Teenagers, right? I feel a few of you rolling your eyes in unison. We all know at least one teenager. Sorry, rephrase, we all know at least one awkward, annoying teenager. The one who is filled with facts, figures, weird anecdotes, complaints about school/homework/teachers/rules/crushes – I have to stop there as I feel like that’s a never-ending list. That teenager was me and I remember her like it was yesterday.
Those memories evoke laughter, serious ‘internal-cringe’, and sometimes even shame. The range of emotion is vast. To summarise; I was a surly, sarcastic kid who would later be diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 17. Moving on, I must have been about 20 years old when I went through a time of deep soul-searching. Depression plagued my life and held me in its vice-like grip.
The effect was felt in every area of my life. Depression annihilates everything that is beautiful about life. I needed to find a way out from under its oppressive, life-draining influence.
There were a few things I began to understand and put into place. Below are three of the most important points that helped me to turn my life around.
When someone suffers from depression, they do so because they focus on the problem. I assure you (those who have never suffered from depression and don’t understand why people do) that this is completely unintentional on the part of the person who is living with depression.
Sometimes when you focus on something that seems to have no solution, it becomes even more difficult to find an answer. As a 20-year-old, I needed to focus on something outside of my own life and situation. I did this by volunteering with teens who were going through tough times and found it difficult to talk to their parents or peers. This is where my coaching career has its roots. It was in this time that compassion for my fellow human beings was developed.
Today, as I sit and type this post and think back to each of those kids I spent time with, I feel such gratitude. I feel grateful that they trusted me enough to tell me what was on their hearts and minds. To be completely honest with you, I can see now that even though I was carrying a load of baggage at the time, how that served me in the situation. Depression became a tool to help others and in helping others, I healed. That was an unexpected outcome.
An important note: I didn’t substitute dealing with my ‘stuff’ by helping others. I don’t believe in avoidance or denial. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was this: ‘Jan, the only way out, is through.’ You can try and skirt around the edge of your pain, but if you confront it head-on, you will save yourself years of wasted time and effort. Yes, it’s true, healing takes time. Healing is every day because every day you will be confronted by your thoughts and you will have to choose wisely. You can shorten that initial intense period by courageously confronting your pain.
Fact: life sucks at times. (I apologise for the use of the word ‘suck/sucks’, but there is no suitable substitute.) Sometimes it sucks for a protracted period. It wears us down. Again, that is because we tend to focus on the suck.
Let me turn on a light for you. Life doesn’t suck 24/7. There is some let-up in your day. At times it doesn’t feel that way, but that’s because we are focused on all the wrong things. We focus on what is wrong with life, instead of what is right. So, what is right in my world, right now, today? The cup of coffee on my desk. The hot shower I had this morning. My wonderfully comfortable bed. You get the picture.
The small things, the things that give us some kind of comfort (which could potentially also be as labeled as ‘joy’) are also the things we tend to take for granted. We overlook them because we are waiting for some massive, life-altering event to sweep us off our feet. If you allow yourself to be swept off your feet by a cup of coffee, tea or similarly wonderful beverage, imagine how you’ll feel when what you truly want rolls around? When you embrace the power of gratitude for the seemingly ‘ordinary and everyday’ you are going to start to feel your internal ‘bank of happiness’ fill up and expand your life in every way.
Start with the small things. The more you start to realise how many ‘small things’ there are, the more you will notice. Don’t stop here. Make it a conscious choice and set a goal of looking for something every day, perhaps in your immediate environment, that you are grateful for. Allow yourself to feel that. Feel gratitude, feel the accompanying joy. Don’t stop there – make it a habit!
Mentors come in many shapes and sizes. I have been so privileged to have great mentors throughout my life. The value of a mentor (or multiple mentors) is incalculable. Anyone who has a mentor will tell you the same thing. Mentors might not always have the answers, but a great mentor will help you get there. When you discover the answers for yourself, and they resonate fully with you, that is powerful mentoring at it’s best. It has been these wonderful people in my life who have empowered me. In doing so I learned to understand my value, accept that I have strengths (not just weaknesses – which was all I could see when I suffered from depression) which transformed my life. Someone cared enough to show me a different, perhaps even enlightened, perspective of my life.
It takes courage. All of it. I am no one special – as you can no doubt see by what is written here about my past. When I took the first steps I was terrified, just as you may feel contemplating your own life and how to break free of what you are struggling with.
Right now, you may feel stuck. Perhaps you aren’t suffering from depression, but you feel like you could be heading that way. Maybe something spoke to you in this post. I invite you to drop me a message on WhatsApp or contact me if you would like to chat about it. If you would prefer to email me, please visit my Contact Page.
Respect for your journey.
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