How I Owned My Depression

BY JAMIE OLIVEIRA

I have been working through a severe depression since the beginning of last year, and I am deeply grateful for those who have met this with tenderness. Unfortunately, admitting depression to others is oftentimes met with a sea of “you need to do x, y, and z to feel better,” shallow assumptions of “you’re just thinking negatively,” judgment, and shame. 


...by distancing myself from difficult emotions, I was hardly allowing myself to experience the grandness of life and myself in its wholeness.


Jamie Oliveira

Jamie Oliveira

I didn’t view my depression as a problem that needed quick fixing. We are taught to not be okay with not being okay, and states like depression are not intrinsically valued in a financially-oriented society because prolonged states of sadness and introspection don’t immediately contribute to the economy. In my depression, I was reclusive and withdrawn; states that have gained a negative connotation with lack of (market, external) function that at the core mean “a person shut up from the world for purposes of religious meditation.” I wanted to be alone—to sit, to feel, to write, and to think. I didn’t feel okay, and I wanted to own that. 

Prior to my depression, I had moved so far away from integral aspects of my heart that my experience of reality was disassociated. Existential anxieties triggered bouts with depersonalization. I was perceiving and observing what was happening around me, but by distancing myself from difficult emotions, I was hardly allowing myself to experience the grandness of life and myself in its wholeness.


I went inside and grieved all the things that I had ripped the bandages from too quickly.


Depression can be like a re-entering of the womb; a state of necessary vulnerability and rest in which we may peel back our defenses and reflect on our traumas. I didn’t like that my foundation of self was built on defenses that allowed me to survive in a chaotic home environment. I wanted to rediscover my inherent sensitivity and unlearn the conditioning that forced me to bury it. Sitting with depression allowed me to enter a state of stillness that opened the floodgates of an emotional life of which I was previously only wading on the surface.

While I experienced many debilitating days, I eventually discovered my own ability to breathe with every feeling, and to reintegrate my shadow into the forefront of my conscious experience. I went inside and grieved all the things that I had ripped the bandages from too quickly. I faced my own torment that badly needed to be nurtured and listened to. I heard my weeping and kissed her forehead like I would a friend. I now feel like my own friend. And I love my friend.

There is much to be gained from cultivating a sensitive life. We become attuned with ourselves, the people around us, the natural world, and the subtle forces that guide us to conscious action. Whispers of self: I’m there for you, friend, I hear you. I do not want to battle you or fight you away. You are not an enemy to be shaken back into lightness.

You are already made of lightness—you are whole and complete with your darkness, too.