Anxiety & Depression: The Phoenix Theory

Lately I have been trying to treat my anxiety disorder as an illness instead of seeing it as a symptom. By going through the workbook that the NHS Wellbeing team assigned to me as part of my distance support, talking to other depression-anxiety sufferers and monitoring my daily mood with the Optimism app I have been reflecting about how this disorder affects me…if I better understand my symptoms then I can learn to cope with my mental illness.

As I sit here, having an emotional and physically stressful time, I embrace the shadow of grief and sorrow that envelopes me. I wail and sob uncontrollably, my eyes filled with tears, each drop a liquid scream. I let go and just weep, hiding upstairs in my bedroom. As I ride out a flood of tears, somewhere in the back of my brain I know that if I have a good cry I’ll feel better for it afterwards (that’s why we call it a “good cry”!) If you go with the flow, you can surf the waves….

I picked up a smokey quartz crystal to use as a focus object to help calm me and ground me when I felt I was ready to stop. Taking some deep lung-filling breaths and using a “grounding roots” visualisation I was able to calm myself, slowly drawing back from the cloud that was now a bit lighter. As I regained control and focus, I was given a vision of a most beautiful Phoenix- a mystical creature of bright cleansing fire and healing. I was told that the Phoenix presenting itself to me symbolised my energy cycle, the emotional highs and lows of depression and anxiety disorders….

….what I was experiencing, that moment of succumbing to the uncontrollable weeping, was like giving myself up to the flames. Feelings are extremely intense, burning our minds, scorching our hearts. By allowing yourself to cry, you body is producing tears- the emotional manifestation of Water- Water, which is a healing and cleansing element. Crying is a process of healing, not an action of defeat.


We may at times surrender to our sensibilities; we may temporarily lose our grip, but we will not be defeated by ourselves.

Like a Phoenix dying in its combustion of flames, you are then feeling burnt out, like a pile of ash. The ash comes together like dust swirling in the wind to form the shell of the egg of the Phoenix, where its essence seeks refuge and safety in the comfort of its egg. Within the security and shelter of its egg, the Phoenix can heal itself in its own time, focusing within.

This is like the isolation aspect of depression where you just want to hide away from the world, shutting yourself in, avoiding people; it is as vital to reach out for help and support from those who love us and professionals as it is to take time out away from outside distractions so that we can help to heal ourselves.

When we feel ready, we come out of our shell, a Phoenix reborn as a young hatchling, blinking in the dawning of new light and realisation, feeling a bit tender and delicate, a bit unsure of ourselves perhaps, but growing in strength as our fire is rekindled. We explore the world with new eyes as a fresh perspective of our circumstances and surroundings. Like the life cycle of a Phoenix, within our depression-anxiety cycle a part of us “dies”, and a new part is reborn.

As the Phoenix grows, its flames become stronger and brighter, as it shines brightly with hope. For a little while for some (or longer for others) we are able to be more optimistic, finding more energy and drive, showing more interest and enthusiasm in what we do. We find activities and goals to keep our fire of inspiration burning, prolonging the warmth and happiness of our passions.

The Phoenix burns brightly until its energy of that particular life cycle is spent, and its once roaring flames become glowing embers, burning a little less brightly each day. Our energy also dims considerably, and we may not feel as positive or upbeat as we have done previously. This is the inevitable time of waiting before the break- the combustion- the death of the Phoenix where the peak of our anxiety or depression comes to a head and we absolutely have to release these negative feelings, those daggers and shadows in our souls.

Then the ash comes together like dust swirling in the wind to form the shell of the egg of the Phoenix…


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