Warning: this personal story contains descriptions of graphic violence and death.
I took antidepressants every day for a decade. You name the drug and I was probably on it at some point--Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Lithium, Celexa, the list goes on. The medication, prescribed to me after a bout of severe obsessive-compulsive behavior, left me emotionally numb. Most of my feelings were buried under a thick mental fog, making it impossible to connect with people, or sense the aliveness of the world around me. On a scale from one to ten, excitement, joy, and sympathy rarely reached more than a two. I simply couldn't look forward to anything, or care in the least about anyone. The love I had always felt for my family vanished after only a few months on meds.
This brain fog made life seem unreal. I would often be driving somewhere, or talking to someone, or wandering through a mall, and the whole process went on without my awareness, as though I wasn't a fully conscious participant, but a dreamer trapped within a dream.
After two years on antidepressants, I found something that gave me a jolt of feeling strong enough to wake me up for a moment.
It's not always easy to be present, to shut off the running commentary in my head and perceive with absolute clarity. The seriousness of life can be quite pressing. But standing here in the heart of the forest, far away from the thought-congested human world, my mind becomes quiet. So quiet.
All I hear is the sound of life around me—a chorus of chirping, clicking, and skittering feet. Each sound that plays with my eardrums stirs childlike fascination. My eyes dart around in search of their source only to catch tips of tails and feathers in the foliage.
I draw and release a deep breath … then another.
Autumn's fragrance fills my nose. Sweet notes of decay linger long after exhale. And with every breeze I am treated to a shower of falling leaves, each one in a slow, graceful dance with gravity. I watch their descent in silence.
High above me, beams of sunlight peek through the amber loft, casting warmth upon leaf-littered soil. Every beam contains a flurry of suspended particles that seem to come from another dimension. I wonder if they arrived with the light, or if they were here all along and the light is just revealing them.
With my eyes closed and chin raised I move under one of the beams, bathing my face with the sun's energy. The sensation is so pleasurable that I'm quite literally frozen in heat. I don't want to move. Tingles run along my skin, evoking a feeling of joy.
I take a few more deep breaths before opening my eyes to look around.
Many trees stand tall and proud, ancient guardians of the land. Each of their limbs has its own ecosystem. Some are covered with soft emerald carpets, others with webs that glisten in the sunlight. Older trees have toppled over, roots plucked from the dirt, hollowed flesh now home to those that lurk in the shadows. Tiny mushrooms push through blackened bark like buttons on a raincoat. Life emerging from death.
As I quietly reflect upon the natural world, there is a moment where my awareness shifts into total stillness. My mind goes silent. Suddenly, everything around me sheds a label and definition, becoming so much deeper than any thought can express. I can sense the aliveness of the forest, the nameless essence of life itself. It is everywhere. My surroundings regain a newness, a mystery, as though I'm seeing it all for the very first time.
Within the stillness a calm washes over me. Life is no longer serious. The worries and concerns that normally weigh me down evaporate, and what is considered so important in the human world is revealed as insignificant.
All that is real, all that truly matters, exists in the stillness of this moment.