When I was 16 I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It's not something I talk about often to many people, and when I do it's only to people with whom I'm close to and who I know won't judge me. There are times in my life when my depression is just a speck, a fragment of who I am, a quiet little element that almost disappears until I forget that I ever once was unhappy. Those times are like sunshine after gray clouds. There are other times when my depression takes a hold of me and I can't escape, can't be free, can't look past the darkness for even a moment. It is during times like that when I have a hard time being myself, opening up to others, being free with who I am meant to be.
For a long time I kept this a secret because of the stigma that surrounds depression and mental illness: "Just be happy", "Don't be so selfish", "You're crazy". Society has long been judgmental of mental illness and depression--disorders and illnesses that can't be seen with the eye. But I think that society is starting to change and understand as more and more people talk, as we remind the world that nobody is immune and that it affects so many people. I firmly believe that the stigma will disappear slowly over time but we all must do our part to talk, to be open minded, and to empathize.
One thing that I have learned over the years that helps manage my depression is keeping a journal and writing. Sometimes I write just a quote, other times pages and pages of thoughts, often times just a list of things that I'm thankful for or that make me happy. The latter exercise always helps me put life into perspective and that's what I want to share today. Whether you suffer from depression or not, learning to be happy with life and learning to be thankful is a value that will all serve us well. I challenge anyone reading this to make list today of what makes you truly happy in life and then read it often to remind yourself.
Simple things that make me happy:Family
Being at home
The smell of baked bread and warm yeast
Wet earth after rain
Shaved legs on fresh sheets
A clean house
Finishing a good book
Holding hands with Matt and Ellie
Going for long walks with my family
Mornings when I accomplish things early
Sewing and completing a beautiful item
Painting--anything: canvases, paper, wood, fabric, rocks, journals
Smiling at a stranger and seeing them smile back
Ellie's belly laugh
Being called "Mommy
Being called "Mrs."
Clear skies and autumn leaves
Fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen table
Picking produce from the garden
Doing something "handy" around the house
Seeing an old friend
Music that uplifts the spirit
Getting older and growing wiser and more mature
Realizing that I'm not alone
Giving someone a handmade gift or homemade food
Being self-sufficient and self-reliant
Seeing Ellie and Matt succeed
I wrote this list almost a year ago to the day but I needed it today and dug out my journal for a quick reminder. As you can see, none of these things are material but instead, elements of the human experience, the love of family, and the simple, fleeting moments of life.
Don't take your life for granted, don't take happiness for granted, and most of all, don't be afraid to talk to others about your struggles. We all are suffering in some way and all rely on others in our growth and healing. And always remember: you are loved and essential to someone else's happiness.