A Journey Within and Beyond Depression

If depression were an actor, it might easily hold a grievance: it’s typecast in the role of “evil villain” and, can’t for the life of it, get any parts as hero of the movie. Collectively, we often fail to acknowledge depression’s more dignified qualities and positive attributes. If we ourselves are depressed, we fear being “a downer” to others. If others are depressed, we may fear that they will bring us down.

In any case, we do not want to go “down” – down has come a direction that we are not supposed to go. In the current atmosphere of constant pressure to be (or at least appear!) “up”, many of us feel that we should always be moving upwards, out and away, rocket-launching at life with an explosion of glee. Constant effort to be “up”, however, goes against the natural cycles of emotion. The rest of nature reflects the importance of balanced cycles of up and down, inward and outward, stillness and motion.

Our ability to rebalance ourselves and come to neutral is upset when we do not allow the quiet, rest, softness, and yes, “downbeat” side of life. We forget that downs enhance the ups and vice versa, that the polarity of down and up work together. Melancholy blues and periods of mourning belong to the downbeat. As spotlighted in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, sadness is an important part of life, helping us to:

    • Grieve and mourn.
    • Complete things and put them to rest.
    • Appreciate and understand life’s preciousness.

However, it is not that common to be raised with the gift of being able to honor sadness, allowing it to be there and to therefore appear in our life in its gift-giving form. How many of us feel perfectly comfortable experiencing and authentically embodying the full depths of our sadness? Those of us who know the debilitating symptoms of depression have lost ourselves in the shadow sides of sadness.

Instead of sadness being experienced as a gentle, bittersweet quality that helps bring out the subtle flavors and aftertastes of our embodied experiences of life, sadness becomes an enemy. It becomes too much, and it becomes a relentless, joy-sucking demon. A metaphor we like to use at Villa Kali Ma is the story of Beauty and the Beast. Our rejected parts live like the Beast in a lonely, cursed castle in dark corners of the self.

Only once we develop the courage to get to know our shadow selves and discover their lovability, innocence, and beauty, will we be at peace. Once we love our shadow selves just as they are, we are astonished to discover that, freed from the curse of being called “bad”, our shadows transform and grow into beloved, gorgeous aspects and qualities of our unified whole self.

Those with a diagnosis of clinical depression are living in fear of the Beast, and feel too scared, trapped, powerless, or hopeless to even imagine loving it. We may not even be able to name what it is that we feel, we just know that we want to escape it. If we have depression, we may or may not know that depression is its name – we just know that we have lost touch with joy in life.

    • We may feel dead inside or wish to die.
    • We may feel as though we are standing outside of life, looking in through a window at the seemingly happy others.
    • We may desire to be alone, and we may stop engaging with activities of daily living and self-care.
    • In our darkest times, we may fantasize about death, or even begin to experiment with taking steps towards making our death happen.

For those of us who know what it’s like to get sucked in and lose our energies, joys, and happiness to black depression, it can be hard to see what any possible positive side there could be to this powerful psychic force. However, the death energy that depression carries is not related to the death of the real self, but the death of the false – everything that has been covering over the direct connection to the “sunlight of the spirit”.

The dark night of the soul, as excruciating as it is, is what happens when life sends us the death principle to help us clear out old dross and debris. Life sends us death energies to take away the hard, encrusted and outdated parts, structures, and aspects of ourselves and our lives, things that maybe should have “died” long ago but have been falsely held “alive” in our minds and souls.

When we discover a way of working with our depression, we can come to love the liberated, fresh newness that follows in its wake. We learn to receive its gifts. Depression is a:

    • Close companion of addiction.
    • Deep-seeded root cause of the use and abuse of substances to numb or manage symptoms.
    • Pre-existing mental health condition that, if fueled by substance abuse, becomes a co-occurring disorder.
    • Side effect of addiction.

An Integrative, Holistic Approach to Depression Treatment for Women

At Villa Kali Ma, we take a holistic approach to depression treatment for women, by working with its “death energies” to help clear away what you no longer need, what has been holding you back from feeling full-blown connection to the core of life.

We honor the wisdom and validity of what has shown up in your life as a “symptom” by taking an integrative, holistic approach to depression treatment for women. While it is sometimes necessary to treat depression as an illness, with timely intervention we can stop its negative spiral, we honor your symptoms as messages from your psyche that need to be listened to, rather than excised, banished, or medicated away.

