual Awakening: Overcoming Abuse and Depression Through Conscious Forgiveness
- The Angel That You Are
- Forgiving Is Like Giving Birth (Without The Epidural)
About the author:
Now residing in Honolulu, Hawaii, Polish-born Elzbieta Pettingill is an author, former fashion model and survivor of depression. Elzbieta suffered abuse and rape in her childhood, and was subsequently diagnosed with depression and PTSD which followed her from childhood through to adulthood. Completely let down by the medical and psychological establishments, Elzbieta finally realized that only she could change her mind, and finally overcame her depression in her 30’s through a process of forgiveness and conscious spiritual awakening — a story that forms the basis of her book: “Life Realized“.
Now ‘self-realized’, Elzbieta writes for people who suffer from depression, and has made it her mission to change the way we think of depression and “mental illness”. You can connect with Elzbieta at thegiftofdepression.blogspot.com.au and www.facebook.com/LifeRealized.
Copyright © Elzbieta Pettingill. All Rights Reserved. Edited and adapted for Wake Up World by Andy Whiteley.