My name is Emma. Through my late 20's I suffered from suicidal depression, PTSD, extreme anxiety, and an autoimmune disorder.
I started noticing my depression at a very young age. I remember sitting in my 3rd grade class one day feeling very alone, misunderstood, and sad. I wanted to cry, but was able to hold back my tears. Instead, I brought my focus on to something else. I started to dig my nails into my skin on my hands, scratching myself until I bled. Although it hurt, it transformed the mental pain (that I didn’t understand) to a physical pain. Because I got scratches and cuts often from playing outside, no one took notice. It later developed into deeper cutting when I started shaving and had access to a razor. I kept this hidden on my upper thigh.
In my late teens and early 20s, I had no self-esteem or sense of self. I tried to numb uncomfortable emotions with drugs and alcohol. I also abused pills that I was prescribed to. There were a few times that I would black out from combining the two. These behaviors led to dangerous situations that involved physical and sexual abuse. In my teens I trusted someone I shouldn't have. After being drugged and raped, I had my first major suicide attempt. I was brought to the ER that night and the following day I was put in a psychiatric hospital. I was advised to not report the rape, so I didn’t. Disgust and guilt were programmed deep within me after this, which then, attracted other negative partners and situations.
In my mid 20's, on my way to work, an 18-wheeler truck came into my lane and hit my car. This caused me to spin across the freeway, hitting two other cars and then the concrete barrier. My car was totaled, but by miracle I was physically okay. It sent my stress level over the top. For a couple of years there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't have a panic attack. Because of the severity of the attacks, I was put on disability. I felt like a victim to all my circumstances.
My body began to ache all over and I was extremely fatigued all the time. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disorder. I spent most of my days in bed. I didn't mind sleeping my life away though because being awake was dreadful. I hated myself and I would often day dream about how I would end my life for good this time. My past attempts had failed, so I knew I had to try a new way. I had planned it all out. On February 15th, 2013, I bought a bottle of alcohol and a box cutter blade. The following evening, I swallowed all the pills in my Xanax bottle along with the alcohol. If that wasn’t going to do it, this next part I thought was sure to. I opened the blade to the box cutter and firmly pressed it against my wrist. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but I kept going until I passed out.
The next thing I remembered, I was laying on a hospital bed and was watching a doctor put over 80 stiches in my arm. I was numb to the feeling, but the image of my arm was nothing less than disturbing.
How did I survive this? Why am I still here? How could I fail at even this?
These questions came to mind over and over.
The following day I was brought to a mental hospital (again). I felt like a prisoner. This was my third time being in one of these places due to suicide attempts, but there was something different this time around. Something awakened in me and I knew I needed to change. I knew I needed to try something new.
I had seen several therapists over the years and I never felt like it was the answer for me. I was told that “you just have to find the right one” so I kept trying. Then I realized it was talk therapy in general that wasn’t working for me. I didn’t need to keep talking about my problems over and over, I needed to find solutions. (NOTE: This was just my experience. Some people do benefit from talk therapy).
I felt like I had lived a lifetime of feeling depressed and nothing that I tried worked for me. I had to completely change my lifestyle. I left an abusive relationship and decided to get off my medications. I learned that, often times, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can actually lead to suicidal thoughts. (NOTE: Please speak with your doctor if you are thinking of stopping your medications). I knew I needed to heal my body, and chemicals weren't the way. I researched different adaptogenic herbs to help with my high stress levels. I found that rhodiola, ashwagandha, and holy basil helped a lot in lowering my cortisol level. They also have other amazing benefits that include helping with sleep, anti-inflammatory, increases energy, and more. Studies show that many other herbs may help with anxiety and depression.
I also worked on proper breathing. I learned through my research that when we are highly stressed, our breathing can get very shallow which can lead to panic. Whenever I felt a panic attack coming, I would reach for my herbs instead of my prescription pills and I would do a breathing exercise while mentally telling myself that I am calm and safe. Affirmations are very powerful and I now use them every day. Focusing on my breath took my attention away from the thoughts that caused the attack. It has now been several years since the last one.
