Depression holds people under water just long enough to make their lungs sparkle with water, but not long enough that they disappear. I believe that’s the aspect of it that makes it so painful. Suffering for long periods of time gasping for air, but unable to articulate your needs.
There is a bittersweet emotional tension between depression and the desire to be immersed in efforts of self-help.
Can I cure my depression by eating a vegan diet?
Maybe I can go through years of intensive therapy and learn to fix myself.
I’m not trying hard enough.
The meds aren’t working and I’m more tired than I’ve ever been.
Maybe more podcasts, encouraging books, exercise, time with friends, and sleep will help me to get my head above water.
All of those things are wonderful, but when you overload yourself with the best of intentions when you’re in survival mode you will fall.
Maybe you cycle through self blame, self help, and self sabotage. The truth is that depression isn’t a destiny at all. It’s a journey. It may not be one that you set out for, but you are on the road with a painful yet magnificent teaching tool.
The truth is that the best effort you can put forth in dark times of depression is the effort of not giving up on yourself.
Focus on the fact that your lungs are filled with air. It doesn’t make the pain evaporate, but it will be enough to get you through one day at a time.
You aren’t failing. As a matter of fact, you can and will thrive.
Our inner dialogue can become exhausting to live with if we are constantly hearing and believing the worst about ourselves. When those times of discouragement come take time to replace those thoughts with the three truths to live by.
1. I am not alone
When we face hardships the first thing that can pop into our mind is Nobody understands me. Then, our emotions kick in and we feel isolated and alone. Regardless of what you are going through, you are not alone. There is someone in the world that is facing something that is breaking their heart as much as your trial is breaking yours. We hear so often about what makes us different. Whether it’s the color of our skin, the place we grew up, or the education we have received–we’re constantly bombarded with our differences.
The truth is that we’re all more alike than we realize–especially in our suffering. Nearly everyone knows what grief feels like. There aren’t many people that don’t know what sadness or fear feel like.
It’s so vital that you remind yourself of the community, friends, and family around you. If you don’t feel like you have any people to love and care for you in those areas then keep your eyes open for encouragement. It isn’t far fetched to think that we find the hope we need just when we need it. Most of the time it’s in the most unexpected places.
2. I matter
You matter. Your life matters. Your opinions, hopes, fears, and dreams matter. This is a truth to keep close to your heart today and always. Why? Because sometimes we all feel like we are in a robotic mode through life. We can feel that life is happening to us and not for us. Our opinions become buried deep because we think that they aren’t important. Dreams collect dust because we’re not confident enough to make them a reality. We hold our fears with a tight fist afraid that someone may see them and push us aside.
Our hope is that you will always know that you matter. On hard days, you matter. When you make mistakes, you matter. Those times that you’d rather not share your heart, you matter. There isn’t anything that you can comprehend that is as vast as your importance. The galaxies themselves pale in comparison to the beauty that is within you–simply because you are.
This is not giving you a mirror to hold up to yourself and count what you perceive as flaws. This isn’t a lesson on humility or an encouraging piece on how to embrace your quirks.
Perfection is fleeting. We accomplish something and the feeling of victory and encouragement fades as quickly as the setting sun. Trying to attain perfection is like trying to catch the morning fog in your hands. It’s impossible. Girl, this is your chance to lay all of that down. The need for control is deeply rooted in many of us. Many of us carry that burden because we felt unsafe and insecure in our childhoods. You are weary and you’re going to fall to pieces if you keep chasing after perfect. She’s an illusion and will always be ten steps ahead of you in your mind. Being imperfect means you’re human. Being imperfect means you’re breathing. Being imperfect means that there’s cause for celebration. You do not need to fix, become, or salvage yourself. You are imperfectly perfect.
Every morning the mountains would stand strong and silent against the dark sky. Then, the sun would slowly illuminate the treetops and the birds would begin to sing against a golden canvas. Those mountains would stand with their smooth scoops dipping into the valley below and greet me each morning. I would play with my cousins until the summer sun melted behind the ridge and the sky was left a cotton candy pink. Later, with my pajamas on and blankets resting on my cheek, the moon would light the tallest trees and the mountains and I would fall asleep together.
It was under that cotton candy sky and between those mountains–like bookends holding my life upright–that I began to hide. My temperament, childhood trauma, and desire to make others happy caused me to press on and act as if I was not affected by difficult times.
