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Mind

The tools that helped this author overcome his battle with depression

After fighting depression for three decades Kevin Billett attended a workshop that put him on the path to healing.

By Erin Fisher
If you walk into any bookshop and head for the self-help section, you will find shelves stacked with books explaining how to be happier, think positive thoughts and change your life for the better.
You would think that with an abundance of this information, the entire human race would be beaming from ear to ear, yet according to the World Health Organisation in 2018, more than 300 million people around the world suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Kevin Billett battled depression, initially triggered by a traumatic childhood accident, for more than 30 years.
He visited psychologist after psychologist and took prescribed medications, but to no avail.
In 1994, he attended a workshop that changed his life. He found a way through his suffering to a place of wellbeing, and for the last 22 years has been sharing the same technique with others.
His new book, Light in the Heart of Darkness, reveals what he learned from his experience with depression and the tools he used to free himself.
The eBook is available free online from Kevin's website with free access to the audio exercises.
When Kevin was in his mid-30s, he hit rock bottom.
"Life kind of threw a lot of stuff at me at the same time," he explains.
"My parents both ended up with serious diseases, my mum died in her fifties, my marriage broke up, I had a very young son, and my businesses collapsed at the same time. I became dysfunctional.
"At that time I was diagnosed with having what they call clinical depression and was put on drugs. I was in the worst state I've ever experienced in my life – in a very deep dark place," he recalls.
"I couldn't see any way out of the immense pain that I was living in."
Not knowing what he was signing up for, Kevin agreed to attend a therapy workshop with a friend who was in a similar boat.
After decades of suffering, he found a new way of looking at and dealing with his emotions.
"I walked out of the session knowing that depression was no longer a part of my life," he says.
During Kevin's journey, he was told that his condition was a result of a chemical imbalance in his brain and was prescribed medication.
But taking pills wasn't a helpful solution for him.
"The drugs made a slight difference in that they suppressed some of the anxiety I was feeling, they suppressed the worst of the emotions I was feeling, but they left me feeling alien inside my own body. They made me feel like I was being controlled by some alien chemical rather than living my own life and being myself.
"So my experience over the years with orthodox medicine wasn't great."

How Kevin freed himself of medication

To move his life forward, free of medication and depression, Kevin found he had to get to the root causes of his unhappiness and make peace with them.
It started by simply identifying the feeling, then feeling it.
"Someone sat down with me and said, 'What are you feeling?' I named what I was feeling and they replied, 'Okay good, just feel that.' No one had ever said that to me before. What if you just stopped and fully felt? What if you opened up, embraced and allowed fully what you're feeling?"
Kevin says he learned to open himself up to emotions he had been hiding from since childhood – devastation, hopelessness, pointlessness, feeling overwhelmed, a fear of death.
"I experienced some of the emotions that I'd been hiding from all my life."
In allowing and embracing these feelings, light eventually came in.
"In the midst of the darkness, it began to turn into light," he explains.
"We uncovered some of the root causes of the initial shutdowns early in my life and used various techniques to resolve those issues, to forgive myself and to forgive other people. On coming out of the session, it just felt like depression had been lifted out of my cells."
Soon, Kevin was able to come off medication and was working alongside Brandon Bays, the woman who facilitated the workshop, to share the methods of healing that changed his life.
It wasn't long before Brandon became his wife and the pair have been a duo ever since.
After 24 years of living free from depression, Kevin has written a book to share what he has learned about depression.
"Depression has come into the media a lot more in recent years," Kevin says.
"That's a great thing. The downside of it all is that depression is often categorised purely, in most cases, as a mental illness. What I've realised over 23 years of working with people with depression is that depression in itself is not a mental illness."
Kevin is aware that this statement often ruffles a few feathers, but says years of personal experience have shaped his views.
"With all the people I've worked with over the last 20 odd years, it is only those who manage their emotions by shutting down and suppressing them who experience depression. We have to have emotional suppression in order to create this condition. It's emotional, not mental," he explains.
While Kevin wholeheartedly agrees that drugs are necessary in some cases, he also believes there are other tools available to help most people get to the underlying causes of their suffering.
In his workshops, he admits that some attendees have been upset by his views.
"Yes, people get angry with me – until they're willing to try what I'm suggesting. If they try it for themselves, overwhelmingly the response I get is one of clarity and often deep gratitude."
The book explores how often we judge our emotions as being good or bad, and try to suppress or fight against the sensations we don't want to feel.
Protecting ourselves may feel better in the moment, but it ultimately causes us more pain in the long run.
"What I've discovered is that in stopping to experience whatever arises when it arises, emotions by and large pass through really quickly," Kevin explains.
"If we stop fighting the negative stuff we experience, the emotions and the moods can pass through and leave us in a short period of time. It's only resistance to these fears or uncomfortable emotions that keeps us wrestling with them and keeps the negativity in play. That's been a huge revelation to me over the years."
His view is that each of us has been conditioned by different people and experiences to fear or avoid certain emotions, such as vulnerability, anger, distress, failure or even ordinariness.
Death, accidents, bullying or abuse can also trigger suppression or withdrawal. When we are unable to emotionally handle an experience, our natural propensity is often to close down. But as uncomfortable as it is, working through these past experiences can be healing.
"What we're doing here is encouraging people to stop the story about emotions and just to explore them directly, to be truthful and to be open to experiencing what is being triggered in the moment," he explains.
Kevin believes that in doing so, we can realise that emotions come and go quite easily, and that they don't own or control us.
"Anything that's triggered in us is just an emotion. It's not good, it's not bad, it's just what's there in the moment. It will
pass and ultimately reveal something positive."

Joy and happiness is not found on social media – it’s an inside job!

Life can be tough enough without the added impact of social media on our wellbeing.
Kevin believes that the majority of people don't have the tools to deal with the pressures from not only social media, but the media in general.
"The underlying message is that we need to attain celebrity, fame and wealth in order to be happy. It's peddled unconsciously to us as the answer to our issues and our pain, and it absolutely is not," he says.
He's proud to have worked with young people to help them deal with those issues and live from a healthier place.
"Our expectations are massive, we want to aspire to the things we see other people achieving in life, but the underlying problem, of course, is that even if we achieve that in life, it doesn't fix the hurt, it doesn't take away the insecurity, the baggage is still there. We're still the same person with the same issues, no matter how other people perceive us or how successful we seem to be."
For Kevin, moving from suffering to a place of joy is an inside job.
"So many people mistake the route to happiness as being the route to reaching for something, the route to achieving or attaining something that's outside of ourselves.
"The only place we'll find happiness is in ourselves. It's already here; we just need to uncover it."

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