The past few weeks have been a struggle for me to keep it together emotionally. Blame it on the compounding workload and final quarter stress at school, the descent into winter with its cold and shortened hours of daylight, or the need for an updated med check. Who’s to say? As much as I would love to permanently banish these feelings of depression and inadequacy, they tend to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times, almost like a reoccurring and unsightly outbreak of herpes.
I find myself mindlessly Googling terms such as “how to be happy,” “how to feel good enough at work,” “how to love yourself.” Alas, my extensive Google searches have been in vain, as I know deep down that the answer does not lie in the 1,210,000,000 hits that readily present themselves to me in 0.27 seconds. The answer, at least in my case, as cheesy as it may sound, is going to require an extensive search within myself to find my own path to happiness and self-love.
Do I truly love and value myself, deep down and honestly? Although I have come a long way regarding this issue, sadly, the answer is still “no,” curtly followed with the elaboration that, “it’s an ongoing process.” I loathe the fact that even in my 30s, I still have not mastered (or even caught onto) the art of happiness and how to be my own best friend. Furthermore, I strongly dislike the fact that I need to take antidepressants to not risk going over the edge and destroying myself. It makes me feel weak at times, like there is something wrong with me, like I have a deficiency or handicap of sorts.
Sometimes I feel as though I am in a large room filled with a damning darkness that prevents me from reaching the door, opening the latch, and filling the room with light and clarity. For now, all I can do is stumble and attempt to grope my way to hopefully find the metaphoric door that at times I doubt even exists. I find it immensely frustrating that I have not found it yet. Once I reach the door, I tell myself, it will all fall into place, it will make sense. But for now, no door, no light, no sight.
And yet… and yet… I still have hope. I can’t help but look back on the intense journey that has been my life thus far and marvel a bit on what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, and how far I have come. There was a time I never even thought I’d live to finish college due to having been suicidal and lost for so long. And to imagine graduating college cum laude, living and working abroad, marrying an incredible and loving partner, having a beautiful baby? That was something that was unfathomably impossible to me, beyond what I dared to even dream about. But here I am, living this life that I once thought was out of reach for someone, well, someone like me. When I look at it that way, dare I say it, I’m thriving. Now if I could just get this damn monkey of depression off my back!
After giving the matter off fulfillment and happiness some thought, speaking for only myself, I have created a list with my conclusions (ya’ll know how much I love lists!):
- Helping others ultimately helps me. It lifts my spirits, it gives me joy, it helps me to grow. When I feel alone and in a dangerously low mood, most of the time, making someone else feel good through some act of kindness helps me snap out of it. It reminds me that I can make my own positive impact on the world, no matter how small. It makes me feel that I am fulfilling a purpose of some sort when I do what I can to help and show kindness. I guess this is why I became a teacher.
- I have a nasty habit of comparing myself to others. Not only that, but extreme cases (Angelina Jolie, anyone?). I need to stop this. If I keep doing this, I will never feel worthy. I will never be gorgeous and thin. I will never be charismatic and charming. I will never be a lot of things, but I have to acknowledge that this is okay, that exceptional people are just that – exceptions. I am still trying to convince myself that I am good enough, that I can like myself, just as I am. For now, it’s still a struggle not to compare myself to my brilliant coworker who is a super teacher or former high school classmate who has already become a successful entrepreneur. Hopefully I’ll get there one day, and will be able to say those three words that I still cannot utter to myself: I am enough.
- I cannot run away from my problems, the best thing for me to do in these complicated moments of darkness and depression is to keep myself busy, to not isolate myself. This also means not missing work, not cancelling previous engagements, not isolating myself, continuing to go about my day, and to also exercise. Idle hands, as they say, make the devil’s work, and idle time compounded with depressive moments bring out every single one of my demons and devils.
- I shouldn’t make any brilliant decisions during my periods of sadness and depression. This includes getting tattoos, picking fights, binge eating, plastic surgery, or quitting my job. Hmm… I think I’ve mentioned this one before at one time. Well, for little ol’ impatient and impulsive me, this is imperative to keep in mind.
- I have to be a role model. As much as it daunts and overwhelms me, the fact of the matter is, I am not a kid anymore. In fact, I am someone’s mother. I have a bright, impressionable, innocent son who will soon look to me as a role model for self-esteem and self-love. There is no time to lose as my son is becoming more astute and smarter each day. How can I teach him to love, value, and believe in himself in this big, crazy world if I am not fully capable of doing this? As a person who brought another human being into this world, I have an obligation to my precious son to be able to give him the tools to be happy and healthy in every sense. That is what every parent should hope to ultimately give their child.
Ultimately, despite all that I am blessed with, I acknowledge that life is an impermanent state in which “stuff” can be lost from one day to the next in a million different ways. Conventional forms of success are often times arbitrary and can are also an unstable means to base one’s self-worth. Likewise, as much as I value my few personal relationships with those I love, I understand that when it comes down to it, all I really do have in this life is myself. The last statement is probably the scariest and most difficult for me to accept. I just wish I could.