Has a song ever taken you by surprise, tapping into your emotions, evoking such a visceral response that you’re caught off guard and wondering where the hell the sudden feelings came from?
It’s as if the lyrics literally reach out and violently grab your face—like a melodic hand gripping your jaw with an iron strength, fingernails digging painfully into your skin, refusing to let you to look away—forcing you against your will to stop and listen until your eyes fill uncontrollably with tears.
One day on my way to the gym, the rock song “Walk” by the Foo Fighters started playing. The upbeat guitar intro captured my attention, so I tapped the button on my steering wheel a few times to turn up the volume and prepared to jam out for the drive.
When the bass drum started its allegro beat as the first chorus began, Dave Grohl sang, “Learning to walk again,” and my cerebellum immediately lit up. Next, when he belted, “Learning to talk again,” overwhelming feelings flooded my body and suddenly tears began to well up in my eyes.
Learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
Learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
Where do I begin?
I consciously forced myself to fight back the emotion, burying my feelings for later analysis because it had just rained, and the crowded freeway was misty and slick. Wet and slippery conditions at 65 miles per hour in a city well-known for its bad drivers is not exactly the best time to be distracted with big feelings and blinding tears in your eyes.
I took a few deep breaths, gripped the steering wheel with both hands, and focused on getting myself safely to my destination.
It’s been a couple of months since the song grabbed me by the chin on that rainy drive to the gym. I’m analyzing why the lyrics of this song struck such a chord in that moment. I’m sitting with my thoughts and emotions and trying to flush out what they mean, hoping to get a glimpse into how far along I am in my healing process.
“Walk” was first released in 2011, a little over a year after my mom passed away, and I’ve battled with depression off and on since then but have come to realize that I’ve likely dealt with it since I was a little girl.
I’ve always thought my depression was circumstantial, caused by external events that were happening around me. Triggered by things like abuse, stress, grief, heartbreak, betrayal, misunderstandings, fights, mistakes, lies, judgments, addictions, gossip, neglect…
Now I’m going through an awakening, and while the never-ending circumstances certainly influence my mental health, I’m also recognizing my own patterns that have likely fed the depression, regardless of whatever I may be dealing with at the time.
I suspect that I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and can see how it’s contributed in a big way to the constant negative self-talk and the core beliefs that I’m just a lazy and worthless lost cause—or worse that I deserve the bad things that I seem to constantly attract into my life and am truly unlovable.
I’m ready to shed the endless cycle of depression and fully come back to the world—learning to walk again.
I’m ready to quit neglecting my passions, the things that I know make me feel better, like my writing—learning to talk again.
Like spending time with those I love. Like nurturing and reparenting myself in ways that remind me of my purpose that I matter and that I’m enough. In my quest to truly heal myself, I’ve learned that I don’t want to come back to society as I always have—as I was before.
A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
Depression has been a lifelong companion of mine. Sometimes it’s far away and I can forget it’s there for a while. But the times in between are getting shorter the older I get. It used to be years or months that would go by until it hit me. Now it seems to be weeks or days that I feel better, only to be knocked back down again.
My inner self has had enough of being ignored. She’s signaling to me now that it’s time to pay full attention to her, that my depression has everything to do with this and not simply the dramatic circumstances I find myself repeatedly drawn into. I’m important. I matter and always have. I must stop betraying myself by pleasing everyone else, mitigating their feelings at the expense of my own. It’s my turn to receive the love and compassion I can somehow easily give to everyone else. I deserve it too.
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return
There’s been oh so many times I’ve lost my way after external triggers spark the fuse of my depression. Coming from a family full of alcoholics, drug addicts, liars, gossipers, and silent treatment givers, then marrying into a family with its own baggage and drama—triggers have happened so often, I don’t think I could remember them all even if I had a photographic memory.
I always get fed up eventually and manage to pull myself back to the world of the living.
The depression never really goes away, but there are times it takes over and I’m unable to function normally. I crawl into my cave, hide from the world and isolate, shutting out everything and everyone I love by numbing myself with whatever feels good and distracts me from my pain in the moment.
