Today turned out to be an unexpected exercise in understanding how much my decade-long battle with depression had affected my memory. I also had a glimpse into how depression ultimately saved me.
Earlier this afternoon, I had a meeting with one of my clients to discuss a sensitive legal matter (I am an attorney). The client wanted to discuss a memo I had written on his company’s behalf back in January 2016.
I had no recollection of the memo. I did not recognize my writing and the subject matter was unfamiliar. I rescheduled the meeting so that I could take some time to review my notes.
After doing some research, I confirmed that I had, in fact, written the memo. The problem is that I could not recall any of the details. It was like the entire episode had been erased from my memory.
But, you know what I did notice? The date on the letter. It was dated January 2016. During that time, I was in the throes of the deepest depression of my life.
I will not recite the full details surrounding my depression here. But, I will say that, during that time, I was learning some disturbing facts regarding my marriage. Sadly, this situation was unfolding while I was away on travel attending the funeral of my best friend’s mother, who had been like a second mother to me.
About a month after the funeral, I became sick and ended up in the emergency room. The doctors said that my condition was due to stress.
I said all of that to say that January 2016 was a very rough period for me. The fact that I could not recall any facts regarding the memo gave me a glimpse into what depression can do to your brain.
In my non-professional assessment, the reason why it is so hard to function under depression is because, during a depressive episode, 99.9% of your thoughts are focused on the event that caused or triggered the depression. Depression takes over your mind and leaves a very small space for you to think of anything other than the facts, events, people and circumstances that are making you feel sad and depressed. Depression is like one single, negative thought running on a perpetual loop in your mind.
Although I could not recall writing that memo, you know what I recall in vivid detail? Nearly every single fact surrounding my sadness. I mean, I was deep in it. I kept detailed journals of each and every thing that was going on in my depressed mind at that time. If I went back through my journals, I could probably tell you, in excruciating detail, exactly what was going on in my marriage on the exact same date I wrote the memo.
That is the issue with depression. It robs you of your life by forcing you to view life from a very narrow perspective. And through a tainted lens. Depression makes you feel like your world is small, intense, overwhelming, unfixable, and permanent. Like you could just explode at any time under the pressure.
That is what happened to me. In November 2017, my depression led to a complete and total mental collapse. Indeed, a kind of strange, hard-to-describe, mental, emotional, and psychological explosion in my mind.
By November 2017, my husband and I had separated. The day before Thanksgiving, I was shocked to discover that the situation that started in January 2016 was still raging on. This information was particularly disturbing because it came to light the day before Thanksgiving, which of course caused our holiday dinner plans to implode.
Somehow, the way our holiday plans worked out, I ended up alone in my apartment spending Thanksgiving apart from my children for the first time in their lives.
Within the silence of this small, empty space, my mind started to collapse.
Before I knew it, I was absorbed into what felt like an endless loop of thought: “Him. Her. Them. How could I have been so blind, stupid, and naive. All of this going on behind my back, in front of my face.” And on and on and on and on and on. I was alternating between raging at them and blaming myself. It was like my mind was on an endless, perpetual loop of contemplation of the most disastrous thought. Like I was caught up in an endless analysis of “worst case scenario” situations and circumstances.
By the end of it, I exploded in what felt like a blind fury. It was the most intense anger I have ever felt in my life. The anger literally felt alive. I was there but more as an observer. That poor woman, screaming and crying felt like a separate person from me. She was very, very sad. And, very, very angry. Watching this woman writhe around in such pain made me feel sad, confused, and completely helpless.
And then the tears started falling. Once they started, they would not stop. I was crying, and crying, and crying, and crying. I cried that day, that night, and for several days thereafter. By Monday morning, I was babbling and unable to speak in complete sentences. I was in no condition to work. I called in sick. Before the day was over, I had resigned.
A few months later, a mental health professional with over forty years of experience told me that resigning from my job was the best thing that could have happened to me (from a mental health standpoint). He told me that, if I had kept that job, I would have ended up in the hospital. He did not equivocate when he said this. He made this statement as if it were fact.
Upon resigning, one would think that I would have been worried. But, I was not. Instead, I felt a deep and profound relief. In that moment, any considerations about money or earning a living were secondary. The only thing I knew is that the job was one less thing I needed to worry about.
For the next few weeks, I sat on the balcony of my apartment staring out at the trees. Some days, as soon as I stepped out on the balcony, I could see the top branches of one tree in particular blowing in the wind. On some days, the tree seemed to be saying “hello.” Eventually, I started waving back.
