YOU WILL RISE: Author and yoga instructor Sjana Elise Earp’s mental health story

Writer and yoga guru Sjana sits down with bubble. for a candid chat about her experiences with depression and anxiety, and how she used yoga and writing as an outlet to express herself during the darkest of times.

Image via Sjana Elise Earp.

Q: What is your personal journey with bullying, as well depression and anxiety?

When I was around fifteen I moved schools; and that wasn’t the reason for my depression or for getting bullied – it was a mix of things. It was a chemical imbalance, which meant that even though I was getting bullied by my ‘friends’ a bit at school, it wasn’t necessarily that, it was the fact that my body was in chaos mode. So, the external factors just seemed to make it worse.

The real problem was internally, chemically and hormonally within me. So, even though everything in my life (besides the bullying) seemed so right, I felt like there was something so wrong with me on so many different levels and I felt so alone and isolated because of that. I felt like I had every reason to be happy and I just wasn't which made it seem even worse because it felt like there was no change, there was no way to get out of it – especially when you don’t know what the problem is because how are you supposed to find the solution if you don't know what the problem is?

Image via Sjana Elise Earp.

I shut down. I stopped all the sports I once did and I stopped socialising with friends; I would just come home from school and sleep for hours and hours through the night so that I didn’t have to interact with anyone. I stopped using my phone and I wouldn’t even talk to my family. I pushed everyone away because in my mind that felt safer for them if I disconnected early on when I had thoughts of ending my life. I thought if they didn’t feel attached to me as such, it would be easier for them.

It escalated from there, and once you dig yourself those dark holes you find yourself this morbid comfort almost in the depression and the darkness – even though it's the most unsafe place to be in.

Coming out of it was many years of different things – it was a cocktail of support systems and probably seeing fifteen different psychologists – but the real healing happened only when I wanted to heal.

Q: How did you fall in love with yoga?

I didn’t really choose going into yoga or writing – it was more going through depression and anxiety in my mid to late teens. I needed an outlet or a form of self-soothing.

Initially, I’d been sporting my whole life – from lifesaving and netball to gymnastics and soccer; everything you can think of. My family did too, and we loved it. I thrived off moving my body, and so when I got depressed and stopped doing all the sports that I’d done when I was younger, I found that I really missed it. Not just as an endorphin release but from being so connected to my body and knowing what my limits were and pushing those.

I started doing longer walks and jogs, and then I began yoga in bunny years because I found random photos on Instagram of people doing yoga poses and I would be curious as to whether or not I could do them myself. So, having a background in gymnastics, I was very good at standing on my hands, but I wasn’t necessarily flexible as such – and especially not in the mind – so that part of yoga really captivated me once I started doing it.

Image via Sjana Elise Earp.

Then, before I knew it, I started getting asked to teach retreats internationally and host events, and I was like I have no idea what I’m doing! Massive imposter syndrome. I did my teacher training in Byron Bay and that was where I learnt what yoga really was and how much I actually adored it and how much I had to learn from it.

Q: And what about with writing?

Similarly to yoga, I just needed a way to vent; and I had always loved writing in journals and diaries but hadn’t done it religiously and I realised it was something I could do and then go back to whenever I needed something or someone to listen. It was always there for me. Poetry was the way it came out of me; it’s how I expressed myself without limits and without rules and boundaries.

In a way, it was more the creative part of it that I really liked because there was nothing to conform to and I could just fully express myself. It would make me feel so much better. I would get home from work or uni and I’d sit in my car and I’d write in my notes on my phone for hours and hours – I would lose track of time and then I’d notice it was 1am!

Image via Sjana Elise Earp.

Q: Tell us about your book 'You Will Rise'?

You Will Rise is a 328-page poetry and photography book. As I mentioned, poetry just happened, it came to me. It’s the only way my soul knows how to express itself. I love the free-form aspect of poetry; it’s almost like a yoga practice. It’s a familiar flow. It’s embodying what feels right in that day – or at least that’s what it is to me. I also love how the same poem can be absorbed differently by everyone.

The book follows the journey of the human soul, really, and I now know my experiences can resonate with pretty much anyone, because whether or not you’ve been through dark moments, you’ll know someone who has gone through something similar. And it’s not just about depression; it’s about love, heartbreak, joy – there’s everything in there.