If you suffer from depression, please know that we have the utmost compassion for your experience. All of us here at Villa Kali Ma know depression from personal journeys within, as well as from a clinical psychology and practice basis. Using scientifically-supported evidence-based therapies, our comprehensive, individualized holistic approach to depression treatment for women helps to provide relief that reaches far beyond the benefits of antidepressants.

At Villa Kali Ma, all parts of you are welcome to experience our holistic approach to depression treatment for women, including the parts of you which are broken and deeply saddened. We will help you return to life, working with the wisdom contained in your depression to gently clear your path and help you get back on your feet. You deserve help, and you are important to all of life, so we hope that you will let us help you heal.


What is Depression?

Depression is a common human experience, the general tone and feeling of which will be recognizable to all. When we feel noticeably down in the dumps, blue, or melancholy, we are encountering the signature energy of depression. 

Like many mental health diagnoses, depression is a normal part of life during certain stages, and is not pathological in and of itself. Depression is deemed an appropriate response to many events of human life, for example when going through a transition or loss. The energies of depression only become clinically relevant when the depressed state is chronic, severe, and damaging to a person’s ability to live their lives.

Depression is typically characterized by feelings of sadness, heaviness, and a lack of energy, as well as negative thoughts reinforcing a state of hopelessness. A black mood, paired with a negative outlook on oneself as well as life itself describes the state of depression. 

When it comes to a clinical diagnosis of depression, we are talking about a more prolonged and severe dance with darkness. 

Some people may be prone to depression by means of character and habit of thought, early life experiences, and more. A person earning the clinical diagnosis will have an involuntary habit of returning to the depressed state even when, from the outside, life events do not necessarily seem to merit sad feelings. 

Depression interferes significantly with people’s ability to participate in the activities of society, limiting a person’s ability to perform tasks of daily living generally expected of functioning members of society. Depression is a leading cause of disability leave in the United States for that reason. 

Signs of Depression

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), distinguishes between different types of depressive disorders.

To receive an accurate diagnosis for clinical purposes, it is best to be assessed by a professional who can examine the full context of the depressed feelings. 

Generally speaking, signs of depression include changes to your thoughts (more negative than usual), changes to your mood (more sad than usual), changes to your available energy (less energy to address life challenges than usual), and/or changes to your observable behavior (changes to sleep, eating, and engagement levels with life).

The most recognizable sign of depression is low mood coupled with a sense of general hopelessness about life and one’s own place in life. However some people may live with depression for a long time before they are able to recognize it within themselves.

It can be useful to review the criteria associated with depressive disorders, as these can be signs of depression in yourself or another: 

  • Long-lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood most of the day, most days
  • Feelings of low worth and/or guilt
  • Loss of engagement, interest or ability to enjoy hobbies and activities that used to bring pleasure (including sex)
  • Persistent fatigue and lack of energy
  • Brain fog, or excessive difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, or remembering things that used to be more readily retrievable
  • Sleep problems including insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Change to appetite and weight in either direction
  • Physical restlessness and/or slowing down, feeling like things are physically difficult
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness and bleak outlook, thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts and attempts to take one’s own life

When reading the above list, keep in mind that not everyone experiences every symptom, nor will symptoms be experienced in the same way or to the same degree, necessarily. The above list is a guidepost only and should be interpreted with professional help. 

Causes of Depression

There is no single explanation for depression. Depression has been sourced to dietary, lifestyle, and health factors, as well as to childhood trauma and family history. 

As with all mental illness and addiction, family history is a strong correlating factor, though whether that be via nature or nurture is difficult to say, especially as these are not easily teased apart. 

Temperament likely plays a role, as those who are sensitive to environmental stressors and social-emotional environments are more likely to experience depression than those who struggle less with how things are set up in our society.

Early life traumas and harsh circumstances such as those associated with poverty and unsafe home lives or growing up in a country at war are correlated with depression. Loss in childhood and being the target of bullying are connected as well. 

Women are almost twice as likely to experience depression as men, for many reasons. These reasons may be biological, as some forms of depression are linked to female hormone changes and to the intensities of childbirth. In general women may be considered more vulnerable in society for a variety of reasons and more likely to experience victimization combined with a lack of personal power to protect oneself and others. 

