November 6, 2019

How the Jōrni Was Born

by Petra Brunnbauer
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Depression Hell Sur-Thriver


The word itself brings up a whole bag of extremely mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I am angry and frustrated that it took so much of my life from me. On the other hand, I am thankful for all the things I learned about myself and my depression that make it possible to live my life to the fullest extent now, with deep passion and gratitude.

So, here it goes. 

Hi, my name is Petra and I am a depression sur-thriver. 

I borrowed the term sur-thriver from Melissa Dohme Hill, who calls herself a sur-thriver. She lived through domestic abuse and attempted murder, to become a beacon of light for those going through similar situations. She is such an amazing inspiration and I have read her story many times, especially in times when I thought I could not go on. Knowing what she has endured and her determination to survive often gave me the strength to just fight it one more time.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
                                                       - Khalil Gibran

I think for those of us going through depression and getting sucked into its swirling depths over and over again, finally breaking through it and walking out the other end deserves a term better than “former victim of depression” or “depression survivor”.

Living with depression is like constantly teetering on the edge of a giant cliff and finding a way to pull ourselves back from that darkness takes every ounce of strength we have.


When we finally find relief and break through, it will leave us as a changed person. Not only did we survive depression, but we also now need to thrive as different people than we were before.

Depression may have changed us physically, as well as mentally and it may have broken relationships and lost us family members, friends, and jobs. I didn’t even recognize myself after nearly two decades of depression and it was tough to re-define who I was.

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What happened?

I was born and raised in Germany and by all accounts, I had a pretty normal and happy childhood. My sister and I spent a lot of time with family and friends and my parents provided everything we could possibly need to be happy.

When I was about 5 years old, I started having anxiety attacks about the people I loved dying. I remember waking up in a panic because the realization that my mother could die and what that would mean hit me hard.

Happy Childhood

These attacks were infrequent though and didn’t interfere too much with my quality of life. I still had lots of friends and experienced emotions from super happy to super sad and everything in between. Just like any other kid.

In 1994, my parents decided to move us to Canada and that’s when the trouble really began. Through the move I lost my entire identity and we were outsiders, since we didn’t know anybody and did not speak the language. I made friends, many of whom are still treasured relationships today, but I never felt at home.


I couldn’t visit with any of my extended family anymore and the whole culture we had grown up with did not exist anymore. This was the beginning of a very long journey that would take me to the brink of life and death, although at the time, I did not know that.

In my teens, I lived through sexual assault and did not tell my family about it. Things went downhill quickly and by the end of high school, I was isolating myself more and more.

My parents were at a complete loss and thought I was just being a typical, rude teenager. It was not until I battled an eating disorder and two suicide attempts later that they knew something had gone completely sideways.

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The long depression journey

And where do you start after that? I had to break off my first year at college because I had a complete mental breakdown and still it was difficult to understand what was even going on.

I was diagnosed with depression and started on meds. I turned into a zombie for several months and realized somewhere in the brain fog that meds would go absolutely nowhere. I tried conventional counselling and dozens of alternative therapies as well.

I had good months and all of a sudden depression would rear its ugly head again and I would be reduced to returning to my parents’ house because I could no longer care for myself.


Until I was 35, I lived with my parents because I could not trust myself to handle my life and that in itself weighed heavily on me. 

I battled depression for nearly 20 years, until I finally began to understand what was causing it.

Little by little, I clawed my way out of the hole. My good weeks turned into good months and my good months finally turned into good years.

I am not saying by any means that I don’t get sad or I don’t have bad days or weeks. In 2018, several family members and my best friend passed away suddenly and I won’t lie – that pushed me to my limits.


But since establishing what my triggers are and putting in place my coping techniques, I have been able to move through episodes that would have previously turned into full-blown depressive bouts that would have lasted months and rendered me unable to work and function.

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The key is to become aware

Why am I telling you all this? I truly believe that a large part of why I was finally able to break through my depression was the fact that I became AWARE. 

  • I talked with many other depression sur-thrivers and people living with depression.
  • I spoke to health care professionals and alternative therapists.
  • I quizzed dozens of mental health experts about anxiety and depression.
  • I tried everything anyone recommended online to stamp out my depression (within reason – I skipped the taking LSD suggestion 😉).

But it all started with awareness. And that’s why I decided to create this blog and the Jorni program. It is my goal to create a safe space to share and talk about depression and mental health.

It is also my hope that this blog will provide a lot of valuable information for anyone battling depression and anxiety, to start their own breakthrough journey.

And I hope this blog will give loved ones of people with depression a place to look through information when they are trying to provide help and support.

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The Takeaway

Depression is different for everyone and, in my opinion, there is no one-size fits all approach. What might help one person might not work for someone else and keeping that in mind is the first step in creating awareness.

There is no one right answer and no one right approach.

If we all share our experiences and knowledge and talk about depression, we could be providing the final piece for someone’s breakthrough. And that is what it is all about.

Final Piece

I hope you check back here often and watch this very first post turn into many more posts and resources. If you want to see a post about a particular topic or would like to share your depression story, please get in touch with me.

Here’s to hope, first steps, and breakthroughs because we all deserve to be depression sur-thrivers!


anxiety, breakthrough, depression, the jorni

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