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Depression to Bliss

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"There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." -- Leonard Cohen

I cry a lot. Ever since I could remember, I'd always cry about the smallest things. Happiness, sadness and all the ridges and crevices of human emotions. I feel a lot; I dream a lot; I wonder a lot. I've always been profoundly emotional about everything. Always thinking and feeling a little deeper than others. Always letting everything move me, the beautiful and ugly parts. When you feel and experience life with depth, everything is intensified. Everything is pulsating, as if it were connected to your own veins.

I have a pretty sunny perception on life. But I wasn't always like this. I was actually the complete opposite.

Maybe it was teenage angst. Maybe at the time, it was my relationship with my mother. Maybe because I completely hated her husband, and I missed my dad. Maybe it was genetic. Maybe it was because I came from a broken family. It was a lot of things. Whatever it was, when you're depressed you just don't see anything else around you. Your mind is bleak. Everything is just gray. You feel gray. You see gray. Sometimes there are colors, but they fade away quickly when the dark clouds come.

But as I sit here now, alive and happy, alive and thankful, alive and stronger than I have ever been, I'm OK with telling you this. I am stronger now... braver. With that, I can be completely vulnerable and open. Through being vulnerable we can show others our wounds, we can show them that we all have the same ones. I want you to see that there is always hope, that there is always light around us and that we are ultimately much more resilient than we could ever imagined.

I'll tell you the story I haven't told many. But I'm doing this because I would like to show you my scars. And how it made me.

The depression started when I was 14 years old. It had been a few months since we migrated to California from the Philippines. I was adjusting to the life here, to living with my mom again, to living with her new husband, to adapting to the American culture. Long story short, it was the ingredients of teenage rebellion, angst, emotional and physical abuse, a broken home, unstable minds, cultural expectations and differences brewing in the melting pot of the dark and chaotic mind of a self-destructive young girl. I hid it most of the time, only a few close friends knew. I just showed the shiny surface to everyone else. I dealt with the pain through carving a razor through my flesh, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, screaming at the top of my lungs at the tip of isolated hills and mountains, standing at the edge of cliffs and almost jumping off and writing my emotions on paper. I've kept journals since I was a little girl, and throughout my teenage years, writing was what saved me. Ink and tears would mix, a lot of hatred, a lot of despair, a lot of anguish and hopelessness. Writing was my haven, a space that I always came back to when the pain was too much to bear and I needed to drain it out through ink and fibers.

Despite all of that, I was a hopeless romantic, desperately loving the idea of love more than actually loving someone. In my first year of college, I fell in love for the first time. I thought loving someone would save me from myself. The most dangerous notion any human being in this world can ever have. So I loved him, I loved him so much I clung onto him with dear life as if letting go meant I would fall into the dark abyss below me. I never wanted to let go. Ever. I thought if I did I would shatter into pieces and off myself. Love is a beautiful thing, but I loved madly with a foundation of despair, unhappiness with oneself, self-loathing and dangerously addictive attachment. When you love that way, whatever you build is ultimately doomed, waiting for the day it crumbles into ruins. It went on like that for three years. When we loved, we loved with all our hearts, when we fought we fought with all of our demons. We brought out the worst in each other, physically and emotionally. I was willing to kill myself because I didn't want to be alone. Then one day I woke up. Depressed and weak, something in me, a tiny little light was telling me that I needed to get out of it. I had no other choice but to follow it. So I took a look at the man I loved with despair and knew that we couldn't keep living like this anymore. We couldn't even if we tried, and we've tried too many times. So we broke it off; our mad love perished.

I tried to stitch my life back together after that. I wasn't sure how but I knew what I didn't want anymore, I didn't want to live my life unhappy. That was all I needed to know. I didn't want to rely on tangible things for happiness anymore because all it was doing was filling a bottomless bucket. I knew that it had to be done.

