This is episode number 50. Five-zero. I think we actually have more episodes than 50 because I didn’t number some bonus episodes, but today feels like a special day, so I’m going to say happy number 50 to me.
All right, you guys. I’m going to share a very personal, but very common part of my story today, and how I manage the inconvenience of depression. And so I’m going to give you a little bit of background; try to keep that brief. And then I’m going to tell you a story that recently happened to me about depression. And then I’m going to share with you, some of the ways that I actually manage the inconvenience of depression.
And so let me first off state I am not a therapist. I’m a coach, and I am a human being who was diagnosed with 24 with clinical depression. It’s something I have managed for much of my life. And it runs in my family. A lot of family members struggle with this, too. And I also know that many, many, many of my colleges and friends, especially in this day and age of overstimulation; and how we haven’t been taught how to feel difficult feelings also manage and live with depression and/or anxiety.
So the first part I want to tell you how even acknowledging out loud that I struggle with depression or anxiety came to be absolutely a part of my business. So in 2007, 2008, 2009 … So 2009, I was a productivity coach. I was a coach of productivity coaches for our real estate organization. And I was doing 13 coaching sessions a day. I was having a great time, I was working really hard, I was in my 30s and newly married, but just running and gunning; overachiever phase. And I was doing really well, and I got asked to be on a panel of coaches for a national conference. And I don’t remember the question. I don’t remember any of the context, except for my answer to an audience member’s question was, that I actually struggled with depression. And I don’t remember what I said about it. Knowing me, I had a positive spin on it. And very much like today, how I manage it. Because that’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. I don’t see it as an affliction. I notice it as an experience, just like, “Oh, I have a cold. Oh, I’m feeling a little depressed.” And I don’t take my depression personally.
So I remember having … This came out on this panel, and I remember this moment of, “Do I want to share that I’ve struggled with this?” And I did. Afterward, there was a line of other coaches across the nation that worked with my organization waiting to meet me. And every single one of them was saying, “Thank you so much for sharing, I struggle with depression, too. Thank you so much for sharing, I struggle with depression, too.” And I remember, at the time, one of my mentors looked at me a few days later in the office and she was like, “I would never have said that.” And she was entitled to have that position, but I remember saying, “I’m so glad I did.” I felt human, and apparently, a lot of our clients felt human, too. And that was a moment early in my coaching career that I knew for me … I cannot speak for anybody else. But for me, that this is a part of who I am, and hiding it; depressing it down only made it worse.
There were ways that I could share this part of my human condition, and I could still function and I could be human, and a leader even though I struggle with … I don’t really … Well, I do … Do I struggle, or do I not struggle? It’s interesting. I don’t like to claim that identity of struggling. And yet, sometimes it shows up.
Recently, I had a very inconvenient depression episode. And depression, for me, when it shows up, I think that everybody who experiences this probably has their own different symptoms. Mine is definitely a lack of interest. I get extremely tired, and I want to sleep because sleep is the fastest way through the depression. It’s not necessarily my healthiest way. So I get very lethargic. I feel very gray. I don’t feel deeply sad, but I also don’t feel joy. There is a very overpowering numbness and grayness and flatness. It’s like a flat line. So I’m still alive, but I’m flatlined. And for me, it’s very … Oh, I don’t know that it’s surreal; it’s just something I’ve always experienced. And I’ve learned how to notice it and to witness it.
I do take meds. I am under the care of my doctor, and I’ve also, in the past few years, learned a couple of other things. So the other things that have helped me clinically; again, I’m not a doctor, but the other things that have helped me clinically is to clean up my eating a little bit. I still … I went keto last summer. I don’t really call myself full keto, because I still have some sugar, and I still have some carbs. But I definitely do not eat a lot of white, processed flours and sugars. And I eat a lot more vegetables and I just eat a lot more cleanly. And that has really helped my energy. I’ve also been under the care of a doctor for my hormones and vitamins and supplements and those kinds of things. So those things have helped me clinically. And yet, from time to time, these depression episodes show up.
Recently, I had the experience right before a four-day live event in my hometown, of feeling depressed. So I have 35 clients coming in, and I’m leading the event, and don’t really want to be depressed. I noticed that I was having this experience. One of the things I do when I’m starting to feel it is … And for those of you that experience depression and anxiety maybe this way, it doesn’t come on like an onslaught. It’s like a frog boiling in a pot. You kind of think, “Oh, maybe I’m just a little off today.” I think, “Oh, maybe I’m just a little off today,” and then I realize, “Oh, it’s here again today.” And it’s this gentle, slippery slope, and then all of a sudden, I look up and realize, “Oh, I’m actually kind of in a depression right now.” Literally a … I mean, think about the word depression. I was diagnosed with this, and until recently, I didn’t even think about what the word depressed meant. I’m depressing down difficult feelings.
