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My experience with Depression, Anxiety and Reiki.

Shayleen McHugh

I was diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was 15. It was shortly after social services stepped in to have my brother, sister and I permanently removed from our home. It wasn't the first time we had met with social workers and the police, but it was the last.

I feel gratitude everyday for my Aunt who took us in to keep us from being split up into foster homes. She was 23 and already raising 2 kids of her own. It is important to me to write this, as so much of what led me to where I am today is the result of past experience and circumstance. I thought I wanted to be a Psychologist when I grew up, I realized at a young age that I wanted to help people and made the decision that I didn't want anyone to feel the things I had felt; neglect, abuse and isolation, being forced to grow up much too quick and having the innocence of my childhood corrupted and stolen...

It is tricky talking about depression as the anxiety follows close behind to spread doubt and fear. Fear of rejection, fear of judgment, self doubt... but honestly, I spent most of my childhood surviving in fear. I know now that I can choose not only to survive but to live, and live with truth, integrity, compassion and understanding. I share this with the intention of letting others know that they are not alone, to hopefully inspire someone who might be going through a similar situation, to say there is light beyond depression and things will change and they do get better.

I successfully took medication for 4 or 5 years after I was diagnosed and I say successfully because it was during a time in which I believed that being on medication to feel 'OK' was necessary and my only option. I had been self-harming since I was 13, I had never learned healthy coping methods, my self esteem was non-existent... It wasn't until I was 19 that I started to realize the way the medication truly effected and numbed me... Sure I wasn't feeling the sad things, but I wasn't feeling the happy ones either. I was just moderate, consistent; going through the motions of what I thought life was to be and I lived 8 years of my life according to how others told me to be. I did end up going to University for Psychology after I graduated High School – a feat that was not common in my family, however after 4 years of pursuing the Psych. program and maintaining my B- average, I was discouraged when I was told my grades needed to be higher – I was only seen as a number... it didn't matter how passionate I was, or how badly I wanted to help people, it didn't matter how many professors or student advisors I met with, they only saw the GPA on the page. Shortly after, my funding ran out and I decided to take some time to figure out if being a Psychologist was really the right path for me.

Fast forward to 2012. I spent the next 4 years in the work force; starting in sales and slowly gaining experience and moving up from assistant to general manager in various locations... it's now 2016 and even though I have a reliable job, good health benefits and making a steady income, I still was not happy. I had managed to stop taking medication for depression with the help of my doctor, which was a slow and lengthy process. It took months for the pills to detox and fully leave my system. I was going to counselling and learning healthy coping mechanisms, but now my anxiety was worse then ever. It got to the point where I could no longer force myself to leave the house to go to a job that I did not love. I started to develop pain in the left side of my chest that became so severe I thought I was having a heart attack and ended up at the hospital on more than one occasion. Tests revealed that everything was normal, I had a clean bill of health, there was no explanation for the chest pain but that didn't stop it from occurring. It came down to me leaving my job after I had again decided to take some time to figure out what I wanted to do, what I was passionate about and how I truly wanted to spend my time... I spent 7 months unemployed. I had no safety net, no back up plan. Fortunately I have an amazing support system and I was able to spend this time turning inwards to connect with myself, to explore my interests and values, to decide what it is I have to offer and what it is I am good at. I made a list of things I enjoy and characteristics and features of my ideal job and was torn between the Feng Shui and the Usui Reiki course at Mount Royal – I have always had a knack for organization!

There are so many other forces that were at work here, so many other things in my life that were happening and changing. Perhaps it was just perfect timing or call it fate, that I should have found my way to Reiki and have the course, the principles and the ideology resonate with me on such a soul level. I often think if I had stumbled upon it sooner, I wouldn't have been ready.

I wish I could tell you that Reiki has cured my depression and anxiety and that everyday is happy and care-free but that is not the case. Each day is a work in progress and each step is an opportunity to learn and grow. Reiki guides me through the difficult times by empowering me to choose happiness, to choose strength, patience and love. Reiki offers me silence and peace when the thoughts of the mind become too loud and when the weight of the world seems like too much to bare. It allows me to take control of my well-being, by choosing a natural and safe practice that takes into consideration the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual to be whole. Reiki reminds me that I am part of something bigger, an integral piece of life's unsolvable jig-saw puzzle that without me, may never be complete. Reiki grants me acceptance, meeting me where I am at and taking me for all that I am, it allows me to put myself first, to honour, express and love myself unconditionally without judgment or expectation. It allows me to shine bright and hopefully enables others to do the same. And even though Reiki has not cured me, it has made be a better person and it continues to influence my life each and every day.

I recently started volunteering at The Alex and The CMHA in Calgary to offer holistic healing to those seeking alternatives to their self care practice. It should have been obvious to me where I wanted to volunteer at the start but I had to put the pieces of my own self healing journey together before I could make the connection. How could I preach truth if I had not spoken it? How could I preach love if I had not learned to love myself first and how could I preach healing until I, myself had healed?

Mental health effects everyone in so many different ways. It is something that we still struggle to fully understand today. But what I do know, is that together we can make change, together we can create a safe space to share, connect and heal, together we can lead each other out of the darkness and into the light.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression and would like to try Reiki, book now!

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