Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. Paulo Coelho

If you had said to me at the peak of my suffering that it would be the best thing to happen, I would have thought you were mad.

If you had told me then that it would transform my life, change the direction of my career and enhance my relationships with my children and loved ones I would never have believed you.

But this is exactly what happened. I was stressed, highly anxious and thoroughly depressed at my worst. I never realised that this experience was a blessing! Up until this point I had been sleep walking through my life and it was the wake-up call I needed.

The majority of people fear anxiety and depression in their lives!

The Status Quo on Depression

I believe we have been led to believe that anxiety and depression are caused by genetic defects or brain diseases. Those that question the mainstream medical conclusions are classed as charlatans or “anti-psychiatry". They are met with fierce opposition!

Those that are suffering are led to believe that there are forces out of themselves that cause their condition. The vulnerable are informed by those in positions of power that there is something “wrong" with them. This allows the status quo to remain.

Why keep the status quo even if there other more helpful ways to heal?

The current system leads people to believe that they are not in control of their own life. This encourages dependencies on people, professionals, medications and whatever else is needed to manage on a daily basis.

This approach effectively encourages a victim mentality. Allowing people to believe they are victims and need a quick fix solution. What we don’t realise is this approach keeps people “locked" in the depression and anxiety cycle.

We have disempowered those that need to be empowered. We have perpetuated a life of fear rather than providing hope to those who need it most.

The Truth

However, anxiety and depression are effectively emotional difficulties. They are a direct result of the way we live our lives. More often than not, they are caused by either mental, physical or emotional stress in our lives.

They are a sign that it is time to make changes! Changes that we as individuals are more than capable of doing with support from others. We are responsible for everything that is happening in our own life.

There is not some inexplicable reason for anxiety and depression. There is not a quick fix and certainly not a magic pill that you can take to cure it. You have to unravel the decisions and patterns that have lead you to this place.

My own plight with anxiety and depression was a particularly challenging time. The symptoms that I experienced came on fast and furious. It was completely debilitating and left me at rock bottom.

I am thankful that I did not accept the status quo. I did not have anyone speaking LIFE in to me at that time. I did not realise it, but my refusal to give my power away allowed me to speak life into myself.

I believe it is more than possible to be free from anxiety and depression. I believe is possible to overcome fears that rule your life. When you take control of your own life, despite your difficulties something wonderful happens.

I grew in confidence and self belief. This was the biggest gift I gave to myself. I started to grow and not only did I escape anxiety and depression cycles, I start to live my life. I now live a full life, one in which I feel happy and fulfilled.

The Dark

Does this mean that I don’t experience dark or difficult times? No, not at all, life is a mixture of ups and downs. We are human beings and this is perfectly natural. We are often not aware of this and we want to avoid feeling down or sad.

We are afraid to be open and honest when we feel like this. What we don’t realise is that our fear of dealing with our negative emotions can actually bring on anxiety and depression! Just as what Carl Jung had famously quoted, “What you resist persists".

Once we remove the many fears we have about anxiety and depression i.e. that we are ill or that we will never get better we can learn to embrace these moments. When we embrace our negative emotions and go with the feelings, we naturally move through them far quicker.

I have come to a point in my life that I am now fully aware that these moments of despair are in fact break-through moments. Now I am not afraid to feel what I feel, I fully enter into the dark night of the soul, albeit not quite as often or as long. When I emerge from the other side there is always a clearer view of the way forward.

In these moments I have received my biggest inspiration. I neither wish to distract myself from or to avoid these times. I believe you too can learn to welcome the learning that these moments offer.

This is not new information! The most successful people in the world are fully aware of the growth that can occur in difficult times. Napoleon Hill, famous author of Think and Grow Rich tells Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit". The difference is these people learn how to work through their adversities.

How can you find your way out of the dark?

  • Take full responsibility for your own health and happiness – you are not a powerless being. You are powerful and you have the capacity to heal yourself from your suffering when you know how.
  • Accept that your experience of anxiety or depression is an internal nudge that you need to make changes in your life. You have veered off course and this is the wake-up call that you need.
  • Avoid temptation to become dependent on something outside of yourself to cope with your negative thoughts and feelings. We can easily become dependent on people, food, alcohol, and drugs (legal and illegal).
  • Ensure that you surround yourself with people that will speak life into you. This includes family, friends, professionals, media and what you read. Make sure that you avoid people that live in fear and do not provide you encouragement and hope.
  • Listen to those who know. There are many people that wish to tell you how to live your life and yet they have not successfully achieved it themselves. Listen only to those who have successfully achieved what it is that you want. Experience is the best teacher.
  • Follow your heart. You have all the answers that you need inside of yourself. You need to learn to trust your feelings over and above what any other person tells you. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself.

And when the dark times come………

  • Learn to accept and feel what you feel. You are doing yourself a huge disservice when you do not confront these feelings head on. You cannot hide from yourself for long. Our deepest feelings will continue to nudge us until we listen.
  • Be honest with others around you about how you feel. When you are honest with others you become more authentic. You will find in others you receive much needed support. We are inter-dependent – we need connection with others to survive.
  • Take care of yourself more than normal during these periods including, sleep, diet, exercise, relaxation. This is not selfish, it is SURVIVAL. You owe it to yourself and those that you love.
  • Slow things down and embrace the quiet through meditation. It can be tempting to speed everything up particularly if you are stressed. However, it is stillness and quietness that will allow you to hear yourself. This is when you will receive the insight that you need.

Most importantly never allow yourself to believe that you cannot come through the challenging times in life. We are stronger than we realize even if we do not yet know it!

Guest post by Kelly Niven Published in depression