But I repeat the same actions every time it happens—coming back to the world when I’ve had enough and am done with hiding yet never coming back fully healed.
I’m quite a pro at shutting myself down, suppressing feelings, pushing away the truth, and patching up my holes to feel connected when the loneliness becomes too much to bear. And this is likely why my depression always comes roaring back when I get burnt out from going through the same motions again and again—doing superficial work that only makes me feel better temporarily and not doing the real work to ultimately heal my inner self.
Do you remember the days?
We built these paper mountains
Then sat and watched them burn
I think I found my place
Can’t you feel it growing stronger?
Since I was young, my brain has adapted and learned ways to keep my depression in its dormant state. Most of the time, I wasn’t even aware that I suffered from it.
As I got older, I recognized that depression would dig in its heels when bad or stressful things happened in my life, or when I engaged in behaviors that went against my morals, causing guilt and shame. I considered it circumstantial rather than chemical—and still do.
It seemed obvious that I would get down when life got hard or when I was making poor choices. I thought if those things simply didn’t happen, I wouldn’t get depressed.
In my early 30s, my mom suddenly died. She was only 49 years old. The depression over losing her wouldn’t go away. It lingered for years. I knew I needed to take drastic action to feel better, but I didn’t want to take medication. I started researching and learned that regular exercise might help.
I joined a triathlon team and it became a turning point in managing my depression.
It did wonders for my mental health because of the endorphins regular exercise naturally provides, but it also gave me community, which I learned was another important tool to foster a healthier mental state.
Soon after becoming a triathlete, my 40-year-old husband had a heart attack that resulted in open-heart surgery, followed by a slew of other ailments and hospital stays over the next few years. His health problems became a new constant in my life, creating daily fears of his sudden death in my mind, but through triathlon, I was able to keep my depression at arm’s length.
A couple of years passed, and I was coaching beginner triathletes, which brought me immense joy. I discovered that helping others was another tool to add to my depression toolbox. I felt like I’d finally learned what I needed to keep myself happy and sane even through life’s big challenges.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. After about five years, I was burned out with triathlon training, racing, and coaching. I needed a break. The break became permanent, and with that, I also lost my community.
When my husband suffered another heart attack, it led me to the decision to give up my dream of trying to have a baby—a decision that I grieved heavily. The depression sometimes dissipated when I worked out regularly but came back with a vengeance when I didn’t.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of isolation and uncertainty, the closing of my gym, another traumatic heart attack and severe lung disease diagnosis for my husband—and my depression hit an all-time low. By the end of that year, I knew I needed to do something. I didn’t have the desire or will to exercise, even though I believed that was all I needed to heal myself.
I didn’t have the strength to pull myself back together in the ways that I knew always worked for me.
I began seeing advertisements for Elephant Journal’s Find Your Voice Writing Academy. I’d seen these before and they always piqued my curiosity, but I didn’t feel worthy of spending the money on myself. Being a professional writer had been a secret dream of mine since I was a teenager, but money wasn’t as free flowing as it had once been, and I didn’t have much trust in myself that I’d commit and finish the course.
But I was desperate. Thoughts of being a writer (finding fulfillment in expressing myself creatively, and maybe even making a small living with it) wouldn’t leave me. I promised myself (and my husband) that I’d commit, I wouldn’t quit, and I’d finish the course. I believed I needed this, so I fearfully signed up and clicked the pay button. When I began the course, albeit a little late, I felt like I’d finally found something that I was meant to do.
I felt like I was a part of something again—something bigger than me and all my problems.
I began writing my heart out and found catharsis. I was expressing myself in ways I’d never had the guts to do before. I was feeling confidence in myself again, knowing that I had a natural talent for writing, was helping others with my words, and began experiencing joy again.
I also learned to meditate with this course, and it taught me to recognize the thoughts that no longer served me. It taught me how to let go of those thoughts (they were not my reality) and how I was separate from them. I added writing and meditation as two more tools in my toolbox to beat my depression.
It worked for a year, a glorious year of pride and love for myself and the community I became part of.
