So how did I go from being a hopelessly depressed person to a manageably moody person? Truthfully, it’s a complex answer. There’s not a single factor that i can attribute all of my “progress” to. Also… I can’t really, in good conscience, suggest that anyone follow my process as a way to find self empowerment or fulfillment. Because ultimately, I took a less traditional path… and I took a lot of risky detours. Meaning that in many cases, I followed through on options that could have resulted in more “trauma”… I followed my instincts, which sometimes lead me to questionable situations, but for the most part led me here (to the place I am now) in tact.
If I was hard pressed, I would say that the most influential factor was getting out of my parents’ house. Removing myself from the stress of the environment I grew up in and out of my mother’s reach (which I should probably clarify, she seldom physically abused me as a toddler, but as I got older her “discipline” got more intense. She also drank a lot more.)
Now, I achieved this by moving in with a guy I met on the internet. I got lucky in that he ended up being just a liar and a cheat, but not a psycho killer. I really wouldn’t suggest this method. There are safety issues, as well as social and legal obstacles. If you’re set on getting out, I highly suggest finding a family member you can trust, or close friends that can extend that sort of hospitality to you. In extreme cases, you may even want to research your state’s procedure for the emancipation of minors (many communities now have access to information and referral hotlines. You can typically dial 2-1-1 on your mobile phone and be connected. The hotline will help you find free resources, including legal aid).
Getting away from my abuser didn’t change everything, but I don’t think I could have started the healing process if I had endured any more provocation.
After that, I put in the effort to understand myself. I’m still putting the effort in. I read books on psychology, self help books, talked to people who seemed to be experiencing similar mood cycles, read philosophy books, mythology, anthropology, sociology, kept journals… I put a lot of effort into learning how to objectively and rationally try to evaluate and analyze my feelings, thoughts, insecurities, and issues. Meaning that instead of acquiescing to the voice in my head makes me feel impotent and worthless, I ask that voice, “Why”. What is it specifically that I feel is so terrible and wrong about myself? If you can start seeing the “why”s, you start to become aware of ways to cope with your perceived shortcomings. Sometimes the answers are things that you don’t like… okay, a lot of the time the answers are things you don’t like, but when the solutions are difficult and scary, I just remember how much worse it feels to just do nothing.
Sometimes there really aren’t solutions, for instance with feelings, but in trying to understand where the feelings come from, and how they work, (sometimes just on a general level. Instead of focusing directly on my singular experience, I try to translate it into aspects of the greater human narrative), it allows me to be more empathetic with myself. I try to imagine, if this was something another person was going through, someone I cared for, how would I view them? Chances are I wouldn’t be disgusted or annoyed with them. I wouldn’t tell them that their feelings make them weak or pathetic. I would do my best to show them compassion, give them useful advice, or just be a shoulder to cry on while they work through their feelings. I try my best to apply that same kindness to myself.
Other times, I know that I’m just going to break down. In many ways, my emotional philosophy had been “the only way out is through”. I don’t fight it. I just let it happen. I cry or sulk for as long as I need to. I write, if I can, but I’m usually too absorbed in my emotions to jot anything down. I’m pretty in tune with gauging where I am emotionally when I suffer from a dark spell. Just years of paying attention to my moods, being aware of my triggers, lots of introspection. I don’t know if this is actually the best method of coping? Truthfully, I could see how it’s dangerous if it’s wrong for your temperament. It certainly does put me in danger of being pulled into a funk I can’t escape from… but somehow it all balances out for me. Or maybe I’ve just had so much experience with it at this point, I’m used to it?
Also… this probably isn’t a popular thing to admit to, but doing drugs actually had a really positive effect on me. No just the substances, but the particular variables that fell into place when I was doing them:
Ecstasy and the rave scene, for example, made me a more positive person, long after I stopped using the substance or going to the parties. In a way, it sort of taught me how to relate to people. That sounds really strange, but I had (still have) a fair amount of intimacy issues, but the sensation of feeling like I was connected to everyone (even though I was aware it was the effects of the drugs) totally challenge my perception of isolation. But, I also managed to find a group of people who weren’t trying to exploit or take advantage of me. I also didin’t have any adverse effects from the drug. It seemed to suit my brain chemistry? But, I was also pretty careful about who I got my drugs from. Unlike many people I rolled with, it never caused me to “bottom out” afterwards. This could have been a horrible experience, but it was great for me.
LSD: I’ve had amazing experiences and horrible trips. But I learned something profound about perception. Nothing is exactly as it seems. Meaning is mutable, depending on how you approach reality; depending on the context. A terrifying experience can be manipulated into a wonderful one; a wonderful one into a terrifying one. I found a lot of comfort in this concept; from the experience. It’s not for everyone though.
Mushrooms: I can honestly say, I think tripping on mushrooms had the most positive effect on my psyche. Truthfully, I think it actually altered my brain chemistry, in a lasting and positive way. After a particularly large dose… and subjectively experiencing death and rebirth… it was sort of easier to laugh about all of my perceived problems and limitations. I dunno, man. It really just changed me.
But, again, hallucinogens are different for everyone. Just because they had a positive effect for me, doesn’t mean that they won’t cause someone else to fall off the deep end.
Drugs can be tricky things. I approach them with reverence and see them as a tool for “personal” work. Sometimes for recreation, but only if you fully understand the consequences and can truly use responsibly (and the truth is, a lot of people can’t and would be better off just staying sober and finding alternative means of self-exploration).
They’re like training wheels for your consciousness, but eventually you have to learn how to ride the pathways of self-awareness without them… or at least that’s the attitude that’s always kept me out of trouble. I also avoided (still avoid) drugs that don’t seem to have much function, aside from sensual distraction. (Except I will indulge in drinking once in awhile. Though, I’m terrible at it… )
Fuck. I’m kind of rambling on like some sort of space cadet. Ha!
My point being… I think I had a point? We all have to embark on our own journey to self actualization. This requires taking calculated risks, pushing beyond your comfort zone, and a lot of time and effort to understand yourself; you as an individual being that is influenced by nature, nurture, environment, brain chemistry, circumstance, perception, and a million other variables. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to the unique experience of a life. What leads one person to true satisfaction can lead another to total ruin…
But my best advice is just to change something. No matter how small it seems, one willful change can be the catalyst for a whole series of events that can offer you a new way to view yourself and the world. Challenge your current models of reality, renovate your paradigms, alter your expectations, face your fears.
Because if you manage to surprise yourself, just once, it can make you curious what else you’re capable of.