MEDICAL DISCLAIMERThe author of this post is not a professional psychiatric practitioner and the thoughts expressed within this post are her personal opinions based on her experience managing her own mental health dilemmas, nothing more. If you are currently harming yourself or experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you do not feel like your depression is something you alone can manage, please seek professional help immediately.
In the summer of 2016, after dealing with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem and self-worth, nihilism, suicidal thoughts, and an overload of personal and societal expectations for my entire life, I finally cracked wide open.
I was utterly exhausted from having failed with all of my efforts to correct my mental health issues.
I had exercised, meditated, adjusted my mindset, gone on positivity sprees, learned to forgive and let go of my past and its impact on my life, reconnected with lost relationships in my life, released new ones that were not a source of positivity. I had taken several steps back, time and again, rewired my perspective, and then went back to my daily life with a freshness that I expected to be able to maintain.
And therein lies the problem: I had gone back to my daily life with the expectation that by adjusting my mindset I could conquer my reality.
But all I was really doing is asking myself to accept my reality for what it was and learn to tolerate it without expressing depression or other mental setbacks.
But in my core, I knew the life I was living, the things I was experiencing, and the feelings I was having, were not aligned with one another for a reason.
I had gone back to living a life that was not in-tune with what I wanted for myself or what I knew I was supposed to be doing here on this planet.
And so, inevitably, the mental creeps regained control. And for good reason! They were right and they were serving a greater purpose than I was able to see.
My depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, self-loathing, and everything in between were all mechanisms my brain was using to inform me that my life could be better if only I listened to the messages I was subtly giving myself.
And I struggled with that because we live in a world that hears someone has depression – or otherwise – and tries to eliminate that mental warning sign while not fully addressing the lifestyle or rhetoric that created it.
So all of my tactics, up until recently, weren’t working because the problem – my life and so many things I had experienced in it – still existed.
If I wanted to eliminate those mental hangups once and for all, I would need to listen to them and see what I could learn from them.
And when I finally tuned in, this is what I learned: I am depressed, anxious, upset, and nervous for a reason – this world is a fucked up place and my mind, my soul, is trying to break free from shitty coping mechanisms in an effort to create an existence of bliss.
I can’t say with certainty that everyone who experiences mental health issues is being given a sign to correct something greater in their life. But I can say this much: when we cut ourselves on a thorn, we don’t just heal the wound and continue touching said thorns; we learn to deduce that the thorn is dangerous and ought to be treated as such; we learn to avoid the fucking thorns.
So why then, when I experienced serious bouts of depression – et. al – was my tactic to calm myself down, heal from my mistakes, pick myself up AND GO BACK TO THE FUCKING THORNS?!
In short: capitalism and modern existence.
In length: because I felt trapped in my life and the expectations that come with modern living to the extent that all of my “healing” had to be done for the sake of showing up better to my current existence, rather than “healing” my current existence.
Yes, talk therapy and processing my childhood trauma was – and is always – helpful. But if I was not also taught to look at the spaces in my present existence where those issues are still prevalent and fix those aspects – which I wasn’t – then I could expect my issues to return once again.
And when I did look at those spaces, I learned that it wasn’t my career or my mistakes or my anything that was the problem – necessarily, because sometimes it was – it was the way in which I did it, applied value to it, accepted negative consequence projected from others because of it, and ultimately allowed myself to tolerate so many unhealthy facets of it for the sake of maintaining sanity.
That is coping, not correcting, and far too many of us are taught how to cope because – essentially – coping is “better than not being able to cope.”
But now I’ve got a new outlook on all of my mental health struggles: what if the point is not to learn to cope with reality but to correct reality.
I’ve had several therapists who claimed this was their intention with my sessions and each time I walked away with homework that – while insightful to my psyche – ultimately asked me to learn coping tactics, not correcting tactics.
And that’s fair. How is a therapist supposed to look you in the eyes and say, “I know your job pays the bills and you’re running paycheck to paycheck, but the way you setup your life is far too stressful and unfulfilling and you need to change that. Oh. You can’t? You feel trapped? Well…here’s a list of websites to go job hunting. Oh. You don’t feel like you have other skills. Well…maybe start building up some skills then…?”
Sometimes, because of how the modern societal system flows at this point in time, people get stuck. Literally. The need to pay the bills and acquire the materials for a basic human existence at this point in time is taxing. And it makes it so that unless you’re making a decent amount of money, and/or happen to have a moment in your life where you’re flush enough with cash to change the major stuff, you feel like you have no choice but to keep on keeping on.
So. If you feel like you’re constantly in and out of mental health struggles, perhaps those are signs that your life needs greater attention from you. And while that may seem impossible to accomplish in your present state of existence, I promise you it’s possible no matter who you are.
The challenge is not in the changing. The challenge is in the doing, everyday, the minor things that need to be done to illicit those changes.
And while learning how to adjust your perspective, treat yourself with kindness, think loving thoughts, and let go of past turbulence is fantastic and absolutely necessary for your health and happiness, it should also come with a deeper evaluation of the ways in which you’re choosing to live your life.
Nowadays, anytime I experience any of the 10 signs below, I know to look for the aspect of my life that is wildly out of tune and adjust it to sing on key:
1. You feel like you don't belong anywhere...
To an extent, none of us do! We’re all stardust babies experiencing a human existence for the sake of growth and knowledge. Feeling like you don’t belong here is a clear sign that you should begin to cultivate a space that does feel like “home” to you. Can you move? Change up your living space? Find a group of like-minded souls? I also don’t feel like I belong anywhere and sometimes it makes me feel hopeless. But I now I know to observe my surroundings and see what I can alter to feel more comfortable.
