Back in January I was on top of the world.
I felt confident, charismatic and ready to conquer life and all of its challenges.
I joined Elephant Academy, an online writing program, thinking it would help me become a leader. I thought it would be a piece of cake. A breeze. Something I could simply slap onto my resume as I push toward being a better person than I currently am.
What I didn’t realize is that my perceptions of myself would fluctuate over the course of the program. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because people naturally change over the course of time.
At first I felt unstoppable and confident, but as I entered into the bulk of the program, my thoughts began to shift into a totally different perspective. The shift was gradual, and it caught me by surprise.
What if I can’t do this?
What if I don’t succeed?
What if no one appreciates what I have to say?
Am I worthy of the opportunity in front of me?
I’m human and I know my thoughts are limiting. There are chemical compounds inside my brain that make me think this way, the product of a bad genetic lineage. Depression anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, it all runs in my family. Suicide is also prevalent in my family. My genetics is designed to hold me back, and keep me from feeling whole inside.
For a lot of the program I didn’t allow these thoughts to phase me. I told myself that through hard work I could prove to myself that I am worthy, and that the thoughts inside my head are completely unfounded. Instead of focusing on these limiting thoughts, I instead chose to focus on the work required of me in the program. This kept me from ruminating about my feelings and gave me a tangible distraction to focus on instead.
I thought that by pushing myself and being the very best I could be, I would be validated. I thought that others would see my worth and begin to treat me the way I deserve. I thought I was being nurtured and would soon soar into incredible heights.
But that isn’t what actually happened.
Through a series of events, my life has taken a drastic turn. Someone I held dear to me hurt me deeply. Financial security was pulled out from under me. In the moment when these events occurred, I couldn’t understand why they were happening. I was sad. I was upset. Most of all, I was ashamed. And with this turn of events my thoughts drifted back to the ones meant to hold me back, and I fell into a depressive cycle.
Am I deserving of success?
Does anyone actually care about me?
Am I worthy of love?
Does my life even matter in the grand scheme of things?
The thoughts are unsettling.
Because they are true. I have trust issues with others, and it’s apparent in my thought patterns. There are times when I don’t feel loved. There are also times when I don’t feel as if others care or appreciate me in a way that makes me feel nurtured, safe and whole. It’s sad and it sucks and it makes me want to curl into a ball and cry.
I know these thoughts all stem from my mom’s untimely death. I know that they are a product of years of misunderstanding about her decision to leave me alone on this earth. Regardless, it’s not a thought process I can easily ignore when it chooses to arise. The thoughts do everything they can to weigh me down, sinking me into a pit of darkness.
The thing is, I know that I am stronger than this. I know through personal experience that I am capable of overcoming any obstacle in my path. I know that in order to feel appreciated in this world, to truly feel loved, and to truly feel whole it much all come from one place. Me.
If I don’t love myself, then there is no point to any of this.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in Elephant Academy it’s that I have a story to tell. I have learned that I am worthy exactly as I am. In these moments of darkness I have always pushed through and come out stronger. I have embarked on the hero’s journey and come out victorious on the other side. I am perfectly imperfect and beautiful because of it.
There is only one person in the whole entire world who can make me feel whole, and that person is me. Through my words, thoughts and actions I have to be there for myself and be my biggest cheerleader. Just as I have throughout my life.
My strength is reflected in my actions. When I feel low, I actively choose to pull myself out of it. It can be hard at times when I fall quite deep, but I always manage to nonetheless.
Here are some of the five actions you can take to pull yourself out of a depressive cycle when it arises in your mind:
- Pamper yourself. It sounds quite simple, and it is. Taking time to honor your body is a great way to pull yourself out of a depressive mood. Take a relaxing bath or shower. Do the works: thoroughly wash your hair, exfoliate and cleanse your body, and even shave if you wish. Afterward, moisturize your body, give yourself a manicure and pedicure, and honor the skin you’re in. Taking a moment to appreciate the vessel in which you experience the world is a great mindfulness practice. It can even turn into a ritualistic meditation. This is an easy and effective way to focus your attention on something other than negative thoughts, and end up feeling amazing afterwards.
- Cook a delicious meal. For myself specifically, when I’m upset I tend to avoid eating because it seems like too daunting of a job. Regardless, making it a point to eat when you feel upset is an easy way to improve your mood. It doesn’t matter if it’s a healthy meal or comfort food. Eating releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel comforted and happy, and it also nourishes the body. This allows your brain to run at full capacity and work toward a different thought pattern instead. Furthermore, as with my first point, the act of cooking can turn into a mindfulness practice and meditative experience. Plus, who doesn’t love a good meal?
- Exercise. We have all heard it and it’s true—working out releases endorphins in our brain. Endorphins make us happy, so releasing them when we are upset can help make us less upset. For me, doing yoga helps me a lot. I am able to spend time breathing, actively moving and meditating all at the same time. It helps me calm my mind and do the work necessary to bring myself back into alignment with who I truly am as a person, a person who is not depressed. For you, yoga may work, or it might not. Running, surfing, or even lifting weights might be a better option. Regardless of how you choose to exercise, if you are down take some time to be active. It will help you feel better inside your body and feel more confident in your skin.
- Spend time doing something you love. Everyone has something they enjoy doing. For me, I love to play the piano. It allows me to focus my attention away from the thoughts in my head. I encourage you to try it, rather than ruminating with your thoughts. Whether it’s playing an instrument, reading a good book, watching a movie or going for a walk, do something that will help you focus your attention on something other than the negative thoughts in your head. It will create space between your emotions and the thoughts, usually leading you to feel much better. If you haven’t tried this before, I highly encourage you to; I find that it tends to help me a lot.
- Spend time with loved ones. I know for me, when I get in a depressive cycle, I think the whole world is against me. In reality though, no one is. When I feel low I make it a priority to spend my time with somebody I am close with. Whether it’s my brother, best friend or even just my cats, their company can usually distract me from the negative thoughts in my head. It also brings me closer to them since we can work through these negative feelings together. They appreciate my honestly and I appreciate their company. It may seem hard to be so transparent with loved ones, but it’s an important bonding exercise we should all take when it feels necessary.
I know there will be times where I will fall short. I know there will be times when I don’t feel quite ready. I know that there will be moments where I am a little less than whole.
But I won’t let these moments stop me. Instead, when they come up I will push back against these negative thoughts. I will not allow them to weigh me down and hold me back. And I will always take that path, the path that makes me stronger.
I am rooting for myself and I know I will succeed. Through thick and thin I have got my back. It’s a life lesson that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
I am worthy and I am whole.
And there is nothing else that I would rather be.
Author: Alex McGinness
Editor: Catherine Monkman