I have been to the abyss. More than once. It sucks. It drains every ounce of joy and energy that you have. It paralyzes you. You can’t think. You can’t function. Even doing the most mundane things like showering, making food (because you have no appetite), going outside…..all. the. things…are mountains that are just way too difficult to climb. I sense that you too have been there at some point. Is this what this thing called “depression” feels like? Is it so paralyzing and polarizing that you become almost “zombie-like” in your day to day life. Notice I said I “have been there”…MORE THAN ONCE. So…here’s the thing…

Notice that in order to “have been there more than once,” it means that somehow I was able to find my way OUT of that place. Again, more than once. That said….each time brings the same paralyzing fear and feelings of hopelessness. That doesn’t change. The message here is that it is possible to rise again!

I had the same visions as most other adolescents. I was going to get through school, go to college, fall in love, get married, have 2.5 children, and live in a house with a white picket fence in perfect bliss. Oh yeah…and find a job that did not require algebra! Yeah, right! In what universe does that even happen? Somewhere along the way, my perceptions of what life would be like were bitch slapped by some demon of reality that I was not at all prepared to handle. Reality. Ah, yes….reality. The world where we are faced with situations with which we are totally unprepared to handle. Now some of these situations are totally out of our control…but, let’s face it. Some are clearly paths of our own choosing.

So, here’s the deal…….

Fact: Life throws curve balls, and sometimes we throw curveballs.

How Do We Get Through the Hard Times?

Let me just say that this is NOT…I repeat…NOT an event that happens in the moment. Oh no. It is a PROCESS. It is a process that takes every ounce of strength that you can muster to get through…but it’s important to remember that (say it with me…) “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” There is SO much truth to this. We don’t go to the gym and lift 10-pound weights once and obtain that ripped magazine-cover body. However, we can go to the gym, start with 10-pound weights and do that for 100 days and be much stronger than we were. Same principle. Start small. Start with 1-pound weights and lift them 10 times…but take that first step. It’s important to remember that the first step is always the hardest! Listen to music while you pick up that 1-pound weight. Something upbeat. Something that takes your brain to some other place or to a happier time.

Take the 1-pound weight outside and walk 10 steps. The next day take 20 steps…or not. The point here is to just DO SOMETHING! Find something to do that makes you laugh. Anything! For me…going to YouTube and finding funny animal videos does it. I don’t believe this is scientific…but did you know that it is nearly impossible to feel bad while watching baby goats in pajamas? Challenge me on this one!

I am also a wannabe photographer. There is nothing professional about my photography by any stretch of the imagination; however, my thing is to go out by myself and try to photograph things that others would miss. As it is in most of life, it’s the little things. Why do that? Because what I learned through my trips through the abyss is that we miss a lot in our everyday lives. There are good things happening around us every day…but we are totally oblivious to those things. Why? Because we become so wrapped up in what’s going badly….that we totally miss what’s going well. We miss that beautiful butterfly that just flew to that gorgeous flower that is right in front of us. We missed watching our children…(or in my case)…grandchildren…whose enthusiasm surrounding the beautiful rock they are holding in their hand is all that matters. We miss a lot when we become adults. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that MOST things in life really are free…and there for the enjoyment of all. Big and small. We become so wrapped up in the problems of life that we forget (and totally miss) the beauty of life.

If you don’t have a hobby, create a hobby. Take a few minutes and think about this…….

If you had all of the time…and all of the resources…to do anything that you wanted to do, what would that look like? What were your childhood dreams? What’s on your bucket list? What is a place that you would love to see? Then the questions becomes….Now, how do I get from where I am at this moment to start to move closer to (fill in the blank). I am here to tell you (as someone of a certain age…OLD), you’re not too old…and it’s never too late. HOWEVER…you must first take that step.

Resilience is Key

Will life knock you down again? Yep. That’s a given; however, you have learned the meaning of the word “resilience.” Again…to quote that familiar adage…..”It matters not how many times you get knocked down. What matters is how many times you get up again!”

Abyss happens. To everyone. At some point. However, we can paint a different picture. I love the saying….BROKEN CRAYONS STILL COLOR. Take the first step. Then take the next step…then the next…then the next….You can do hard things. The greatest reward comes when you look in that mirror one day and proclaim….”I DID IT!”! You can do it. I did it…and so can you!

Take care of yourself. There is only one of you. Take care of that ONE. This is your journey. Embrace that…and instead of always asking…”Why is this happening to me?” Reframe that into….”What is this trying to teach me?” You’ve made it this far. Now keep going. Take that first step!!!

Karen Hyatt is a peer coach for Youturn Health.