To follow on from my last entry, which documents my recent experience of depression, I wanted to share my ongoing journey towards subsequent recovery. I must caveat this entry by saying I am no authority on how to recover from depression, I can only share my personal experience with heartfelt honesty. Every story is unique and is to be equally respected and honoured, and everyone must find their own path towards healing. I am certainly not here to pass judgement or offer advice on anyone else’s healing choices. My hope is merely that my story might inspire those who sense deep in their bones that there is another, time-honoured salve to their wounds, which is not much spoken about in the modern world. But still, we thirst for it.
You see, my box of antidepressants remains unopened in its pharmacy bag, and the appointment I had made with the NHS counselling service has been cancelled. I reached a cross-roads and I chose a different route from the prescribed norm. I am deeply grateful for the amazing health service we have in this country – the GP I saw was a beautiful, compassionate soul, and the services I have been provided with have been efficient and free. We are so blessed to have this. But, despite having taken antidepressants in the past, this time it just didn’t sit right with me.
I have been consciously evolving my soul for many years now, deliberately stalking and courting my fear-based beliefs and illusions, bringing them to the surface to be examined, challenged and eventually released. This process is often not very pretty at all, and there are certain crisis points of mega-unravelling as a particularly deep core belief is challenged. The resistance to letting it go can cause immense suffering, and I knew deep down that this was at the heart of my depression. Beneath the fractured mind, my soul was steady as a rock, whooping with joy that I was finally ready to face these deep pains I had been running from for so long. And so, in the end, I had to choose the soul route to healing rather than the purely physical route of tablets and mind reprogramming. I didn’t want to numb the pain I was feeling, I wanted to feel it all in its acute intensity whilst keeping my heart as wide open as possible throughout, as I knew I had to do this in order to no longer be held in its thrall at a sub-conscious level.
So, instead of the prescribed NHS resources I chose two other resources of healing support, which are sadly often overlooked in modern life, despite being innate human needs – without these dual bastions of support, to me it is no coincidence that mental health issues are so rife. I chose deep nature connection and the strength of a loving and supportive community. I found my way to these resources by choosing to participate in a rite of passage based ceremonial retreat entitled ‘Earth Initiation – a Wilderness Rite of Passage‘ up at the Anam Cara Retreat Centre in the Scottish Highlands. The retreat lasted nearly two weeks and I can honestly say that during that period I know I have healed myself from this current bout of depression. I feel myself again and I feel ready for my next chapter.
The retreat involved a lot of sitting in ceremonial circle and being given time to speak our truth, just as our ancestors would have done long ago, and just as indigenous communities who haven’t lost touch with the old ways still do today. Every person in that sharing circle counts just as much as the next one; everyone’s words and stories are there to be heard and honoured. The healing power of being held by a supportive community whilst you bare your soul and speak your truth cannot be underestimated. It is something most of us have lost within our lives, an alien concept, and we suffer for this. During our time together, each member of our group stripped away the masks and identities that we usually show to the world and instead we connected from our vulnerable human hearts, revealing our flaws, fears, hopes and fragility as well as our soul-gifts, unique creative expression and joyful quirkiness. Love flowed between us, barriers melted. We truly ‘saw’ each other. It was beautiful. It healed me.
Then, in the middle of the retreat we built up to spending four days fasting and solo camping out on the wild land. Previous to this, we each were given time in circle to set a strong intent for the fast, helped by our three amazing guides, who asked pertinent questions and gently nudged our scattered thoughts into the seam of bedrock truth lying behind them. Mine turned out to be beautifully simple and traditional as I wished to mark my passage into fully-fledged womanhood/adulthood – I realised my depression was largely sparked by my clinging to an old, younger identity that avoided responsibility and commitment, which no longer was truthful and did not serve me. It was time to honour my maturity and take responsibility to become visible in the world in my authentic power, to share my gifts with others.
During the fast we had ample time to contemplate our intent, whilst held by the infinite love and care of mother earth. Again, this was profoundly healing. I lay and walked on her bare earth every day, communing with her, singing to her, listening to her, loving her. And I felt her love me back. She gently reminded me that everything was OK, all parts of me were welcome, there wasn’t a single part of me that couldn’t be loved. And she brought me back to the healing peace of simply being present, accepting each moment with ease, even the challenging times. As I watched the ever-changing cloud-scape I knew everything was transient, everything could be borne, simply by patiently waiting it out. As I kindled a small fire on a half-moon night I saw in the flames our ability to transform and transmute anything, simply through our determination to do so. As I bathed in the little burn I felt myself washed clean, a blank canvass in each flowing moment. Dancing naked in thunder and lightning brought me back to the joy of spontaneity, and climbing the steep heather-clad hillside on a four-day empty belly to enter a pitch-black narrow passageway deep into the earth reminded me of my great fortitude and ability to overcome fears and hardship. Nature was our mirror; every experience and encounter with nature was a gentle lesson and, above all, the words I heard in my mind on a loop were ‘rest in the mother’s love’.
When we returned from our solo experience, our fast-bright eyes filled with ecstatic joy to be welcomed back into the little community we had become part of, we feasted together and again spent time in ceremonial circle. This time we were each given ample time to tell the story of our time on the land, what it had brought us, the lessons we had received, the things we had left behind and the resolves we had made. It felt an utter privilege to hear the moving intimacy of everyone’s stories and it was again very healing to tell my own story and have it reflected back to me with sensitivity and wisdom by our beautiful guides.
Behind everything, we are held, utterly held, by mother earth, all of the time – we forget that we can draw upon this resource of infinite strength and healing whenever we need – we are never alone. And we can be held in just the same way by community if we let ourselves – when we find courage to drop our stories and connect in circle once more, speaking and listening from the heart, we will find our healing salve. In the days leading up to the retreat, when my mind was in a dark place and my self-confidence was low, I doubted my ability to attend the retreat and asked a respected shaman friend for his guidance. ‘Do it,’ he told me… ‘you need strong medicine now, Becky, to move past this darkness.’ And that is exactly what it felt like – strong medicine from the kiss of the earth and the loving gaze of others as they listened to me speak.
I truly believe a rekindling of these two lost tenets of healing could save our stricken society – by remembering our profound, sacred connection to our mother earth, and by consolidating heart-felt connection with each other in community, we will be able to also re-connect to the truth of our souls, and find healing for any problems we might be facing. As I often say on this blog, the proof will forever be in the pudding and, for me, my pudding is well and truly baked right now and tasting delicious. I feel healed and I am grateful I chose the soul path, the natural path, the time-honoured traditional path. I am oh-so ready and excited to see what the next chapter holds for me, as I step back into the flow of the world as a fully fledged mature woman. Finally the future is bright again. Thank you mother, thank you guides, thank you circle sisters… 🙂