I first started my battle with depression, anxiety and insomnia when I was 16 years old, well to be honest it started before that, but I was diagnosed at the age of 16. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on my studies, I started to lose interest in sports but most importantly I lost hope for the future. I was living in a state of anxiety most of the time. Eventually I found my self in the doctors office and I was put on medication. Unfortunately the medication was Seroxat which ended up making my situation worse as one of the side effects of Seroxat was insomnia and I didn’t need any help with that side of things, on one occasion I managed to go 3 days without sleep. With my depression and insomnia getting worse, my behaviour was becoming more uncharacteristic and I ended up attempting suicide, twice by trying to cut my wrists and once trying to take an overdose of sleeping tablets. Fortunately these attempts were unsuccessful and looking back I didn’t want to die, I was just tired of feeling sad everyday, tired of feeling lost and it had been going on so long that I’d lost hope of ever feeling happy again.
It was at this stage that I ended up in the mental hospital where I was kept for 3 weeks during the summer holidays of 1997, my parents and doctor didn’t know what to do with me so this was the safest option. It was then that I was re-diagnosed with manic depression as it was called then, or bi-polar as it’s now known. I was put on Lithium and told I would need to take it for the rest of my life as I had a chemical imbalance, also along with regular blood tests to make sure everything was ok. Things started to get better, I wasn’t suicidal, I could focus more and I wasn’t spending my days crying for no reason at all.
I continued on the medication for another 12 years or so until I turned 29. During this period I changed jobs a few times, not really settling in any particular one and I always felt like something was missing from life. I wasn’t depressed to the same degree as I could function pretty well, I was able to get up in the morning, hold down a steady job but as I said something was missing. I still had anxiety, I couldn’t relax and my mind was constantly filled with racing thoughts and my sleeping didn’t improve over the years. I mean I could be dead tired but as soon as I’d get into bed I would be wide awake, sleep wouldn’t come untill about 4 or 5 am. I ended up doing what a lot of people do now days, I smoked cannabis in order to help me sleep, this calmed the racing thoughts and meant that I didn’t have to spend hours of tossing and turning, listening to the madness of the stories that my mind was creating.
At 29 I realised that the medication was no longer working and I was depending on cannabis more and more in order to deal with my moods. I was waking up at 5 am every morning with a pain in my stomach from worry (it was the time of the recession, I worked in construction and had just bought a house). The lithium was also taking its toll on my kidneys, I was waking up every 2 hours to go to the toilet but upon getting there I wouldn’t have to go, then it was a struggle to try and get back to sleep. What was I going to do? I could feel myself slipping back into the depression and this was somewhere I didn’t want to go again, I couldn’t go back to that state of being. Even as I write this now at the age of 35, almost 20 years later I still recall and feel the memories of lying awake at night and crying my eyes out because the sadness was so overwhelming and over powering.
Into the light:
To this day I still don’t know how or why I came to the decision to do what I did but I will be forever grateful that I did, who knows maybe it was my guardian angel guiding me. I started to do some research online regarding depression and against medical advice I decided to wean myself off the Lithium in order to heal my kidneys. This gave me an awful headache at the time but I started meditating everyday in order to deal with it as my usual method of drinking water and lying down until a headache went away wasn’t working. I would sit down every day for 30 minutes and follow a guided meditation on youtube. After 30 minutes my headache was gone and not only that I started to gain a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in years. It was called “Kundalini Meditation” and it became my routine for a few months until the headaches completely stopped.
It wasn’t long after that and I read an article on-line about Kundalini Yoga and how it was very good in dealing with depression, I think the article was written by some one who had depression and used Kundalini yoga to not only manage it, but to overcome depression.
This article changed my life because it inspired me to give it a try. It was 2010 and there was no Kundalini Yoga classes in Kilkenny so I got onto youtube to find videos and I bought a book on Amazon. I stared getting up at 6 am every morning and practiced for two hours, a combination of kriyas (physical postures done in an exact order), pranayama (breathing), mantras ( chanting), relaxation and meditation. After about 3 weeks I was walking down the stairs after practicing the yoga and I burst out smiling, I remember the moment clearly today as it was one of those things you never forget. I felt elated, happy, bursting with joy and it was such a strange experience as I hadn’t felt like this in years, I mean to feel happiness for no apparent reason especially when life wasn’t going to plan, my business was coming to a standstill and I knew I was in trouble with my mortgage as I wasn’t earning enough to pay it, but I sat down for breakfast with this big stupid grin on my face and it felt really good to feel good. This feeling stayed with me for the day and although I didn’t understand how or why, I knew that it was because of the yoga as it was the only thing that I was doing different.
The impact of the kundalini yoga was so great that I decided to continue with the practice and do more research as it felt too good to be true, how could something like yoga have such an impact on this disease that I’d suffered with for years and was told that the only way to deal with it was taking medication which not only cost money but had very negative side effects for me. In brief, the yoga was balancing my hormones ( the chemical imbalance), the meditations and mantra were having an impact on how my mind was operating and had a positive effect on calming down the racing thoughts. The greatest effect was the impact it had on my spirit, I said earlier that I always felt like something was missing in life. What was missing was the connection to my soul, my sprint, the light that each and everyone has inside of us. The problem with life is that we are not taught how to connect to this vital part of us, thankfully the yoga had awoken this inside of me and now its ever present making life a wonderful journey and not the burden it once was.
In 2011, despite never attending a class, I decided to do the teacher training as I know how much it has helped me and has the capacity to help others. Over the years I’ve kept practicing every morning and life is good, in fact it’s better than good, its wonderful. When I think back to my dark days of depression and sadness I’m full of gratitude for this practice. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to travel and train with some of the best teachers in Europe. My reason for writing this is to let people know that my experience is not unique, I’ve since met lots of people that have used kundalini yoga and gone throughout the same self healing process with depression, anxiety and addiction. As I write this I am happy, medication free, drug free and my kidneys are in wonderful shape. I haven’t been to a doctors office or chemist in over seven years.
If you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, depressed or anxious then hopefully my story will inspire you to do something about it. Go online and find a class in your local area or go onto youtube and find a class, you don’t have to live with depression, you can go beyond it and find that light inside you thats bursting to get out. It has the potential to change your life.