Out of the Yoga Closet, by guest blogger Cyndi Kershner

Out of the Yoga Closet

July 17, 2012 by Cyndi Kershner

I am coming out of the yoga closet to extol the virtues of antidepressants.

Antidepressants  saved my sanity during one the hardest periods of my life, when my son was in the midst of a serious illness and I was a full-time caregiver. I didn’t know how to cope, how to care for myself while intensely caring for another, and because of this I found myself in a full-blown clinical depression. The diagnosis of my son’s illness and the onset of the clinical depression happened while I was  starting my career as a yoga teacher. I thought my yoga practice would be enough to help me cope, but it wasn’t. And I felt a subtle sense of failure for having to take the antidepressants, as if I was too weak to face the problems on my own.

Being a yoga teacher or a yoga practitioner does not insulate you from the hardships of life. In fact, it can often intensify hardships for a while, because whenever you begin truly unfolding deeper into your own true nature, everything that is not true about you will be revealed to you and you will have multiple, shall we say,  opportunities to get into integrity with yourself. But that’s another post entirely.

There is a strong bias in the yoga world, and in the alternative community in general, against pharmaceutical drugs. I used to feel this way myself, believing pharmaceutical companies were only out to make a profit and did not have my best interests in mind. That may have some truth to it, but it is not the whole truth.

I recently attended an Ayurveda convention where the keynote speaker spent a good part of his address railing against the drug companies, proclaiming that drugs were poison to our bodies and the only way we could find healing was to reestablish our connection to nature and each other. Again, there is truth in this assertion, but it is not the whole truth.

I wonder how a person whose life was just saved by chemotherapy would feel about the anti-drug sentiment?

I wonder how welcomed a student on antidepressants  would feel is she overheard her teacher talking in hushed tones with another teacher about how sad it was that one of her students went on antidepressants, and if she just did more yoga she would feel better?

This bias comes back to the same old violent patterns we use to beat up on both ourselves and others. This is prejudice, and it comes from the ego. It’s a subtle way we use to build up ourselves, or the club we are a part of- in this case, the yoga club- by saying that we know best about something, and that another person is falling short somehow.

My very first yoga practice, way back before I knew anything about doing poses, was meditating on this poem, which captivated me for over a year:

Out beyond notions of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in the grass, it is too full for words.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” makes no sense.

Out beyond notions of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

-Rumi

How about cultivating the belief that we don’t know, we just don’t know what’s best for another human being?  The belief that life is full of mystery, and it is so much truer to fall down in reverence and awe before that mystery than to think we know best?

That maybe, somehow, even the things we are diametrically opposed to and that seem like the embodiment of evil to us can be working to create good? That’s Purnam,  the belief that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, which falls outside of the Universe’s intrinsic wholeness.  Not me, not you, not pharmaceutical drugs or climate change or the government or whatever the current bad thing is.

So I am out and proud about my Celexa use.  It’s not the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.

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2 responses to “Out of the Yoga Closet, by guest blogger Cyndi Kershner

  1. Dear Cyndi,

    Thank you for your posting. Its interesting to share thoughts and experiences about subjects like this.

    Reminds me about a couple of things. From 1978 until now I am interested in spiritual books and ways. When I was 11 I followed my first 10 yogalessons. Yoga always interested me and I studied and excersized several forms of yoga from different teachers over the years.

    From the 80ties until the late 90ties I had to deal with depressive feelings in a real deep way caused by traumatical experiences in my life. It goes to far to go in there again on this very moment. My faith in myself and in life was really far away. My plexus solaris was blocked all the time from pain about that. Halfway in the 90ties I took anti depressive medicins for over 6 years. The medication helped me but also made me a bit obtuse.

    Actually I know that I can only judge about myself in these matters because I cannot feel and think and know what goes on in someone else (his or her) consiousness. So I agree with you on that.

    After a while when I took the medication a voice inside of me keep on telling me that it would be so good to be able to be free from medication and still feel stable.
    During that time I faced a uge burn out. I was a system operator for networks and worked at one of the biggest internet providers in the Netherlands. I had to take a break cause the burn out was to heavy and after some years of working in this buzzniss I could not manage any pressure anymore.

