My Path Out Of Hell

The beginning of August marked one year since I found myself in the ER having admitted to my doctors and loved ones that I was considering the unthinkable: ending my own life. It had been six months since I’d fallen into a severe depression that rendered me unable to work, and despite being compliant with all of my prescribed medications and psychotherapy treatments (including partial hospitalization), I felt no better or more hopeful about my future. I made a bold--but ultimately life saving--decision the day I visited the ER: to go off most of my prescription medications. Within a week of that ER visit I knew I had made the right decision when I opened my eyes after a long sleep and for the first time in months the heavy, terrifying darkness had lifted. In that moment, despite all the challenges still ahead, I felt SO grateful.


Anyone who has survived a life-threatening illness or personal tragedy can tell you that it’s a perspective shifter. I did not grow up with many privileges, so I think that even before 2017 I was grateful for my home, career, physical health, husband, kids, family, friends--the “big” stuff. Somehow I still found plenty to complain about, though, and I can see in hindsight how that kept me stuck. Shortly after finding my yoga practice and teacher he said something that stuck:

“Happiness does not make you grateful, gratitude makes you happy”


Let me be clear: when I was in hell no amount of gratitude would have gotten me out of it. It’s not that simple. It took a coordinated and carefully monitored approach with doctors and therapy professionals and the support of my family to find what worked for *me* (it will be different for every individual). And frankly, the path out of hell is through misery. It isn’t a smooth or straight road. But it is possible. And if you are where I found myself in 2017, know that you are worth the effort and if you reach out to me I will support you in any way I can.


Now that I have found my way out of the darkness, though, gratitude is where I start each day when I wake up and my world has color.  I still have an anxiety and mood disorder; that hasn’t changed. I have up days and down and some days the weight of the world’s problems seem to rest squarely on my shoulders, despite my best efforts to remain mindful and present. But I always resolve to start again. And it always starts with gratitude.

Kathleen SchwarzComment