heart in hands

I used to love the bumper sticker that read: Hire a teenager while they still know everything! (Sad, but true; it still makes me laugh!) Teenagers, right? Are you rolling your eyes in unison and nodding in agreement? We all know at least one awkward teenager – that individual who brims with facts, figures and weird anecdotes. That teenager was me, and I remember her like it was yesterday.

Those memories evoke laughter, serious internal cringe, and sometimes, shame. The range of emotions is vast on introspection. To summarise – I was dark, sarcastic, and suffering. No one knew, and I was pretty sure no one cared. At 17, I was diagnosed with clinical depression after an uninspired attempt to take my life.

Fast forward to three years later to a time of deep soul-searching. Depression plagued my life, holding me in its vice-like grip. Every sphere of my life felt its influence. I longed to find a way out from under its oppressive, life-draining influence. So, I adapted. Below are two of the most significant points that helped me turn my life around.

1. Move Beyond Hyper-Focusing On The Problem(s)

When someone suffers from depression, they do so because they focus on the problem(s). (I understand that clinical depression is a complex issue. I do not mean to minimise it in any way. In this post, I am speaking from my personal experience.) Clinical depression may be hard to comprehend. Please know that it is not down to bad behaviour. It is also not the inability of the individual to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They have no bootstraps. They are wholly powerless. When they find empowering help, that is when their lives can be re-energised.

As a 20-year-old, I needed to focus on something outside my life and situation. I shifted my focus by volunteering with young people experiencing tough times who struggled to talk to their parents or peers for fear of judgement. My coaching career has its roots embedded in this life-changing experience. It helped me develop deep compassion for others.

Today, as I sit writing this post, I think back to each of those young people I spent time coaching and mentoring. I am grateful that they trusted me enough to tell me what was on their hearts and minds. As I look back, I see that even though I was carrying a load of emotional baggage, it served me in that situation. My struggle with depression became a tool to help others, and in helping others, I healed. It was a wonderful and unexpected outcome.

An important note: I did not substitute dealing with my ‘stuff’ by helping others. I do not believe in avoidance or denial. The best nugget of advice given to me then was this: ‘Jan, the only way out is through.’ We can attempt to skirt around the edge pain. But, if confronted head-on, it will save years of misery. Yes, it is true; healing takes time. Healing your life is every day – choosing your thoughts and actions. It is possible to shorten the learning curve by courageously confronting your pain.

2. Gratitude Is The Key To An Expanded Experience

Life sucks. (I apologise for using the word suck/sucks – unfortunately, there is no suitable substitute.) Sometimes it sucks for a protracted period wearing us down because we focus on the suck.

Let me turn on a light for you. Life does not suck 24/7 – there is some let-up in your day. Yes, there are times when circumstances surrounding your life feel less than blissful. That is down to what you focus on in the day-to-day. Are you focused on what is wrong with life or what is right?

What is good in your world, right now, in this moment? For me, it is the cup of coffee on my desk. The hot shower I had this morning. My comfortable bed. The snuggly blanket on my sofa. You get the picture. It is the small things. The things that bring us a degree of comfort (or joy) are also the things we tend to take for granted. We overlook them because they are commonplace. Instead, we wait for some massive, life-altering event to sweep us off our feet. Feel gratitude over a cup of coffee (replace coffee with something you enjoy). Do you have a beautiful plant in your home that brightens your day? Someone who makes you smile? Feel it, feel it deeply! Prepare for when your life-altering event rolls around!

When you embrace the power of gratitude for the seemingly ordinary, your internal bank of happiness fills up. As the bank fills, your life begins to take on new meaning.

3. Find A Mentor

Mentors come in many shapes and sizes. I have been privileged to have great mentors in my life. The value of a mentor (or multiple mentors) is priceless. Anyone who has a mentor will tell you the same thing. Mentors might not always have the answers, but a great mentor will help you find them. Successful mentoring is when you discover truths that fully resonate with you. In working with my mentors, I learned my value, accepted my strengths (not just weaknesses – which was all I could see in the throes of depression) and transformed my life. Someone cared enough to show me a different, perhaps even enlightened, perspective.

It takes courage – all of it. I am no one special – as you can no doubt see by what is written here about my past. When I took the first steps, I was terrified, just as you may feel contemplating your own life and how to break free from your struggles.

Take Life By The Horns

Start with the small things you would not usually pay attention to in your day. The more you realise how many small things there are, the more you will notice. Do not stop there. Make it a daily, conscious choice. Set a goal to look for something every day in your immediate environment for which you are grateful. Allow yourself to feel that. Feel gratitude, feel the accompanying joy. Now – make it a habit!

Do you feel stuck? Did something in this post resonate? Please feel free to drop me a message to chat about it. You can reach me via the Contact page – click here.


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