Depression, like a silent killer, affects over 265 million people worldwide, while its subtype called major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. The condition can lead to suicidal tendencies in severe cases if one is unable to pull oneself out of the fatal trap of a self-destructive mindset.
For one such woman in Orlando, Florida, who was plagued with depression, anorexia, and sleeping disorder, hope for a healthy life came through an ancient self-improvement discipline, which is practiced by over 100 million the world over.
Annie Cao’s smooth-sailing life weaved around a loving family and an assuring career came crashing down when her health suddenly began deteriorating. It all started after she experienced a series of unfortunate events way back in 1999; she eventually became suicidal.
“I was miserable for seven years. In 2007, I was still on different medications despite no improvement in my depression,” Cao, a Vietnamese by origin, told Minghui.org. “I wanted to die. I was quick-tempered all the time.”
“I lived in fear and suspicion every day, without a single thread of hope,” she said.
Cao’s severe depression worried her husband and children who then took her to see famous doctors and psychiatrists. She also tried different medications, both Western and Oriental, but experienced no improvement.
“I felt my situation deteriorating and out of control,” Cao said. “I became anorexic and lost a lot of weight. I was a bag of bones.”
With her continued depression, Cao also developed severe insomnia and had to rely on sleeping pills. However, she could hardly sleep for a few hours only to be jolted awake from nightmares.
“I feared light and noise. I always worried that invisible evil beings wanted to do me harm. I isolated myself from friends and acquaintances, even my own family,” she said.
Cao’s condition worsened; she often used to get frightened hearing the sirens of ambulances or police vehicles. She shaved her head and resorted to locking herself up in a dark room. Seeing her unable to break out of the mental ordeal, Cao’s family took turns watching her day and night.
After seven trying years, in 2009, hope finally illuminated Cao’s gloomy life. She came across the ancient mind-body cultivation system of Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, which consists of five gentle exercises, including meditation. The exercise system is rooted in the moral teachings of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance to guide one’s life in a positive direction.
Falun Gong was first introduced to the public in China in 1992; the practice gained huge popularity by the late 1990s and was recognized for its healing power, both spiritual and physical.
Cao learned about Falun Gong from one of her mother’s friends who narrated her own experience of practicing the meditation system.
“I spoke with her for several hours,” Cao recounted. “What she said was so encouraging and exciting. From that moment on, I wanted to become a Falun Gong practitioner myself.”
With the assistance of other Falun Gong practitioners in Florida, Cao started her journey to health and wellness. She began learning the exercises and studying Falun Gong’s main text, “Zhuan Falun,” which has been translated into over 40 languages and explains the principles of moral living and upright conduct.
Cao said that initially she had difficulties understanding some of the things mentioned in the book and relied on her husband, who would read the book to her and explain the meaning of the words that she couldn’t understand. Cao’s husband also helped her learn the five sets of exercises, and in the process of supporting her, he too began practicing its meditative exercises.
“My life underwent earthshaking changes after that,” she said. “As I started to read the book, I knew this was what I had been seeking, a path of cultivation.”
Cao said it is the “miraculous nature” of Falun Gong that helped her recover from her illnesses, and her short temper was replaced with tolerance and kindness.
“[M]y health improved a lot … and felt much better than before. My eyesight returned to normal and my rheumatism disappeared. My appetite also came back,” Cao said.
“I now enjoy sound sleep and no nightmares ever disturb me.”
Having her health restored, Cao could finally enjoy a life free of depression and anxiety. She said that she never misses a chance to share the beauty of the practice with anyone she thinks can benefit from the practice.
“[The practice] saved me from desperation and gave me a brand new life,” she said.
“My personal experience is a testimonial to the miraculous nature of Falun Dafa,” she said. “Falun Dafa is so vast and boundless, like the ocean, and I am a lucky little fish swimming in the sparkling freshwater.”