Depression can be a signal of deep discontent from your soul. As tough as it is, try diving into those feelings through meditation and self-reflection to clear your psyche, says Erin Telford

a new way to work with depression rainbow in the dark by erin telford on The Numinous


“Winter is a great time for depression,” I joked at a Breathwork group last month. I was met with some very nervous giggles. As with most things, it’s only funny because it’s uncomfortably true.

All humor aside, I got really depressed last winter.

It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. The first time I remember feeling depressed was when I was about 14 years old. It felt like being trapped in a glass, banging on the walls with no one listening, fatigue and a vague sense of loss and hazy unmet needs.

When I started to sink down and enter that deep gray landscape, I just felt tired and defeated. You again? After all this work?

I was involved in a group-coaching program at the time. I was honest with everyone about the despair I was feeling. They came full force with the positivity. You got this! You just need a spa day! Self-care! Find your gratitude!

“Seriously?” I thought. I was surprised by how fiercely irritated I was with their advice. And it hit me. I did not want to be cheerled out of this. I wanted to go down into the dungeon of my psyche and find some f*cking answers.

My response to feeling depressed in the past was to wait until it was over. Back pedal out of the icky feelings. Utilize the usual anesthetics. Self-medication. Self-isolation. Online shopping. Staying busy. Hitting the crack pipe rabbit hole of social media.

This time needed to be different. I’m not a confused teenage girl anymore. I’ve been waking up for a long time and I have an arsenal of tools in my bag, perfect for this emotional renovation. So I made a commitment to going down and in – and not coming back out until I found what I was looking for.

So what did that look like in real life? I turned my phone off. I sat in my favorite spot in my apartment, this little nook with a bunch of plants, great light, and a big window, and I checked in. I sat with myself. I did some writing. I asked many times and in as many ways as I could, “what is underneath all of this pain?”

I was really gentle with myself. This line of inquiry did not involve self-criticism, curse words, belittling myself or my process or any feeling of needing to hurry up and get back to “normal” life. I did not take time off but I did give myself all of the time that I had and needed.

What I found was a deep well of sweetness for myself.

The supposed truth that had taken me down to these depths was uncovered as just another clever way that I had fooled myself into believing that I was separate, that I was unloved, that I was unsupported. I discovered that I had the power inside to be able to break a life long pattern by looking at my wounds with tender curiosity rather than frustration or disdain.


Depression is often framed as something that just happens to us like getting a cold or a bummer draw of a genetic card. While environment, brain chemistry, and family lineage can be part of long-standing major depression; many of us experience it simply as a response to what’s going on in our lives.

We sell ourselves short by saying, “I’m just depressed.” As if it has nothing to do with the emotional pain that we’ve endured, the unattended wounds, the countless hours spent confused and alone or in groups of people who fail to see or help our hurt. The real life existential crisis that is: “I was told this would make me happy and I’m not. That must mean something is wrong with me. “

Very few of us have been taught any kind of practical way to channel and work with emotional pain. Most likely the instruction we covertly receive is to tuck away the unlovable, messy parts of ourselves. Shove them way, way, way into the back of the closet so we never have to look at the shame or hurt or confusion we feel. Or, let anyone else see it!

There is a single seed of discontent within you that is begging to be acknowledged.

It could be linked to:

Wrong job
Wrong friends
Wrong city
Wrong relationship
Wrong environment

Only you know, and facing it down is what I call Constructive Depression. It will require your participation. It will require fierce internal responsibility. And it is your job and your job alone, since no-one else can connect to your deepest parts but you.

The longer you’ve been feeling this way, the more wildly uncomfortable you may be with the truth that is banging on the door of your heart, begging for bread and water. How honest are you willing to be with yourself when your wellbeing is on the line?

So how to you do this?

You can think of Constructive Depression as a soul expedition. So what do you need for an internal journey? Nutritious snacks, great music, paints, journals, talismans, crystals, instruments, quiet, something to burn away the energy. Gather all of your supportive resources.

This is not an intellectual exercise. This is a reckoning. You with you.

This is a slow immersive dip into your soul. A psychic cleansing. Mental decongestion. Moving toward rather than away. Your resistance to this idea is equal to your commitment that all of this is due to the outside rather than inside forces. You ARE up to the task.

We experience the full range of human emotions for a reason. We feel sad because something is breaking our heart. We feel angry because something isn’t right and it needs to change. We feel fear because we are threatened or being asked to expand.

Depression is an opportunity for internal exploration. You are not depressed because you are a bad person or you skipped too many days of yoga or gratitude journaling.

You are depressed because something is not working for you. There is a yearning. An emotional chasm. Something that is crying out to be witnessed and seen like it’s never been seen before. Our wounds are rarely greeted with the exact kind of care and response that we are craving. When we accumulate a lifetime of hurts that have gone unnoticed or unattended to by others, the responsibility falls back to us to determine what we need.