Additional causal factors of an episode with depression may include:

  • Emotional problems
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Insufficient time in nature
  • Insufficient sunlight
  • Food allergies
  • Side effects to medication
  • Addiction
  • Environmental toxins, including mold
  • Heavy metals from pesticides, medicines, and other additives

Treatment options for Depression

The best news about depression is that it is highly responsive to natural interventions, talk therapy, nutritional support, exercise, and overall is very treatable. Recommended is to engage in a variety of modalities to speak to the different aspects of self involved in depression and its cure. 

Modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness and Self Compassion assist a person to practicing detaching, observing, and gently changing one’s thoughts to improve self-concept and outlook, both of which will impact mood and energy. 

In general, meditative traditions such as those connected with yoga and spiritual practices like chanting and singing can be an important assist in beginning to watch the ways that thoughts contribute to or counteract depressive states. (Singing is also a natural mood-booster in and of itself).  

It is also part of treatment to start doing activities that help express bottled up, difficult emotions like grief and rage. The expressive arts therapies are very good for this. Expressive arts activities like drawing, singing, dancing, and writing are important pathways for reconnecting with soul and the inner child both, helping a person to relate to depression from symbolic and metaphorical dimensions. 

These ways of relating to depression through a poetic and artistic responses are very helpful for finding meaning and dignity in one’s experiences with sorrow. All of the arts are also natural mood boosters and can be a way to experience play, joy, and fun after these have felt long absent.

Activities that involve animals, engage the physical body, and require being out in nature, such as gardening groups and equine therapy, which are offered at Villa Kali Ma as well, are very good for moving depression along through a change of environment and relying on the body’s ability to produce its own self-regulating and mood-improving neurochemistry. 

Finally, depression is also supported with group and individual psychodynamic therapies, that help a person understand who they are through reflecting on their life story, past and present relationships, and having a corrective emotional experience with other people. These therapies connect with you on the relationship level and restore you to feelings of belonging and connection with others. 

Prevention methods for future episodes of Depression

Depression is frequently recurrent and episodic. For that reason, as is the case with many kinds of human trouble, it is wiser to prepare for the possibility of future episodes than to assume it will not be experienced again. 

Depression prevention is good medicine, in other words. Good practices for avoiding future episodes include: 

Maintain a healthy, balanced diet of organic, unprocessed or minimally-processed foods wherever possible. We all have to do our best in the environment we’re in, so just do what you can. Check ingredients and do not put things in your body that you cannot pronounce or aren’t sure why it has been added.

Avoid sugar, junk food, fast food, processed food and caffeine. You may want to consider cutting out or reducing the presence of refined carbohydrates in your diet.

Abstain from all forms of mood-altering chemicals. Drugs, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals if they can be avoided are wise to remove. In the case of pharmaceuticals, be mindful of the need for medical supervision when tapering off and do not be reckless, but consider the possibility that chemicals used in pharmaceutical products may be impacting you adversely.

Keep up a practice of regular cardiovascular exercise. This is the easiest and most reliable path to triggering your natural antidepressants internally. 

Consider the functional medicine angle and nutritional therapies. Positive results have been connected to increasing intake of Omega-3-rich foods (such as flax and fish oil), antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables like berries and artichokes, as well as probiotics, healthy fats, and B vitamins.  

Decrease your screen time and increase your green time, spending time nature-bathing whenever you can. If you are not able to access wilderness, be assured even time in parks and gardens are associated with improvements in depression and prevention of episodes. This will also increase your exposure to natural light. 

I don't believe it to be an exaggeration to say that Villa Kali Ma saved my life.
I couldn't have asked for a better environment to heal and redirect onto a path towards true living.


This place completely changed my life. I needed a drastic change from the typical recovery environment in order to stay sober long-term. I can honestly say that I love who I am today and I am forever grateful for Villa Kali Ma!


I am so grateful I found Villa Kali Ma, it has truly changed my life. Kay is awesome and the entire team who works there is absolutely amazing. If you need treatment, I highly recommend making this the start to your recovery.


Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, Healthnet, and currently accepts most
PPO plans with out-of-network benefits. Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.