Depression and spiritual awakening — two sides of one door | Lisa Miller | TEDxTeachersCollege

Depression and spiritual awakening — two sides of one door | Lisa Miller | TEDxTeachersCollege


Translator: Katelyn Nicholson
Reviewer: Nadine Hennig In the dark of the night, 4 a.m., I look over and my husband’s not there. I look further, and I find him flat on his back,
looking at the ceiling, arms out. “Our lives are hollow
and meaningless without children.” It had been two-and-a-half years of hopes and prayers
and failed fertility treatments. No one had come. And the despair that ripped through
our hearts woke us night after night – to the point where friends and family
called just to see how we were doing. Because we so clearly were depressed. As a clinical psychologist and scientist, I had been trained to see
that depression is a disease. Much like cancer or diabetes,
depression as a disease had symptoms of despair and isolation. And yet that simply did not explain
the road we were traveling, nor did it explain the depression
that follows loss of a spouse, miscarriage, trauma, or the natural transitions
sophomore slump, mid-life crisis, portholes in passages – chapter breaks
that seemed core to who we are – were not aberrant illnesses. They were not diseases. And so my husband and I continued with each cycle ending in a disappointment
that felt like a funeral. And as we continued
down our road of trials, we started ever so gradually,
over months and years to open our eyes from a dark
and isolated place, quite alone, to a place where we started to hear
the guidance of helpers and healers: the folks who, on the Appalachian Trail,
through hikers called “trail angels” for bringing food and water
when they need it most. Our trail angels brought
what we needed most: wisdom and guidance. So one day I came home
after yet another in vitro with the haunting feeling
as I drove my car that this too was a failure. And sure enough, as I stepped to the door, the evidence was incontrovertible. A tiny dead duck embryo
lay on my threshold. And I knew it was not possible
the embryo in me was alive. And so I went to bed
and had a long depressing nap to awake – (Imitating knocking sound)
to a duck – the mama duck, who had lost her aspirational baby. And the mama duck was persistent. I thought what would the duck
want with me. (Imitating knocking sound) She wanted to come towards me. And as I opened the door,
I saw she had brought me a gift – the most precious thing
in the world to her. She had brought me a plump, juicy worm. Mama duck and I, there we were,
two aspirational mothers, not alone. Not alone because duck and I
were side by side, and not alone because
of the great force that brought duck. And so, too, through that force
came the guy on the bus. And the guy on the bus winked,
leaned over, and said, “You seem like just type of mother
that would go all around the world adopting all types of kids,”
opening up that new possibility. Listening to the helpers
and healers opened my awareness, so that the next time
I was woken in the night was not by the rip of depression, but by a great
and clearly sacred presence – a presence with a love so great
and a gravitas that I sat up. And the presence said,
“If you were pregnant, would you adopt?” And I said something so awesome
and great: the truth, which was, “No”. But I also knew that this journey was more than a disease, and that this depression
was opening the door on a path of “becoming” –
a spiritual path. Continuing down this path, I wanted that baby. It was great that I was on
a spiritual path, but I wanted that baby. And so we didn’t quit. Up and down the East Coast
to the best IVF labs in the country. We went so far as to find
the team that invented IVF, and sitting there in solidarity
on bed rest with my spouse, we found that the remote was stuck
in our hotel room on one channel – one interminable documentary,
four hours (Laughter) of a little boy – a little boy who stood
in a garbage dump alone, and said, “I don’t care that I’m poor.
I don’t care that I can’t go to school. But it hurts so much to not be loved that I sniff glue
to make the pain go away.” And lying there
in our multiple rounds of IVF, my husband and I looked at each other. And he said it first. We knew there was a child
out there for us. We made our way to a wise woman
and hovered around her table, the daughter of a once clergyman. She looked at us and said, “Frankly, what is it that you are
looking for in your child?” And I leaned in and said, “Well, I don’t care
if this is a boy or a girl. I don’t care what race this child is.
Just please, a child who can love.” And my husband jumped in and he said,
“Well yes, all that, but kind of a girl.” (Laughter) What we knew in common
was that the voice that said you will never be parents, the voice
that came from being alone in darkness was now a voice
that said parenting is love. It hurts so much to not be loved. All he wanted was a mom,
all I wanted was a child. What would have made us family was love. Parenting was love. This was depression as a portal
to a world of connection, a world of love, a world in which we walk a spiritual path. This was depression
as only one side of the door. And on the other [side of the] door
was illumination, warmth, light, and spiritual path, a spiritual passage. Now, as a clinical scientist,
it was clear to me that anything true through yet another human lense
of knowing can be again shown. The certainty I had that depression and spirituality
