I can’t believe Robin Williams is no longer with us. As tragic as it is to hear about any celebrity’s death, I don’t think I’ve ever grieved like this over someone I didn’t know personally. I’m not sure what it was about Robin Williams, but I felt this strange and deep sense of loss. My heart physically ached when I heard the news. Maybe I am also mourning the loss of the happier parts of my childhood. I didn’t realize until this week how much of a profound impact he had. For someone who brought so much joy and laughter into other people’s lives, it’s sad to hear that he was a victim of his own depression.
I’m always open about this in person, but I’ve never quite worked up the courage to openly talk about my own struggle with depression here. It’s a travel blog after all, so I wanted to keep it light and mostly filled with travelogues and helpful tips on traveling. But I also know that depression has been a marked part of who I am and why I practice gratitude and why I take Local Adventures. I know I’m not the only one, so hopefully this may help whoever is reading this know that you’re not alone too.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived with depression. I was great at masking this growing up, because I felt pressure to be the perfect pastor’s child. I know I’ve had plenty of happy memories sprinkled into my childhood, but overall I was internally a somber and moody child. I honestly believed everyone in the world also felt the way I did and was also masking their sadness too.
Yet I hoped that this was a phase of childhood, and one day as I blossomed into a mature adult, it would resolve itself. I was wrong. Last year, while living in LA, my depression spiraled out of control to the point where I alienated myself from almost everyone I knew, and I could not leave my bed most days. I felt completely and utterly hopeless. Each and every passing day was painful, and the guilt of my depressing existence would even eat away at me (See how it continues to spiral?). It took courage that I didn’t think I could afford to keep living each new day.
When I was hitting my rock bottom of last year, I finally decided to seek help. I was put on a medication that my body responded well to and I talked to a therapist regularly.
This is what I learned so far (certain ones may only apply to me):
- Everything in life comes to pass. Even life itself passes.
- You are never alone in your struggles. It’s extremely easy to feel this way. Know that there is always someone who is going through the same thing.
- You are also not the only one struggling. Everyone has their own share of struggles even if it’s not the same as yours. Don’t forget that life can be tough for everyone.
- Don’t try to do life alone. It’s easy to feel like a burden and want to alienate yourself, but this is probably when you need help the most.
- Don’t be afraid to share even if people can’t relate to you. Even if those around me couldn’t relate, I was encouraged by how much my husband and friends deeply cared for me.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. I know there’s a weird stigma about mental health, but don’t let that stop you from getting the help you need.
- It can take time to find the right therapist and the right combination of medication that works for you. Don’t lose hope if it doesn’t happen right away. For both, you need good chemistry.
- Practicing gratitude helps to shift your mindset.
- Focusing on helping others helps you see outside of yourself and your problems.
- Eating healthy and exercise helps make a difference in mood. It at least keeps your body happier.
- Don’t obsess over the pursuit of happiness. When you are consumed with depression, it’s easy to obsess over this. The pursuit itself can do more harm than good.
- There will be tough times in life. There will be more seasons of depression and maybe even deeper and lower valleys in my life, but now I know how to recognize it earlier and hopefully seek help. I know I don’t gracefully accept these times now, but maybe one day I will.
- Take baby steps. Don’t expect any of the above to be a quick and easy fix.
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with depression, you know it’s not something that you can just snap out of. I’ve tried to fix things by the book. These life lessons certainly helped contribute to a healthier mental state, but it’s a continual process. As of last month, I’m thankful that I no longer need my medication or need a therapist (though I like to check in every once in a while to get a “tune up”).
I also know that it’s so much easier to talk about your struggles in hindsight when you’ve already dealt with the worst of it. Because I value openness, honestly, and authenticity, next week I hope to share what I am currently struggling with. I’m grateful for all the life lessons I’ve learned so far, and I’m grateful to be able to share a piece of myself to such a wonderful blog community.
P.S I found that depressing photo of me from this past weekend in LA and it made me laugh so hard. So fitting for the post, but I was actually more pissed at Jacob than I was depressed. ;)
P.P.S We’re also celebrating Robin William’s life by having a movie marathon over here starting with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Hook!