When I was in my late teens I first experienced my first real bout of depression, precipitated by the social isolation that came from acute social anxiety. I felt insecure and inadequate amongst my peers, so avoided socializing completely unless alcohol was involved.
Fast forward through my 20’s and early 30’s and the rut I developed as an adolescent had stayed with me. The pattern was work, where I felt safe and in control, and then evening drinking in the bars and clubs as a social outlet. I avoided anything social where drinking would be unacceptable, I felt as though I needed it to mask my anxiety.
Throughout those years of many extremely drunken nights, I accumulated what I can only describe as a ball and chain of shame. From the many forgotten nights, fights, arrests and broken bones I increasingly looked back at my past and only saw failure. Bouts of depression were a recurring feature, broken up by periods of welcome but fragile relief when the latest SSRI prescription temporarily lifted my mood.
At 33 I left my fairly respectable 4-year position as Head of Technical at a media company, due to stress and the desire to take time out to try and ‘fix’ my issues, I left with no plans other than to ‘work on myself.’ I ended up moving back to my mum’s house where the following events took place.
I had been out of work for a couple of months and Instead of a life of self-development and exploration, stagnation and rumination had firmly set in. Christmas came, and went, and as the days passed I feel ever deeper in to a dark and lonely place…
I became extremely socially anxious, terrified of the future and resentful of the past. I was rendered house bound or even bed bound for much of the time. The anxiety was so crushing that had to force myself just to eat a bowl of cereal each day, and when I was out of bed I paced around like a caged animal, the suffering and fear were intense.
As the days, weeks and months fell through my fingers and I had failed to pull myself out of the hole, the feelings of hopelessness grew. The thought of suicide advanced from a fantasy to a considered reality. Over my life I had tried SSRI’s, MAOI’s, CBT, counseling, drama therapy, high does fish oil, transcranial direct current stimulation, running and more and now I had got to the point where I thought I had run out of options and hope. And then, after more than six months of blackness, I had an incredible experience.
It was the darkest night of my life. Followed by a kind of awakening. Early on in the day, I was running through the park feeling full of pain, fear and shame, desperate to escape the never-ending crippling anxiety and depression. I clasped my hands together and asked God/the universe (even though I consider myself an atheist) for help and guidance to see me through and to help me learn to accept myself…
That night I decided to take some magic mushrooms. I had read about their healing potential with depression and PTSD so with little else to try I swallowed 2 grams of ‘Golden Teacher’ mushrooms and retired for the evening to bed.
An hour later I was lying in bed with a deep sense of dread, my mind racing over the past. All my foolish mistakes and drunken incidents, all the bitterness and fear I had felt. All the resentment towards my family for the pain of the past. All my social anxiety and fear of judgment, embarrassment or rejection, and all my foolish and selfish behavior.
At that moment I felt my heart break and my soul die. In that moment I felt sure I was doomed, that it was too late to live the life I had once imagined or be the person I would have liked to be. All hope was lost…
As I lay in bed in the near dark, puffing on my vape pen, the layers of water vapor stratified and descended over the room like an eerie mist. In the dull light, my bed sheets appeared like a death shroud, draped over my torso and knees, ossified and covered in cobwebs. On the back of the door hung a long black jumper and I suddenly felt as though an angel of death was standing there watching over my corpse, signaling the end for me.
I gasped in a panic, shocked at the feeling of annihilation. In the midst and terror off feeling my whole being and identity crumble, I sat up and focused my mind intensely. Then came a voice, from what seemed outside of me, a voice of strength and wisdom. It said ‘no more blame.’ All of a sudden, what felt like a light and energy from the universe, lit up my body and filled my empty corpse with life. My heart burst open, with an incredible fire, and for the first time, I understood.
I started sobbing and cried ‘thank you’, ‘thank you’ with a feeling of gratitude so powerful I had never felt before. I was overjoyed to be alive, filled with feelings of love; for my family and friends, and all other beings finding their way through their short time on this earth.
I bowed down across my bed, hands clasped, in astonishment, bursting with gratitude, humility and love. My deep feelings of shame dissolved as I caressed the my face softly. With tears of joy I declared ‘I am human, I am flesh and blood, I am not a worm’… And like a universal wisdom was raining down on me I felt I understood true compassion, the power of love to destroy fear, the unity of all mankind, the meaning of giving, humility, strength and courage.
Realizations ran through my mind, like dominos, knocking down one old thought pattern after another, releasing me from the mental prison I had found myself in. I laughed and cried wiggling my feet and toes as though I were a child again, rediscovering the joy of playfulness and the sensuality of my own body; and then came another realization; ‘I am not a victim, I have agency in this world.’
I made my way down to the garden, outside the night sky was clear and the air was fresh. I smiled and laughed at the new feelings of love and appreciation I could feel. For my mum, my dad, all my family and friends; the night sky, the cool breeze, plants, slugs and everything else. Deepest of all I felt love for my sister, who has tried so hard to help me over the years. I felt the love and bond between us like a mixing of particles stretching across the universe, harmonious and inseparable. I bowed down again with appreciation and humility to whatever had released me. I was resurrected.
The next day my depression was gone, I had no anxiety, I chatted with an old friend without an ounce of self-consciousness that would always have plagued me. And I felt like I am a man, not a boy for the first time in my life.
I still am depression free am working everyday with gratitude and humility to build the kind of life I can be proud of.