Recovery from Anxiety and Depression

oly7-21In late 2006 I was suicidally depressed.

I was at the deepest end of the dark abyss of depression and I had given up on any attempt to climb out, knowing from the hundreds of prior attempts that all I’ll manage to do is tear off my fingernails without ever making it to light.

I have always felt, like most of us, that there had to be a separate peace, perhaps a different possibility, if only I knew how to get at it. I devoured any thing I could find on depression or self-help, but those only made temporary differences, if any. A few years ago I went to a grueling ten-day silent meditation retreat, but at that time my mind had been screaming and I could not really meditate. I read Tolle’s Power of Now, and I found it appealing but I could not really understand it. But nevertheless something had come through to me. Something had found its way to my consciousness.

A seed had been planted.

In early 2006 the emotional pain was unbearable, I accepted it completely without conditions or hope, not from wisdom, but from sheer exhaustion. Miracalously, life began to change, slowly but steadily and palpably.

Living starts with the subtle shift of attention from thought to Awareness. The trick to living is to be still, alert and observant, here and now, without the effort of analyzing or interpreting, without any resistance at all to what is already happening, inside or outside. This sounds passive. It is passive. You have to do nothing. You shift attention to awareness, and soon you have some astonishing realizations.

You realize that intelligence and creativity come from this seat of awareness, and not from thought. You realize that the idea of time, of past, present and future, is actually a very superstious idea. You realize the nature of thought, emotion and conditioning. You began to see that thought creates the ego, the observer, the sense of I AM, the very sense of who you believe yourself to be. You begin to understand the nature of fear and desire and beliefs and intention and attention. You begin to see that the our sense of reality is only a symbolic representation of reality we create in our heads, and it is not a good model. It guarantees unhappiness. You see the addiction to struggle. You began to see the possibility that Life and Living can be one, and that Life can flow effortlessly.

And this is something that’s accessible to all. In fact, we all already have it.

My journey hasn’t been smooth at all. After twenty five years of sometimes-debilitating depression, I opened to a possibility beyond the mind, and I put in a lot of effort towards being present. I read and learned, meditated, did yoga, quit my job to write, travel and work on “myself.” This led to a sense of peace and a seeing-through of my jumbled and conflicting priorities. Soon after, I was in an energetic, active life. There was some peace, a lot of energy, but also a great deal of emotional turmoil. After a while, I realized that this “being present” was affected, artificial, dull and lifeless. I think my mind was just creating a mental space called presence. I found that the technique of observing thought worked better. The emotional turmoil settled, but led to detachment and apathy, and very low energy, the opposite of where I had just been. I gained weight and got very lazy and ineffective. And soon after, to add to the misery, there was anxiety. The financial crisis wiped me out and I couldn’t find a job. The anxiety deepened, always hitting in the morning when I woke up, with a great deal of turmoil, fear and flutter, and during these episodes I could do nothing except walk around to work off the fear. Perhaps this was a bout of dreaded depression, though I don’t believe so. The anxiety motivated a search for solutions, and I came upon release techniques. I was shocked that the releasing actually worked! The anxiety cleared quickly and completely.

Soon after, I realized that I was running around in circles; that the seeking and introspection and effort were in themselves an obstacle. This was a great relief. The love affair with accumulating knowledge and techniques and reading and effort ended. Awareness and release did all the work, when I just got out of the way . Detachment and apathy remained for a while; these were uncomfortable and inconvenient to daily living. I cleared emotions around the need for change, and desires and beliefs, and as I continued clearing, intentions clarified, and the desperation to change dispersed, and I began to understand the nature of intention-action. These stages were not clear-cut; they overlapped, and I only understood where I was at any particular time only long afterwards.

It turns out it wasn’t the usual chase for fulfillment, it wasn’t the chase for happiness, it wasn’t the chase for relationships and power and money, it wasn’t introspection or analysis, it wasn’t accumulating knowledge about the mind and ego, it wasn’t spirituality, it wasn’t techniques or meditation or yoga, it wasn’t medication or therapy…in the end it was all about letting go and resting, effortlessly, in awareness. Release and Awareness.

The journey continues, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. For me, it’s been quite bumpy. There have been times of realization, times of flow, and times of deep apathy. Overall, the journey is very much worthwhile. Others would probably look at my life right now and see problems. I see the beauty of experience.

I’m writing this as notes to myself, so I can read this in case I’m bumping and bouncing off problems in life again for some strange reason. Perhaps the writing here will help you if you are seeking a different possibility. Perhaps you will find some resonance. There is nothing in here which has not been said before.

My purpose in writing this is to simplify. The thing is, it’s so simple to live well. It’s simple, and it takes no time to realize this possibility. But the mind will obscure the obvious. Nevertheless, the realization of the truth of existence is inevitable.

29 thoughts on “Recovery from Anxiety and Depression

  1. Pingback: Carnival of Positive Thinking : Widows Quest

  2. You what this says? "Required, Use Real Name" well screw you wordpress auto-captions!!!

    It feels like this should be your first entry.

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  4. books on anxiety

    Glad to hear that sharing your thoughts in writing helps you simplify and put things into perspective. I find the same therapy in writing myself. Thanks for sharing with the world!

  5. futuh

    I find myself interested in your ” awareness and release” approach. Is it something like surrendering to whatever is going on? Totally passive on our part but extremely active on the part cosmic awareness..But my question is what is the role of our individual attempt to arouse such awareness? Does our ego have any place at all in this process?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Well, awareness-and-release has evolved historically. I first explored awareness techniques, like presence and meditation and observing and being aware. And at one point, I had severe anxiety, and I read the Sedona Method book, and found that simplified version of their release technique works beautifully.

      All techniques really come down to internal observation and internal honesty.

