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Life itself is the Path by Koh

Updated: Jul 16, 2018

The tyranny of the blank page created many false starts to this post. How can I share without sounding unnecessarily dramatic? Why should anyone care to read about what I have to share? Worse, what if someone thinks less of me? But I press on, because I believe that if my post resonates with even one person out that, then these questions are not in vain. Indeed, writing is like walking in the street naked; we risk exposing our most vulnerable selves to the world. But I want to share because I believe that my experience is not unique, nor the subject matter peculiar to a specific demographic. I am, in this instance, referring to depression.

The word “depression” conjures so many ideas and associations that resist a singular definition. Its treatment is equally myriad and mind-boggling, with psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors offering complementary and conflicting solutions. My intent here is not to tell you what depression is or is not, nor prescribe a definitive treatment. If you or your loved one suffers from depression, the best course of action is to seek professional help. I am simply here to share with you my experience, and my messy and murky journey.

Let me start by stating that depression can be cured, that wellness is possible, even for those who define themselves as hopelessly depressed. As with most “traditional” approaches to depression, my first foray in getting treated started with taking anti-depressants. This worked, for a while, until I began to realize that my heavy dependence created a host of problems. The scary thing about taking pills is the multiplier effect; one pill becomes two, then two different types lead to four. As my body adapted to the dosage, I needed more, and I craved more. Soon, I looked forward to bedtime because it meant I could get a “high” from the pills and sleep away all that worried me. Physically, I was a in a daze during daytime; emotionally, I was a vacuum. The bottom point is, don’t get started on pills unless it is absolutely necessary.

What truly propelled me into being well again is my foray into yoga. You may read about my post on how I got started here. What I have learnt from yoga is that perfect health is our natural state of being. For too long I allowed my depression to define me; I had forgotten to live, to let go, to laugh, to breathe, to play and to simply be. For too long I overlooked the fact that life is really simple. If we create a healing environment by taking care of ourselves, our body will respond correspondingly in kind. Perhaps the most important lesson I gleaned from my battle with depression is the incessant negative self-talk, that I am not good enough, not strong enough, not normal enough, not this and that. If you suffer from depression, I am here to tell you that you are perfect as you what, and when you look back from the vantage point of experience, you will realize that you are so much stronger than you think.

You are what you seek. For too long I lived life as if it was a dress rehearsal, waiting for that elusive glimpse of happiness. In the process, I forgot all about living in the present moment. As Marianne Williamson eloquently puts it, “we do not heal the past by dwelling there. We heal the past by living in the present moment.” Courage resides in you. Self-love permeates your being. Joy is in you. Depression, I learnt, was merely life’s way of surfacing all these feelings I have long forgotten. I am not suggesting that Yoga is the only way to deal with depression. Far from it. Find something that makes you smile, even if a little. Walk, meditate, take up baking, cooking, or read a good book. Heck, just laugh because it feels good. Above all, I believe that depression is nature’s way of reminding us that this life, the only one that we will ever have, here and now, is infinitely worth living.

"We do not heal the past by dwelling there. We heal the past by living in the present moment." - Marianne Williamson

Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favourite writers on mindfulness, reminds us that our mind is like the lotus. Like a flower that thrives on mud, our mind needs the messy, murky inner clutter to grow and flourish. Depression isn’t about who’s weak or strong; depression is about learning to appreciate our own strength in adversities. I believe that we are not defined by our successes, but by the challenges that beset us. Remember that no matter how hard the past, you can always begin again. 

I wish I can tell you that I have fully recovered from my bout of depression, but I have not. What matters is that I am on the road to recovery, and this my friend, is all that matters. Depression, like life, does not follow a neat, linear path. And I am ok with this. Because in the worst of times, I learnt who my friends are. Depression taught me to be immensely grateful for all the little things I took for granted – my sight, my health, my friends, the flower that attracts the bee, the sky, the breeze that caresses my skin and the joy of simply being alive.

"What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." - Buddha

In my journal that I pen daily, the wisdom of Buddha fronts the cover: "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.

Life itself is the path, and when you seek peace within, you will be amazed by the richness of your inner landscape. May I wish you health, contentment and inner peace.

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