There's a quote by the existential psychologist Rollo May that says: 'It's an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way'. When I first read it, it hit me like a train. That's what I'd been doing my whole life. Running – either literally (travelling the world, jumping from job to job, relationship to relationship) or metaphorically (in circles in my head) - was my modus operandi. When I was in my twenties and thirties this didn't seem to matter, it was what everyone did. It was fun and wild and the freedom that went with it was intoxicating. I was carefree in those days, and careless in lots of ways. I was caught in the whirlwind of daring adventure and crazy hedonism. It was only when I stopped for any length of time that the problems set in, a gut-wrenching anxiety that churned away inside and a gnawing low-grade depression that would bring me to my knees...
and then once again, I would run.
At 39 I became a mum. And I could no longer run. And I had nowhere to hide from the depressive grip. It set in in a way that I didn't think I would ever escape from. But I still kept running, thinking somehow I could outsmart it and shake it off in the process. I was like one of those characters you see in films who is running on the spot while a big godly hand holds its head firmly on the spot. I looked outside myself for the answers, I tried anti-depressants, I changed my diet, I reached for supplements, I did courses, I read books and I grasped in desperate vain for anything that would help.
And at the point of exhausted resignation I gave up. I lay down (on a massage table at a needlessly-expensive retreat I had booked after being told that a juice diet and intense fitness regime would do the trick.) and let someone go to work on my body. I felt the amazing energy and love of another person and for the first time in as a long as I can remember I felt something lift.
Of course, like a lot of good lessons, it took a long time to learn. I sank back into depression within a few hours but the memory stayed with me. It turns out it was the beginning of my journey inside. To the place where – I believe – the real answers lie. Over the next few years came meditation, psychoanalysis (although it took me a year to finally lie on the couch!), baths, sleep, yoga and finally prayer.
I'm 45 now and waking up out of my dark night of the soul. I still have tough days, unconscious reactions and I slip into old patterns, but instead of running in panic, I sit with the feelings and listen to what my soul is trying to tell me. And it turns out, the answer is always inside.
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