10 years ago I felt deeply depressed. Not hearing my alarm in the morning, sleeping until midday, canceling meetings with my friends because I couldn’t stop crying, nor could I show them what I was feeling. I was feeling utterly alone in the world, even when people were right next to me, I was lost, hating myself and stuck in a big black whole of endless nothingness with no end, or even improvement in sight.
I tried talk therapy but it didn’t help. I felt stuck. I felt hopeless. I didn’t want to become addicted to medication. They said depression doesn’t have a cure…
Today I know that it does. But it’s not as simple as swallowing a pill. My journey took me many years and now I can finally say: I am happy to be alive, I enjoy most days (and yes there are still some bad mood days, but they don’t compare to being utterly hopeless and depressed), I wake up without an alarm, I can share with those who are close to me when I feel sad or fearful and I don’t feel utterly alone anymore.
Today I love myself. I rarely feel stuck or hopeless.
So what did I do to overcome my depression?
It wasn’t just one thing, it was a process, an accumulation of many different things that I have detailed here.
It started with…
1. Realising that I need help
2. Finding the right therapy that works for me… in my case: Psychedelic Therapy
3. Integration and changing my life around
4. Reconnecting to my emotions
5. Allowing the feeling of anger
6. Finding and changing core believes
7. Change of Diet
Let me explain a little bit more.
1. REALISING THAT I NEED HELP
The first step on my way to healing was to realise that I needed help. I reached out to traditional therapists, unfortunately they didn’t help me much at all. Both felt very judgemental and didn’t make me feel like they related to my situation at all (of course not all therapists are like this, there are wonderful therapists out there but unfortunately that was my experience to begin with). I didn’t feel seen or heard but fortunately I didn’t give up. I tried other forms of therapy such as family constellation work, which helped to improve my situation. It helped me to release tears that I had held back for many years. But the depression was still there. I continued searching until I found what changed my life and my depression significantly: Psychedelics
2. FINDING THE RIGHT THERAPY THAT WORKS FOR ME… IN MY CASE: PSYCHEDELICS
I had always been very critical and judgemental of “drugs”. I didn’t like how they were used and abused and I was scared of trying out anything that could lead to addiction. I also had heard horror stories that people jumped out of windows while high on magic mushrooms. Never had I heard of their healing potential until one of my best friends started taking them in a conscious way. It took me many months and much research to open up to the possibility that they can be tremendously healing when taken in a therapeutic setting. When I finally decided to give it a try, it changed my life forever. During the 6 hour journey I reconnected to my authentic self and I clearly saw how everything that made me stuck, sad or hopeless was coming from conditioning from the past. The experience gave me so much clarity. It was magical and extraordinary. I was lifted out of the black whole of nothingness. I felt like an excited child that is curious to explore the world and herself. I saw a vision of a tree that had lost all its leaves. It looked unhealthy and alone even though it was surrounded by other trees. I realised this tree was in fact me. I went towards the tree, I hugged it, I kissed it, I told the tree that she was not alone. I cried. I knew I was speaking to myself and I was hearing it at the same time. I wasn’t alone. I really wasn’t alone? Somebody cared for me? I was amazed and overflowed in joy.
I continued taking Psychedelics every few months to reconnect to my authentic self. It helped me tremendously each time. But I would still have moments in which I would fall back into the black whole of nothingness. In order to completely overcome the depression I needed to do more.
3. INTEGRATION AND CHANGING MY LIFE AROUND
The Psychedelic Experience showed me in which ways my childhood conditioning was causing my suffering. Now it was my turn to change my life around, leave the conditioning behind and to create a life that my authentic self could enjoy. I changed my job (that of a photojournalist) because I realised that I was mainly doing it to receive admiration from others and a feeling of significance. I took a year off to find out what I really want to do with my life, I lived in a bus and toured around Portugal for some months. I traveled to Costa Rica to volunteer in a retreat centre and studied with a shaman. During that time I started to take trainings as a trauma integration therapist. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a therapist myself, but I was doing the trainings to apply the tools to myself first. I found that the tools I was learning where very powerful when used to integrate the insights that came up during my psychedelic journeys.
During this time of transformation, many old friendships fell away because I now had the awareness that I didn’t feel safe to be myself in their company. I also stopped contact with family members that were either abusive or didn’t show any interest in me.
Let go, let go, let go. One thing after the other fell away and I had no choice but to let it. It was really hard because I didn’t know what was coming next. But what came next amazed me: loving and caring relationships in which I feel seen and heard and truly loved. These relationships and especially one of them transformed my life completely. I had never known what a safe relationship felt like. Committing to each other, growing together, healing childhood trauma together, resolving conflict instead of running away and really caring for each other. This was incredibly healing and it was key in overcoming depression.
Combining the tools I had learned as a trauma integration therapist with the shamanic ways I had learned, I became a Psilocybin facilitator and so I found a job with meaning and purpose that I love.
Life was great when living in the present moment, but then there were and still are these moments when the past comes to visit again and intense emotions resurface through triggers.
