Millbrook Dark Skies

It is dark with no speck of light available in sight. The space is small and cramped, with cold walls as the only source of comfort. The deafening silence is punctured with the sounds of rapid breathing. There is no one else around. I’m caged in.

Sensations bubble up within the body. Pain sears right through the core, like a sword piercing into the skin, stabbing mercilessly. Each stab sends tremours through the nerves, touching the physical body first, then the psychological self. The pain is blinding, clouding all intellectual senses from regaining power over it. The body slowly submits to the pain. And eventually, the body tires out. It wants out — to be freed from pain and suffering that can’t be seen on a physical level, but only felt on an emotional and mental level.

Whoever said that there’s light at the end of the dark tunnel lied. There’s no light and this isn’t any tunnel. Escape doesn’t seem to be an option now. I’m caged in.

Recent news of Robin Williams’ passing shook the world, as we came to understand the reason for his passing — suicide due to severe depression. My heart goes out to his family and friends, but at the root of it all, I understand why his condition shook me to the core. I, together with millions of people around the world, am no stranger to the mental condition termed as depression. For years, I have been struggling with my condition, and sought for myriad of ways to cure or rid myself from it. It isn’t an easy condition to accept, not unlike knowing that you have any other medical condition. Depression feels exactly like how it’s termed — it’s downright depressing and bleak.

“There’s a long-held belief that comedians like Williams are more prone to depression — and that their creativity is driven, in part, by the condition.” — (CBC). Perhaps those who suffer from depression are more emotionally sensitive, who understand the difference between the dark and light sides. There isn’t a need for others to experience the same pain, and hence making jokes to lighten up the world is their way of escaping from the pain. And when the general audience hears of comedians committing suicide, the world gets a little darker.

Perhaps comedians who suffer from depression are not unlike actors, writers, artists, and the rest of the human race who have the same condition. And I, am not any different from any of them. However, if there is one thing that my yoga practice has taught me over the years, it would be: Be a friend to all the feelings and sensations that come up in you, and accept them as part of yourself. They are the very things that make us unique individuals. As much as they can bring you down, they would be the fuel for you to encompass your entire individuality with pride, and fire you to make a difference in the world.

Lodro Rinzler at The Huffington Post said: “Meditation does not preclude or diminish the power of therapeutic methods. They are powerful in their own right. There are trained people out there who can work with you to navigate your suffering.” Meditation and yoga based tools are completely empowering but it requires a lot of journeying into the deeper and sometimes darker realms of oneself. These dark spaces exist to tell us that we aren’t loved, lack confidence, and are horrible people. They are extremely twisted and warped, that it takes an immense load of spiritual self-love to regain balance within ourselves. I am not talking about diminishing those dark spaces, but about accepting them as part of ourselves. However, at some point, we need to know when it’s time to extend our hands out and cry for help. There is no shame in letting others know that you need help, but preferably to a trained therapist. A few days upon arriving back in Singapore, I dove deep into my dark spaces and it took loads of effort and strength to crawl out of my tiny steel cage, and to immediately ask for help. Nothing from that experience went away from me, but I recognized those feelings of despair, and it was a big fight with my emotional self to know that I’m still loved, somehow.

Depression strikes at the most unexpected moment. When one is in the deep throngs of despair, it doesn’t become selfish anymore to think or gravitate towards suicide because one just wants to stop feeling. As a yoga teacher, I’m constantly telling my students to feel the sensations that arise in their bodies, because it’s so important to be friends with ourselves and learn what our body wishes for us to know. We stay in uncomfortable asana poses, not in an attempt to create unnecessary pain or stress for ourselves, but to learn how to find ease and comfort in those unpleasant moments whenever they arise. And again, one of my community agreements in all yoga classes conducted to the at-risk youth population is: As yoga brings out emotions in us, we should never be afraid to ask for help whenever we need it.

For those who suffer with depression: As much as we think that there isn’t light out of the dark tunnel, let’s all try to believe that the tunnel is simply long and deep, but there’s always a way out. We have to simply have faith. And, please seek for help from trained therapists on a regular basis as they help keep our emotional bodies in check.