Sometimes our de-pressing, our pushing down, our avoiding of difficult feelings, is so deeply subconscious; so deeply … I mean, we’re trained not to feel difficult feelings. I have a whole nother podcast on outsourcing difficult emotions. And for me, this was my primary way of doing it. It was easier to be depressed … Now, this is not something I chose consciously, but my nervous system, my emotional brain, my lizard brain said, “Oh, it’s easier for you to be depressed than it is to feel these feelings.”
It was so fascinating; there was an early morning a couple of weeks ago, well I guess over a month ago, and I noticed being up early with the dogs, and I sent a text to my girlfriend. I didn’t want to get in a big conversation. I got all independent. I didn’t need help, but I just knew that I needed to let somebody know. Now, I was not suicidal or anything like that, but I felt like I needed to get it out of my body. And my friend, Tracy Lee, has a saying, “Better out than in,” and so I sent Tracy Lee a text. And I just said, “I’m in a really flat place,” and I was struggling with feeling depressed and in the void. And I’m judging it because I was five days, and 34 people are coming to be loved on at a live event. And I just let her know. And so I was thinking, “How do I not be depressed at this moment?”
And what I love … step number one for me was just letting somebody know. I did not need her to fix me. I did not need her to help me, but just sharing my experience, reaching out and saying, “Will you hold my hand? May I hold your hand? I’m in this. Period.” And she wrote back the sweetest thing. Well, she didn’t write back, I’m sorry. She picked up the phone and she called me. And she said, “Allison, what if you don’t judge it? You always say that to me, ‘What if you didn’t judge it?'” And I love that question. So if I didn’t judge my experience of depression at the moment, and if I didn’t judge whether it was confinement or not, was such a powerful question to me, because for me, not judging it is the opposite of depressing even the depression down. Right? Hear that? We can tend to be in a state of depression or grief or sadness or anxiety, and we depress it down because we haven’t been taught how to be healthfully depressed. Is that even a thing?
I love that she asked me that question. I really was judging myself for it. And I was confused because it didn’t make me … It was interesting, though. Even though I was depressed, I also sensed a great deal of contentment. This is one of the things I’m a big both/and person, I have a big range, and it confuses my brain. My brain wants me to be … Either I’m happy or I’m depressed, and that’s not true. I can be deeply content and satisfied, and I can experience depression. And so her question of not judging it Just helped me notice it.
Depression isn’t logical or convenient. And my response to it, I learned, could be so much more gracious. And so by not adding depression on top of depression; by allowing it space, it actually begins to transmute it, for me.
When I lift the self-judgment and shame, it begins to lighten. It may not happen instantaneously but imagine the … I guess the thing that comes is like a boiling pot. And if you have a lid on the boiling pot, it creates steam and pressure. And the pressure I put on myself makes the depression even more inconvenient. Right? So we think we’re helping ourselves, but we don’t necessarily.
I realized, when she asked, “What if you didn’t judge it,” that I was judging it. What that that allowed me to do was move into a space of the soothing practices that help me be with my depression. This also works for my anxiety. This also works for boredom, recently, I found out. It also works for agitation. It works for anything that we see on the lower vibration scale. I will not call these things negative. To me, the only negative is shame, blame, and guilt. And when I remove shame, blame, and guilt from depression, grief, anxiety, overwhelm, I am able to see more clearly when I allow myself to feel what’s underneath the depression, what’s underneath the irritation, what’s underneath the anxiety, what’s underneath the boredom. And it’s usually fear. It’s so much easier to be depressed than afraid, is what my brain says.
And so I move into that moment where I begin those practices. And for me, one of the practices … So number one was telling a friend. Processing some of that out loud was super helpful. Then number two is really journaling with curiosity, what is this like if I’m not judging it? And if I’m not judging it, then I’m just in it. And it’s okay, and I don’t feel the pressure. Right? So back to the pot analogy; then I’m just the boiling water, but there is no steam building up pressure that wants to explode. There is no explosion of shame, blame, and guilt. There is no isolation that keeps me separate. Right? And so once I begin to notice and not judge, then the depression can just be, and it’s not being molded by my shame, blame, and guilt.
I find that for me, what I learned, and working with Chris Zydel in Expressive Arts was really transformational in helping me understand emotions that were living under the surface. And if you struggle with depression, I cannot speak what it’s like for anybody else. I cannot speak for my family members, what it’s like. All I know is my journey of exploring what’s underneath and … what I found was that even though I was days before this live event, and it was terribly inconvenient for me to be depressed, the way to nurture it was to be and to notice what was going on underneath; to process through it with journaling, with talking with friends.
