By Rebecca Rose, Author of It’ll Be Fine: A True Story and It Tickled the Whiskers of My Soul
For over a decade, I teetered on the brink of depression. I’m not sure if it was indeed depression or suffering from some grisly side effect of putting unreasonable performance pressure on myself. My ego had grown an insatiable need to be “the best” in everything.
The more achievements I hoarded, the more I raised the bar of performance expectations, and failure to meet them was never an option. And this, of course, was not limited to academia. The more compliments I received on my appearance, the more I elevated the bar of beauty expectations. The more popular I became, the higher I set the bar of social expectations. After a while, there were a lot of towering bars, too many, in fact, for me to live up to. My ever-growing ego had taken almost complete control of my perspective of what it meant to be successful.
Realistically, though, whatever was going on with me emotionally was probably related to a combination of many things. It usually is, isn’t it? We’re all complex beings, and we can rarely point to just one instigator. To name just a few other issues I was struggling with: 1) going from working out every day to never working out, 2) eating VERY unhealthily, 3) losing my faith in many ways, and no doubt, 4) drug abuse.
I did a remarkable job hiding the symptoms of my depression from other students, coworkers, friends and family. For example, most people who knew me would never in a million years suspect I smoked pot several times a day just to get through it. All of those years of my youth keeping my nose jammed in books and never missing Sunday mass had apparently given me some kind of goody-two-shoes force field. People assumed I was principled and virtuous and never suspected anything less of me. I was committed to keeping my condition concealed, so I used my force field on a daily basis to whitewash my life in the eyes of others, continually trying covering up the dark truth.
I knew in my core there was no valid excuse for me to feel the way I did, so I didn’t want others to know about it. Looking in from the outside, I had it all: a full ride scholarship, beauty, and close-knit family, and handsome boyfriend. What more could one want?
Leading one life on the outside but experiencing a different one on the inside was an awfully isolating practice. It was also tiresome. The superhuman effort it sometimes took to appear normal exhausted me. Unhappiness fatigued me like a disease. I couldn’t escape the feeling of anxiety. It was like a dull current surging through me, and it flowed into everything I did.
When I finally hit rock bottom, a moment in time that marks the greatest heartbreak I have ever known, I decided I had to change my life or end it. But I could no longer go on the way I was.
Looking back at this time, there’s now one thing I know for sure. I’ve come to understand that when pain is the greatest, it’s actually a hidden opportunity for equally great spiritual growth. Oftentimes at the root of our most harrowing experiences lie the seeds of spiritual awakening.
I realize how daunting that sounds. I’ll be the first to admit that pain is hard to appreciate. For the longest time I thought pain was pointless and mean, and above all else, served as hard evidence of God’s indifference toward me and my loved ones. I blamed Him for not protecting us from it. It took me a long time to learn that not all pain is pointless.
For me, the answer to my depression was 100% spiritual.
In my most recent book, I summarize the spiritual teachings that guided me from my lowest to where I am now (a much better place!). My spiritual journey started with the challenging task of changing my thoughts. It’s like Lao-tzu said, “If you correct your mind, the rest of life will fall into place.”
Since beginning the journey of correcting my mind, my life really has fallen into place. I’m finally at peace with myself and in my relationships. I’ve discovered how to squeeze joy and positivity out of just about everything. Every single aspect of my life as improved.
That doesn’t mean, of course, my life is without challenges. It just means I’m better equipped to address those challenges and find ways to turn them into growing experiences.
It Tickled the Whiskers of My Soul is a short series of letters written to my “darling little loves” for when they’re older, just in case I’m no longer here by the time they’re old enough to truly grasp what they’re about. I tried to simplify and summarize the spiritual teachings that changed my whole world. I decided to publish these intimate letters because something in them might help someone in desperate need, like I once was, and if they happen to help just one person, then that is enough.
Here is a link to my author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01N7OF1DH