I have spent most of my adult life surviving. I’m proud to be a survivor. Life hasn’t always been easy but I’m still here and I am so grateful for that. However, something I’ve learned over the years is that there is a big difference between surviving and thriving.
For many years I did the bare minimum just to get through the day. I call this being a functioning depressive. Despite suffering from depression and feeling unhappy a lot of the time, I would force myself to get up everyday, go to work, take care of my son and complete the day-to-day chores to keep our household functioning. On the outside, it looked like a normal life, but on the inside, all I was doing was going through the motions. Life was not something to enjoy, it was something to be tolerated. And let me tell you, that isn’t any way to live.
I spent countless hours wishing for a happy life. I would think, if only I could get control of my weight, I would be happy. If only I had a big fancy house, I would be happy. If only I could be the perfect wife and mother, I would be happy. The more I looked outside myself for things to make me happy, the more depressed I became and the more I continued to just survive.
About 5 years ago, I was suffering from one of my worst depressive episodes and I asked myself, “Is this it? Is this how I am going to spend the rest of my life? There’s got to be something better than this.” And you know what I discovered? There is something better. You just have to make the decision to find it. I realized in that moment that I had two choices. I could give up on life or I could ask for help. Having lost my own mother to suicide there was no way I would put my son through that, and I knew if I didn’t ask for help, I could very well find myself on the same precipice my mother found herself on many years ago. I decided it was time to advocate for myself and my mental health. I reached out to my therapist and started the process of understanding and healing my mind. I participated in a 6-week mental health outpatient program at my local hospital and attended regular sessions with my therapist.
I had to face many ugly truths and make some very big life changing decisions. The biggest issue was my relationship with my son’s father which was not a loving and supportive one. I don’t say that to disrespect him, but he just wasn’t able to provide me with what I needed and the methods I had developed to cope with this lack of love and support (like comforting myself with food) were slowly killing me. My therapist made me see that I was at a crossroads, continue on my current path and accept that I was not going to get what I needed from my current relationship or venture down a new road.
I chose the later. I ended my unfulfilling relationship and embarked on a new life with my son.
I’m not going to lie; the road was long and difficult. But what I can tell you now is that every challenge I faced on this journey was worth it. Today I try to live my life with purpose. I make plans for the future. I continue to learn more about myself, about what makes me happy and what brings me joy. I have found an amazing community of like-minded people who lift me up everyday. I am more content, more confident and happier than I have ever been in my life. I still have depressive episodes, but I am no longer simply going through the motions. I am experiencing life with all of its ups and downs, and I am a better person for it.
The moral of my story? Be honest with yourself about whether you are thriving or simply surviving. If you’re already thriving, that’s amazing, keep doing what makes you happy. But if you’re merely surviving, take the next step to improve your situation. Whether it’s a small step or a big leap, you’ll be better for it.