Mental Health Opportunities
What if instead of seeing anxiety and depression as “something wrong”, we celebrated it? What if, instead of feeling afraid, we got excited because we knew it was an indicator of growth?
Dr. Abraham Twerski uses the analogy of a lobster shedding it’s shell to explain how feeling uncomfortable (ie. anxiety, depression) is a natural part of the growth process and that we exacerbate and get stuck in it when we perceive it as a “problem”.
Maybe rather than calling them mental health “issues” it’d be more fitting to call them mental health “challenges”... Better yet, what if we called them mental health “opportunities”?
Eckhart Tolle talks about how he had “mental health issues”, and that it’s his deep depression that led him to having a shift in consciousness (becoming fully present and lacking ego).
I’m no Eckhart Tolle, I’m not german, and my time living in London was mostly spent partying rather than peacefully sitting on a park bench, but I’ve had glimpses of the experience of presence that he talks about. And just like him, all of my biggest “breakthroughs” have come from my biggest “breakdowns”.
One time after a silent Vipassana meditation course I was driving home along the highway and I felt a panic attack coming on. I observed the sensations of panic in my body and as I did this, with full acceptance and presence (without trying to change it), suddenly the fear dissolved and in it’s place, a warm, loving, tingling feeling moved through my body. The vibrations of the car escalated the sensations and I had to pull over as a feeling of complete bliss took over. It felt like a drug high, but not in a heightened, manic kind of way, it was a gentle, peaceful, natural state. It didn’t take me out of myself, it took me deeper into my truest self.
In my experience depression, anxiety and panic attacks have been beautiful gateways to accessing more love and joy. When I fully face and embrace them, I’ve been able to move through them. They’ve been part of the process of letting go. It’s only when I’ve tried to run away from it, control, numb or deny it that I’ve further fed my fear and I’ve gotten stuck.
When I’ve been able to turn my anxiety, depression or panic into an opportunity to understand my mind and body more, to see it as a call to action, and to truly listen to what it has to say, it has been a true friend.
Here are a few examples of what our friendly anxiety or depression might be trying to tell us:
Leave a toxic relationship or job
Look for a more fulfilling job or home
Get therapy (if already in therapy - try a new therapist or different approach)
Set up a self care/love routine
Pursue a hobby
Enrol to study something that interests you
Apologize to a loved one, forgive a loved one, forgive ourselves
Get a pet for companionship
Slow down and relax more
Speak our truth (with love)
Incorporate Breathwork, meditation, yoga or qigong etc. into our daily routine
There’s nothing “wrong” when we experience anxiety or depression, it’s just our bodies intelligent way of alerting us to be more present and loving with our pain and ourselves. It’s often kindly telling us that we may have old resentment, guilt, trauma, grief, pain stored in our minds and bodies, that we simply need to forgive, heal and release.
So don’t run away from anxiety and depression, move toward it, thank it for trying to protect you and love it like a loyal friend who’s just looking out for your best interest. Hug it and reassure it that Everything is Always going to be okay.