And then the other thing I did, was I actually did a post on Instagram and Facebook because I know through experience I’m not alone. And so the post wasn’t about, “Oh, woe is me. I’m so depressed,” all this other stuff. I just said, “Who are my powerful colleagues that also struggle with depression and anxiety?” And that action, for me, is reminiscent of that very first panel I was on that said, “Hi, my name is Allison. I am a leader. I am a coach. I am a wise and powerful woman. I am a thinker and a learner and a reader and a connector and a lover and a be-er. And I also struggle with anxiety and depression. Who else does?” And kind of like me raising hands, it’s my own … I know that if I’m struggling with this, surely there are other people out there, too. And I don’t know about you, but when I know I’m not the only one, I’m not the only one who can isolate, I’m not the only one who can get in these head spins; it begins to make me not judge myself so much, to realize that it’s normal.
The other thing I can do, is I can use my story to serve you. I can use my story to give hope, to give possibility, to give meaning that … You know, one of the things I never had … I had amazing mentors that always showed me their perfect side. I got to see the beauty. I got to see the power from the stage. And when I would share things, my mentors would say, “I would never share that. Keep that a secret.” And God bless them for their shame, because their shame helped me discover my self-acceptance. And what I know for sure, stealing Oprah’s line, what I know for sure is that the acceptance I have for both the shadow and the light has been the biggest healing and most powerful journey in my own being, my spirit, my body, and in my business. Before authenticity was cool or a buzzword, I was determined to be the kind of leader that I couldn’t find. And that was, I’m a leader having a human experience. I cannot shove this stuff under the rug any longer.
The biggest thing I can leave with you today, no matter who you are: Leader, a follower, both; whatever you are doing or being in the world when the inconvenience of depression and/or anxiety or any shadow of feeling shows up, please, please release yourself from judging it. Look at it in a new way. I am not saying you have to go full Byron Katie and say, “I love my depression,” because that’s a little difficult if you’re in a place of hating it and struggling with it. But if you can at least imagine for a moment, being who and what you are, but removing the right or wrongness of it, especially removing the wrongness of it; removing the fact that it’s even inconvenient.
And what I know is as soon as we release the shame, blame, and guilt, the true feelings are able to show up. The true thoughts are able to show up. And then the energy begins to move. And sure enough, in this story of my recent bout with depression, depression allowed for me to have a rest. If I didn’t judge it, I could see, “Oh, energetically, I am getting small, going within so that I can be big for four and a half days straight in front of 34, 35 people.” Right? Putting on a live event requires a lot of energy, emotion, content, connection, and for an introvert, that can be difficult. And so it was like, “Oh.” I began to see this is not just clinical depression. This is my body’s beautiful and natural contraction before an expansion. Right? And when I start to judge my contractions instead of realizing they’re a natural, rhythmic part, then I make it even worse. That’s where it becomes clinical instead of just … That’s where it becomes something to worry about.
Ahh, let me breathe. I notice I’m feeling vulnerable telling you guys all this stuff. I notice that it’s not so much that I’m sharing about my depression. I’m comfortable with that. But I don’t ever want to make any presumptions about your experience with depression, with your experience with mental illness, with your experience with anxiety; because your experience may be different from mine.
If you need clinical help, get clinical help. There’ve been times when I needed clinical help. And, I do know that releasing the shame, blame, and guilt; sharing with a friend; doing my soothing practices, especially … There, there, depression. I see you. I won’t leave you. I’m here for you, depression. Being witness to my own depression can be a loving and sacred act that actually transmutes it into something. Alchemy. It creates a magic alchemy that shifts my energy and helps me increase not only my capacity to feel what’s ever on the shadow end of my range, but it also propels me into feeling the goodness.
So yeah. That’s what I’ve got for you today. I’d love to hear your insights. If you’re … I’d love to hear if this had an impact on you. It feels really special for episode number 50 to share with you. I send a little prayer for you, if you are somebody that experiences depression and anxiety. And my prayer is that the next time you have an experience, or if you’re in that experience now, that you might be able to see this state without shame, blame, or guilt so that you can lovingly practice, reach out for help, and love who you are and where you are in this moment.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next week for episode number 51!
Thanks for spreading the word about The Better Life Better Work Show. And of course, I love your Social Media Mentions and Shares with #BetterLifeBetterWorkShow
And, if you’d like to be a master student of Better Life and Better Work, I invite you to join me in the Soul-Full Success Coaching Membership Community ~ My exquisite membership community where connection, coaching, teaching and most of all, YOU, matter.