When the world feels dark, how do you find your way back to the light? Shevonne Hunt shares her story of finding – and then returning – to faith.
“I wasn’t brought up with religion, though you could say I’ve always been a seeker. Always thinking there was more to life than what I could see, more than I could touch.
But growing up without religion or spirituality hard-wires you to a certain amount of pragmatism. A realistic way of viewing the world. No matter how much you want to believe, you just can’t take that leap of faith.
I did have faith once. In my 20s a friend introduced me to yoga, and it felt like I’d finally found my spiritual home. It made sense to me, the ideas of compassion and kindness. On a physical level I could feel the benefits of the asanas, and I didn’t need to follow a hard line doctrine to believe in an unseen God. And, as only the young can really do, I thought I was sorted for life.
I thought that every time I fell, my new found faith would catch me.
That was until I started getting anxiety, a deep well that I fell down for many years. I tried all kinds of things to pull myself out – counselling, exercise – and when they didn’t appear to be working I lost my faith, in yoga and all it stood for, in my own strength, my intuition, and my ability to heal.
I was also pursuing a career in journalism. I’d fallen in love with radio and decided, at 28, to take the leap and try a new career. The media is a cynical world, particularly when you work in current affairs. I didn’t find many people who had a connection with anything spiritual and, at the time, that cynicism aligned with my own loss of faith.
Looking back, it was a spectacular loss on so many levels. Not only did I lose my passion to find ‘something more’, I also started to think it was a foolish quest, one that only deluded hippies chose to follow. I lost my sense of self. What made me me. My belief in compassion and kindness felt like naïve traits to have in a hard world.
Anxiety made me feel like I had nothing to hold on to and losing that sense of self served to consolidate a downward spiral.
At the time I thought I would never find my way out of that hole. I thought, at 30, that this would be the way I would be for the rest of my life. I was miserable.
While all this was happening I continued to strive in my career. I married a wonderful man. I traveled, I lived a good life. But it was a life without connection. It was a life haunted by the next panic attack, the next long period with anxiety sitting on my shoulder, gnawing at my heart and spirit.
Then I had my daughter Darcy. I was terrified that I would get post-natal depression or anxiety, after all I was a prime candidate. But, as hard as those early months were, I found that I had never been so at peace. Peace had been so elusive, and here it was… in the shape of a little head tucked under my chin, a small warm body on my chest. I had never felt such a sense of ‘rightness’.
I realised how the human body has the amazing ability to create feel good hormones. It made me think about medication for the first time, because up until then I hadn’t thought anything could get rid of my anxiety.
But then motherhood consumed me, as motherhood does. All my thoughts were taken up with my daughter, with working it all out. I went back to work. And once there, after a while, the anxiety came back.
We fell pregnant again. At the time I was employed as a contractor, and I’m sure the uncertainty of maternity leave and my future career fed into my anxiety. I felt like a fool for working so hard and so long at a career I thought I would have to abandon. As a contractor I had to say yes to everything that was offered to me, no matter the hours. The work I was doing was completely incompatible with family life.
We had a beautiful boy with a ski jump nose and a face like a little old man. He would sleep in my arms and we would wake in the morning and stare into each other’s eyes.
When he was 3 months old I knew I had to start looking for my next contract, but there wasn’t much work around. At that point I realized that I would have to walk away from my career. I’d done my best but now it was time to look for something that would work out for all of us.
So I posted on FaceBook, as you do. I was sleep deprived and unsure, so I asked my friends to help me.
A friend saw my post and called me about a friend of hers who was starting a kid’s radio station. It sounded very uncertain. I had no idea what to expect, but I had nothing to lose, so I called and we agreed to meet up.
My son was 4 months old when I met Evan Kaldor, the founder of Kinderling Kids Radio. Within another month he had hired me as the presenter of their daily parenting show. That was two years ago now.
It is, without doubt, one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
It’s a job that is aligned with who I am as a person. It allows me to be compassionate and understanding while still pursuing interesting stories with incredible people.
One of those people is Amy Taylor-Kabbaz. Several people told me I needed to speak to Amy about her work on Happy Mama. We got in touch around the time her book was being published.
Amy’s book struck a real chord with me. She was talking about things I used to believe in, kindness, compassion, embracing your sense of self. But she was speaking in a language that I could hear and accept.
While my anxiety hadn’t been as bad since having my daughter, it had come back, and even faint echoes of the illness terrified me that I would go back to how I was. Always afraid, always held back.
One morning I had a panic attack in a work meeting that scared me into action.
For the first time in decades I decided it was time to try medication. It was time to accept I had an illness that could be treated.
It all happened around the same time. Meeting Amy, deciding to take medication. I also started seeing a counsellor who I really clicked with.
Simple lines to write, but big changes that turned my world around.
And, slowly, taking one step at a time, it’s all worked together to return my sense of faith.
I was at the bottom of a well that I thought I would never climb out of. I thought that I could not heal myself. I felt helpless and hopeless.
The first step was finding work that aligned with who I really am, who I want to be.
The second, and perhaps hardest step, was finally trying medication. After that I was able to feel normal, I was able to lift my head up from my own navel and start to see a bigger picture. It allowed me to notice important people in my life, like Amy.
The “woo woo” among us (as Amy would say) might argue that the universe put her in my path. I’m somewhere in between. I think you need to be open to see people who can help you, people who can set you in other directions you couldn’t hope to find on your own. I may not believe in the magic of a universe that will always provide, but I do believe that seeing the glass half full can completely transform your life. And that has magic in it too.
Before I got anxiety I felt that every hard experience in life can teach us lessons, and make us better people. I didn’t realise back then, just what “hard” really means. For me, it meant losing my faith, in myself, in everything around me. It took me to some pretty dark places. And it lasted a lot longer than I thought any difficult lesson could.
But now I know that losing faith is part of life. Struggle, as the Buddhists say, is part of life. And that’s ok. Faith is a living, breathing thing. It’s something you choose. It’s something you work on, and it’s not always something you can predict or control.
Sometimes faith is just putting one foot in front of another until you have the courage to try something new. Or until the right tools or people cross your path that will help you find your way home again.”
Shevonne Hunt is the presenter of Kinderling Conversations on Kinderling Kids Radio. You can listen to her at midday each day online or via the app – followed by a ten minute mindfulness meditation by Amy.
Images courtesy of Daniel Guerra.