Rules To My Life.
An Unconventional Lesson On How I Live With Depression.
I have suffered from depression for a little more than half of my life. It is a rough road to living and being satisfied when dealing with depression. Throw in a little obsessive-compulsive disorder and you really have a recipe for some fun thought and behavioral patterns. I require a set of rules to keep myself above water. Through the creation of these 'life rules,' I have made it easier to enjoy my life. Let's just get right down to it;
Do Not Let Other People Dictate How You 'Feel' About Anything-Especially Yourself.
Always my number one rule because it is the most important. I am uniquely me. I feel everything so deeply. I am extreme in every way. I admit to trying my best not to wear my emotions on the outside. When I was young I was criticized for being overly sensitive, a lot. As I grew up I was under the impression that I shouldn't let others see what I was feeling because it would cause people to dislike me. This state of mind then created more problems of frustration and loneliness. I often felt misunderstood. When I broke free of that mindset, it was the most liberating thing I have experienced in my whole life. Everything that has happened in my life calculates the feelings I have about something. Super extreme thinking right? That's how my brain works, and yes, it's intense. Knowing that the way I feel about 'whatever' is my own. Knowing that it is completely and legitimately okay to feel that way. Knowing I don't need to hide anything at all. It is more than just a relief.
When I was trying to decide if I should homeschool my son because of the increase in gun violence in the United States. Growing up in Las Vegas I saw a lot of things in school, and out of it, that I shouldn’t have as a child. I love my son and of course, want to protect him from some of the things I witnessed. I know too well that the world is ever-changing. So anyways-my aunt spoke up, shutting me down immediately, saying, “Everyone in this room went to public school and turned out fine.” She chuckled shrugging me off and left the room. At the time this made me feel stupid for even wanting to have the conversation. Just the way she seemed to write my concerns off like they didn't matter and I was being foolish to even worry about it. My mouth closed keeping all the words I could have said locked tightly inside. I should've said something witty like, "That's debatable." Being a new parent I was totally allowed to feel nervous about sending my son to school. Instead, I allowed her to dictate how I was feeling about the situation.
Other people don’t know you. They can’t feel you. I think every moment you have lived plays a part in how you react to everything, so for someone else to come in and tell you how you should feel about something just isn’t right. So often do other people perceive your actions through glasses of their own emotions. I figure it to be true that people react to you based on what they are feeling in the moment. If someone is frustrated with something going on with them-they react to you in frustration without meaning to. This is where my next rule comes into play.
Understand How To Communicate.
You cannot communicate the same way with everyone. More often than not, people are responding to how you talk to them. You know how it goes, “it’s not what you said, it's how you said it.” Well, it’s true, for everyone. It does take a little while to understand how a person communicates but I think it’s important to take the time to do it.
Communication is the basis of all things. Life cannot work without healthy communication. I believe that the person you are trying to communicate with doesn’t necessarily need to be a good listener if you are an A+ communicator. It is never about being right, only about expressing how you are feeling about a situation clearly to another individual. Knowing how to have a conversation instead of an argument is very important stuff. I just want people to be aware of how I am feeling about something and then they are in charge of what they do with that information from there.
If someone takes something you said the wrong way it’s better to circle back and resolve things. Assuming things from people is the worst and usually, you’re wrong. If they matter to you then always clear the air of miscommunication. This is important to me because I will start to feel guilty about saying the wrong thing or being perceived the wrong way. I am drastically distinguished for overthinking everything. Of course, you can tell if someone takes something the wrong way by how they react to what you said. Which is part of the whole process of learning the right way to communicate with an individual. Watching body language during a conversation is a tell-all. Sometimes it's better to leave the entire conversation for another time or even change the subject to something lighter and circling back once some of the tension has eased off. It takes a lot of practice and patience, but if I want someone to take the time to understand me I know I have to take the time to learn how to communicate with them.
My husband does not do well with 'in the moment' confrontation. He gets overwhelmed and incredibly defensive. I know that I need to ease into serious conversations while trying to keep them light. It's important to him that I let him know that I am not telling him that he is doing something wrong-I just want to talk. That way we can communicate about whatever it is that is going on without fighting about it. A friend I have is the exact opposite. They just want me to get straight to the point without all the cushion. I do and we both move on. Both conversations get the same job done-I never want to fight about something I just want to be heard. I want people to understand where I am coming from. So healthy communication is always important to me.
Don’t Look Back.
