It was a difficult time. One of those moments in life, where I could not see things clearly for myself and so was relying on the outside advice of many people in my life, to find my way back , to know what was, and my place in all of that. Something was wrong - that much was clear. Something was broken. But what, and how to get back ?
The scariest part of being separated from your own knowing, is that everything else feels foreign. There is not the safe and warm sense of being with yourself, of trusting your own understanding - it’s dissociative like standing outside in the rain without a jacket.
It was a beautiful time. The return to Greece, to the sea, to freedom, to warm summer nights, to flying across the water at sunset, dancing on the beach in the moonlight. It was the first time I've been on summer vacation in my happy place with all my people, where I could not take strength and love, but went through the time in work and fear.
I was in a situation that could not be fixed, it could only be left. And there I was, trying to still fix my way out of it. I was losing my grip on this knowing, slipping farther from my strength and into fear and confusion. Time moved on, but things did not get more clear. The stakes were so high, it was our life, it was my happiness.
Back in the city, the holidays behind me, I fought with my husband. He sat me down for a deep talk. I didn’t realize it, until we were in the talk, but it was an intervention. “I’ve seen this before,” he said. “We’re just back from a great vacation and still you are exhausted. When vacation isn’t enough to bounce back, the problem is so advanced you have to fix it with medication.”
Everything in me balked. This was not the first time he had foreshadowed burnout and medication to me, but I had always brushed it off as something that was not for me, not even a possibility. This time, confused and ashamed, I listened while he told me this was what I absolutely needed to do, even if I couldn't see it myself. Not being able to see it myself was just a further classic symptom of burnout, he said.
And so with this heavy cocktail of negative emotions of fear and shame, I started making doctor's appointments - I met with my homeopathic family doctor of 15 years, who recommended a herbal supplement to strengthen the nerves, a psychologist and taking a break from work. This is the doctor, who had seen me come in year after year with stress related illness and injuries - from tennis elbow to back pain to lung issues and who had listened to me repeatedly say I could not take time off work.
I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, who asked me what all the problems in my life were and why I was there. Getting into all my biggest problems with this stranger, I may have potentially teared up, leading him to diagnose me as ‘Built too close to water’, a classic German saying, prescribe me some pharmaceuticals and send me on my way. All in under 10 minutes. I left this appointment, brought my prescription to the pharmacy, shame levels rising. I got the pills 5 minutes later, at a cost less than buying cough drops, it was like they were giving them away for free.
Weird, I thought, how this is so easy and so cheap and subsidized, and everything else is expensive, time-consuming…
I took the pills home and sat with them unopened in my purse for two days.We planned to leave for Canada in some weeks, and according to my doctor and my husband, I would need to already take the pills for a certain amount of time, to review their efficacy - dosage, type of medication, and adjust before we left. With this timeline weighing on me, I sat there with the pills in my hand - and a glass of water beside me and yet could not bring myself to take them. “Why is this so hard to do?”
And yet, no matter how long I sat there, I could not make myself take them.
I thought to myself : “if I take these, it is the end. This represents for me utter failure. It means giving up power and responsibility to be in control of my life. This seed of resistance grew and it bloomed into my knowing - that was not my path.
And then I thought of it in a different way - What will even change if I do this? Sure, I may stop yelling, sure I may be quieter, meeker, may fit in better. But then what?
Am I really at the END? Have I done everything else I can think of to change myself, my life, my circumstance? What about x, and y and z? The answer was no. And so I put the pills back in the box, and began to create my own prescription for anti-depression.
I took time for myself, went to a safe place in nature with a pen, a block of white paper and a large coffee. I did not follow a specific process, I drew on all wisps of knowledge on personal transformation and happiness that I have acquired over time.
This is not how I see myself - I have this vision of myself who is strong, capable, collected, strategic, empathic - a good leader, someone friends go to with their problems, someone colleagues go to at work for advice. This was potentially not how I was actually showing up in the world at that moment.
I sat down to Dispenza’s Morning Meditation and stepped into my vision of the future. I wrote down how I want to show up in the world, and actual habits and behaviors I have that may support this vision or take away from this vision. What else did I know about myself -? Did I know what (would) make me happy? Was I putting myself in a position to leverage that happiness? Did I know what triggered sadness, stress, anxiety - and how to stop?
This felt like a solution, a path where I could take small steps that would lead me back to what was.
When I was forced to honestly consider if I had done all I could, the answer was no. There were many changes I would love to make to my life if I wanted to be truly happy, and many of them bolder than I was willing to consider before. A lot of them were external circumstances, over which I had no power to change.
Except, for example by leaving. This was a new idea for me - I had always felt that I had to change myself in order to deal with the situation, I had to just try harder, be better, build more bridges. Those were the types of circumstances, where I had always felt there was no way out - that I couldn’t leave - or that staying and working harder on the problems was the more noble way. But leaving? Once this idea got into my mind, it stuck. Maybe I don’t need to change myself, maybe I need to change the situation.
Staying in toxic circumstances but taking mediation to be able to stay in those toxic circumstances seemed more than counter-intuitive, but wrong - sick in itself.
Rather, time to change circumstances. This was the beginning of my commitment to moving back to Canada, connecting to my family there and drawing strength from the good parts of my life. If I would say the rest is history, it would be a lie.
The rest was a long path - filled still with ups and downs, and joy and fear - but it was my path. I needed to rewire my mind, and went for this with a purpose. I jumped onto meditation like the over-achiever that I am, I looked at my belief systems and identified deeply ingrained beliefs that were not serving me - for example beliefs on multi-tasking. The process of unlearning this, and moving towards mindfulness, and even getting an idea of what ‘normal’ is, was long. And - it didn’t always feel good. Without all those busy things to fill my time and my mind, I felt empty. Purposeless, Useless. There are people who say, just go with it, just have fun. But my path was different. And with a lot of time in nature, with a lot of help from my friends - I walked it.
I changed my circumstances, I changed my beliefs, I changed my mind - I changed myself so I could be happy in any number of circumstances, even without anti-depressants. If this sounds familiar - ask yourself, what you would need to change, and if you have done all that you could. Ask yourself if you are medicating yourself to keep functioning in a sick environment, or if your story and your path are different. Change the system - not the woman!
This is just my story and my experience, and it may be different for you. I'm not a doctor or a therapist, and am not offering medical advice.