The Safest Place
“Please, help me. I don’t know what I need, but I need help.”, I begged with tears in my eyes.
I wiped my sweatshirt sleeve across my running nose and anxiously crossed my ankles.
“I can do that.” she said as she leaned in closer.
I was 28-years-old and was seeing a therapist for the first time. I looked around her home office and tried to count the books on her shelf to distract myself.
“I can see that you’re anxious right now. I want you to think of somewhere that brings you peace.”
I shifted in my seat and nodded my head in agreement.
“Where is that place for you?”
“The mountains.”, I said just above a whisper.
“What about the mountains makes you feel at peace?”
“Everything. I called them home for the first 19 years of my life. They’re so much bigger than I am and make me feel so small in the best way. I’m never alone when I’m in the mountains.”
“That’s beautiful. I want you to think of the mountains any time that you’re feeling overwhelmed during our sessions.”
Between Then and Now
I have used that technique in many sessions with my therapist since.
Maybe you’re on the edge of seeking treatment to work through past trauma, a new mental health diagnosis, or a combination of the two. It’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, it may be one of the most difficult things that you’ll ever do.
In all of my imperfection, I want to step forward and tell you that it will be worth it.
I’m holding space for you in the mountains. The sun is setting now; the sky turning golden pink. Soon, the moon will settle in for the night and the crickets will chirp by the creek. Then, lovely soul, the sun will rise and warm your face again.
We need to remind each other to let ourselves rest so we can change the world with our whole selves.
The Problem With Busyness
You have dreams of your own to make the world around you a better place. So once you entered the workforce, you got to hustling. A few times, you’d regretfully climb into bed feeling guilty about all the things on your to-do list you didn’t check off.
Then your email inbox started giving you anxiety, even if you’re not looking at it. When friends and family asked “how have you been” your reply was “busy.”
Then you got less excited about new ideas. You used to love being creative but now it seems like too much work.
Finally you googled “signs of burnout” and admitted to yourself that you needed a break. Then you look at your to do list again, realized how much you needed to get done and started knocking things off that list. Once you’re done, you can rest.
In a culture that tells us to hustle and grind, we glorify busyness. How full our calendar is directly relates to how important we feel.
But since when was busyness our goal?
M. K. Ghandi said “There has to be more to life than speed.” And I’m inclined to believe him.
We’ve tricked ourselves into believing that busyness will get us to a place where we can finally relax. Yet we never seem to arrive at that place. We just keep going. Sometimes until our bodies literally force us to stop.
The Reason for Rest
In Bec Heinrich’s Ted Talk on rest, she states productivity requires rest. She uses Michael Jordan as an example. He spent an average of 20% of each game resting on the bench because he realized his body and mind needed a break so he could go back out and give his all. Jordan played 1,072 games in his career. I wonder if he hadn’t taken a break, if he wouldn’t have been able to play as many games? I wonder if we don’t take a break, if we run the risk of shortening our own future success and joy?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to stop feeling guilty when I can’t point to something I accomplished. I feel the urge to pack my to-do list with lots of things that will prove I’m not lazy. But maybe the key to being truly productive is rest.
What I’m Learning
Here are some things I’m learning about rest…
What if we learned to advocate for ourselves in our own minds – Stop considering ourselves either Wonder Woman or a failure. So often we trap ourselves in either/or thought patterns that don’t actually exist. We can be strong AND need rest. We can be driven AND take time to do something fun and utterly pointless.
Maybe we have to understand that rest is personal. What makes you feel revitalized and ready to go might make me feel utterly exhausted. Self-care doesn’t have to look like a bath and candles unless that is actually how you ENJOY resting.
There are multiple types of energy and rest. We all have social, spiritual, physical, mental and emotional energy. Each is a little different from the other. Doesn’t it naturally follow that there are different types of rest as well? Instead of assuming rest always looks like a facemask and long bath (which might be great if you’ve had a physically demanding day), maybe we need to replenish the type of energy we’ve lost throughout the day. This requires us to ask ourselves questions about our tiredness and it opens up all kinds of new possibilities for rest.
