My writing below is my way of representing a part of my life I’ve decided to openly carry into 2016. I chose to compare having a mental illness to having a spiritual imbalance because it allows me to move beyond diagnostics, stigmatization, and staleness in order to flourish in the face of struggle. It feels right to me in that it helps me to understand what I am going through. For me, to be well is not is not to be without illness or disease, as some may traditionally define the term. In my faith-system (rather than belief), to be without any ailment is to be inhuman. To be unwell is to be lavishing in the face of struggle and to be actively spiraling downward. Therefore, to be well is simply to be flourishing, changing, absorbing, and interacting in some way, shape or form, within and without the universe.
During a seated practice in December, I chose to internalize the seed sound of chakra two to repeat during a silent mantra. I breathed “VAM” in and out, hoping to harness fluidity, flow, and openness during a time when I was feeling especially closed. I have faith that a moving and fluid water chakra leads to a more loving self and greater feelings of love for others. It is important to mention that a couple of days before this seated practice, I experienced a profound sensation that I can only describe as a separation of body and mind. I think that it occurred sometime during the night because when I woke up, I felt as if my body had shattered underneath the blankets, each of its pieces completely unattached. I felt lost inside my own body, out of order within my own mind, and physically and emotionally scattered across an unrecognizable scene.
On that day, I journaled the following on an untitled document:
today (12/17) I feel like I’ve fallen apart and some of who I am has drifted off on an adventure without the rest of me. But who I am in this moment doesn’t know who I am because some of who I am (but I don’t know what “some”) is not here.
What the hell.
I only realized after meditating that this experience prior was another major depressive episode. Although an episode is not clinically defined this way and I had never experienced one as such, I know myself well enough to understand such significant changes. I also remembered the words of Andrew Solomon during his TED talk about the moment he realized the value of working with his depression rather than against it:
Valuing one's depression does not prevent a relapse, but it may make the prospect of relapse and even relapse itself easier to tolerate. The question is not so much of finding great meaning and deciding your depression has been very meaningful. It's of seeking that meaning and thinking, when it comes again, 'This will be hellish, but I will learn something from it.' I have learned in my own depression how big an emotion can be, how it can be more real than facts, and I have found that that experience has allowed me to experience positive emotion in a more intense and more focused way. The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and these days, my life is vital, even on the days when I'm sad.
MY SELF AND MY SELF (AS ONE) IS MORE THAN ITS CONTAINER.
My self and my Self (as one) is more than its container. The knower is more omnipresent than the field. Shortly before my relapse, I began to value my emotional tendencies rather than viewing them as weaknesses. I believe that that my personal mental illness contains spiritual symptoms and that my integrated experience cannot be prescribed nor standardized. My emotional and spiritual “coming apart”, if you will, trumps any physical struggle because what makes me (defined as the knower and the universe) is much greater than my body (defined as the field and a vessel for the universe).
During the episode that I experienced, I felt as if I had shrunken inside myself, uncharacteristically alone and unattached from the world around me. I could look inward to some extent but I was blinded from seeing outward. Coming to class that Saturday, I naturally sought love and feelings of openness in my heart. I sought a feeling of equilibrium within myself and so I breathed Vam in and Vam out; Vam in and Vam out.
Vam In, Vam Out. I sat perfectly still. I vibrated. I became a tree...
I am a tree. I am a tree with twisted roots, some buried deep in the ground and some closer to the surface. I am home to creatures that grow and thrive and die. I grow patiently and I grow upwards toward the sky. I adapt to cold and warmth and all changes in the environment, for I am a part of Nature but I am not defined by Nature’s actions. Sometimes I let go of my leaves when they die for I understand that death is part of the universal cycle and it is therefore part of me. I am a tree, bridging the sky with the ground. I am simpler, I am more powerful, I am stable, yet I am more fluid. I am closer to death and simultaneously more alive than ever before. I am a tree.