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This guest blog is written by Mirja Camphausen, an author on mental health, health, parenting, and spirituality. In this blog, Mirja talks about her experience of depression.

What was depression like for me?

I didn’t even know I was depressed until I had gone through my third depression. The pattern was always the same. Something in my life felt not quite right; there was overwhelm, pressure, and fear because of looming change and loss of control related to outside factors, like my job, my social life, and my overall situation. My coping strategy was always the same: do more! I put more onto my plate, mainly through volunteering, starting an additional professional training, or organising social outings. I did all of this to avoid looking at myself.

In hindsight, doing more was the last thing I needed. My body was feverishly signalling for me to stop. However, because I was used to ignoring my own needs, I never granted myself a break. Until my body decided it was enough, and I collapsed.

In those episodes, everything came to a halt. I felt tired, drained, and exhausted. Sports couldn’t fix it. Sleeping couldn’t fix it. I felt lost and confused. I did not know who I was any more. I aimlessly wafted through my days, much like a piece of driftwood at the mercy of the currents. My world looked grey, as if encompassed by a dark cloud. There was nothing to look forward to because I had lost all hope. Activities I had previously loved weren’t compelling any longer. I couldn’t muster the strength to take part in social life. I had lost my zest. Instead, I functioned like a robot, performing the daily tasks necessary to keep life going, but there was never any intention behind those, and a complete lack of purpose.

The intensity of my depression increased with the third cycle. By then, I had a family and three children to look after. Because of my lack of energy, I had to stop everything besides caring for my children. I quit my job. I dropped all volunteering commitments. I stopped seeing friends. I ceased calling people. There was nothing left in me.

Still, I didn’t know I had depression.

What helped me get through depression?

I ignored the signs of my depression just as I had ignored my body’s signals to rest. This worked for the first two depressive episodes with my life force eventually returning after several months. However, the third cycle of depression was more severe. In hindsight, it felt like whatever I had not addressed in my first depressive episodes returned with cumulative force.

The key for me the third time was to walk through my depression and to stop ignoring my own needs. I did not embark on this consciously but tumbled into this process. Frankly, there were no other options left.

I finally fully engaged with myself and my inner world. For the first time in my life, I actually “moved” into my body. This started a healing process which lasted several years. I went through different stages:

Stage 1: Nutrition / physical body

First, I changed my diet. A body under stress cannot cope well with additional burdens, eg food causing intolerances or toxins. I eliminated certain food groups with the help of a nutritionist: alcohol, gluten, refined sugars, dairy-products, fish, and meat.

With the help of my naturopath, I went through several detoxes (mainly heavy metals) and introduced supplements to help rebuild my physical body.

I moved and stretched my body through yoga, walks, runs, and martial arts classes. I slept much and took an additional nap around lunch time.

This was a tailored process. Everyone’s body is unique and has different requirements. It was key to get help. I tried different practitioners and methods until I found what suited me.

Stage 2: Emotional health

In stage 1, I eliminated my numbing and escaping patterns (“doing more”, social activities, and alcohol). I could not continue running from myself which meant I had to spend time with myself. Finally, all my suppressed emotions, my perceived flaws and faults, self-blame, and judgement drifted to the surface. I spent hours crying. The dam had burst, and my only option was to ride the wave. This time frame was challenging, and I did not enjoy it. Frequently, I doubted if I would ever feel better again.

Books and podcasts on self-development and shadow work helped me move through this. I also started meditating in this phase, journaled every day, and saw a therapist.

Stage 3: Redefining self

I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel which scared me because I had found a sense of purpose in healing and digging deep. I did not know who I would become once back in the light. How would I find a new identity?

It took courage to step out of the tunnel of depression. I frequently stopped and asked myself what I wanted or if I was on the right path. I had learned how to listen to myself, and this skill guided me forward.

Deep inside, I could grasp a sense of passion, joy, and purpose. This was not a laid-out plan like an excel sheet, but more a form of dance, where I moved step by step into what resonated with me. Sometimes, I took a few steps back or inexplicable turns, but overall, I was moving more in alignment with own needs, desires, and deep purpose.

In this phase, I reconnected with my old childhood dream of becoming an author. I committed to writing and published my first children’s book “Heroes of the Quest – An Impossible Team” – a story about four animals needing to perform a rescue as a prerequisite for graduating from Quest School. The book essentially tells my story as it focusses on accepting ourselves fully, including our perceived weaknesses.

These stages weren’t linear, and I moved in and out of the different stages, sometimes dealing with all of them in parallel.

 

What finally made me realise I had depression?

A friend invited me on an online course which asked us to sketch a map of our major life stations, including our emotional states. This birds-eye view made me finally see the pattern I had been following, which had always ended in a depressive crash.

It was not easy to admit to myself I had ‘mental health’ issues. In fact, it took me several more years to accept this. Key for me was the courage to publish my story on my blog. I have written about my journey not only to help others, but especially to help myself.

 

What did depression do for me?

Walking through my depression was the most challenging, courageous, and rewarding journey I have undertaken so far. Through facing myself with all my facets, including the parts I did not like, I brought healing, love, balance, and clarity to myself. My depression helped me return to my inner core, my own innate beauty and inner power which had previously been hidden.

 

What advise could you give others to be in tune with themselves?

Be honest with yourself. You are the one that needs to live with everything that you are, what you do, what you choose. Be gentle with yourself. But don’t run away from yourself, either.

Look closely, and, if possible, without judgement. What is working well? What is not working well in your life? Where do you need more balance? What needs to change? What are your truest inner desires?

Do something that nurtures your own inner beauty. It could be as simple as taking up a weekly dance class.

Know that you carry within you a light that reflects your love, your purpose, your inner peace, and passion. Follow that inner spark.

And when you feel lost, as we all do at some stage, ask for help.

 

Guest blog by Mirja Camphausen

 

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