This summer, I was in a car accident. I was rear-ended at 60 kph and had several injuries to rehab over the coming months with a concussion and soft tissue damage to my upper body.
In the grand scheme of things I was relatively unscathed and was confident I would make a full recovery.
What I learned is that recuperating from injuries like these take time and recovery is certainly not a straight line.
It’s more like a roller coaster.
Several months after the accident, just as I was feeling almost back to full health, I relapsed. I was hit by panic attacks and a deep depression that sidelined me for the best part of a month.
I’ve experienced depression before, several years ago back in 2007 and I knew the signs.
Having been through intensive counseling, coaching, personal development and general soul-searching over the past five years or so, I had tools to help me through my depression that I simply didn’t have at my disposal eight years ago. But there were a couple of things that still surprised me.
1. Depression and anxiety does not discriminate.
When I was lying in a heap on the hardwood floor of my apartment after a panic attack, I felt a strange sense of familiarity as well as surprise.
It was familiar because I’ve experienced extreme anxiety in the past. I was surprised because I had unconsciously assumed I was somehow immune to it returning. After all, I’m fortunate to be succeeding in business, living in line with my purpose, sober and healthy—I was very happy with my life.
Somewhat arrogantly, I felt I was untouchable by the dark, dark hands of anxiety and depression.
I was wrong.
Depression really doesn’t mind where we live, what kind of car we drive, or what we do for a living. It doesn’t discriminate. It impacts so many of us, which is why we need to come together to support one another during our illness.
2. Not everyone will understand.
This was a very bitter pill for me to swallow. Admittedly, many of the people close to me were phenomenal at providing support and for that I am truly grateful. But I learned that some people—no matter how articulately we explain what we are experiencing—do not understand anxiety or depression.
Just as some friends were compassionate, others were not. Some people offered to help, others turned a blind eye. And it’s not their fault. Even the most intelligent, worldly-wise and spiritually aware among us cannot put ourselves in a position we have not experienced first-hand.
3. It colors the world to be grey and dark.
When we are in our depression, we feel as though we are the only person in the world living in such a dark place. We are not, of course, but this is how I felt and it was an absolutely devastating perspective.
When I came out of the grey, dark cloud of depression, I opened my eyes and noticed just how many loving, kind, compassionate people I had in my life. I couldn’t see it before—the smog and darkness was simply too thick, too impenetrable to see through.
The lesson for me? We are not alone in our depression.
4. It increases our gratitude.
For those of us who are experiencing depression or anxiety right now, we don’t want to hear this. I know I didn’t. At the time, friends who alluded to this theory were shot an icy glare. I didn’t want to hear how it would help me to grow spiritually—I just felt like sh*t.
But having come through the other side, I have to confess I’m more happy, grounded and genuinely grateful than I was before depression struck. I wake up every morning feeling so thankful to be alive, and I go through my day smiling at the smallest, most seemingly insignificant of things.
Whether it’s the color of the fall leaves, drinking hot tea with a friend, or watching my cat throw a toy in the air like the big goofball that he is, I find myself smiling.
And it feels beautiful.
For those of us who are currently living in that dark place, I hear you. I see you. I understand. Believe me when I say it gets better. When we come out of the other side, we will feel more alive that we have ever felt in our lives.
Author: Cheryl Muir
Apprentice Editor: Tess Estandarte / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Flickr/Ryan Melaugh