During this time, I felt an overwhelming desire to be surrounded by nature. I started taking long walks through the neighborhood, exchanging energy with the beautiful trees and colorful flowers along the way. I also sat on the balcony of my apartment each and every day hanging out with the lovely trees, who at that point felt like familiar friends.
Slowly, I started to feel better. I started meditating again. I also read. A lot. I read books and articles addressing a wide range of topics with a primary focus on mental health and psychology. I also had an intense interest in issues related to spiritual awakening. I proactively sought out anything and everything that would help me to understand my mental health crisis.
Eventually, the mental fog lifted and I was at least able to work again. The whole process — from breakdown to recovery — lasted nearly one year. But the truth is that I am still recovering. I am constantly learning and seeking out knowledge to help me understand the inner workings of my mind and psyche.
Now, here is another remarkable aspect of what happened to me. There was a period during my breakdown when time felt non-existent. At the very least, I experienced “time” in a very different way than the commonly-accepted concept of time.
For this portion of the story, I will have to take you back to when the breakdown first started to occur.
So, there I was, in the corner of an empty apartment, crying uncontrollably for what felt like hours. At some point, I felt separate from my body. The tears were still flowing, but after a while, they were kind of washing over me. I was aware of my body and also aware that I was crying. But at some point, the tears felt cathartic and cleansing. Literally.
At some point, I felt a determination that emanated from somewhere deep inside of me. Something was nudging me to cry as long and as hard as I could. “Get it all out,” the energy seemed to be telling me. “This is the very last time you will ever cry over him, her, or anything regarding this situation,” the energy was boldly and decisively saying.
Suddenly, I was no longer a part of my body. Instead, I had the sensation of being in the middle of a vortex of energy. Then, all sorts of energy and sensations ran through me.
This energy is impossible to describe in words. The best description I can offer is that it felt like being in the middle of a forest with thundering rain pouring down all around me. It was raining loud and hard, with big, bold drops of rain pouring down all around me.
During the thickest, most intense part of the rain, I noticed a tree in the distance. It is a big, tall tree with thick leafy branches. I notice that there is less rain falling under this tree, so I go over and sit under it. The tree is now comforting me and its big leafy branches are shielding me from the rain. The rain continued to fall, but at some point, the raindrops were warm and soothing and tasted a bit salty. Strangely, this rain felt soothing.
Eventually, the rain subsided. I could then hear the birds singing and I could see that I was in the middle of a forest surrounded by lots of big, beautiful, protective trees. Everything looked lush, gorgeous, and beautiful. I am in the middle of the most beautiful rainforest you could ever imagine. This rainforest of energy was saying to me: “Hello. Welcome. And goodbye,” all at once.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, there is a tiny voice inside of me willing myself to remember this magical place; this “heaven on Earth.” A place where you are at one with the energy of the entire universe. “Remember, remember, remember!” I kept telling myself.
I can also feel the energy of yet another presence (plural). These energies are looking down on that poor woman crying hysterically in the corner of the room, telling her to “Wake up! Ye are a God(ess)!” But she does not hear them because she is crying and not listening. The spirits seemed to be patiently waiting for her to look up.
I am trying to put words around what I felt and remember. But the reality is that whatever I felt and experienced, happened in “no time” and in a non-linear fashion. I remember the entire experience as a flash of energy.
I have no words to adequately describe what happened to me. It clearly defies any logical or rational description. I now understand why certain truths are written in parables and hidden text. The experience defies anything I could possible describe in words. All I know is that it was something extremely valuable and special. Indeed, I felt like I had been given a rare and precious gift.
Whatever you call it, the only truth I know is that at one point, I was having a nervous breakdown, and in another instant, I felt detached from my body. Soon thereafter, I was being protected by what felt like a big, beautiful, loving, protective tree. When I emerged from this space, I was stronger and wiser and generally just much more present, aware, and awake. The best words I have to describe my experience is that my mind broke. It then healed itself through some sort of rearrangement or reconfiguration. Whatever it was, it allowed me to feel transformed and healed.
This experience instilled in me a burning desire to share this knowledge with as many seekers and listeners as possible. The knowledge that there is a place of pure bliss that you can experience during your lifetime. A place where you can see yourself separate and apart from your pain. A place where certain truths of the universe are revealed to you.
The statement that someone “can’t see the forest for the trees” is a common axiom to describe a person who is too absorbed in the details to see the value of the “big picture.” With regard to emotional healing, I would use a similar analogy except I would say that most people can’t see the forest for the rain.
The truth I learned is that, like rain, pain is cleansed from above. Indeed, sometimes the rain comes in order to reveal certain truths and to lead you to a more enlightened path.