All these things helped a lot, but I was still suffering from depression. I was no longer suicidal, but I had a deep sadness. It was about 5 months later when I started looking into spiritual and wellness retreats. I still wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I was open. I found a retreat about 3 hours from me. My mom booked us a room there for 3 nights, which I am beyond grateful for. At Rainbow Hearth, located in hill country outside of Austin, Texas, we were surrounded by nature and with no access to WIFI. Being in nature and disconnected from technology is very healing. The reason why this place was so healing for me though was because I had the time and space, with no distractions, to read the book “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy. This book was life changing for me. It taught me how to become mindful of all of my thoughts, which were 99% negative. It also taught me how we can replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. This took a lot of practice. Thoughts are habitual and affect our perception on our outer world. After a while, my positive affirmations became my habitual thoughts and my life began to truly change. I also began to practice meditation. It was very difficult to quiet my mind, but I found some guided meditations that were wonderful. I meditate often now and recommend it to everyone.
Other outlets that were very healing include gratitude for all the blessings in my life, praying, forgiving others and myself, and journaling. These are things I practice every day. I like to journal what I am grateful for and putting the thoughts in my head onto paper gives me clarity and insights. Forgiveness did take some time, but I felt a heavy weight lifted after I did so. I learned that holding on to anger really just hurts myself. And that just because I forgive someone, doesn't mean I have to have them in my life. Buddha said "holding on to anger is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die".
Another thing I started to do was become mindful of what I was watching on television and social media. If I watched something scary or sad, I observed that it would feed the negative thoughts in my subconscious mind. I started only watching what made me feel good. I became very interested in the subconscious mind and learned a lot about hypnotherapy, which I recommend if you feel that you have subconscious negative beliefs that you want to let go of. Hypnotherapy puts you in a relaxed state where you are able to see where your negative beliefs come from and how to release them. Hypnotherapy is sometimes feared or mistaken for entertainment, but you can only be hypnotized if you allow yourself. All hypnotherapy is self-hypnotherapy and you can even learn to reach these deep states with yourself.
In the spring of 2017, I volunteered at a retreat in Mexico. I met a wonderful breathwork practitioner there that graciously offered me a session in holotropic breathing. This type of breathwork combines accelerated breathing with evocative music and should be done in a calm setting. During a session, your eyes are closed while laying down. (It can be done in a group or in an individual session.) This allowed me to release deep emotions that I was unaware of. I ended up having an out of body experience and connected to my inner child. This opened my eyes to much more. There are other types of breathwork as well. It truly is amazing what breath can do! We take it for granted because we naturally breathe everyday so we don’t realize that it could be a tool for healing.
With these modalities I was able to practice self-love. I quit drinking and smoking and began to hang around with like-minded people. I found other outlets for my energy and put use to my creativity. This naturally made me want to start taking care of my body. I started eating a whole food plant-based diet and healed my autoimmune disorder. I learned that food is medicine and fell in love with cooking.
I also began to exercise by hiking, dancing, and doing yoga to feel good in my body. This all helps your body detox, not only toxins, but old emotions that are stored in our cells, also known as neuropeptides. I made it a habit to get outside in nature every day and get sunshine. Sun gives you vitamin D which produces higher serotonin, lowers blood pressure, gives you better sleep, enhances your mood, and makes you more active and alert. (It is recommended that we get 10-20 minutes of direct sunshine a day.)
Something that fed my soul and gave me purpose was being of service to others. I love helping others. I began sharing my story and offering mentoring. I got certified in different modalities so I could combine it with my experience to connect to more people. Being of service and connecting with other people makes life worth living for me.
I often get asked "What was the one thing that helped you heal?" And truthfully it wasn't one thing. It was all of these things. It was a lifestyle change. It was a complete mind frame change. I believe it is possible for anyone to have peace of mind if they truly seek it.
I am constantly learning and growing. I love sharing and talking with others about all these topics. Although I no longer suffer from depression or anxiety, I am not perfect and I still feel all the human emotions. I think that is part of the human experience. We don't have to do it alone though. Thank you so much for taking the time for reading this and please share if you think someone can benefit it!
Love & Light,