Reframing how we think of rest can change everything. Rest is a way for us to replenish energy. It gives us the chance to say how/when we want to spend or save our energy. Productivity without rest will slowly get less and less meaningful until we’ve burnt out completely. Rest works best when we make it a habit – before we’re burnt out. Not as a last-ditch solution to feeling overworked and stressed. Once we’re in burn-out, we’re fighting an uphill battle to get back to ourselves. Yes, there are seasons of life that will beat us down and leave us burnt-out and stressed. But shouldn’t those be seasons of life and not the way we live our whole life?
If you’re someone like me who wants to change the world or maybe just our little corner of it, you need to learn how to rest. Spending all your energy does the world no good. Pushing through and living life as a well-meaning zombie means we all lose out on your spirit, your creativity, your heart because you’re too tired to share it with us. We need to remind each other to let ourselves rest so we can change the world with our whole selves.
This guest post was written by Cassidy Perry, founder of The Arise Box. The Arise Box gives you a simple, easy way to fight human trafficking in your every-day life. We curate products you can feel good about (ethically made, sustainable, give back, really world-changing stuff) while using part of the profits to build care packages for human trafficking survivors. You are worthy and capable of making a real difference in the world. We’re here to help you get started. Subscribe to The Arise Box at TheAriseBox.com to start empowering survivors, you world-changer you.
But I spend as much time as I can being creative, because it’s healing.
Dear Stranger, my name’s Caitlin and I have a mood disorder.
First things first…
I didn’t always have anxiety and depression. In fact, I used to be considered a class clown in my younger days. I remember being shy sometimes, but I was a pretty confident kid. As a girl I would love to make my friends laugh. I would draw funny pictures for them too, and make up characters. I’ve always been told I was creative.
But things changed once I got a little older. I was sitting in a classroom in 8th grade, and suddenly I felt a fear I had never felt before. I felt trapped. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to get out of there. I didn’t know it then, but I had experienced my first panic attack. They say something traumatic must happen to a person for them to have an anxiety disorder, but that’s not always true.
As a teenager, I started getting depressed and anxious. I was too afraid to take pills or seek therapy at the time. But when I was feeling low, I always had my sketchbook. I drew fairies and elves and hobbits, mainly. And when I wasn’t drawing, my friends and I filmed brilliant (to us) videos. If Youtube existed back then, let me tell you we would’ve had our own channel. Just like in my younger years, I would play countless characters for the video camera, trying to make people laugh. When I did that, I forgot about my anxiety and depression. I felt like myself again.
Fast forward to my years as a young mother. I had postpartum depression every time I had a new baby (and I had three kids in 5 years). I went through a period where I forgot how to be creative. I wasn’t drawing or writing anymore. But as the kids grew, I found that we could do crafts together. Making beeswax candles, making salt dough hand prints, …it was very fun creating things again, this time with my little ones.
The Spark of Creativity
I was still a lonely mom, but one day I had an idea. I decided to start hosting an annual tea party for my friends. It was called a Cupid’s Tea. We would craft Valentine’s together. Sitting there at my first of many tea parties, simply using a glue stick….it sparked something in me. From then on I never stopped trying to be creative.
I started being more crafty. My kids and I made fairy gardens outside, and painted birdhouses. I started scrap booking. I even got more creative with my hair. I may have had depression, but dying my hair pink, purple, blue and teal cheered me up. I may have had anxiety, but I could rock a mohawk!
When we moved from Virginia to Alabama, it wasn’t easy.
It was at this time I got really into painting wooden signs and making dream catchers. I made so many crafts that I was encouraged to start an Etsy shop, so I did. Knowing that people will pay money for the things I make is really encouraging. It helps me with my loneliness and my mood disorder.
Keep in mind, I still have a mood disorder. I have bad days. I manage it with medication and seeing a psychiatrist. But I spend as much time as I can being creative, because it’s healing.
I just want to encourage you, stranger, to try something just for you. Sketch, paint, blog, scrapbook, write, craft, or dye your hair red. There is something about creativity that has always helped me, and no matter what you’re going through, I believe it will help you too.
I will leave you with this quote by one of my heroes, which I love.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness; You mustn’t lose it” – Robin Williams
As David Horsey of the LA Times said: ” I very much doubt the “madness” of which he spoke had anything to do with mental illness. Rather, it is the spark of impulse, insight, enthusiasm and inspiration that is essential to creativity.”