These past two weeks I have been taking a course in Yoga, Psychology and the Mind – and there has been a lot of talk about mental health and how yoga can help. As today is #BellLetsTalk day, I have decided to step out of my comfort zone and share with you a bit about me, my mental health and how yoga has helped me considerably.
A number of years ago – 9 to be exact, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder – this was then followed by a diagnosis of dysthymia. For those that don’t know, dysthymia is defined as “a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as in depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms”. Typically for someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, their symptoms must be present for two weeks or longer – for a diagnosis of dysthymia, your symptoms must be present for two years or more. For me, I have also had bouts of major depression mixed in throughout the years, which was also accompanied by chronic pain.
For those that don’t know me well and even for some that know me very well, this is likely very surprising to hear as I have become an expert in hiding my mental illness. Put on some nice clothes and makeup, smile when spoken to and no one would ever know the difference. Since becoming a yoga teacher I sometimes struggle even more because I feel like I am not living up to people’s expectations of how a yoga teacher ‘should’ be . I have people comment all the time on how ‘blissed out’ I must be. Well I hate to break it to you, but most of the yoga teachers I know have had some of the biggest life struggles I have ever heard and are anything but blissed out. In yoga teacher trainings I have been in a room full of teachers that have experienced everything from rape, bulimia, PTSD, anxiety, depression – you name it, I’ve likely met a yoga teacher that has been through it and is continuing to work through it. We have all found the mat because of these struggles. We are all looking for alternative ways to effectively navigate our way through life. Mental illness or not – life is one big cluster fuck of up and downs and it is HARD.
So here is what I would like you to know. When you have days when you feel like you can’t move – you are not alone. When you feel like there is nothing in this world that can make you feel happy – you are not alone. Lean on your friends and family that will listen to you with an open heart. Ones that will not make you feel like there is something wrong with you for feeling the way you feel. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to take medication. It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok to FEEL – period. What you feel is real, no matter how messed up you might think that is.
The good news is, things can get better. What has worked for me the most in effectively managing my mental health is counselling in combination with yoga. Personally, I don’t think just counselling or just yoga is enough and this has been supported in what I have learned over the past few weeks. There are many different types of counselling available so if you haven’t found one that works for you, don’t dismiss counselling all together. And just like there are many different types of counselling, there are also many different types of yoga. Within the different types of yoga, there are different approaches depending on your condition. This is what has fueled my desire to learn more and become a yoga therapist. If you are suffering from major depressive disorder or are in a high state of anxiety – the approach for each student would be totally different.
If you know me well, know me a little, or don’t know me other than on this platform, please know that I am always available to help you in any way possible. Please don’t be afraid to reach out -today and every other day of the year.
p.s. I hope you all enjoy this poem by one of my favourites, Danna Faulds!