So meet yourself with all of the tenderness, all of the sweetness, the hugs, the love, and the acceptance that you hold within you. Go inside, find your golden nugget of truth, and only come back out when you are ready – holding your treasure high.

*Mental health can be very tenuous. If you feel like this is something you can safely undertake, please do. If it feels like too much, please seek professional support for this internal exploration.


  • Jenny says:

    Thank you.

  • Faith says:

    as I sit here, depressed and sick of it and sick of those saying e the warrior you are, you’re strong you can do it., well I don’t want to. I have the tools also, cant bring myself to use them or able to do them, but none the less I want out of this as its not getting me anywhere but farther down the rabbit hole. a lot like you said. I am going to go deeper, writing as well and see if and when I come out what it reveals. and more importantly I guess what I have to do about it. there in lies my dilemma anyway. thank you for the post and info looking forward to perusing your website. Thank you

    • Erin says:

      It’s interesting that your name is Faith =) Very little is coincidental and I bet you have some untapped resources waiting to help you. Be kind but firm with your tender heart. You do have to be sick enough of something to do something different. Sometimes we avoid revealing the thing because we aren’t sure we can do something about it once it’s in front of us. You Can.

  • Erin says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    When you really stop to think about it, the meanness that we inflict on ourselves is totally insane and a bizarre response to a situation that calls for tenderness. I love how you are thinking of being with yourself in a tender way as a strategy. I wish you peace and enjoyment of this gestation phase.


  • I love this piece and totally am on this long and deep exploration. But the best thing i did was seek help – I have an amazing therapist (founded in Psychosynthesis which combines with spirituality beautifully), got insight into my astrological natal chart, am working with a shaman and am learning about crystals so that i can bring the Earth into my “team” too. This is a journey of introspection but sometimes it can be paralysingly self-contained and we need an outsider to disturb the cyclical thought patterns or even radically intervene (my most helpful experience has been a soul retrieval). Just thought I’d share, in particular for Faith who might need some cheerleading, help or guidance to get the boost you need

  • Erin says:

    Hi Hannah,
    Thank you so much for your input and I totally agree! In my journey I have called in many teachers and healers to help. The more familiar we are with ourselves, our internal landscape and our rhythms, the more able we will be able to discern whether we need to sit with it, bring in our healing team, or some combination of both. I honor and empower everyone’s internal wisdom that they will make the best choice for themselves and filter what I say and everything else they hear through their own internal healer filter.
    Love, Erin

  • Jessica says:

    This is such a wonderful article, thank you so much. x

  • Meia says:

    Yes! This is what I had to do last year, with my therapist’s help and some great books she recommended to me. I got rid of everything that was no longer making me happy and prescribed overdoses of all the things that brought me joy… yoga, time with animals, sunshine. And I listened. And then I finally found myself, in a completely different place than I thought I would be. :) I’m grateful to me. Thank you for sharing this wisdom with others. <3

  • Erin says:

    Dearest Meia,
    Your therapist sounds wonderful! What a gift to offer to you and what strength in you to listen and ACT. What a beautiful example to everyone around you that you can exist that way and create change when you desire!
    Love to you!

  • Lola says:

    Hi Erin, this immeditiately made me feel better as I’m going through a dark phase at the moment. Thank you so much for sharing. And reading the comments too is reassuring and comforting xx

    • Erin says:

      Hi Lola,
      I’m so glad that this piece gave you some relief. I’m not sure if you know about the eclipses that are happening right now but they are really stirring the emotional pot for us and bringing up a lot of stuff for healing. So if you are feeling “extra” intense, that is very normal right now. There are a couple of great articles about them on this site that might give you some more comfort.

      Lots of love to you,

  • Heather says:

    Thank you for this article, Erin, it is beautifully written and so direct in a really refreshing way. Often depression is handled with a side glance of “shame” or with kid-gloves if you know what I mean, which really doesn’t help the person who is going through it to feel any better!
    At 46, I think that I am a bit older than a lot of the readers here – I just mention it as I have been dealing with depression for a really long time – 30 years now. For the last twelve, I have been on meds for both depression and anxiety. At the beginning of this year, my companion asked that we take “a break” in our 15 year long relationship – this came totally out of the blue for me and was especially devastating as I had to leave our home, my beloved dogs and my adopted country behind to do so. While devastated, it has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity to do the true soul searching of the whys behind my depression (which had been running the show).
    With a doctor’s help, I am slowly tapering off my meds (now that I have stabilized) and am beginning to research physical issues and open up to spiritual aides (I just bought a rose quartz for my broken heart). It is wonderful to see what the real options are that are out there so that I can be me again…even when depression is present.
    Thank you again,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *