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As a therapist, I know it’s not considered appropriate to use the word “cure” in this context, but it’s the best way I can describe my experience.
I began my relationship with addiction, depression and anxiety in 2000—around the same time I left my hometown. I started drinking heavily and using drugs. Over the next 10 years I went in and out of overwhelming emotional states that at times were unbearable—leaving me in complete numbness. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed, and days I became violent, aggressive and excruciatingly sad.
My self-medication of alcohol and drugs escalated, and by 2010 I was out of control. I couldn’t see a way out, couldn’t identify any self-worth, and couldn’t see the point of even being on this earth anymore. I was awake with anxiety attacks every night, living in dread every day, and some days I spent all day at home drinking and snorting coke—triggered by another fight with my boyfriend or some other conflict.
I hated myself so much, the only relief I had was drugs and self-harming.
For me, the awakening and path to healing began with ayahuasca in 2010. I was living in Brazil at the time, where it is legal and accessible. Over the next year or so, I gave up my addictions, healed my depression, and re-entered the world where I now thrive as a happy, healthy love-filled person.
I can now drink in moderation and be satisfied with one or two glasses of wine. I can experience worry and sadness and have it pass over me. I have been through life-changing difficulties which no longer overwhelm me or send me crashing back into depression and anxiety.
Here’s what I learned that helped me release these conditions for good:
Anxiety, depression and uncomfortable feelings are messengers.
When you see the engine light come on in your car, you don’t cover the light with tape. These feelings were bringing me important messages about something being wrong in my life, and fighting with the feeling didn’t make it go away.
I only started to let go of this pain when I opened to it and asked it: What do you have to show me?
I stopped treating my feelings as the enemy and started listening.
Acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude are key.
My first step was forgiving people who had wronged me.
My second step was forgiving myself.
My third step was finding what I could be grateful for in all of the situations that had led to my unhappiness.
It’s important to note that forgiveness does not mean you condone the behavior. It means you are freeing yourself from the effects of it. It means letting go of how the path “should” have been and aligning ourselves with reality.
Acceptance of the past and where you are right now does not mean accepting that things will always be this way. When we accept and let go of the past, which cannot be changed, we can plant seeds for a new, better future.
In my normal waking consciousness I felt like I didn’t have access to strength, optimism, self-control or self-belief. When I entered different states of consciousness, I saw I had all of those things and was more able to utilize them.
Altered states of consciousness gave me access to resources I didn’t believe I had. Because of my geographical location, I was able to use a medicinal plant native to the area was in. I now use hypnosis to access similar resources.
There’s nothing mystical about this. We all enter different levels of consciousness every day, when we daydream, when we dream at nights, when we become absorbed in a book or movie, when we become highly emotional or very focused on one task. It’s just a matter of harnessing these states for good. The truth is that most depressed people use these highly suggestible states to imagine worst case scenarios or reinforce negative ideas, which perpetuates the downward cycle.
I had to be an active participant.
I had to drop the idea that depression and anxiety were happening “to” me and that I could only wait for them to stop happening. Anxiety and depression were created inside of me, by me, and I had to actually choose to do what it took to change it. That meant persistently changing thought patterns, changing behaviors, changing my situation and taking baby steps towards the reality I wanted.
Nothing had an inherent power to “make” me depressed or anxious.
I felt like father’s illness and subsequent death “made” me depressed and numb out with drugs and alcohol, but many people get through the death of a loved one without that experience. Being bullied “made” me depressed and socially anxious, but many people utilize that same experience to become strong and successful adults. I could not make stable what was inherently unstable—the external world—but I could learn to have control over how the world affected me.
I can only speak of my own experiences, as it’s impossible for me to truly know the experience of another. But I do not believe depression, anxiety or addiction has to be a life sentence. I do believe we are infinitely more powerful than we know—we can choose our own reality.
I don’t think it’s easy, but I do know it starts with a choice.
Author: Larissa Wright
Assistant Editor: Tammy Novak / Editor: Renée Picard
Image Credit: Josephine S. Kong, via Deviant Art