I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression when I was about sixteen years old, but truth be told, it was something I’d probably been dealing with since I was eleven. Basically, the doctor gave me a pill, recommended I see a therapist and sent me on my merry way, but in the long run this wasn’t helpful.
Before I say what I’m going to say, I want to make it abundantly clear that if you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness, please seek professional help. I only know what I know and I can only go from my own experience. When it comes to the healing process, nothing is one-size fits all, okay? Okay.
That being said, I hated medication. I think it’s one of those tools that definitely helped me in the moments that I needed it, but with any kind of medicine, there’s going to be some side effects. One pill helped my anxiety and depression, but it also neutralized all of my emotions. Another pill killed my sex drive. Medication is a journey too, but it wasn’t a journey that I wanted to take.
Eventually, after years of suffering on and off, I decided to try yoga after reading that it’s supposed to help. It sounded like some hippy, woo-woo bullshit, but I decided to give it a try before dipping to ‘I Can’t Leave My Bed’ status.
Doing yoga was nice because it gave my brain something to focus on. I also started meditating more as part of the practice. Between the physical aspect of yoga and the mental aspect of meditation, the first couple months felt like one giant internal scream that lead to a lot of loud, outward cursing and crying. My yoga mat became baptized with my tears and broken in with my fist beating into it.
Lots of feeling stupid. Lots of shaking. Lots of soreness.
I can’t tell you why I didn’t quit the practice. Logically, you think I would have but I’m stubborn and have a masochistic streak a mile wide. Eventually though, the internal scream dulled and the clouds cleared. When you sit with your eyes closed enough, you tend to notice a theme of thoughts that swirl in your mind.
There are songs on repeat. There are embarrassing moments replayed. There are sweet memories. But eventually, there’s something that uncovers itself that gives a weird sense of clarity and peace. Then a little bit past that, you start to take that sense of peace with you.
Don’t get me wrong, yoga didn’t cure me. However, yoga is a helpful tool that lets me recognize when an episode is coming along. It makes me more aware of my own thought processes and the habits that go with that. Instead of the internal scream I have this inner yogini that says, “Hey, you’re starting to do that thing where you’re isolating yourself. Talk to someone.”
Or, “Hey, feeling sad is cool in this moment. Let’s feel this and move on.”
Or, “You really are good enough. This is just a rough patch.”
Mental illness is a deceitful, lying bastard, but as someone who’s been at the battle for a good twenty years I just want this to be a beacon of hope. Yoga helped me and adds to my mental health tool box, but so does writing, so does therapy and in the past, so has medication.
Your healing might be painting. Or basketball. Or Mongolian throat singing.
As a yoga stan, I encourage everyone to give it a try. Whatever medium you choose, I hope you find that which brings you peace and healing on the road ahead. It takes diligence, but it’s possible.
And I promise you’re worth it.