In The Midst Of Depression, Lessons For Living

Sophia is a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people. Today we hear from Amy, 28, from Montana, who has managed to find fulfillment despite recurring bouts of clinical depression. Share your own life lessons here.

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What is a recent realization you've had about living a more rewarding/fulfilling life?

Letting go of family expectations and pressures. There are always going to be things you do that your parents and family are unimpressed with, to say the least. You can never live up to someone else's expectation for your life because nobody else knows you more than yourself. Someday, those people you have spent every day living for will be gone. Then what? What is your purpose after that? It's important, vital even, to realize you are the person you need to live for. You're the person you need to impress.

Tell us something about an area of your expertise that took you years to learn.

Letting go. I still fight it sometimes. It's hard to let go of painful experiences because pain and failure fill the mind with doubt and drain confidence. But why live in moments of failure forever? Realizing you're human and allowing yourself to make mistakes is a gift. What more can we do than reflect and learn from our past? We certainly cannot change it, so why hold onto that pain? But we can prepare and grow for the future.

What do you feel is the most helpful thing your parents did for you that many parents don't do?

My parents raised me and my siblings with structure, in terms of school, religion, and general lessons of what it means to be a good person. But while we were part of a certain religion or leaned one way politically, nothing was ever forced on us. We were taught to be independent, well-spoken thinkers. We were raised to develop our own individual beliefs through exploring and understanding.

If I didn't agree with something my parents believed, that was totally fine; but I needed to be able to voice why. I never got off the hook saying, "I just don't think that." I was always pressed and encouraged to explore and doubts or questions, and to look at alternatives and other viewpoints so that I could stand behind my decisions and know why. In that, we also developed the great gift of open-mindedness. I know that any belief I have can change when others with differing views explain their reasoning. And if I disagree, at least I walk away with empathy, respect and understanding for what another human being truly believes.

Tell us about a book (or books) that had a significant impact on you.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" sticks with me. I've read it many times and always find myself, even in my post-teenage-angst adult life, pausing to consider moments, events, and ideas the characters bring to life.

What is something small or seemingly insignificant that contributes greatly to your happiness?

My dog, a walk, and sunshine. I've come to realize that those very things encompass life and invigorate me.

Tell us about a memorable gift you've given or received.

My friend once came to school, I think sophomore year of high school, and handed me a necklace she had made in a class at an art studio the night before. It was a small, copper and ceramic piece that simply had a painted exclamation point on it. She said that after she made it, she looked at her finished product and instantly thought of me because of the exclamation. So she decided to give it me. I still have it 13 years later.

What is a regret that you have that others could learn from?

I suffer from recurring clinical depression. It is crippling. During an episode in 2014, after battling myself and getting out of bed to trudge through the motions, I gave up the fight and stayed in bed. I slept for 18-20 hours a day, failed my semester in college, quit my job, and halted my social and familial life. I slept through four months of my life, quite literally. I regret the time I lost, even though being awake was so exhausting, painful, and seemingly worthless.

Tell us about a travel experience or destination that you would recommend to others.

I recently returned from spending a summer in Hawaii. I went to watch a friend's kids while they were out of school and she and her husband had to work. But I also went with the intention of addressing personal changes for my health and wellbeing. Having just come out of a severe depressive state for the last four months, I had nothing to lose by taking a chance, dropping everything, and going somewhere for myself and around people I love. The warmth, sun, and atmosphere of Kona eased my anxieties, invigorated me out of a lonely, depressive hole, and helped me to clear my mind and set my intentions on what I wanted for myself.

What habits/routines do you keep that are especially unique or beneficial?

I make myself get out of the house, up out of bed, or away from my technology to take my pup for a walk. Even when I am struggling with a depressive episode or am bogged down with obligations and schoolwork, I make myself get out with the minimum limit of 10 minutes. If I'm still feeling down after 10 minutes, I go home. But even in my worst times, I have only ever turned around once. Without fail, a walk outside brightens my spirit and reinvigorates me.

What apps (or other technologies) have the greatest impact on your happiness/personal fulfillment?

I enjoy logic problem games and crossword puzzles when I need to take just a little time away from everything and everyone else. It gives me a little quiet time to decompress.

What do you think about when you think about death?

I don't think about death. I accept it as fact that everyone passes and I will, too. But I think about living while I'm alive so that when I die, no stones are left unturned.

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