are two sides of one door seemed well within reach of science. And so my lab, together with that
of Myrna Weissman and Brad Peterson and Rafi Bancell, did the science: two sides of one door –
where is it in the brain? Where is depression as the portal
of the spiritual path, not the disease. And we found it. And we found it in broad
and pervasive regions of the cortex. We welcomed into our lab deeply depressed people from families
loaded up with generations of depression, and similar people with families
loaded up with generations of depression who through their journey of suffering had reached a foundationally
spiritual path. People whose lead foot was now depression
for having traveled the darkness. And what we found was that in precisely
those regions of the brain which atrophied and withered
in lifelong depression. For those people with a strong
personal spirituality, there was a thickening
of those very same regions. The cortex was thick as if you were looking
at a tree in the Amazon versus a tree whithering
under the cold and drought. Two sides of one door is in us.
Depression is not always an illness. It can be. We can need to be rebooted
or recalibrated or medicated. It can be. But very often, depression
as everyone will face it is core to our endowment,
and core to our development. My husband and I continued
now with this knowledge: that we were on the spiritual path
in search of our child. It was clear that our suffering
was not for naught, it was not an empty symptom, and with the awareness
that we were “becoming,” the presence came back. The presence asked the same question
in a deep and profound way. And my answer was honest,
which is I am getting there. I can feel we’re down the road. There is the possibility of spiritually evolving into
the person who would answer yes. But no, I’m not quite there where I would still adopt
a child if I were pregnant. My love has grown,
but is my love that great? Not yet. And so we continued, and I found myself in the community of those
who for generations have known that depression
is but one side of the door, and spiritual awakening the other. Seated on the floor
of the “Inipi”, the sweat lodge, among the Lakota in South Dakota,
I joined the circle of women. And here, each woman talked about
the suffering which had brought her to our collective prayer. ‘My son, he’s 40.
He has not come home to his family.’ ‘My son, he’s 14, and he’s starting
to use substance.’ I, in turn, shared that I was
searching for my spiritual child. Together, we prayed and we sent it up. We sent our prayer both for one another,
ourselves and the collective, up to Great Spirit, “Wananchi.” That night, a call came. They had found him, that very night
on the other side of the earth. We have found the Miller’s child
was the message. There are great girls
and we can sure find you a girl, but this is the Millers child,
and this is a son. This time, clinical science had something to say
to the spiritual path. When we looked at the women
who, through suffering, had come to a spiritual path,
with nice thick cortexes, they also had another quality: the back to their head gave off
a certain wave length of energy that we call “Alpha.” And it’s also found on the back
of the head of a meditating monk. Alpha has another name,
it’s Shuman’s constant. It’s the wave length of the earth’s crust. The spiritually engaged brain vibrates
at the frequency at the earth’s crust. From the Inipi across the globe
was found Isaiah, in through this matrix of consciousness, love, this sacred field
that is in us, through us, around us and covers all living earth. This is the world in which we live –
a world in which we’re never alone and in which there is guidance,
trail angels, helpers and healers. And through the field of love
comes just the person, the guy on the bus, the medicine woman,
just that living being, the duck, the wise, generous animals,
our sisters and brothers. In fact, we can no longer begin to think
that we are actors on an inert stage, but that the world is alive and infused with that sacred field
we might measure as high amplitude alpha. Knowing this, we live
into an inspired life – a life of meaning
that is not one that we create but meaning that is truly
in the fabric of the world. We live in an inspired life. Isaiah, my son, had been found,
named Isaiah, for “one world” in Lakota
for those who helped find him. And yet, we still,
although far less depressed and much more full of love and connection, had the anxiety of actually
meeting him, finding him, bringing him home. And then one day, the FedEx came
and we peeled it open and there was the video. We popped it in and the most joyous little boy,
full of happiness, arm around the nurse – a love like I had never felt lifted me up, and any remnant of depression
were shards on the ground. And together, my husband and I
went to bed as parents. That night, the presence came back – the great sacred presence
for the third time. “If you were pregnant now,
would you adopt?” “Yes, I found my spiritual son, yes.” And that night,
we conceived naturally – his sister. We had spiritual twins. So when you hear the knock, consider the invitation. What sounds shocking, and as if the hand
that takes from inside the darkness when we walk through the door
is the hand that invites that guides and ultimately gives. On the other side of the door
is the inspired life brought to us by the presence. Thanks. (Applause)

