Yesterday was a “get out of my head day”. I woke up in the morning knowing that if I didn’t do something I’d slip into the old trap that my melancholy loves to set for me.
Just a year ago, I would’ve given in. I would have let the lurking depression and isolation take over me and stayed in my apartment for most of the day, or spent the whole day in bed if it was a particularly bad spell. It hasn’t even been a year since the change but the difference is astounding.
Yesterday, I got up, packed a lunch and my camera gear, and headed out the door. A year ago I would’ve been stuck in the darkness of my house and my mind.
Granted, it took a while for my mind to free itself from itself. It wasn’t until about an hour into the adventure that I was finally able to break past the fog and think clearly. And that’s when the peace came along with the time to reflect on what was different.
For the first time in my life, I’m ok with being alone
When I was growing up, I needed people. People were my medicine, they were what I abused to keep the darkness at bay. I grew desperate for human company because I didn’t know how to be alone without falling into a funk, not to mention I didn’t see value in myself when I was alone. The only value I had was in my ability to be a good and reliable friend, and when no one was around for me to put on a show for, I had to be who I really was: a lonely, unsure, and broken girl. So instead of facing that side of me I pushed it down and filled my time with people as much as I could. Not only did it not do me any good, but it hurt others around me. In my efforts to prevent myself from drowning I’d latch on to someone else and drag them down with me instead of reaching out for the rescue buoy that would allow us to get out together.
After moving back to California after graduation I was completely alone with exception of my family. It’s taken me this entire time to finally start creating a community and find places to connect. But I haven’t let the lack of friends keep me from living a full life. My summer and fall were incredibly busy as I ran around the Bay Area doing whatever interested me. I tried new things, went to events by myself, and let my love for photography lead me around on new adventures. It was refreshing and freeing and brought me so much joy and personal growth.
I stopped pushing aside my true self.
My artistic self is my true self. The dreamer in me loves to create and think and explore. It loves to believe in the goodness of the world and the endless beauty of life. While I was in school I rarely made time for non-school related writing or photography. I didn’t allow my thoughts to develop or give them an environment to flourish in. As a result, they often swirled around in my head for days on end driving me crazy.
Writing is a way I process; it’s the way I reconcile my point of view with my life journey. It’s where I’m most honest with myself and where I am able to learn from where I’ve been. I can put my mind at ease when I’ve written all my emotions and thoughts on a page. Sometimes it’s scribbles of songs or poems in a notebook, sometimes it’s a dialogue, sometimes it’s interpersonal reflection, but it’s all me allowing myself to be me. Allowing myself to think and feel and express.
I started fighting against the darkness.
The biggest revelation I had yesterday was that in the past I let myself sink into the haze and be overcome by it. I never fought back. For so many years I let the tide rise around me. Seeing when it was at my ankles as a sign of what was coming, thinking that when it was at my knees that I should probably do something, and knowing that when it was at my chest I needed to get out quickly or I’d soon be underwater. But through it all, I didn’t do anything, I just stood there and let the dark water rise, sometimes I actually sat down in it to let it cover me faster because I was too tired to wait for it.
Yesterday I saw the water around my ankles and I got up and got out. I looked at gloomy liquid, and as much as I wanted to just give in and take the easy route I fought back. If you’ve ever struggled with some sort of depression, putting on clothes, preparing to leave, and actually getting out the door take excruciating amounts of mental effort. The fog in your mind is calling you back to bed, to the isolation of your room or house, while you’re struggling to remember that there’s indeed a sun behind those thick clouds. Every step seems like an impossible feat that must be conquered. Sometimes, I can fight on my own and push out through the fog to rest in the warm bask of the sun but I’ve learned when I can’t and when I need to reach out and ask for someone to bring their own light into my darkness. Most days I’ve got the strength to push back but sometimes I don’t and I’ve learned that asking for help is just a strong of a way to fight as doing it on your own.
Hope took ahold of me.
Probably the greatest and most powerful change in my life is that I finally came to understand the power of redemption, grace, forgiveness, and love. The pieces finally clicked in my heart and locked everything into place and I simply cannot go back.
There’s something about experiencing the fullness of light and joy that doesn’t allow you to return to a mundane life. Each morning is made new and each day I am refreshed with a more resilient hope and love for this great place we call home. Because of this hope and joy, I walk into each new day knowing that every step I take helps me pursue my dream and so I cannot stop moving forward. In the leadership world, it’s called “finding your why”, discovering the reason you’re working or going to the gym or eating healthy, or doing anything that involves living. Putting the purpose to what would otherwise be a mundane journey. My hope is that every person on this planet would leave it one day knowing they’re valued and loved beyond their wildest imagine. For that reason, I cannot stop, I must press forward and push past the darkness because darkness has already lost the war and I will not let it win any more battles.