4. RECONNECTING TO MY EMOTIONS
Any emotion we feel is always there for a reason. Emotions that we had to suppress in childhood will come up later in life because they need to be released. I needed to learn to sit with and fully feel all emotions whenever they came up. Instead of telling myself: “On no, here is this emotion again, will this never end?”, I now tell myself: “Whatever I am feeling, there is a valid reason. I will stay with this emotion unconditionally and with compassion until the reason is revealed and I can meet the unmet need that is causing this emotion.” I am loving towards myself in the same way I would treat an innocent child that feels sad or hopeless. I encourage myself to cry, scream or shiver in fear in order to release the tension that is held in my body. I don’t abandon myself in these moments anymore. I connect to my inner child, imagine how I am holding her in my arms, showing her that I love her no matter what and that she is safe now.
This took years of practise. At the beginning I would often slip back into self-judgement, hoping I would stop feeling this way soon. I then connected to the hopeless part of myself to have compassion for this inner child and meet her unmet needs. With time I was more and more able to fully stay with myself in moments when difficult emotions would arise. Psychedelics really helped here because they put me right into my emotions and helped me to feel them. They taught me how you move through an emotion instead of resisting it.
Reconnecting with my emotions instead of abandoning myself was another great tool in overcoming depression.
5. ALLOWING THE FEELING OF ANGER
Reconnecting to my anger was definitely the hardest one. As a child I had either been humiliated, ridiculed or isolated when I was angry, therefor I had developed a deeply internalised belief that anger and connection couldn’t co-exist together. Being angry, to my subconscious meant being completely alone.
Anger is a very healthy emotion that helps us to defend ourselves in moments of danger or emotional unsafty It makes us feel empowered and therefor gives us a sense of safety. It shows us that we can act, therefor allows us to move out of hopelessness and powerlessness. People who are depressed often don’t allow themselves to be angry. When their anger is felt, their subconscious immediately suppresses it and sadness and hopelessness arises instead.
In order to overcome my depression it was vital to reconnect with my anger. That meant to feel a shit ton of fear about letting myself be angry first and taking baby steps. Here again, Psychedelic Therapy helped immensely to take the first steps. Under the influence of Psilocybin I was able to feel the fear first and then let my anger flow through my body. What a release!
To integrate this experience into my daily life, I allowed myself to release further, I screamed under water or into a pillow to move through the emotion without being heard by someone else. I visualised my anger being acted out and validated my inner child for everything she felt. I kept on telling myself that anger was okay to feel. I sat with the fear of being left alone when angry and showed my inner child that I would never leave her alone when she is angry.
If I was angry at another person, I released it through writing, sometimes sharing the letter, sometimes just writing it for myself. Through the book “Non Violent Communication” I learned how to express anger to somebody else in a healthy way.
I need to admit that I am still not doing an amazing job with feeling and expressing anger but I have come a long way and feel a lot safer with this particular emotion every day.
6. FINDING AND CHANGING CORE BELIEVES
One very important step in overcoming depression was to find and change my core beliefs. When we are children and experience the world a certain way, our subconscious becomes convinced that this is the way the universe works at all times. We internalise believes and we see the world through the lenses of these perceived realities.
One of these beliefs for me was: I am alone. As a child I felt lonely most of the time. I didn’t feel seen or heard, I was the scapegoat of the family. I remember countless evenings were I cried alone in my bed, not knowing anyone to reach out to and share my struggles, sadness and loneliness with. I became convinced that I was alone and that’s how I perceived the world to be. It was seeing reality through a pair of glasses that said: “You are alone, no matter what.” I was so convinced of this that I would end relationships in a subconscious attempt to protect me from being the one who was left and the feelings of abandonment that would bring. I was attracted to people who didn’t appreciate and care for me and when I actually did find someone who really did care, I wasn’t able to let them in or appreciate them because this belief created an energetic block around me that kept them out.
There are many methods you can use to change believes. I love Byron Katies work sheet, I also love a therapeutic method called NARM. But my very favourite thing is to microdose psychedelics and use a method called Parts-Work (similar to IFS therapy) on myself to reach these parts that feel utterly alone and show them the availability and safety of connection. Giving my inner children the missing experience from childhood, the belief transforms and I am able to perceive the connection that I have in my life and let the people I love close.
7. CHANGE OF DIET
Changing my diet was also key to feel more energised and think more positive thoughts. This is actually not the last step I took but one of the very first things I did. When I stopped dairy products I felt an amazing shift in my energy levels. To me this is only logical, when you look at how cows are being treated and tortured for the milk that we drink. Their babies are being taken away from them right after birth and then their milk is stolen so that we can drink it. The cows are in agony and deep grief. So even if the milk is organic, the energy of the cows suffering is still in the milk which we are taking it in by drinking it.
I started to eat a mainly plant based diet with little processed food. Less sugar, no coffee, lots of fresh vegetables and every few weeks a piece of fish or chicken. I really felt the difference: lighter, a better mood, less feelings of hopelessness.
All of these steps took years to implement fully but I felt better with each little step forward that I took.
Today I can say that I am no longer depressed and I feel an immense amount of gratitude for each and every person who helped me on this journey.