Sharing some thoughts on anxiety & depression for UK Mental Health Awareness Week 2020.
Throat clamped and my breathing’s all over the place like I can’t quite catch it. I can’t feel my feet, my body is throbbing, my head is full of crackling static.
Yes, I’ve experienced anxiety.
Blank, grey, hopeless, heavy, pointlessness. Wishing I could just close my eyes and fade away.
Yes I’ve experienced depressive episodes.
Numb unfeeling dullness – I’ve disappeared from engaging with what’s happening. Trying to catch hold of my thoughts and feelings but it’s like a grey mist is surrounding and filling me and I can’t see or feel any more.
Yes I’ve experienced dissociation.
I wish some yogic breathing and some restorative poses would be the #anxietycure.
Perhaps some affirmations would bring the light – just #thinkpositive and the low mood and self-criticism would magically disappear in a cloud of fairy dust and unicorns.
If I ground myself daily I’ll be able to feel again, right?
The deepest wound
While breathing, grounding and affirmations do make a difference, they’re short-term interventions which may only bring temporary relief (that said, they are great to help you get through the moment).
But mental health issues are complex and deep-seated.
My own healing journey has helped me come to know this. And by ‘know’ I mean, experience in my body as the truth – rather than just an intellectual knowing.
Many of us who experience anxiety and/or depression will have experienced things in childhood which are still affecting us now.
Some of this could be big traumas which you would know about – such as the loss of a loved one, an accident, serious illness, or abuse.
But there are other reasons, which may be less obvious, unrecognized and perhaps denied.
One of which is attachment wounding and developmental trauma.
Attachment wounding is complex.
One way of describing it would be to say it occurs when the main parent (usually mother) or carer of a child is unable to provide the loving, holding environment for the child to explore their feelings and their growing sense of self while feeling safe, supported and seen. The carer’s own unhealed emotional / psychological issues will be a major factor in this inability.
It leaves deep scars in the child and the grown-up adult’s psyche.
This can show as a perpetual hyper-vigilance – always expecting to be criticized or shamed, or worse still, attacked or abused. Or chronic people-pleasing, because you tried so desperately to shape yourself to get your mother’s love it becomes an ingrained habit. Or an utter lack of self-esteem because your little psyche decided you must be a bad person if mummy doesn’t seem to like you, or hit you, or shamed you.
We can experience a kind of soul-loss, where those little parts of us who felt shamed, confused and unloved remain lodged in our psyches and we find ourselves living from and reacting from this place of vulnerability as an adult, often exhibiting maladaptive coping strategies.
This Vulnerable Child within needs your love. But first you need to know she exists, to accept her and to start asking her what she needs.
My journey to healing
I’ve come to learn that this must be looked at, acknowledged, processed, and grieved for true healing to take place.
It’s not quick. It’s certainly not easy. And it will look different for each of us.
I share this with you because I see so many messages in the healing and spiritual communities which I feel offer the false hope of giving you sticking plasters to cover up the deep wounds. (I’ve been there and done that, I fully own.) Yes, these interventions can help you feel better in the short term. But they don’t address the roots of the issues.
In a spirit of transparency and sharing, here are the interventions and practices which have contributed to my healing journey:
- Therapy with an integrative psychologist who helped me see and process the emotional wounds and trauma I’ve experienced. (An important step, but I also recognize that not everyone has the privilege to be able to afford this.)
- Inner Child work – I now dialogue daily with “Little Stella” to ask her what she needs, how she’s feeling and to show her my love and support.
- Yoga Nidra meditation – to create and, most importantly, feel a sense of safety within my autonomic nervous system and thus to feel safe in my body again, as well as helping me to access inner wisdom (which I would call the soul).
- Spiritual and embodied connection to my menstrual cycle and the cycles of the moon and seasons which provide a profound connection to the flow of life and to the understanding that my moods and energies will naturally ebb and flow, just as the cycles of life do.
- Devotion to the Great Mother – through meditation and personal ritual and finding Her all around me in nature and within me. Her love is unconditional. She guides me to live from my heart and the wise whispers of my soul, and guides me to be my own Inner Mother who cherishes and protects me always.
I share this as a route that has helped me.
It’s not the only path.
Mental health is complex.
But good mental health is about the body, mind, emotions and soul and understanding how the energy of past experience remains in the body and thus impacts the present. You can’t separate them.
They’re a delicate web of interconnection. They take time to untangle and re-weave.
But it’s worth it. Healing is possible – it’s a journey back to wholeness. To see, know and offer love to all parts of yourself.
May I leave you with some words which bring me solace and inspiration on this journey back to wholeness?
They’re from the Jungian psychoanalyst, Marion Woodman:
But if you travel far enough,
one day you will recognize yourself
coming down the road to meet you.
And you will say
With peaceful blessings,
Hi, I’m Stella Tomlinson and I guide women awakening to the call to reconnect to the sacred cycles of nature to find calm and meaning in this age of anxiety.
I guide women who feel called to explore divine feminine and nature spirituality to reconnect to the sacred cycles of their body, the moon and the seasons, so you can come home to feeling at ease with yourself and to living with a profound sense of meaning, magic and possibility.
Experience restful meditation and learn embodied spiritual practices grounded in the truth of nature, your body and female empowerment.
I am a teacher, writer, creatrix and Priestess, guiding you home to yourself and a deep, peaceful sense of belonging … and to be kind to yourself.