“In every trial there is a lesson. Some lessons begin by digging out.” – Grandpa Mato
Three years ago, when I got the letter with the quote above, I would smirk and think, “Yeah right!”
In the last three years, I would read this letter and the quote and be in utter disbelief that anything can be learned when in the depths of hell itself.
Today, I read this and smile. I’ve come to learn that yes it’s true. It’s true even though I tried to end my life, even though I had to quit a very high paying job that I enjoyed, even though I still suffer from major depression and probably always will to some degree of another, good has come out of my negative experience. I have learned the lesson to take care of myself and listen to my body and watch for the warning signs. Most of all I’ve learned it’s ok to ask for help; albeit the hard way.
I just felt extremely unmotivated. I had no ambition for tomorrow. I only had negative thoughts in my head, and was excruciatingly tired of life. All huge red flags given my personality!
I was immensely frustrated with myself. I didn’t know why I was depressed or even that I was depressed. I thought I had it all: the love of my life, good health, a keen mind, no real debt, the management job, highly respected on the corporate ladder and all at the early age of 28.
I could read and write a several languages, lived on the beach, had a great, smart, funny, beautiful, sexy woman who loved me for who I was and a wide network of friends. So what happened to me?
Indeed, I felt really ungrateful to be sick at all.
All the people who pass me everyday seem to live much harder lives, scraping by often paycheck to paycheck. So, who was I to be unhappy about my life? I had no answer for that burning question. And the more I thought about it, the more I got caught in my web of negative thoughts and unreasonable reasoning of life.
The few close friends who knew of my plight. A few who had lived it all with me. Everyone would say how strong I was, how brave I was. Some called me a hero. But inside I suffocated, one day at a time just drowning in the darkness inside.
My friends would give me examples of great leaders of the world who had to go through trials and tribulations. Nelson Mandela is among my favorites I’ve heard. They would tell me of the great things they’d later do because of their trials and in-spite of their trials.
They’d say there was something great in store for me, and it would end up a positive life changing experience. They reassured me of this often.
But I could not agree with anything they said to me. I could not see beyond that dark tunnel of despair. I found no meaning in life. There was no greatness for me to come, nothing good from this life. I saw only the pain and was blinded.
I tried to end my own life for the second time.
Somehow, a little spark went off in my head one day, and I decided to write my own blog. I’d always written a journal which I’ve not shared with any saved a very few. So, I started writing and rambling. TJ might have had something *tiny* to do with it too.
I asked myself again those fundamental questions on what I wanted in life, what would make me happy, and what my passions were.
Through my self-reflection and writing I’ve finally learned some lessons.
In no particular order here are the ones I wish to share with you:
1. Don’t ignore warning signals in your body. Frequent petty colds, stomach aches, and headaches may all be a sign of stress. Dark thoughts are a big trigger to ask for help. Stopping them before they become overwhelming is a huge key to not drowning in the darkness. Ask for help as soon as I’m ankle deep in the darkness and not when I’m over my head.
2. There is no need to be strong all the time, and even less of a need to maintain an image of strength in front of others. I’m human and I’m squishy soft on the outside, I break easy and I shouldn’t be ashamed to be soft or weak and to show it when I am.
3. Achievements and titles mean nothing if they’re not something you’re passionate about. Everything I’ve done means nothing if there is no passion for it. I will only leave one legacy in the end and people will far remember my passion more than achievement.
4. Creativity is therapeutic, and it’s in everyone, just sometimes suppressed. Getting out here and putting it all in words has been more therapeutic for me than every doctor I’ve ever seen. I’m not diminishing the doctors, no way. But writing, having others read and even some say hey this really helped me or I’ll say a pray for you or even thank you now I know I’m not alone. You dear reader have no idea how truly blessed I am for each of you.
5. We need to matter the most to ourselves—over anything and everything in life. I had to learn “I matter” and “I have value”. Then I had to believe it. No matter how awful things get in the future; I matter. So do you.
6. Not replying to emails or texts immediately is not the end of the world. The people who matter don’t care and the people who care don’t matter. Those closest know life matters and they will wait to be answered because they know I’m living life first and they’ll be happy for that.
