Going through depression is a dark and difficult place to be. Depression may come alone or it might be partnered up with anxiety, PTSD, bipolar or other mental health issues. One of the hardest parts about depression can be the overwhelming feelings of complete worthlessness.
On top of feeling so awful, we can also end up giving ourselves a hard time just for not feeling okay, especially when working in a role that supports others. So, as a yoga teacher who holds space for others and as a person who struggles with depression, I’m here to tell you that you can still be a good person and be depressed. You’re not feeling this way because you got something wrong.
Yoga isn’t a magic cure, but it does build resilience
There are a lot of studies out there about how yoga can help improve the lives of those with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other issues. So because I practice and teach yoga, there can be a pressure I put on myself to “prove” that it “works”. People turn to yoga as a form of self-care through difficult times and I myself often think of yoga as the thing that really saved me when I was at my worst. This is true but not because it “fixed” me and cured all my issues. It didn’t. What it did was give me a way to support myself and self-regulate through dark times. It helped me to build resilience, which means that I’m better able to bounce back; it doesn’t mean that I no longer fall.
Vulnerability is strength, not a weakness
There can be a real fear around showing vulnerability. I can be quite quiet about my mental health struggles because of this sense of dread that if people know they’ll think I’m not fit to do my job properly, not fit to hold space for others. But I’m starting to realise that my personal struggles with my mental health are exactly what make me qualified in many ways.
Someone very close to me said that when I teach yoga, I can be like a different person. She said she sees me light up and exude confidence. Another close friend who has been to many of my classes says that knowing my own personal struggles is what makes her trust me as a teacher. She says when I’m encouraging people in class to be kind to themselves, it means all the more coming from someone who knows so deeply the difficult battle of learning to love oneself. To her, it feels authentic and makes her trust the process I am guiding her through.
Taking a leadership role when not feeling the best
Stepping up into a leadership role and having the responsibility of holding a healing safe space for others is one of the main things that lifts me up out of my hole. When I have a purpose greater than myself I feel more able to actually connect to who I feel I’m meant to be outside of the darkness of depression and overwhelming nature of anxiety. Think of the Wounded Healer archetype, which shows how one of the ways we heal ourselves is through feeling we have something valuable to share with others as an offering.
There can be an assumption that to hold space well for others you have to be operating from a place of perfect stability and be totally healed yourself. But how many of us humans can really say that we feel 100% all of the time? Of course if I ever needed to take a step back I would. I’d never jeopardise the experience of my students and you can always take time of if you need to. The simple point is you can be depressed and still do a good job. Having depression doesn’t mean you’ve failed.