2. You struggle to cope with the weight of humanity's negativity...
The world is a terrifying place, and it – for the most part – always has been for humanity. So look around you. Observe what negativity is pulling you down into the depths. And ask yourself: what can I do – everyday – to generate a positive counteraction to all of the negatives that weight me down? Can you create a Facebook group and start a chain reaction? Can you sign more petitions? Have you volunteered yet?
3. You feel like your issues would dissipate if you could fix a particular aspect of your existence or environment...
Be that a relationship or a career trajectory, nutrition habits or mental rhetoric. If you feel, in your gut, that by altering this one thing you would feel content, then by all means CHANGE IT! If that one thing is, in fact, humongous – like changing careers – then begin today. Take one step, no matter how small, each day to begin striving for the change you want to experience. Trust your instincts.
4. You feel like a failure in this life...
Failure is subjective to the one experiencing it or those expressing it toward you, but it is not an indicator that you, as an individual, are flawed or have failed. If anything, it is a sign that adjustments to your approach ought to be made. Analyze these “failures” and ask yourself: how are these setbacks actually helpful to my overall wellbeing? How can I be better because of them, and how might I have remained trapped in an unfortunate life if I had not experienced them? Often times, our failures are indicators that we’re not aligned with our ultimate purpose for the experience. The failing is a sign that we need to tune into what we’re supposed to be getting from the moment instead of trying to force our very limited-scope agenda within it.
5. You find no beauty or joy in this world anymore...
The world is full of chaos and disease, BUT, there are simple beauties that have not faded away despite humanity’s negligence and it is within those blessings that you’re being asked to rediscover a divine purpose. A lotus flower blossoms after rising up from the murky depths of a soot-filled pond. Out of the darkness, and regardless of it, a beautiful entity emerges. Take this as a sign to be like the lotus flower and reach for the delicious light in every corner of your life.
6. You've been told you aren't good enough and it's so embedded in your psyche that you believe it wholeheartedly...
If you’re a psycho or sociopath, then yes: there’s a good chance you’re a fucked up human being who creates nothing but chaos out of full-on selfish pursuits. However, if you aren’t a psycho or sociopath or otherwise someone who takes pleasure from selfishly fucking over everyone you come in contact with, then odds are you grew up hearing horribly ignorant and hurtful messages about yourself that are not true, no matter how much someone claimed them to be. Take an assessment of the positive things you know to be true about yourself and use those sentiments to begin counteracting the negative rhetoric in your mind.
7. You feel as though nothing matters...
This is a weight of hopelessness that typically derives – from my experience – from knowing instinctually that the society – the reality – we’re living in is a construct built to service a small percentage of privileged individuals and not every individual. This means that the lifestyle you’re leading is something you know is not serving a purpose you’re aligned with, or a purpose you even enjoy. This feeling can also derive from noticing how daunting it feels to consider how much work it would take for one individual to create powerful positive change in a sea of constant upheaval. To correct this feeling, take time to discover what matters to you and begin addressing it. Whether that’s healing sick animals or helping the homeless, inventing new artwork or protesting civil discrepancies. Your job on this planet is not to heal it all, just to heal what you feel called to handle.
8. You've made so many mistakes that you cannot see how to move forward...
Consider this: assume for a moment that reincarnation is real and that your job on this planet is to experience being human and to learn from those experiences how to create beautiful magic in whatever form you can. In that context, all of your mistakes serve a greater purpose in learning to hone your magic. You cannot undo your mistakes, nor should you want to. By making mistakes, you’re learning how to be the best version of yourself that you can. Remember when you were in grade school learning how to do math, or read books, or write in cursive? Mistakes were conduits for deeper understanding of the context of the lesson. The same is true for mistakes in your life: all of your mistakes can be conduits for deeper understanding of yourself and your purpose if you take the time to assess them as such.
9. You feel as though (or definitively know that) nobody loves you....
It’s a brutal emotional pit of despair, realizing you aren’t loved by those whom you expect to love you. However, it can also be a moment to recognize how you aren’t addressing your life’s purpose. Maybe the people you’re looking for love from aren’t capable of meeting that expectation because of their own life purpose and, if that’s the case, then your purpose is to release that expectation and look for it within. Often when we feel that we aren’t loved by those whom we expect to love us, what we’re actually feeling is a lack of love for ourselves which we then project onto those individuals. Does that mean that they love us and we aren’t seeing it? Not necessarily. Sometimes, our instincts are correct and they don’t, in fact, return the love we hope to receive. But the lesson is not to change them, but to change ourselves. Your purpose may be to learn to love yourself and then exude that love throughout your life. And through that purpose, you may end up teaching them a thing or two about what real love looks like.
10. You feel like all of your efforts have failed and you've got nothing more to give...
Perhaps you’re putting your efforts in all the wrong places. If you’ve exhausted yourself with efforts that have born no fruit, then it’s time to assess why you’re bothering to plant your garden in infertile soils. Your purpose, your calling, might be to evaluate the ways in which you’re choosing to address your life so you can stop doing the things that aren’t working. Personally, when I feel like I’ve got no more to give, I can see that I’ve reached my salvation point: I stop forcing myself to continue showing up in the same ways that I have been – ways that haven’t been working no matter how noble the efforts – and I ask myself “what can I do that would feed my soul with positive growth instead of negative stagnation?” My purpose becomes transformation, upheaval, obliteration of old habits and routines, instead of a continued “noble” quest that I’ve convinced myself is worthy when clearly it is not.