A grandfather is talking to his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second and he looks up at his grandfather and says, which one wins?
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.*
Living medication free as I now do, does not mean that I am cured. Experience and research have led me to draw the conclusion that my depression and anxiety are just part of who I am, now and then. This does not mean, however, that I surrender control to my illness. To me, surrendering control is agreeing to 100mg a day for the rest of my life, as suggested by my GP. I am not anti-medication. Medication is a life-saver for many people, as it has been in the past for me. But now, at a point of great mental health, I have decided that I owe it to myself to at least try another way.
Previously I have ridden the wave of wellness when it comes without much thought beyond relief that I was no longer ill. I now understand that my anxiety and depression stem from childhood instability and traumatic life experiences, with some genetic disposition thrown in for good measure. I spent many years self-medicating with alcohol, and I had my first breakdown as a direct result of going cold turkey in 2003. Throughout 14 years of sobriety I’ve seen many therapists and counsellors and have been on anti-depressants three times. If all that was going to work, I would be fixed by now, surely. Yet, I am not. So this time around, rather than taking medication, I am being proactive in my self care in order to maintain wellness and manage any symptoms as they occur.
Awareness is key. I have become adept at identifying unhealthy thought patterns. I don’t catastropise any more. But awareness alone is not enough – there has to be action too. Daily action. By December 2016 I had been taking 100mg of Zoloft for over a year and was going really well. A full year of wellness felt like a miracle. I started meditating using the (freaking awesome!) Insight Timer app. I came across a few yoga books, bought a few more. Kept reading. I sat down at the beginning of the year with resources by Susannah Conway to help me to reflect with intention on the year gone and the year ahead. I intuitively created a vision board of what I needed for myself in 2017.
I started the 365 meditation challenge on Insight Timer, kept meditating daily and then discovered Brett Larkin on YouTube. Gradually I started thinking there could be another way for me, a life without medication, inside a place that held other questions and answers – inside myself. I started weaning myself off the pills, and by mid-February I was med free.
If I let my daily practices slide, I don’t feel good. Just a little…off kilter. And I know where that can lead. So I must periodically remind myself that whatever demands life is making on me, I have to prioritise mySelf. I have to stay aware, and stay active in my wellness. This means daily yoga practice, daily meditation, daily journaling and daily reading on yoga (all eight limbs). I’ve also discovered podcasts – I guess I’m a little late to that party! – my current favourite being The One You Feed. I read the parable quoted above here recently for the first time and it really resonated with me. When my thoughts go off at a tangent, or I feel angry and filled with frustration, I now often find myself thinking, who am I feeding here? Such a valuable lesson! My daily choices are also prefaced by similar thinking – is a Netflix binge or a Facebook session really what’s best for me right now? Sometimes it might be! But oftentimes, so not. Energy goes where it is directed.
It might sound like a lot of work, just so I don’t have to pop a pill. But these are nice things to be doing! They make me feel good, along with my crochet and my running and eating well and sleeping enough. All these things are my weapons against anxiety and depression, and they keep me well. I want to avoid the next crash. I don’t want to live under that black cloud ever again. So I’m feeding the good wolf to the best of my ability. Every. Single. Day.
This post is also part of the A-Z Challenge: A is for…Awareness & Action