My childhood was not a walk in the park. Because of that, I had a lot of anger + other emotions I didn’t know how to handle. This caused me to lash out at the undeserving. To place my loyalties in people who did not deserve them. As I grew up I found myself looking into my past more than was healthy. Every memory I had, even the really good ones, ended up painful or making me wish I had done or said something different. Ultimately this process made me feel like a terrible person and extremely alone. I actually started contacting people that I felt I had wronged in some way and started apologizing. To my surprise, most of them laughed me off. They told me my worries were nothing or, "don't worry about it." This made me realize that I had spent years of my life tormenting myself over things that mattered to no one but myself.
Remembering the first rule of my life I quickly decided I was no longer going to look back on things. Living in the past takes so much away from your now. The beautiful right now. Today, where anything is possible. Where you can be anybody. Why let the past burden you? You can’t change it. The past is permanently there no matter how hard you wish and pray it had gone differently. No matter how much you regret hurting that one person. You did. It happened. So learn from those mistakes and don’t do it again. Move on and be better. Don’t look back on things you will never have the opportunity to change-just look forward to who you will become and what you will accomplish. Just live right now.
Some People Are Meant To Be In Your Life, Some People Aren’t.
This rule is complicated when you calculate the other people in your life into this equation. It can get a little messy. That’s why having good communication and not letting other people tell you how to feel is important. Concluding who is supposed to share your life and who is not takes a lot of trial and error. I know that not everything today will be the same tomorrow. I know that people and situations change. I know that as I grow my feelings about certain things change. So living in 'the now' is important for this rule to work as well.
I was raised to think that family is everything like most people. If someone is your family you have to forgive them and love them No Matter What. Well, there are times when you can’t forgive people. Sometimes people say sorry for things and think they mean it when they don't. If someone else's behavior is continuously hurting you that is a problem. You try communicating how this makes you feel. You try and help them work through their emotional stuff. Still, nothing works so you have to make the healthy decision to walk away. It was hard to get around the way I was raised to believe I had no choice but to forgive my family. I cannot forgive someone a million times for making me feel the same way with no reprieve. If there are people in your life that are dragging you down, making you relive hurtful situations that you are trying to break free from, or just refuse to respect the person you are-let them go. Just do it and be done. There is no reason to feel guilty for cutting people off that you have tried to reason with.
On the flip side, there are people that you meet in life that fit. They grow with you, evolve with you, and they challenge you. These people support you no matter what. You might not talk to them every day or see them on holidays, but when you need someone to have your back-there they are. These people show up in your life in weird ways and they are hard to weed out, all the good things in life are. Sometimes, you let them go without knowing it. They always seem to find their way back though- Sometimes years later.
When I was a freshman in High School I was introduced to a boy on the last day of school. I was sucked into his gravitational pull instantly. Summer vacation stole him across the country to be with his mom but we still talked every day. Back when cell phones weren’t unlimited anything. Ten cents a text message type of time. Long story short we dated on and off through most of High School. I was emotionally unstable and he was the perfect gentleman. He supported me as a person and as an artist in a time when there were hardly any members of Team Me. He truly believed in me there was never a time when he doubted my abilities in anything. Even after we broke up we tried to stay friends. We were kids and didn’t know how to love each other without being with each other. The years fought on with us barely staying in touch. A phone call here or a random visit there. More or less we got on with our lives but never truly let go because something intertwined our souls forever. I do not know what it was. I do not hold all the answers of the universe in my hands. All I know is the older I got the easier it was for me to understand that I would always have love and respect for this person. That didn't mean we had to be together, that did not work for us, but we could be friends. We could be there for each other when we needed some extra support. There were pieces of our souls that just talked to each other. We build each other up-we cheer each other on and in a world that can be extra lonely sometimes, we know there is always at least one person in our corner. A forever friend.
Some people might read that and think, “Friends with an ex? I could never do that.” That’s not wrong to think. I’m not friends with all the people I’ve ever dated, sometimes you need to let people go and not look back. It's a whole decision-making process there. You have to ask yourself, "Is this beneficial for both parties? Are both parties mature enough to have a respectful friendship? Are there ill-intentions from either party?" Things like that will get you closer to understanding if anyone is right for your life. Sometimes, people are meant to be in your life just not the way you originally thought. I am uniquely me and have felt alone and betrayed too many times to even remember. So when I find someone who fits in the puzzle that is my life I’m not letting them go. I want them there. Those types of relationships are what keeps me going. Just knowing someone is out there who thinks I’m pretty cool. That reality helps me through even the toughest of days.
Life Is Art, Always Have A Soundtrack.
