I have been sharing my life with all of you on the MariaShriver.com community for a long time, and it’s the positive feedback I receive that drives me to continue to write from the heart.
Putting my truth to paper is an empowering experience, but it’s something I wasn’t been able to do in recent months. I wasn’t able to express myself, motivate myself, or feed into something that I am so incredibly passionate about. That was one of the first signals that made me stop and check in. When I took a moment to evaluate my thoughts, I started to break down because I knew what the truth was. I struggled to even say these three words out loud: “I am depressed.”
I went back and forth about whether to share this because sometimes there are things in life that are meant to be private. However, I have learned that the more you bring “hush hush” topics to the surface, the more it creates a dialogue and allows for just one other person to say, “Thank God, this is being talked about. I am not alone.” That is my mission: to let you know that when it comes to depression, you are never alone.
I know there are people out there like me who serve as that symbol of support for their friends, families and colleagues. You are the ones that give out the best advice and who know how to turn a negative into a positive. You are the go-to person who people turn to when they need a burst of happiness. But, even the happiest people could be battling something you know nothing about. This is what happened to me. The “d-word”—depression—just hit me out of nowhere. I felt like I was smacked in the face by a baseball bat filled with the darkest of emotions. My days consisted of going through each hour as if I was on auto-pilot, while still maintaining my signature smile and upbeat personality at work.
As soon as I came home, I’d crawl into bed, close my eyes and sleep. I was emotionally drained and the only moments of peace I could cling onto were when my eyes were closed. This clearly affected my fiancé, Nick, too. He was so used to seeing me consistently happy (at times, overly happy). I am considered to be that guy who can send out a lightening bolt of good energy just by walking into a room, so seeing me like this had him very worried. The truth is, it had me worried, too. I had some ideas of why I was upset, but the more I talked about it, the more it helped me decide to do something about it.
I hope these points are helpful to you because they allowed me to tap back into my soul and bring back my spirit. Take a look and see if any one of them can help you, too.
Eight Steps That Can Help Guide You to a Stronger Place
1.) Do your research on depression. It will help you understand how it stems from biology—like things in our genes and brain chemistry—and how it relates to how much stress we have on our plate.
2.) Create a support team of people who love you no matter what. These are the people that won’t judge you and will allow you to share your feelings no matter what the reaction may be.
3.) Take one day at a time. There is no race to happiness. Take your time and give yourself moments throughout your day to digest and reflect on your feelings.
4.) Have faith and connect with your spirituality. Whether it is prayer, meditation, or simply talking to someone above. Find clarity through your faith because sometimes knowing you have that can make one day seem brighter than the next.
5.) Turn up the music and get your body moving. Physical movement and being outside in nature can definitely improve your depression.
6.) Figure out what is bringing you down. They more I spoke about the areas in my life that seemed to be pulling me back, the more I was able to make them accountable. It is about bringing what has been bothering you to the surface, confronting it, and wishing it goodbye.
7.) Lose the perfection. Things like social media and ego all feed into this non-reality. Take a vacation from the internet.
8.) Ask yourself questions. Turn off that codependency button and ask yourself, “what do you want?”
What we should all agree on is that depression is not talked about enough. Each of us is going to handle moments of heartache in our own particular way, but what needs to be understood is that one way is not better than the other. Everyone goes through ups and downs and there are even some people that go through ups, downs and more downs. But it is what we learn and what we take away from those moments that we should highlight. Life’s greatest lessons are the ones that often come from a struggle.
Not only do I hope that his article makes you think and starts a conversation, but I hope it provokes positivity and brings more kindness into the world. I encourage you all to be your authentic self, to never hold back your emotions, and to let your voice and thoughts be heard.
Lastly, if you see someone who looks a little down, smile back at them. Never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.