100 comments

  1. This had me absolutely bawling my eyes out! Starting from the little boy on the documentary 😭 Depression was absolutely my portal into spirituality, I started to really wake up after a long period of being suicidal, being afraid to pick up a knife when putting away dishes or to drive in case I might do something that a small part of me that was still holding on didn't want to do! My life has shifted exponentially over the past 5 or so years in ways I never would have imagined possible back then. Now I have a beautiful boy and another baby on the way with an amazing partner, and I use my experiences to follow my passion of helping people find their way through depression and anxiety. 💖
    Thank you for this beautifully delivered speech 🙏

  2. Her "existential angst" re her not being able to become a breeder is more than a little nauseating. The sense of <life's given me everything up until now> entitlement this implies is breathtaking, ugh..

  3. This deeply resonated with me. It's a testament to how much God loves his children, I cried. Such a beautiful truth to how our struggles shed light on human nature, but also how the darkness can illuminate the light and make it that much brighter.

  4. Spirituality is not the way to go and if you go this way
    You will all notice your lives got a lot harder
    Do you want to pay 💰 your dues
    I suggest you don’t look 👀
    For if you do it will be time to pay the piper
    Warning to all don’t be fooled

  5. Similar to what Johann Hari has found.
    In my experience, sorrow was the default and so spirituality and connection became fascinations very early. Maybe my brain has been saved by this attraction.
    I hope it doesn't go to waste before I die.
    ☕🥐

  6. My depression awakened me to the presence of angels and ancestors. They were always there. We are never alone

  7. I'm all for becoming a better person by overcoming mental health issues, but it does frustrate me that she minimizes this powerful message by laying so much importance on what can only be scientifically said to be coincidences (chaos theory) – not spiritual intervention.
    It is how you interpret events that give them importance – we do create meaning it is not in the fabric of the world. Because if she was being consistent with what she is explaining, then she would explain that there is no meaning in life, and therefore one can let go and let life take you on its journey and you can float and just experience instead of control as you thought it was meant to be.
    And by letting go, the acceptance of adoption would not have been such a struggle, because there are no expectations.

    Nevertheless props to her for having the courage to talk about such a hard subject!
    And my logic may be flawed as much of this is derived from Alan watts teachings. I still have much to learn, but this is how I feel at this time…

  8. I don't know how to thank you for this research. It is something I have been looking for ever since childhood. Thank you so very much. I always knew it in my heart and just wanted a scientist to research on the brain activity linking depression and spirituality. Thank you.

  9. The one who spoke to you was God, the Christ and the Holy Spirit as one in the fullness of Jesus. As He also spoke to me in 2000, even though I didn't know who it was at the time. When I was depressed, very alone and verging on Psychosis. It started a journey that led to my completion and salvation in 2004 whilst in a secure hospital. He has never left.

  10. ไว้ให้ตัวเองดูเถอะ และเลิกซุ่มโจมตีในที่มืดได้แล้ว create งานสร้างสรรค์ personal ego ไว้ในบล็อกตัวเองดีกว่ามั้ย ?กรุณามีมารยาท รู้จักเคารพพื้นที่ส่วนตัวของคนอื่นด้วย เลิกส่องสักที

  11. I dont doubt this is heart felt but some of the middle class white lady suffering I see on TEDx gives me a brief glimpse into how we must be looking all the time, to every single marginalized group we’ve wafted our privilege over…

  12. Being a woman while also wanting a child but realizing you can’t be a mother is heartbreaking.
    Recently I decided to donate my eggs for infertile women or couples who can’t provide their own eggs and I’m waiting to be approved.
    I hope I can help women like this

  13. So true about depression. But I think one should not adopt out of the need to be fulfilled as this has a really bad effect on the adopted children. I feel one should adopt when one wants to adopt and give love to someone in need.