For the very first time
Don’t you pay no mind
Set me free, again
Old habits die hard, and when life continued throwing me one trigger after another, trauma on top of trauma, my unhealthy habits took over and began beating me down.
A year after I found my voice with the Elephant Academy, I stopped using all the tools in my depression toolbox.
I was discouraged and thought this was simply my lot in life. It was impossible for me to commit to my passions. I would always struggle and would never feel content.
I believed that I would never really beat my depression; I just had to let go and learn to live with it.
But then I began seeing posts from Dr. Nicole LePera, The Holistic Psychologist, on Instagram. The universe was bombarding me with her content. She showed me that maybe there was more to my depression than just the tragedies I found myself having to constantly navigate.
She showed me the way to true healing was to meet myself, that self-healing was actually possible through awareness of the conditioning and parental and generational wounding that drove my actions—or inaction.
She opened my eyes to the habits and patterns that were ingrained in me and how I could change them, that I had the choice and power to do it regardless of the uncontrollable things that were happening around me.
For the very first time, I was beginning to see that I could actually heal.
Now, I’ve opened my mind to the real possibility that happiness can exist for me, but I must do the work. I have to raise my awareness, stop operating on autopilot, and accept that true healing will be a lifelong practice.
The triggers will never go away, stress will always find me, but I’m finally learning that my freedom from depression will only exist when I stop betraying myself by people pleasing, worrying about disappointing others, and letting myself get consumed with their suffering.
I understand now that I can’t really be there for those I love if I don’t start loving myself just as much. I must take my own oxygen first before I can help others breathe.
To keep alive, a moment at a time
That’s still inside, a whisper to a riot
The sacrifice, the knowing to survive
That first decline, another state of mind
For a lot of my life, I considered myself an easygoing person, not letting much bother me, never letting myself get too overwhelmed with big feelings. I would always go with the flow and often let my life be determined by the wants and needs of others around me.
But inevitably things fell apart when the inner desires or needs I suppressed would surface. Mistakes and betrayals eroded the trust I built with the people in my life, and ultimately, I lost trust in myself.
I now know that what I perceived as my personality was actually a trauma response to keep myself safe. I couldn’t handle confrontations or disappointing people by expressing my true feelings; it was simply too uncomfortable to show the real me. I was disassociating, checking out so that I didn’t have to feel the painful emotions that arose from ignoring my needs.
I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign
Forever, whenever, I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I’m on my knees, I never wanna die
I’m dancing on my grave
I’m running through the fire
I never wanna die
I never wanna leave
I’ll never say goodbye
I’ve finally learned that healing my depression will always be a practice—forever, whenever.
Sometimes it will be easy, other times I’ll have to dig deep to figure out why something bothers me, or why I respond to an innocent comment with an emotion that seems inappropriate or dramatic.
I don’t want to be the person I created to keep myself safe. Being liked by others can’t be more important than loving or liking myself. I am an emotional person, I am sensitive, and that’s okay.
It’s why I have compassion and love for others, it’s how I can have empathy for people that most would consider undeserving of kindness. It’s why I’m open and able to respect differing beliefs and how I can understand why people act in certain ways with less judgment. I remind myself that their judgments of me isn’t really about me; it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves.
I will always have to practice good habits to honor myself. I cannot continue to betray myself by ignoring the tools I’ve gathered in my depression toolbox.
I will always have to be active, exercising to keep my brain topped off with those feel-good endorphins.
I will always have to meditate and keep myself grounded, keeping the ruminating thoughts from grabbing a hold of me and dragging me down too deep.
I will always need to express my creativity through writing and other passions to feel joy and confidence in myself.
I will always have to stay connected to my community, my friends, and my family, fostering my relationships and serving others without losing myself in the process. But I will also have to listen when my soul needs a break, a time-out, a rest when my mental space is running low. I will always have to remind myself that it is not my job to fix things that are not in my control.
Learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough
Recognizing these lessons has brought me a tremendous amount of peace and hope for a happier future. I’m finally trusting that I’m not doomed to feel depressed forever.
Now, when I hear this song, I beat the steering wheel, bang my head, and cry tears of joy that I’m finally on the path to true and lasting healing.