My favorite rule. Art is beautiful particularly when it contains raw emotion. Art is not always bright and colorful-sometimes it is dark and painful, but always beautiful. Everything in life is art. The way the wind feels against your skin on a summer's day. The way a bonfire cracks as you sit around outside with friends. The sizzling excitement of a crowd pushed together at the fair on the Fourth of July. The whirlwind of being in the audience at a rock concert. The crushing sensation you get when you feel your heart shatter. The way your body feels hollowed out when you are depressed. Watching yourself go through these things is beautiful in its way.
Music amplifies everything by setting the tone of how a moment in life makes you feel. Music changes everything in emotion. I can go through the same moment listening to different genres of music and feel unique each time. Not because the moment has changed but because what I am listening to has. If you are feeling sad and start listening to sad music you will continue to feel sad, whereas, if you put on some upbeat music your mood will probably start to turn positive. Music and emotion go hand in hand. Emotion and art go hand in hand. Put it all together and you’ve got something great.
I love to imagine myself as the star of my movie. That my life is just one dramatic scene after another. With slow-motion highlights, amazing lighting, and ironic weather conditions. You must know the soundtrack is absolutely astounding. Driving through the streets at sunset cue a song smashed full of angst. Crisp mornings in springtime call for an upbeat pop song that makes me want to dance my tail off. The birth of my son and the days following where I struggled with motherhood get a nice jazzy tune. Music makes life more enjoyable. I love to get lost in the music. To just sit with me and listen to a song play out. It is my own best form of meditation. Paying attention to the world around you, looking toward the beauty you find there, is healthy for your brain.
Let Yourself Get Deep.
Life gets pretty busy, sometimes I forget to stop and relish the moment. The best way to describe this rule is to just let yourself feel it. Feel everything. I spent so much time being depressed and reckless because I wanted my life to be over-I missed a lot of what was happening right in front of me. Now I notice every sunset and I feel the colors of the sky. I breathe them in and let the moodiness of the world’s rotation fill me up. I’ll sit in silence when it’s pouring rain just to hear in against the roof of the house to feel the calm sensation that it gives me. When I go sit with the ocean I let the excitement of adventure plus nature roll around inside me and drown in it. Sad movies make me cry-funny ones make me laugh. I am unapologetically in love with my son and show it with showers of hugs and kisses. Furthermore whatever makes him laugh makes me laugh. His feelings are my feelings. I feel everything that happens and I listen to what those feelings tell me.
Feelings used to scare me because I did not know how to handle the extreme emotions I had inside of me. Through artistic outlets, communications, finding people who understand and accept me, letting go, and just not being ashamed of who I am I have found a way to live. My feelings are overwhelming at times but they are what make me human. They are what makes me alive. Feelings make life worth living. Without them, even the bad ones, what would be the point anyways
Don’t Fit In.
This is self-explanatory after reading everything else I’ve just thrown out there. Do not do things because someone else wants or expects you to. If you don’t want to do something or be someone-don’t. Do not suppress the person you are inside, the person that makes you happy, to fit into someone else's life mold. You’re living for you and you alone. People who do not respect the life you’re living do not need to be there. You will find people who vibe with you.
When I stopped caring so much about what everyone else thought about me-I blossomed. I found my confidence realizing I had people around who wanted me to be me and succeed at it. Everything changed for me in the best ways when I started letting the people go that were trying to tether me to the darkness of my past. The people that caused me to doubt myself. Since then I have flourished. It was like jumping off a cliff into the water. You fall for so long, sink so deep, swim for so long towards the surface, and when you finally break free to take that breath of air- it is invigorating. I am so different just like everyone else is so different from everyone else. There is nothing wrong with me. I do not need to change myself to make other people happy. I do not need to do things for other people if it does not make me happy. I do not need to feel bad about saying, 'no.' I never have to feel guilty for standing up for something I believe in. I am good enough just the way. I am different and that is what makes me so interesting. I don’t want to fit in-I want to be the person you meet in life that you don’t ever forget.
Tomorrow Is A New Day.
These are the everyday rules I try my best to live by. I do still sink into old ways from time to time. Or, allow toxic people to sink their claws into my toughened skin. I have bad days when I feel down on myself. Days when I can only believe I am going nowhere fast. That is where my last rule comes into play. Tomorrow is a new day. Thank God, time is constantly moving forward. I get through the day to start over in the next. Like a reset button on a video game console. I have learned to forgive myself for so many things. I know I will be forgiving myself for so many more things in the future. As long as I am continuously learning from my mistakes I am on the right track. Everything happens for a reason unless you let it pass by you unnoticed.
A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year...finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays."