The Journey: My Experiences with Mental Illness and Yoga

The Journey: My Experiences with Mental Illness and Yoga

Apr 09, 2019

The Journey: My Experiences with Mental Illness and Yoga

“… I am so excited to be able to share this blog with people with the idea that it might help even one person, maybe they can relate and see that it’s possible to come out the other side. I am tired of feeling ashamed of my imperfections. I am following through now because that is what I truly believe and it makes me feel brave, like I can help fight for people that haven’t found their voice yet, I am choosing to take that risk now and it doesn’t matter how they see it because it’s not for them, it’s for all the other people that struggle."


My entire adult life I have struggled with a misdiagnosed and misunderstood mental illness. It started when I was younger, about 19, with the abuse of various anti-psychotics and medications for ADD. I was given various prescriptions by a doctor trying to figure out how to treat my symptoms instead of putting the time into trying to understand where my behaviours were coming from. At this point, I put myself in the hospital by accident with the overuse of these drugs. My liver almost failed, leaving me unconscious for two days. I was using the drugs to numb all these uncontrollable feelings of sadness, unworthiness and inescapable loneliness. I had been passed off as dramatic, over-sensitive and everything else you can imagine to make me think it was something I was making up, something dumb that I was doing wrong to grab attention.

So I distracted myself very well for a long time. Looking back, it was visible the entire time but not thinking it was serious, being convinced that it was my fault, that I was being stupid, that I could control it by talking to someone in private, I never tried really to deal with any of those feelings. Looking back I can see immense patterns of self destructiveness: dating the wrong people, making the same mistakes, smoking and drinking, covering up my emotions, hurting people that were concerned and could see what I was doing – all the signs were there. I tried to band-aid these with therapy, occasionally taking medications for a couple of months, obviously taking myself off them when I felt “better.”

The reality of the situation is that I have suffered traumas in the past and I lacked a diagnosis.

In the fall I fell into a deep depression. I did all the usuals: lied to my friends about how I was doing, isolated myself, quit my job, drank, stopped going to yoga and so on. Thankfully I went to see my cousin who is a nurse and has known me my entire life. She reminded me that it wasn’t just this month that was hard for me; I had been like this for a long time. Seven years had gone by since I was hospitalized the first time. She “suggested” that I was losing control and that I would hurt myself in some capacity if I didn’t deal with this head on. So under her advice, I walked myself into CAMH last fall the week before my birthday.

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the symptoms presenting as depression, anxiety, and manic behaviour. I spent just under a week working with the doctors, nurses, and social workers to find a program that worked for me. I was given a prescription and a plan. By mid-September, that will have been a year ago.

I started back with yoga this time choosing a practice that incorporated meditation and daily practices that I could use to defuse myself. As I practiced yoga, I found myself able to stop using my medication, with consent from my doctor of course. Soon after I enrolled in the yoga teacher-training program. This program has been an absolute blessing, a wild journey that I never expected. I have been able to find an entire way of life that not only do I wish to practice myself but to pass on to others.

I wouldn’t say that I am cured. Every day is a struggle, but now there are increasingly brighter days, days that I am excited for, days that have promise and I can finally see the beauty that I have to offer to others. This is truly something that I hadn’t seen within myself, and now I have the confidence and knowledge to share this with others and help them come through, to see the beauty and light that life has to offer.

I find hope now. I see blessings when they cross my path. I appreciate my life and want to live it. Some days I want to stay in bed, but I remind myself, it's just getting my legs out of bed, then I will have a shower, then I will have something to eat, maybe walk my dog, and slowly the hope replaces the thoughts of despair, and I look forward to the next step.

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