    In this time I could manage to follow intensive trainings, lessons and workshops for Emotional Body work, Tai Chi and Yoga. So I did lots of meditation, group healings, trainings and exercise over a couple of years. The trainers and teachers I had advised me not to take my anti depressives so I could experience the effect of the lessons in a pure way. So I decided to built off this medication. That was scary.

    The trainings where really very intensive. For example 3 hours a day tai chi lessons for a while and 5 hours a day yoga lessons and all with real good teachers. Whole weekends emotional bodywork in groups that worked 10 hours a day. I was really lucky that I could afford this and had time to do this. It balanced my body and mind and soul much.
    Never after that I needed this anti depressive medication any longer because my insight in my situation became more clear. Its not that I did not experience depression anymore. Its just that I have learned to deal with it in another way.
    In other words the insecurity from the depression is still existing but my attitude towards myself changed.

    When I feel depressed I am able to see that I am not my depression. I just experience depressive feelings. When I can see the depression as something that exists rather then that I identify with this depression it becomes more easy to deal with it. Mostly cause I can communicate with myself. I can tell myself that I am probably tired and that I don’t have to be scared about it. I can also tell myself that I did a good job and that I come over it soon cause everything is temporarely. So this will pass too.

    Well this is just my experience with medication against depression. I just don’t need it any longer since the year 1999.

    Does not mean that medication can be really important sometimes. For example a couple of years ago I got a stomach infection that gave me also problems on my oesophagus. Really serious. A bacterial infection that could cost stomach cancer. So I had to take medication to solve that problem. 2 double antibiotics cause the first (double) one did not manage the problem. Then I had to take blockers for the acid in the stomach for a couple of years. (I don’t know how to translate this medication in English, I am Dutch).

    After a while I found out that this medication is taking away the minerals out of the bones. So researchers published about this because all people who took this medication for a long time had to deal with broken bones. I asked the doctors about this cause it worried me. They said that I had to be glad to take this medication. And that half of the Netherlands took this medication. And that they where all so glad that they could drink alcohol and coffee and eat everything. And that they would not be able to eat and drink all of that when they would not take the medication. I was really suprised about this reaction from this doctor specialized in stomach deseases.

    I thought, what if I just stop eating and drinking things that brings my stomach in danger. So I quited drinking alcohol, coffee and I did not eat red pepper and things like that for several times for 6 month and sometimes even longer. Soon after that I had no stomach problems anymore. Last july I started to drink some wine and beer again and I can drink coffee again as well. Sometimes I can even eat some red pepper 😉 It does not give me any problem when I just use this great drinks and food in a safe well dosed way.

    In the meanwhile I follow the akademie for Hatha yoga teacher in Amsterdam wich takes 4 years in total. I am in the second year (so 2 more years to go). It helps me to stay focused and balanced in life.

  2. Wow, love your post and courage. When I was in training to become a yoga teacher my whole world at the time seemed to fall around me. My husband whom I had been with for 20 years decided to leave me and the kids. I felt like a wreck but tried to keep my self together to gain my yoga certification and support my kids.

    It was a horrible time in my life, and I tried so hard to hold the pieces together with all the knowledge I had of yoga; to try to ease the torment in my head! I literally fell apart twice and ended up having a mini visit to the hospital. I even completed a 40 day yoga challenge in the midst of it all, with only one day off (to visit the men in white coats) ha ha!

    Eventually, I knew I needed something else to help me through this tough time and antidepressants were the trick for me. I stayed on a low dose for around 18 months, but it was difficult to get to the stage to take them because of the response from others about how bad they are.

    I also have a son with Tourettes who was medicated from the age of 10. Boy, was that a tough one, so many mums want to tell you it is wrong to medicate your son. Yet, would you deprive a child of his asthma medication or heart medication because society branded it BAD!

    My son is soaring now and I believe it is because I was actually able to get him out of his feotal position in the shower to school with the help of that medication. We were able to use that as a basis to help him soar. He is completing HSC at the moment and blitzing it (not medicated for the last 2 years), and is a very confident, caring and beautiful boy.

    With the help of medication, I was able to continue to parent my boys, move them to a coastal town, start up my own yoga studio and learn to embrace life with all it’s changes. Most of all learn to surrender, let go and stop trying to hang onto what wasn’ t meant to be.

    Here’s hoping with time that people will be less judgemental of the right to choose what works and doesn’t for our own bodies. I am here today, I may not have been if I didn’t get the help I needed to soar.

    Thanks for opening the closet 🙂

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