When I left, everything felt painful. However, innately I knew that it was the exact kind of pain I needed. I pummeled my way through it. I started practicing yoga again. I read more books about spirituality; one in particular, called The Power of Now, changed my life. Then I started meditating. Ever since then, my life was shifted radically. The depression, suicidal thoughts and tendencies went away. I became stronger. When I was sad, I allowed myself to feel sad and cry, but I didn't have that cloud over my head anymore. Whenever troubles would come my way I would deal with it with strength. I knew that even if it dented me I was able to mold myself back together. It would shake me up a bit, but I kept my feet on the ground and I gained more strength and resilience from the stillness. Things weren't gray anymore. Everything was vibrant. I'd never felt so alive. I felt as if I had woken up from a deep dark slumber. I reset my mind, body, soul through meditation. I'd drift away into a different realm, out of my body, into a space where I felt utter bliss, into the tunnel of colors spiraling into stillness and out of love. And so I knew, no matter whatever thoughts or emotions come to cloud me I can always go back to that state. I can always go back to stillness and everything would always be OK. I was comforted by the notion that everything is always in its perfect place. Yes, everything. No matter what, everything. I would burst out of tears of happiness when I'd look around and see the beauty and magic that vibrated all around me. I was in sheer bliss just by being alive. I found peace and contentment in solitude.

Most importantly, I found happiness within myself.

Tolstoy tells a story of a beggar who sat out in the streets every day begging for pennies from every passerby. The beggar was so caught up in his own misery and poverty mentality that he lived his whole life unaware that the pot that he was sitting on everyday was actually a pot full of gold.

I reckon most of us live our lives this way. Begging for happiness. Seeking it. Trying to inject it onto our veins as if it were a drug, as if the only way we could get it is if we buy it. As if we can find it somewhere through someone else's kisses, through someone else's life, through an emblem of a car, through the digits of a bank account, through the tip of a needle, the bottom of the vodka bottle or something, anything that is physically tangible and can satisfy us only for a blink. It's like drinking salt water when you're thirsty. If you keep taking it eventually it can destroy you. It's enough. We must stop paving this self-destructive path with instant gratifications, stop pursuing a path that continuously leads to illusory forms of happiness.

Because the truth is, everything is golden and we can touch it if we choose to see it.

After you read this. Close your laptop. Go take a walk. Stroll under the trees. Walk on the beach. Go for a bike ride. Gaze up at the stars... in solitude. If you feel sad and lonely just keep breathing. You don't even need to begin meditating sitting in a lotus position. Start by simply breathing and live purely in the present moment. Be aware of every breathe you take. Then look around you. When you take a walk, be aware of each step. The leaves cracking, your feet shuffling beneath you, let the movements hypnotize you. When you stroll under the trees lift your hands up, look up with a smile and tickle the leaves with the tip of your fingers. Imagine a golden light beaming from the earth's core, to the tip of the tree's roots, all the way to the tip of its leaves, making its way through you. When you walk on the beach feel every single grain of sand touching your skin and let the waves kiss your feet. When you go for a bike ride I want you to feel the wind. Really feel the wind, dancing with your hair, look at the faces, places, faces, the world flying past you and keep looking with an open heart and wide eyes. When you gaze up at the stars I want you to feel everything, feed on the idea that you and everything around you, the atoms all around you came from those very stars you are gazing at. Now remember where you are. You are living in a beautifully carved rock spinning in a galaxy among billions of other galaxies suspended in infinity. Your worries, addictions, flaws, wounds are nothing but a minuscule speck in this vast, perpetual space. Just the fact that you are living in this unfathomably beautiful planet is a miracle in itself. Take a deep breathe and be thankful that you can still do it because alive is a beautiful to be.

Dare yourself to live a little deeper. Feel a little more. Drench yourself in the grandeur of being alive.

I want you to know, whoever is reading this, that it's OK. It's OK to feel things deeply. It's OK to have darkness. To have scars. To know pain. To know hurt. To know struggles. It's OK. It's more than OK actually, it's a pretty damn beautiful thing. Trust your struggles, be proud of your scars because it is what makes you. If you are still seeing gray, know that it won't last very long. When you catch a glimpse of light hold on to it and keep it in the palms of your hands.

It'll find its way through you. It'll find its way through your cracks, through your wounds, it will eventually shed light on all the shadows until nothing is hiding anymore, until truth seeps out through every corner of you. Then suddenly, the light will spill through everything you touch. And you wake everything up bringing all that was once darkness and all that was once gray, to sheer golden light found in each waking moment, each breath, each heartbeat.

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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Visit Stephanie's website www.stephaniedandan.co and inspirational self-development and travel blog www.infinitesatori.org for the original post and follow the journey.