Something that to be honest I have had not had to deal with so deeply until recently is my own MENTAL HEALTH issues.
There was a time I struggled with perinatal depression during my third pregnancy – I cried pretty much every day wondering how I was going to be a good enough mother to not just one child but to two. And then about 5 months after giving birth, every day felt like Groundhog Day and there was a desperation to get out of the house, but not WITH the kids, I wanted to be out of the house and away from my children and life as a mother of two children under 3, just doing simple things like adulting and interacting with other humans and not having to talk about or even partake in my role as a mother and householder. My yoga and meditation practices were paramount at this time in my life when really I had no control over what was going on, so I needed to just let things be and do the best I could. And I am grateful that I managed to survive.
Fast forward nearly 8 years later and I have found myself in unchartered territory - anxious, depressed and feeling incredibly alone. In the last year or so I have suffered several attacks of anxiety to the point where it feels as though I am having heart attack. On so many nights I have lay awake in bed at night unable to sleep, consumed with thoughts, fears and anxieties about things that are completely out of my control. I’ve done what I can to try and alleviate these fears but they remain ever present and have resulted in a gradual spiral that has become a pattern of self-harm: negative self-talk, a feeling of unworthiness, a lack of direction and inspiration as well as numbing feelings with food and feeling unmotivated towards my usual health and wellness routines and even just shying away from friends and loved ones.
This is not something that you would expect from a yoga teacher, someone who not only practices but more so preaches self-care and mindfulness as part of their daily routine - for more than half of my life up to this point. Regardless of these practices however, I am clearly not immune. I am indeed a human being. One that is subject to the same pitfalls and perils of every other human on the planet, regardless of how much time I spend sitting in meditation or on my yoga mat.
The one saving grace in these darkest of days has been that because I am a teacher of yoga, and hold true to its virtues, I know the importance of teaching from a place of my own personal experience, so this alone has kept me accountable to maintaining a sliver of personal practice while at the same time, holding space for students has allowed me to focus on the health and wellness of others and taking the focus away from my own internal pain and suffering.
Honestly, it’s only in the last 2 or so months that I have truly been honest with myself and able to acknowledge this internal suffering; I truly believed it was not a possibility given my experience as a yoga practitioner and the wealth of knowledge and practices that have helped to keep me sane over the years. There was an entire month recently where I didn’t reach out to any of my friends or acquaintances, I was in such a deep dark place that I simply wanted to stay in a place of solitude and despair because I did not know I needed help, never mind how to ask for it. I struggled to get out of bed on the days I did not need to and on the days that I did need to, it felt like I was simply going through the motions, with no feelings or intentions. I have been exhausted with guilt and shame. I am fortunate that I have a few close friends who noticed my absence and reached out me, not just once but several times, just to check in and remind me they were there, even when I ignored or denied their calls for help. Although I am generally someone who needs to voice their discomfort or personal issues, in this instance I have felt the need to become a recluse – I have no desire to talk through this suffering because truthfully, I don’t know what it is or what even to say. I don’t feel like myself. It’s almost as though I am living an outer body experience – I can see it happening but that person is not me.
So much freedom has come from acknowledging these thoughts and feelings with friends and family, but I have been absolutely scared shitless to share these feelings in a public forum, especially given my livelihood; most yoga teachers portray a life of perfection and that all is well regardless. But with this new-found perspective and wisdom that I cannot do it all myself, I have sought out help from a professional to talk through my feelings, insecurities and anxieties that led me to where I am now.
I recognise that we all go through periods of darkness and uncertainty, but this feels like more than that for me right now, sometimes we need to seek outside help in order to pull ourselves out of the rut we’re in. And so, I’m pretty much going back to basics - working towards prioritising my own mental, physical and emotional health on both a personal and professional level – I have always put others before myself, not just the wellbeing of my own children, husband and family, but working in a service based role, the care and wellbeing of the students is always at the forefront of my mind.
Perhaps you've noticed some of these signs in someone you know, or perhaps this person is YOU? Please know that you are not alone, that you have done nothing wrong and that as cliché as it sounds, there is a light at the end of the deep, dark tunnel - that’s what’s keeping me from losing myself completely...the hope of better days.
When we acknowledge the darkness, together we can find the light. Stay strong and remember to find joy in the small things + moments, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem – you matter more than you’ll ever know!
Note: I originally shared this on my Instagram page, receiving an overwhelming response of support and others sharing their own struggle and stories. I've always valued the importance of being transparent, vulnerable and real.