A few years ago I was navigating a dance with depression that had me in a chokehold. At times it felt like I couldn’t breathe and I certainly was not able to access my internal compass. If I were to listen to my thoughts they would have only led to self destruction and more pain, if not the end of my life.
This morning I rose to the sounds of roosters and the pitter patter of my dog Billy’s paws entering my bedroom to let me know it was time to wake. I stepped outside to my back porch, got down on my knees on my yoga mat, and thanked the Heavens for my life.
Back in 2021 I could have never imagined a day where I would feel grateful to be alive. That is how much a traumatized brain can convince you that life is not worth living. It took me 850 days and counting to heal my brain and get to a place where I believe I am worthy of a beautiful, abundant, depression-free life. I still choose to remind myself of this every morning, never skipping an opportunity to show appreciation for my existence.
While I never had a problem with alcohol I learned how it affects the brain and removed it from my life. My gut health was in shambles, unable to process food like everyone else. I turned to holistic natural medicine to heal, which required hundreds of hours of research to find the tools available to me to put my body back together. Sometimes when stress is high in my life I know it is time to slow down and go inward because my digestive system fails me. I feel so grateful to have a body that speaks to me. I now have health insurance, but at the time every dollar I earned went to the mental health and nutritional care that I needed to heal.
Many people never knew of the depths of my struggles. I kept a business going while spending all of my free time getting my brain scanned, going to therapy, taking walks, cooking food that wouldn’t harm me, and laying in bed trying to let my body heal. I attuned to my relationships as much as I could and showed up to holidays, weddings, and events to support my people. I navigated debilitating debt from the medical bills I had to pay to keep myself alive.
I still am paying for the care that saved my life back then. If I could go back to the woman I was then I would tell her to do it all the same way, to keep trying things no matter what it took because she deserves to be alive. I am lucky to have a few close girlfriends that got on a plane and sat with me on the floor of my Austin apartment and helped me put myself back together again.
As I witness the horror taking place in the world, I can’t help but be reminded of the strength of the Human Spirit. That part of us that no matter what happens, no matter how awful our surroundings, humans seem to find a way to push through, to withstand the horror and try again.
My mind is full of images of parents holding their children as bombs are going off around them trying to keep their babies safe in the face of horrendous warfare. I am reminded of the grandmothers and great grandfathers who are on their knees again praying for the safety of their people, retraumatized by the memories of the first time they were hunted; having to travel back to a time when they survived the worst thing imaginable and for a while believed that maybe that was the last time, that they were free. I think of my brothers and sisters who when they wake each morning are getting messages that their lives are in danger, that they are being hunted and not just in their homes but in their schools, universities, city streets, airports, and hospitals.
Can you imagine being hunted? It’s unfathomable to most of us, yet it is their reality.
I can only try to relate in the way that my own brain hunted me, looking for reasons to punish me and make me feel afraid to be alive. The devil knows no bounds, and when you are living in that reality it takes everything in you to get up, rise out of bed, and make something of your life.
How do we find that courage? How do we rise again in the face of horrifying acts of violence? How do we keep going when it seems there are so many reasons to give up? These questions point me to something bigger than myself, a faith in a higher power that is sometimes only born out of desperation.
Sometimes all you can do is sit in witness of someone’s pain and remind them that they are not alone. If you are feeling alone, as if no one can understand you, bear witness to yourself as you would a suffering child shivering in the cold. Hold yourself close, wrap your arms around your body and remind yourself that you are worthy.
It is in times like this that we must give the gift of our presence; to not turn away when there is suffering but to turn toward one another and yourself and say, “I see you”.
We often underestimate the power of our presence.
The devil may know no bounds, but the strength of our human spirit has no limits. I may not be able to relate specifically to this horrifying time for our Jewish family, but I can certainly bear witness to their pain and remind them that they are not alone. To love and honor and support our Jewish family is to not exclude our other fellow humans who are suffering from the evils of war. The innocent bystanders of this oppression and violence are as worthy as all of us of safety and love.
I am praying for all of you, those that are lost in a fog of depression, those of you feeling exhausted from burning the candles at both ends, for those fighting the urge to give up. I am praying for my Jewish family, that when it feels like you have nowhere to go, that there is nowhere safe for you to exist, that you know that with each breath you take there is evidence of your power. That the smile in your child’s eyes is a reminder of your strength. That the sounds of laughter or tears coming from you or the ones you love is evidence that you are indeed very alive.
To endure and overcome something like this is to hold onto one universal truth that I discovered in my recovery; you are worthy. Worthy of life, worthy of love, worthy of safety.
I love you. I am so sorry for your pain. I am rooting for you and if there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am here. I see you. I love you.
Illustration by Anna Kamburis
Quote by Amanda Gorman