In the throes of my depressive phases, I long for contentment, peace of mind, and some relief from the hopeless feeling that seems to swallow me whole. What I often forget in these times is that the experience of my depression is an opportunity for me to learn and be grateful for the new perspectives that the universe is providing me. I know, sounds fun, right? But it is true, and sure, truths can be ignored, but once you are aware of them, you cannot magically become unaware of them. So, how can you turn your hopeless feelings into a learning opportunity? I’m not 100% sure, I have a few ideas, though.
Be grateful for it! This was a hard one for me to come to terms with. I spent much of my life wondering, “why me!?”, “how come I can’t be normal?” – like there is such a thing. Cheryl Strayed said, “ You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding…” It wasn’t until I started interacting with my peers, who also struggled, that I became aware of the advantage my experiences have given me. I have gained and continue to gain, new perspectives each time I meet a challenge. I have grown in empathy, compassion, understanding and ultimately the ability to build real relationships with those around me. How can I not be grateful for that?
Lesson 1: If you can find gratitude in your struggle, you will grow from it.
Be observant. I know it’s so hard to think outside of yourself when in these struggles, but if you are able to sit back and just observe, you can find purpose and meaning in the things around you. My brother, one of the most amazing people I know, often tells me that purpose is what you make it. If the sunrise exists for no other purpose than to give you a feeling of a new day, then that is enough reason for it to exist. If you exist for no other reason than to enjoy the small things in life, then that is enough. I believe that the more things you are able to find purpose in, the more you will feel you have a purpose – to enjoy those things. Isn’t that enough?
Lesson 2: If you can step outside of yourself for a moment, you can find purpose in the seemingly simple things around you.
Reflection. I have found it helpful to reflect on the happenings that lead up to my struggle. This is a tricky one because you have to avoid falling into the trap of blaming yourself. Sometimes, there is no blame to have and other times there may have been something you can identify that you may be able to avoid in the future. Red flags, if you will. I have learned, through reflection, that there are some things I know will throw me into a struggle. I know that if I isolate, I am bound to find myself in a lonely and hopeless state. I know that if I have too much to drink, I will feel awful about myself for days afterward. Those things I know, and I can try to avoid them. Now, like I said, sometimes there is no blame, and there is nothing that could have helped you avoid certain struggles or feelings. Sometimes it is just there and we have to accept their company, temporarily.
Lesson 3: Maybe there are things you can do differently or be aware of to avoid some of these feelings. And sometimes you have to, temporarily, sit with these feelings and be uncomfortable.
Connecting. If I reach out, although I don’t always try to, I find connection. Connection has always given me hope and new perspective. More often than not, you find common ground, shared experience, and empathy when you speak out about your struggles. Now, this doesn’t change the fact that you are struggling, but it helps you feel less alone. If I know that one other person knows how I’m feeling, my ability to work through it increases. It’s like creating a team. A lot of my life I felt like a one-woman team who was in constant competition with the universe and always running to simply keep up with the world around me. If you are able to step out of your comfort zone and reach out, the team that you create around you can facilitate a feeling of togetherness and you don’t have to conquer the evils that you experience alone.
Lesson 4: YOU ARE NEVER ALONE; if you can reach out to only one person that you trust, the pressure of your struggle becomes less.
So when you are in the midst of a seemingly endless and pointless struggle, remember that you can turn it into something meaningful. It’s up to you. We can move through our lives enduring our struggles, or we can move through our lives creating meaning from our struggles. One seems a bit less painful than the other. Long-suffering or creating meaning. I’ll take a life of trying to create meaning.
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