7. We all need spare time for solitude and reflection. I need to surf or climb. For me nature, god’s arena is my solitude. It’s my place to recharge, smile and know that yes I am little, I am broken and I am good. (Yes I wrote a post named I am little, I am broken, I am good.) See you were reading 🙂
8. It doesn’t matter what everybody else thinks, if I know in my heart something isn’t right then it isn’t right. Sometimes this goes beyond faith, beyond reason and beyond what I thought I knew. It’s just a feeling deep inside. Sometimes the world IS wrong and you’re right, but just sometimes.
9. Most petty worries aren’t serious. Never worry about the things I can’t control, it’s not worth the energy. I’m limited in the energy available each day and if spending the energy in anyway that doesn’t have benefit then just don’t.
10. Everything will be okay in time. A little faith that things will work out and this is temporary goes a long way. Also know when to ask for help early, back to not needing to be strong.
11. Health is the most important thing in the world. I enjoy my health since good health is the slowest possible means to death and I want to live. Staying active and engaged in living are the most important things I can do to staying healthy and fit. The fresh air and ocean water don’t hurt either. 🙂
12. Sometimes it’s best to stop doing so many things, and instead spend more time enjoying what I have. Get rid of all the clutter and focus small. Keeping that small focus is tricky given today’s world but it can be done.
13. There is no point in being afraid of the uncertainty because it doesn’t change that the future is the biggest uncertainty of all. So just make the leap. That’s it both feet, plug the nose and take the plunge. Sometimes a little change, some thing new is just what the doctor ordered.
14. I don’t have to worry about being a disappointment to anyone, because I do not need to live according to anyone else’s expectations of me. Back to those that matter don’t care and those that care don’t matter. Unless what I am doing is a danger to myself no one who matters will care.
15. I will hurt, that’s just a fact of life. I can choose to turn the hurt to good and I’ve found it hurts a whole lot less. Negative events can be used in positive ways and the new spin on the events can go a long way to curing the ache.
Depression was a very loud wake up call for me. So many years spent mired in it. But I’ve learned and grown from it.
In-particular it taught me to stop sprinting towards the vanity of titles, money, and achievements. When I’ve needed to be recognized for what I’ve done I was least happy in life. Believe it or not I was happier stripping that chasing the career. It was a simpler time I guess.
The career and chasing acceptance from others, always needing to live up to this expectation or that. Everyone thought I was happy but in hindsight I really wasn’t. It was a signal that something was terribly wrong in my life and a change was needed.
It took my heart stopping (I was clinically dead for seven minutes), a month in the ICU, a month in the SCU and ten months in the psych-ward for me to fully appreciate the value of every breath, every heart beat of every day. All 80,640 of them from every day.
I do not purport to have learned everything there is to learn about adversity. Yet, my mind has opened to welcoming experiences that might seem negative, now and in years to come. I know the negative can be turned to positive, it’s all in looking for the right spin to turn it all around. It’s also about knowing when to ask for help and it’s better in this case to cry wolf and not need than to not cry wolf and need.
Whatever comes, positive or negative, embrace it with open arms, experience it, and learn from it. It’s all part of life and life is worth every heartbeat. The sad, the happy and everything in between.
Today I am still recovering from depression and I will always struggle with it. But I’m learning to free myself from the traps of negative thinking, and establishing new habits for a new life. I’m learning my triggers and how to cope when they must be faced. It’s a road, it’s hard and it’s worth every baby step.
I must remember to be thankful for everything life has to offer. From the negative I can find positive and thus I say “Thank you depression. Thank you adversity. Thank you life.”
I’ve had my fair shares of struggles, and I’ll have more—which means I’ll have new opportunities to learn, grow, and share it. It’s all part of what makes me human, what a grand experiment we all are.
So I say to my readers. Thank you for sharing, thank you for caring and thank you for coming along on the ride that is my life. I love each and every one of you.
So now to include you and allow you to help others. I am inviting you to do the following.
Introduce yourself and your blog and share a post on some of the wisdom you’ve reaped from your challenging times?
Thank you for being you, love always,