      Yes, it’s surrendering to what’s going on (more than trying to change what’s going on). I’m exploring what surrender really means. I don’t have any clear answers yet. I feel that when I release, and release, and there is no more to release, that is perhaps surrender. So it is leaving things be just as they are.

      Does the ego have any place in this process? Well, the ego is not real, it’s fiction, it’s thoughts-and-emotions. It’s fiction, but it’s very immersed, very prevalent, so we can’t simply dismiss it is as unreal. It’s a character which is suffused in everything we do and feel. And this is another question I’m exploring. Having seen through the fiction of the self (that is I recognize that the “I” I think I am does not refer to anything), why does the fiction of self continue to exist? Why does fear continue to exist? Why isn’t there complete liberation after having seen through the fiction?

        1. Kaushik Post author

          I’ll see if I can simplify this:

          Most awakened teachers recommend some sort of awareness technique, such as presence (Tolle, Jacobson), observing, meditating…Jed Mckenna recommends autolysis, Ramana and Nisgardatta recommend focusing on “Who am I” or the sense of I AM.

          I’ve found that a combination of awareness and release is very powerful. So my “practice” is awareness, release, recognizing you-do-not-exist, and stark internal honesty.

  6. futuh

    Why isn’t there complete liberation after having seen through the fiction? I do share the question. The main issue then is a clarity as to why the “fictive I” continues to exist? It is, as I see it, the only one to block what you call internal observation and honesty, which is involuntary and a flow in nature.
    I don’t think you have added more confusion but I want to ask whether you agree that awareness- and- release is not a mere technique but more of a state of consciousness. Thank you.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Well, a clear state of consciousness would be effortless. It wouldn’t require a technique or label. It’s experience.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      I’ve heard this before (die before you die), but not sure what it means exactly. I think I’ve heard from Tolle. If it means that you are not a continuing entity–it’s only memory and the concept of time which makes you think you are a continuous entity–if that’s what it means, it makes sense. The past is over, this is a fresh moment, so be present and fresh.

  7. futuh

    Yes, I should be present and fresh or let go, in other words, but should not try to be present and try to be fresh. Or perhaps I might not understand yet as I thought it was a sort of effortless technique which constitutes more “being” than “doing”. Anyway, let me read and digest your book to reduce my misunderstanding.To let you now, I have been suffering from depression and panic disorder since around 2005. Thank you very much.

  8. Ron Standing

    Thank You so much, I have been reading your writings and it has helped me. You are a Beautiful Soul.

  9. Sophie

    Your posts have been somewhat helpful, thankyou. I’m 24 and have been depressed for as long as I can remember, It’s at the point where I no longer have the energy to do anything, not even work, leave my house or see friends. I’ve spent so much time living in my dreams, hoping and waiting for a time in the future when things will be better, when I meet my soulmate, when I sspiritually awaken and become happier, I’m realizing non of this may ever happen for men. I just want to feel something, anything so that I know I’m still alive.
    Sometimes I meet a guy who temporarily relives that pain and when I’m with them I can laugh, but once I’m alone again it’s an empty void which cannot be filled. I feel as if I’m being punished, how can life be so cruel? Why are others happy and I’m not? I never talk about it because I don’t like people to feel sorry for me, I don’t like bothering anyone with my problems. I’m cursed with perfectionism, I’m always desiring change within myself and others, always seeing how things can be better. All I want is to finally accept that this is it! This is all there is, all I have and there may be nothing more. Anyway just rambling, thanks for all your insight!

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sophie,

      Yes, this is a very common feeling, the feeling that whatever is wrong is wrong with me, but everyone else seems to have figured it out, they seem to be comfortable in their lives.

      When I was a young man, I felt that I was somehow different, perhaps more introspective and self-absorbed. In later years, when I had the diagnosis of depression, I felt better–I wasn’t alone and whatever this was was not my fault. And I began to recognize that everyone is afflicted–it just shows up differently in various people. And now I sometimes wonder–how is it that everyone is not depressed? How is it that many people are able to pretend, to suppress and live with the fear in the them?

      One way to see it is to see that our times of depression are really our times of honesty–we simply are not able to pretend away the basic problem of fear in these times.

      Try the looking. Look at you.


  10. Tom

    I have found that this goes in cycles (depression). There appears to be an unconscious belief, or conviction, that more action, another job, more money, better or new relationships etc., will correct “it” or make life better. This internal goad does not appear to make most people sick. Many, it does.

    Each time, I return to an internal living understanding that I am not this ego, this goad. But only after burn out, depression and pointlessness have become intolerable and I realize I’m sick again. This awareness does not appear to be something I can program into my self. It is the self and all it’s impressions that is the problem. Or, at least it’s burden on one’s organic systems (body & brain & heart) is.

    But the payoff for hanging in with the awareness is huge. It’s also at the core of relief. But not just relief. Awakening. But it is very difficult and exacting to do. It’s much easier to seek palliatives like sex, work, substances, entertainments, etc..

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Tom,

      Yes, it does seem to go in cycles.

      Definitely, stay with awareness. In my case, the psychological effects of depression–that is the feeling of futility and unhappiness have gone away. But I still experience some of the physical symptoms, such as insomnia, low energy and weight fluctuations–and these do come in cycles of three months or so a a time.

      The palliatives you mention–I’ve found them to be perfectly fine. If something helps the symptoms–medication, sex, distractions of work, substances etc–use it. Of course, with responsibility and proportion.


  11. Jasxx

    thank you for writing this beautiful and honest post. I was tearing as I read this blog because I believe only people who have depression really truly know how bad it is when it hits you. you suddenly tear and want to cry, regardless of where you are. It is sad. The negative thoughts just come and even when you are watching a movie, or on holiday it will seize you. Thank you very much because right now I just want to reach out to more depressed people to remind myself I am not alone..

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