“You don’t need to suffer anymore. Just take the pills that I will prescribe you, and you will be fine.”

Was it really this simple, and had I missed the point for 30 years? Thinking suffering is part of life, unlearning all ways of being, learning new ways of seeing? Falling back and getting up and then falling back again?

Should I do it, I wondered? Maybe that is the solution, and I had just refused to see—yet it was there all along, a prescription away.

I walked out of the psychiatrist’s office, still burdened with the heavy, hot metal bricks on my chest. Still not feeling my lower legs. My mind was getting foggier. I did not want to live in my head or my body. At the same time, I had depleted all the willpower that had guided me, thus far, to make decisions.

A month earlier, I was standing on stage, inviting 300 people who attended my company’s conference to follow their passions.

Everything seemed glittery. Successful. Per the book. I had left Airbnb after almost four years to start my own business.

I had found my passion, followed it, worked hard, assembled a team, got press coverage, and all that jazz. I also stressed out a lot but bragged about it. I endured being perceived as harsh because they said being successful means not everyone will love you. I ignored my fears. I barely slept, hardly worked out, and ate fast—and crap.

When the conference ended that afternoon, I ran home. As the congratulations came pouring in, my tears came hurdling. An uncontrollable wave of heat took over my chest. All alone in my apartment (that had become a storage center), I wanted to shrink. Shrink under the sheets. Perhaps it would all go away. I crawled into my bed, hoping to disappear. But the feelings got bigger and transformed into a pounding heart that stole my sleep, my only solace.

How can the woman who teaches people to follow their passions be so miserable in following her own?

Ashamed of my situation, I packed my bags and left for Lebanon. The first night in my childhood bed I started feeling tingling in my lower legs. Moments later I lost the sensation in them. The next morning I went to the doctor. I could barely walk. I was convinced I had some serious illness. I spent two weeks on WebMD, reading about cancer, Parkinson’s, and anything that might kill me. In my friend’s words: I lost the plot.

I was confused. No loving words, familiar embraces, or promises of ease or a bright future were helping. All I could feel was emptiness. I had fallen into a vortex where there was no end and no beginning. No colors and no shapes. Dozens of tests, an MRI, and countless sleepless nights later, the verdict came to light: I was not physically ill; I was suffering from depression.

As Beirut was vibrating with Christmas lights, my eyes were dimming with curtains of despair. I knew I had to leave. I couldn’t bare seeing my family suffer because of me. The day before Christmas I escaped to a buddhist monastery, making it my last attempt to get out of the vortex before taking on the psychiatrist’s “magic” pills.

My body had been telling me to stop, but I did not listen. It screamed at me to stop, but I did not listen. Then it stopped, and I had to listen.

Alone in nature, I breathed. I hugged trees. I cried and cried and cried. I let strangers hold me. I held strangers. I talked about my shameful fears. I asked for forgiveness. I gave myself forgiveness. I watched the sun rise and the sun set. Over and over. I ate slowly. Really slowly. And in a matter of days, it all became clear. I had been living outside of my body.

My body had been telling me to stop, but I did not listen. It screamed at me to stop, but I did not listen. Then it stopped, and I had to listen. I had ignored my body for decades. My greatest gift. And as I got to know my body again, I saw that it’s not built for the way San Francisco functions.

I could not sustain slaving away at start-ups to have credibility and make a living. My start-up has to grow fast to gain traction and investors’ approval. I need to show I have it all under control. Do it alone, and if I don’t want to be alone, spend hours online dating, collecting disappointments and useless conversations.

My body is not built for the grind.

For the way society works. My body cannot handle a lot of unnecessary stress. My body had endured a lot too: war, physical violence, emotional abuse, more wars, alcohol, little sleep. It is delicate like a flower. Soft like silk. Sensitive like a child. My body is vulnerable, open, authentic, sweet. It is a teacher of kindness and patience.

Most importantly, my body is not your body. I cannot compare it to yours. You cannot compare yours to mine. I abused my body, because I compared it to those who ran marathons, barely slept, and launched billion-dollar companies.

Our bodies are trusted friends. They tell us when to slow down. They warn us about unattended emotions. They tell us when something is good for us. People say, “It feels right.” They heal us from diseases, illnesses, and adapt to our crazy lifestyles. Our bodies hold the answers to life’s most complicated questions. If only we listened.

Depression was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I had to go to the bottom to finally look up and see the clear blue skies. To learn a lesson that will come to liberate me. On December 31, 2015, against all odds, I chose to focus my year on building consistent habits of listening and caring for my body.

With that, I let go of my ambitions of building a big company quickly. I let go of needing to make San Francisco my home. I let go of pleasing anyone, impressing men, sticking to an image of strength. I recognize that I have the privilege to make time for myself, and I plan not to waste that opportunity.

As I write this post, I am in India traveling around the country. Every day, I fall into the old patterns of mistreating my body, and every day I pick my self back up and try again.

And when things get really hard I reread this poem:

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.”

— Portia Nelson

Note: This essay is a personal experience. We are all unique and thus benefit from different ways of healing and living. I have the utmost respect for whatever route you choose.

This post originally appeared on Medium and was republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed herein are hers. Jessica Semaan is the founder of The Passion Co. and is on a mission to help others find their passion. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for her biweekly newsletter here.