3 Key Lessons I Learned While Struggling With Depression

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Stories. They are all around us. We read them, we write them, and we live them. Each story is unique in some way. A protagonist, a struggle, some lesson learned at the end. Some are funny, some are sad, some are inspiring, and some are tragic. Some have love, some have adventure, some have drama. Some move us to do amazing things while others just piss us off. That is the beauty of a good story; it affects us on some level. It resonates with our emotions, with our feelings.

In April, I wrote a blog about struggling with depression and ways to manage it. When I wrote it, I had recently found out that my job was getting eliminated. I had also just broken up with a girl. And I was looking for a new place to live. In a lot of ways, I knew my life was going to be changing drastically. What I didn’t know was that I was about to enter an episode of deep depression that would last the better part of eight months.

This is about stories. The stories I gained during those eight months. The stories I was privileged enough to live and the lessons I learned through them.

1. Find Your Community

This one is for you Rain Bros and Popsicles. This group of people have seen me in my highest highs and lowest lows. They have gotten many a drunken, emotional text message or phone call. They have had to make sure I got home safe and they have had to make sure I am not doing anything that I am going to regret later, which I usually end doing anyway because stories. I have one friend who I affectionately refer to as the immovable object to my unstoppable force. She mostly just tries to reign in the force that is Alex Snow unchecked.

I have been in a lot of communities in my life, but this one is most important to me because they allow me to be me, for better or worse, while still pushing me to be a better version of myself. This is the first and most important lesson I learned through my eight months. Everyone deserves to have an inner circle of people that will look after them while allowing them to process in whatever way they need. At no point in the last eight months (or for some of these people, years) have I ever felt judged for not knowing what I was doing with my life or not having answers for my actions.

Significant life events, especially ones that bring hurt and pain to the surface, have a way of showing you the true nature of relationships in your life. It is a way of helping you to recognize those people that are there for more than the surface level moments and those that aren’t. Don’t fight that. Some will stand the test of time, some won’t. Let moments like that naturally and organically change you and those relationships. I promise you, the ones that are left standing will be worth it for the long haul.

2. Authentically Feel Where You Are At

When I am healthy, I am a force to be reckoned with: a hyper, goofy, ridiculous force of story-telling, spontaneous adventures, and questionable life choices. 90% of my decision making comes from how it will sound as a story that I will inevitably retell. When I am unhealthy, I am still a force, only going the other direction. I am moody, evasive, and my questionable life choices become outright self-destructive. I feel things. A lot of things. And I feel them intensely.

I read an article about forgiveness this morning and how to fully understand forgiveness, as well as truly give it, a person has to allow themselves to become fully immersed in the action that needs forgiving. This person has to go to a place where they can genuinely feel the anger, the hurt, the betrayal of whatever action spurred it. The same is true for any state of life. Whether that be depression, grief, joy, celebration, we have to fully open ourselves to whatever we are feeling in that moment. Don’t be afraid of it, it is part of the human experience.

Over the last eight months especially, I have felt an ever changing assault of emotions and feelings. I have gone from feeling incredibly blessed to feeling incredibly betrayed all within a few hours. I have spent so much time hiding from them that I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the weight of issues I simply didn’t want to deal with. It took me getting completely alone and away from everything to reflect and process, culminating in me sitting in a dark apartment in Jacksonville, crying as I felt wave after wave of repressed feelings wash over me. By the way, thank you for that, Katie. I am blessed beyond measure to have a friend like you in my life.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Let Life Happen

Life happens. There is no stopping it. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop my lay off from happening. I couldn’t stop my girlfriend from moving on. I couldn’t force this job to open or a chance at this apartment to materialize. A significant lesson I have learned over this period is that a joyful and fulfilling life is not so much about everything going right or according to plan as much as it is about being able to roll with the punches. Part of the human experience is that we have very little control over the events around us, but that brings with it amazing and incredible stories we couldn’t have ever fathomed on our own.

One the best things that came out of my lay off was the chance to go back to working under one of the strongest leaders I have ever been blessed to meet. While that job was short lived, it rekindled a friendship and mentorship that I missed dearly. Having to go through a break up forced me to come to terms with my motivation to date in the first place. It forced me to realize that I was putting an unrealistic amount of pressure on that dynamic in my life. It made me take an honest look at my coping mechanisms and insecurities. Living on my own has taught me to be more financially responsible (most days) and how to be a functional adult. That means getting up and cleaning my house when I don’t want to or putting groceries in my house instead of eating out every meal. It also gave me a place that I can call mine; a place that I can entertain people and make more stories for later.

There will always be another curve ball, another unforeseen event, but in my experience they create memories that last a life time and are a catalyst for stretching ourselves in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. Because of my apartment, I have stories with one friend of sitting in my living room, no furniture, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for hours on end or having a house full of people watching Elf and acting up on Christmas Eve. Because of my lay off, I now have enough self-confidence and self-awareness to know that my occupation doesn’t define me. It’s not always about how much money I have in my pocket or only having to work one job. I know more about where I want to invest my time and energy. Because of the break up I know my relationship status is not a reflection of my value. I am able to see my own worth and not look to another person to define that for me. And now when the loneliness is extra heavy, I am able to remind myself, “This, too, shall pass.”

Your life is an incredible adventure. As cliché as it is, every day brings with it new opportunities and chances to live life fully. There is always a new experience to have or a new person to meet. There is always some new place to see or some new memory to make. I lost sight of that during my depression. I lost that fire that makes you get up in the morning ready to take the day. Don’t let that happen to you. Fight for it. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” As always, I love each of you. You are amazing. You are important. I want to hear your stories. Now go enjoy the story you are living.

What are some ways you deal with significant life changes? How do you avoid getting lost in your feelings? What are some stories that have come as a result of it? Tell me in the comments below. TC mark

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