Depression is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Of course, I was definitely not thinking that at the time!
I found myself about to turn 30, progressing steadily in my career but with a broken heart and endlessly in tears. Somehow I decided that I was going to go for an adventure. For years I'd had an urge to go to the Himalayas, and with nervous excitement I got on a plane to China on my own to spend two incredible weeks in Tibet. Driving away from the final highlight - spending the night at 5200m altitude at Everest base camp - the reality of my loneliness came crashing back in again and I remember excruciatingly hiding in my seat on the bus, shamefully trying to hide my flowing tears and wishing the ground would swallow me up.
I would easily cry in work, I would end up crying and embarrassed when I was out in town for a night's clubbing, I would cry at home alone in my flat. Antidepressants slowly fooled me into thinking I was kind of okay, and after a few months I came off them. A year and another failed romance later, literally paralysed with indecision and self-doubt, unable to decide to move to even feed myself, I was dosed up again. Through stress, panic attacks, anxiety, many many more tears and an endless inner-critic dialogue, this time I was given a crucial first tool of reading about depression and bringing my attention to what my thoughts were doing to me.
Amongst other things, a line in the song 'You're free' reached through to me: "When you're down and you're feeling bad, everybody has left you sad, feels like no-one will pull you through, it's your life, what you gonna do?"
Some little sense inside my soul had been pulling at me, gradually. It had been strong enough for me to push boundary after boundary at work to bring in some humanity - humour and connection and care - to the commercial analysis environment I was in. It had been strong enough to get me to utter the words 'I'm sorry, I can't marry you' to my fiancé in 2007. I'd thought that compulsion was monumental enough, but it had only been the beginning. I managed to arrange for myself to go on another travel adventure, this time for a month to Patagonia over Christmas, and on my return to work this time I realised some big changes were coming, because there was a life I was desperately needing to connect to that was inaccessible from behind my 10 hours-a-day computer screen. Depression drove me to change.
In summer 2013 I sold many of my possessions, left my career and set off on a 12-month trip around the world that utterly changed my life from the inside out. I wrote about depression and my thought patterns on a blog, and engaged people in the conversation as I went. So many people opened up to me about their own inner challenges, and said they hadn't really talked to anyone about it before.
I've learned to be utterly unashamed of my tears and instead to completely embrace their free flow, as witness to my brave capacity to care. I'm now aware of how necessary, how healing, how real it's all been to share my grieving. More than that; I now notice how true joy can spontaneously arise once I've truly touched the root of my pain and allowed it, heard its message, emptied it, survived it.
There's so much more. So much more! I could fill a book with the lessons life has given me in the past few years. My life has changed radically, even though full-circle brings me to similar types of work.
But I'm interested in you. Tell me your stories. Come and work with me.