Guest post by Kirk Hensler
Note from Jenny:
My friend Kirk sent out a newsletter the other day for Hale Holistic, and he wrote this line:
“I still get frequent visits from the dark side, but they are becoming less frequent and more manageable with the more time I spend taking care of my body and my mind.“
That line really stuck with me, so I asked Kirk if he would elaborate on it so I could share it with you guys. Luckily for us, he agreed. Kirk’s writing is so intense that sometimes it pushes my personal boundaries of what I’m comfortable even thinking about, but I love him for it and I’m inspired by it. I think a lot of you will be able to relate to this, I know I do. So, enjoy. I’m interested to hear what you think.
I remember sitting one day staring at my bottles of prescription meds, not giving a fuck about whatever I was supposed to be doing. I was prescribed Zoloft, Xanax, Wellbutrin and Amitriptyline for depression and severe anxiety. I kept looking at the bottles like they were my enemy. I had it in mind to stop taking the pills completely, but every time I went cold turkey my body would start to turn on me. My hands turned into ice, my face would sweat for no reason, and my vision would go blank for seconds here and there.
It’s a seriously easy badge to carry, being a victim. Many people choose to be a victim because everyone wants attention. When given a medical diagnosis, it’s like having a golden ticket to the front of the self-pity line. I had the ticket, and I was entitled to everyone’s special treatment. The worst part that makes me want to punch myself in the face is that I thought all of this made me smarter and more superior than everyone around me. Some great burden was bestowed on me — because I was just so goddamn smart, it was only fair that the universe made me miserable. This way, I could be justified in trying to separate myself from all the people around me. It was my excuse for not participating, I had it in my head to believe nobody could understand what I was going through or how much of a struggle life was for me.
One day, I sat around a group of friends that were complaining about their lives and their happiness and I realized I was one of them. And I knew I would rather die than be the person that brought other people down. I was responsible, and I was letting myself walk around as an uninspired person, not contributing what I should have been contributing. It’s no longer in season to sit on the edge and judge the world around you in the name of intellectual superiority. That’s fear in disguise. Everything we point to as a reason for why our lives aren’t the way we want them to be is an excuse that we are choosing to make because we’re too afraid to face the battle that lies ahead of us.
Fast forward to today. I’ve been off the meds for years. Sometimes my mind still goes so dark that I can literally feel the vultures gathering around me in a cloud of murky filth. When things go south like this for me, I’ve had to find new ways to cope. I start treating myself like an animal, and I take away the power of my mind by telling my brain to shut up and I let my body run on autopilot. I move, I breathe and I wait for the cloud to pass.
I get back to simple movement and good food. Even though I don’t want it. It’s the last thing I want – I just want to sit there and be miserable and eat pizza; but I do it because I’ve made a commitment to be happy.
Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a week. But I don’t make it a big deal anymore, feeling sorry for myself or compounding the actual suffering by adding more negative energy to it.
Our bodies can withstand quite a beating – they are well constructed. But our minds are so fragile and can run away from reality in an instant if it’s uncomfortable. Our minds are also seasoned exaggerators, making our emotions feel much more severe than they actually are. Is it really that awful to feel depressed? I think it can be kind of fun. I check out for a bit and sit down and sort through my awareness. The hollowness that resides in me produces so much sorrow — but I’ve learned to sit tight in the pocket and wait, because it always turns into the most raw creativity that I ever get the chance to experience. Just embracing sorrow will beat that fear driven monster into the ground. Sometimes in sadness I do my best writing because I care less about people’s opinions than usual; they can’t make me feel any worse than I make myself. I get the courage to be so painfully honest that I make even my inner self-critic proud.
As a business owner, I use the dark times to make bold decisions that I have been putting off in order to maintain appearances. I use the slight feeling of panic and desperation to act courageously. It is a reminder that I don’t know how long I’ll be around, so I better do everything I can to experience as much self-approval as possible. I love being bold, and darkness helps me realize how.
Many plants die in the winter during the first frost. Or they live dark and gray lives for that time. I know spring is beautiful, but winter has grown on me. It’s the dark horse that prepares us all for bloom. Sadness isn’t sad; it’s just an experience that is different than happiness. They are tangled together in a need for survival.
Darkness seems to be the default setting in my head, so I have to fight hard for my happiness.
It is essential that I exercise every day. I like a mix of running, dance, yoga, and martial arts. Most days it’s yoga, because I love being flexible and it always makes my forehead tingle and gives me reason to believe that there might be an entire universe inside of me. The running is great because sometimes I can’t walk fast enough to feel fully alive. Dancing is important because it challenges the way I think. When I learn choreography, my initial reaction is to control and perfect it, and this leaves me looking like an idiot. It forces me to let go and feel the music and move the way I was designed to move.
Often, I have to put on my gloves and mouth guard and go to battle with another human being who is courageous enough to stand in the ring with me and help me fight myself. True war, a battle between equally matched participants, is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. It’s madness, having someone attack you, and I don’t know why I’m there. It’s not really violence I’m after; it’s a constant search for peace. Fighting is the only place where lies have no significance; it will tell you everything you need to know about yourself.
Exercising, eating well, writing, taking photographs, making movies, brainstorming, leading, and helping people tap into their potential have eliminated my need for pharmaceuticals.
Creation is my medicine. I was depressed because I was born to create and I was wasting my gifts. I was scared to step out on my own and let go of my ball and chain.
If you don’t want to fight for your happiness that is fine with me, but please stop pretending like your life is anyone’s fault but your own, because it’s not. As soon as you can look at yourself honestly and make this acknowledgment you will be free to experience whatever you can dream up. If you continue to give anyone any power over your well-being other than yourself, you are conceding to the fact that in this one very short and precious life, you are perfectly fine with being mediocre and letting any potential for passion and joy inside of you die without even a fair chance of speaking its mind.
I wake up every day and literally create a world that I think is worth living in. My work, my projects, and the people around me were all carefully constructed to contribute to my self-worth and personal happiness. I will not touch a job or a person that doesn’t support the person I want to be, and I’ve been doing it long enough now to trust my discerning gut without hesitation.
I’m going somewhere big, and if you don’t think you are, it’s time to get on a different program- because you’ve been selling yourself short. We are a powerful and prolific species, and it’s time we start believing it.
About Kirk Hensler:
I own a yoga/kickboxing/green smoothie studio in San Diego and it’s pretty awesome. There’s also a non-profit I started for kids to learn about health and creativity, I really like that too. I love art and creativity but I feel like a bit silly calling myself an artist or a writer. I can’t really say what I am for sure. A little of everything I think. But mostly I just want to move to Europe and spend all of my days writing. I wish I could drink more coffee too, but it gives me the shakes. I’m a big fan of following my heart but I can’t escape my Midwestern need for facts and hard work. I have 2 very strong personalities crammed into 1 body, so it makes everything pretty interesting.
What do you think? Have you struggled with similar issues? How do you deal with your depression or anxiety in a more productive way?