  14. Been a very high achieving and positive person all of my life however have been suffering from depression as long as I can remember. A break up 2 months ago coupled with a hellish level of trauma attachment and depression as a result of my life situation put me on the path to spiritual enlightenment.. I read the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which changed everything…it took me to be 43 to start to awaken.. Sending everyone lots of positive vibes from Australia! 🇦🇺☀️🌈

  15. When you hear the knock she Say's… There is a scripture in the Gospel of Jesus speaking about the door. Matthew chapter 7 verse 7. Check it out folks! This was the heavenly father answering her through the Holly spirit of Jesus and she never understood it to be. Someone should have her read this scripture to see, as she said for a long time before they had prayed and tried everything to have a kid. God answered their prayer when the timing was right and placed together a child who needed a good loving home. Praise be to the heavenly father through Jesus name. Amen!

  16. I watched this before, I am sure I have. But it comes to me now in a whole new light. I find this message beautiful, mysterious, and incredibly inspiring.

  17. You should also be thankful for what you have! You have by the sounds of it a wonderful husband.. good career Etc. Not everyone in life is meant to have children! But that certainly wouldn't be a reason to be so empty and find no meaning in all the good things that you have!

  18. My senior year was a decline into such a depressed state I no longer felt like the same person. Missed 45 days of school senior year then after graduating high school in 2017 I fell into what felt like an existential crisis, soon experimenting with drugs to numb this pain.

    I made this journey hard on myself, experiencing benzo withdrawal, grand seizures, etc. I somehow made it through with the clarity I so desperately needed about what this life means to me. I’m 20 now, doing a lot better than my lost 18 year old self.

  19. Beautiful! Everything we experience or perceive is a signal. How do we use it? What do we do with it? Do we have to do anything about it? We are the only ones who know the answer. We have to figure it out for ourselves…we can get help though.

  20. Hi everyone! I recently made a video about my experience with depression, postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts. I feel really vulnerable about this video, but I think it can help a lot of people come out of the darkness. Please check it out, and let me know what you think. I would really appreciate any support, as I am a new channel trying to grow <3 I am happy to speak to you personally too if you reach out to me.

  21. THEE MOST PROFOUNDLY SACRED THING, YET SO HARD TO CONVEY OR PUT TO TEXT, WAS DONE SO BEAUTIFULLY HERE. Spirit speaks in whispers. …. are you listening?

  22. I lived life, almost my whole life feeling like everything around me was a lie. When I found out the truth about this world….I went through a really tough time. I’m thankful now that I’m not asleep and I’m not a sheep but a spiritual being having a human experience. It’s truly beautiful and I try to help the ones who get it but are struggling.

  23. Just got done watching the memorial service of pastor Jarrid Wilson who recently committed suicide on 9-9-19 ….depression is real and it is dangerous when it’s suppressed and not treated 😥

  24. It was because of my depression, anxiety, and suffering that I went to find answers. I went into spirituality. And eventually, I went to Source (Creator, God, whatever you want to call it). My depression and anxiety come back from time to time, but now I feel like I'm not alone. That whatever happens, I can get through it.

  25. This talk was a life-changer for me. What a beautiful, high-Frequency way of seeing depression! Thank you! Thanking the Great Spirit for creating us all in Love! Blessed be you and your loving family! Ahhhh-mmmmennnn!

  26. Disease means Dis-ease. A lack of ease. Our wellbeing (and self support) affects our mental and physical state. ❤

  27. I agree people that have depression and various other types of mental challenges are more aware and see things many others don't and so it can be traumatizing because of what we are taught is not correct but is in fact lies . In the future these people will teach and help expand true reality

  28. Yes, emotional pain and suffering combined with spiritual intent will bring
    Presence. Thank you for sharing this poignant journey.

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