July 15, 2019
This is a difficult blog for me to share but if I can help one person, then it was worth it. I believe these tips apply to all of us no matter where we're at.
I spent all of my childhood and most of my adulthood in depression. Things happened in my family due to circumstances that left me apart from my parents and sisters since I was 9 months old (according to my grandma). Because no one explained it to me, like most small children, I blamed myself. I thoroughly convinced myself that if my mom left me, then I must be a horrible person and absolutely unlovable. If she gave me away, how can I expect love from others. This made me extremely shy and afraid to seek friendships. I was suicidal, alone, and scared. If I was past down from mom to aunt to grandma, then I better show up perfect so grandma wouldn't leave me too. I wished someone took the time to tell me I'm loved. I'm here to tell you that you're lovable, you're worthwhile, and you're enough.
You have a right to how you feel so validate that and let go of judgment and comparisons. Whatever your goals and obstacles, know that you are worth the effort. Our past shapes us and makes us even more powerful and empowered if we allow it. Whether you abuse your body with food or other things, this is your time to flip the switch and love yourself.
I'm still dealing with some of what feels like permanent wounds. I know my mom never intends to hurt me, but she unknowingly continues to hurt me to this day. Because I can't change other people, I have set out to work on myself. It took decades and sometimes it feels like I work every minute of my life to feel "normal." It's exhausting! I promise you it's worth it though. Looking back, these are the things that kept me alive. I'd be lying if any of this was intentional at the time. I was definitely fumbling and just got lucky that these things actually helped me be the happy person I am today. Maybe there's something to be said about our intuition to thrive. Let's also get real. I, like everyone else, am still work in progress. I hope that my sharing will make your journey much shorter than mine and your efforts WILL pay off.
- Connection. I didn't think I'd be alive for very long so I had nothing to lose. After traveling alone to 30 countries, working to sustain my shoestring travels and staying in shady places, I met amazing people who accepted me. It never occurred to me that strangers can love me. I made so many cool connections. This was the beginning of gaining a glimpse of self-confidence and self-worth. They had no idea they saved me, so smile at the next person that crosses your path. You have no idea your impact on them. Today, I have very close friends who I call family and they continue to be my foundation. Find your tribe.
- Trees. As I picked up my backpack to roam earth alone, I sought out the woods. My main activity in every country was and still is hiking. I guess I did myself a favor without knowing it. The latest Harvard study indicates that walking in the woods (not the city) helps with mental illness and can even prevent it.
- Breathe/Move. I'm a terrible breather especially when I feel depressed or anxious. Good thing I've always gravitated towards exercise. You can't help but breathe deeply when you're running, swimming, playing sports. Beach volleyball is something I've grown to call therapy. Find your therapy that is fun! Although I'm an advocate of meditation, I can't seem to sit still. I do use yoga often. Find YOUR breath; YOUR movement.
- Gratitude. I spent decades under dark clouds (since the 4th grade). It took so much work to rewire my mind to focus on the positive. Each time I'd crumble and fall to pieces, I tried to find some gratitude. Depression is serious, and I know how hard it is. Changing how I wake up in the morning was my main focus. It starts with gratitude and a smile even if I have to fake it that day.
- De-clutter. There was a time that I moved every 9 months so it didn't allow me to accumulate or own very much. Plus, I was extremely poor. Get rid of what you don't need. Less is more. A de-cluttered life is a healthier, happier life.
- Purpose. Do something you feel proud about. I worked with wild animals (they made more sense to me than people at the time), joined the Peace Corps, and presently doing work to help others be healthier and happier. We are all different. Take the time to focus on others but treat yourself with compassion. The words I'd use to myself would send me straight to prison. Can you be nice to yourself? Talk to yourself like how you would talk to a friend.
I've come a long way and I have lots of people I owe my success to. I still focus on the 6 points above with more intention now. Additionally, I'm learning to connect with my body and what that blob inside is trying to tell me. I'm also learning to be a mom and that has been so healing to have a second chance at a loving mother-daughter relationship. Lastly, I'm working on rewriting my story and checking in when my brain freaks out. How can you rewrite the stories you tell yourself?
Let me know if this helped and share your journey with me if you're comfortable. I wish you a fruitful journey full of smiles even on bad days. Those are the most important days to find something to smile about.
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