Lucy, who is raising money for Mind, blogs about changing career to combat depression.
I had been working in advertising for over 20 years. Eighty-hour weeks had taken their toll – I lived alone in London and would get home at nine or ten at night ready for nothing more challenging than a ready meal for one. Although I had money I had no relationship, no life, and no joy. I came home and cried every night. The final straw was having to cover someone else’s accounts while they were on leave. That was when I went to see my doctor. I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I told my boss I needed some time out and that I would be spending six months in India doing the only thing that worked for me – yoga.
I knew that as long as I travelled with my yoga mat I could envisage a future
It was the only place that I felt safe. I knew that as long as I travelled with my yoga mat I could envisage a future. That future might only stretch six foot in front of me, but it was a start. My lovely boss bought me a yoga mat and promised to keep my job open for me.
The trip around India was life changing, but not in the way I had expected. I travelled north, south east and west, trying out every form of yoga and meeting lots of yogis along the way. While I had harboured secret hopes of becoming a yoga teacher, I became pretty disillusioned with the motivations of some of the yoga students I met along the way. There was a lot of obsession with the superficial – with using yoga to get a great body, as opposed to the deep spiritual enquiry I was expecting. I continued to feel lonely and isolated, not on the same page as everyone else and, to comfort myself, I spent a lot of time writing a diary. That diary became a safe space – a place to confide the way I was feeling and, as I read it back to myself I realised that if I wasn't on the same page as everyone else, and actually didn’t want to be on that page. I needed to turn to a new page.
During my travels I’d noticed that for a lot of Indian people it turned out that Yoga was a part of everyday, a few exercises morning and evening combined with meditation and the giving of thanks to their Hindu gods. Whilst I am not religious, I took from this the importance of a gratitude practice, and the beauty of ritual – the lighting of a candle or the burning of incense to mark the giving of thanks. Whatever it looked like, the important thing was the discipline of a daily practice that created both time and place for gratitude, experiencing a sense of connection to something much bigger than myself, and acknowledging this wonderful gift called life.
India had worked its magic and it was time to come home. I chose not to return to the ad agency, instead forging a new career for myself in the world of yoga. I had realised, along the way, that the thing that was most important to me, having experienced the transformative power of real yoga myself, was to help to publicise that transformative power. So I’ve written books about my yoga experiences in India (those diaries came in handy), and in my adopted home of Norfolk I’ve helped yoga teachers and yoga studios with their branding and copy so that the students they seek to serve can find them. I’ve also created an online platform for yogi makers – yogis inspired by their yoga practice to create sustainable yoga leggings out of plastic bottles, eco-friendly yoga mats, and mala jewellery that raises money for charity.
I consider myself blessed to lead this life, and now regard the depression I suffered as a gift.
I consider myself blessed to lead this life, and now regard the depression I suffered as a gift. It has enabled me to leave the old behind and open up to a new way of being that enables me to be happy on any street, on any day.
My advice to anyone suffering from depression is to try yoga. And you don't need to take my word for it. I’ve been collecting other people’s yoga stories for a couple of years now, and the common thread is the power of yoga to heal. I have also been collecting clinical studies on yoga for depression.
I wanted to fundraise for Mind because of the amazing work they do to help people deal with their mental health challenges
I wanted to fundraise for Mind because of the amazing work they do to help people deal with their mental health challenges, so I took an opportunity to put on a fund-raising event at the Serpentine Pavilion – the annual art installation at the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens. When the artist Junya Ishigami described his work as “a cave-like space for contemplation” he probably didn’t expect to be taken literally, but we did! Working with yoga teacher Zephyr Wildman we created the class as a celebration of yoga and meditation for stress and anxiety, dedicating it to those suffering from mental health issues, and those that love and care for them. Students came from near and far – one keen yogi traveling all the way from Dublin to join us.
The class raised several hundred pounds for Mind, and a fundraising mala bracelet, traditionally designed to help heal and rebalance, is on sale now. You can purchase the Mind Mala Bracelet at YogaClicks.com (the ethical yoga shop) – all profits to Mind.
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