“The Hmong people of South Asia have a word for depression which translates directly to ‘loss of soul’. They believe that depression is caused by your soul bitterly leaving your body, and that you have to get it back.”
Medical diagnoses are just words to me. I relate better to metaphorical expressions that speak directly to the raw experience itself: coming undone, crumbling, sinking into nothing etc. This is how I’ve been feeling of late. Vacant and floating through life like a ghost. Alive yet lifeless. While my journals reveal the frequency of such difficult days, this post celebrates that I still made it through the year.
2016 had some major similarities to 2015: moving to a new city, starting a new job, making a new circle of friends. But where 2015 was comparable to fumbling through the dark, I had a much better idea of what I was looking for this time around. We live and we learn. I couldn’t be happier with the foundation I’ve laid here in Melbourne. I’ve met many wonderful people, picked up new hobbies, and found interesting places to spend my time. Best of all, I’ve got the breathing space to take my time. That’s time to get to know myself better; make sense of my anxieties and reflect on what’s been weighing me down.
Working in mental health, I hear a lot of stories — some with definitely better endings than others. I know how important it is to make yourself a priority and to admit if you’re more than a few steps down struggle street. Of course, knowing and doing can be polar opposites. But not anymore — I’m going back to therapy.
I was seeing someone in both Brisbane and Sydney. But I guess — in Melbourne, with work and all — I found it too exhausting to pay the same attention to my own needs. I sought to escape where I could, but the wiser parts of me know that quick fills only leave some holes deeper. Just like getting fit, working on your mental health takes real work. Especially when you’ve gone so far down one particular road of thinking. The prospect of turning around can seem just as daunting as continuing ahead — but we must. The better stories I hear speak of ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’.
It means there’s hope. Sunlight definitely helps. But I believe ‘the light’ is better comprehended by envisioning the things that ‘make your soul smile’. Another abstract thought, but you get what I mean. I once read that flowers and plants instinctively turn towards the light; I think as people we can be just as intuitive when we allow ourselves to be. I believe we are all capable of flourishing — surprising ourselves more than others.
My optimism was definitely easier upheld during my younger ages — I’ll be honest about that. Nearing 30, I’m now coming to terms with certain darker realities of life: that there are many ways for one’s heart to break, that failing and falling are all part of the journey, and that fairness definitely doesn’t exist — even if you’re a ‘good person’. I’ll be honest again; it all fucking terrifies me. But we shouldn’t feel disappointed in ourselves or shy away from the peaks in the distance that entice our spirt for adventure. (That’s another metaphor, but I’m legit doing Everest basecamp trek next year!)
‘Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be more lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.’ – Homer
A change of perspective always helps — be it from reading, talking, therapy … or just getting away for a while. I’m back in Sydney at the moment. I’m writing this from a balcony in Coogee, gazing over the ocean as the clouds roll in. In the same spot tomorrow, the sun will rise. It always does.
I’m going to end this year by remembering how far I’ve come, the people that care about me, and the great things ahead.
Take care for now.