I thought I could cure my depression with green juice and SoulCycle
According to the millennial myth, the algorithm for mental and physical peace is simple: you give up your office job and your predictable boyfriend to change your time zone. You experience tropical yoga retreats. Maybe you microdose mushrooms at Burning Man. Maybe you are climbing Kilimanjaro. You document your trip one #nofilter sunset at a time. You join society drunk with self-awareness, certain of your place in the world.
When reality returns, you watch your henna tattoo fade as you scroll down Instagram.
If the path to self-love is this direct (and I followed the GPS), why have I spent so many years feeling useless?
Since legal adulthood, I have hidden a mind-numbing depression. The kind that some days I could suppress and some days nailed me to the bathroom floor, spinning the emotional roulette wheel. Which version of me will appear today? I was hoping for the right version of me who was overly sweet and saw the potential in each. But I might be the other version: full of self-hatred, trapped in her own subconscious, unable to trip out of bed except to force-feed Ben & Jerry’s and force him back up.
Having been raised in the “do not air your dirty laundry ” South, I believed the world would only accept me if I was quiet about my problems.
So I did what I was told to make myself whole: I bought my war paint from Sephora and my armor from Lululemon. I fed myself with the holistic nutritionist approved lowwholecarb30ketoSouthBeachjuicefast. I “found myself” through breathing and crystal healing workshops in moldy Brooklyn buildings. I invested thousands for GOOPify my life making my way to an exterior without effort.
Every time I thought I had escaped, depression broke into my life.
I did everything that the culture of well-being had asked me to do: yoga in the boiler room, hygge-ing my house, smothering a handful of daily supplements. So why was I still giving in “Are you up? “ texts and numb me with those of Tito by way of penance?
In search of a cure for my cure, I have been the victim of influencer monologues claiming that if I decided love me, self-loathing would evaporate. “The power of positive thinking ”, they said, as if you could just outsmart mental illness.
So I wrote in my gratitude journal about soaking in Epsom salts after SoulCycle. I religiously followed the wellness gurus with their sculpted abs and permanent smiles, praying their “10 Steps to Loving The Skin You Are In!” The listicles would exorcise me. I thought I could remedy trauma and shame through healing rituals problematically disembodied from their original cultures and repackaged as mental health solutions.
I worshiped an industry that sold me the promise of physical and mental perfection. With just one more session, reading, walking or mantra, I would be bright and new.
Thousands of Chase Sapphire shots later, I had gone as far as that yellow stationary bike.
In my relentless pursuit of wholeness, I have discovered that the New Age wellness rituals (at least those that aren’t blatant cultural appropriation) can ease temporary discomfort (and that infrared saunas are pretty darn fun). But gorging myself on green juice hasn’t brought me any closer to self-esteem. It has left me desperate, financially exhausted, and indebted to a fluffy crop that causes more harm than cure.
After years of drowning in consumerist care, alone in my apartment cluttered with crystals, succulents and a well-worn yoga mat, I found myself paralyzed in bed. Fully clothed, under a mountain of blankets, shaking uncontrollably. I had reached my breaking point.
The week before, I had left a falling apart relationship with a man I still loved. Sadly, he was still in a volatile relationship with another love: cocaine. In the days that followed, my latent depression trapped my mind. I clung to my meditation practice, my journal, my palo santo, but my tricks were futile this time. Defeated, I turned off my phone, silently surrendering to illness.
It was my 28th birthday.
Since the day I turned my glans to the left, I had mapped out the experiences and achievements that would validate me in this life. The bare essentials included a healthy relationship, a fulfilling career, and overwhelming self-esteem. But as I was putting the finishing touches on my 20s, all I had attracted were men with substance-induced temperaments, a demoralizing 9 to 5 and stage 4 depression.
My Himalayan salt lamp could not heal my suppressed trauma. My yoga teacher was unable to resolve my eating disorder. I couldn’t brush off toxic exes no matter how much sage I burned.
Self-care practices are great when you already love yourself. They help whole, healthy people to savor life. Despite what I saw on Instagram or read in women’s magazines, my depression could not be cured with ceremony. Ultimately, I needed clinical therapy for this.
Taking care of me was for me a butterfly bandage where deep psychological and emotional cuts stitches required. A trained professional had to pierce the wound with a needle, stitch it up, one dripping segment at a time. My prognosis needed to be completely dismantled and reconstructed. But the therapy not only closed my wound, it healed the infection below the surface.
My first days in therapy were the darkest. Every week I left slumped in a cab – my body couldn’t get me home 10 blocks away. I was tormented by nightmares. I cried to the point of throwing up. My hair has fallen out in clumps. I lived in this pattern for months, resenting myself for not leaving my demons alone. I could have been dancing on the tables in East Village, getting attention, instead of going through what looked like a continuous lobotomy.
Therapy cut through my #nofilter bullshit. Stripped of my self-care regimes, I was left with only the painful truth.
His. Difficult. Ass. Job. I confessed my psychosis to a stranger. I entered into the most vulnerable relationship of my life, when I had never truly committed to anything or anyone. I haven’t lost my focus for a year – no dates, no distractions. My therapist, Susan, trained me to face the past, destroy the entanglement and kill the trauma inflicted by the lack of self-respect and invisible limits I knew from childhood.
I experienced new sensations, like a foreign emotion called anger. I have observed that when I speak people hear my voice and they listen. I stopped apologizing for having an opinion. I released my blemishes and let them breathe for the first time.
Susan reconfigured my brain to know the love – that I am worthy of love – and I am eternally grateful. Our work, combined with a daily dose of peacekeepers serotonin, gave way to an excruciating and magnificent process. I now understand the primordial love that exists between my own head and my heart, not at the SoulCycle on Lafayette or the Full Moon Party in Thailand.
Wellness rituals, mindfulness and other forms of intervention are the antidote for many. But in my case, therapy and medication was the only way to deepen my purpose and honor my pain, finally freeing the real me.
Today there are still emotional scars that hurt slightly to the touch, but I remain determined to make a recovery. Just as there is no quick fix, neither is there a permanent fix.
The only semi-permanent imprint is the one I leave in Susan’s chair every week.
Sometimes I still enjoy the green juice on hot afternoons and get closer to mastering the crow pose every week. I meditate before bed and look at the Sagittarius horoscope every now and then (just in case). After all, these are rewarding practices for a quick boost. But they are clearly dangerous when replaced by professional help.
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