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How I Live (Mostly Happily!) with Depression & Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I’ve written about how my story of being diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) a number of times on this blog, but it’s been a long time since I gave an update. If you’re newer to my blog this post might be a surprise, but I come by my love of psychology, resilience, motivation, and unbridled positivity whenever possible honestly. In 2010, I was diagnosed and since then my life has changed dramatically for the better.

If you’d like to, you can read about my initial diagnosis and a follow up from later that year, but before I share the things that have helped make my life with Depression and GAD so much better, I wanted to share what’s changed since that original post and my diagnosis as I’ve learned more about myself and what this means for me.

What I Got Wrong & What’s Changed

A lot of my assumptions about what I was experiencing in the beginning turned out to be wrong. Strange right? This is the short list.

I thought I had GAD with an episode of depression

When I was initially diagnosed, my GAD symptoms were an urgent, all-encompassing and exhausting part of my daily life. It’s like living life with your startle response and stress dials set to 7,  and any more stress that would normally bother a normal person, like going to the grocery store, writing an important email, or going out with friends, would be interpreted by my body as dangerous.

As my symptoms receded and my medication start being effective, I felt so much better. But in the years since my diagnosis, my depression symptoms have been just as persistent, difficult, and present as my GAD. Looking back at my teenage years and twenties, I can see that depression was always a huge part of my life, but until now I didn’t understand that wasn’t my natural personality.

 

I thought my depression was mild until it was life threatening

None of us knows how it feels to be another person, so it’s hard to know when what your feeling isn’t normal. But the slippery thing about mental illness is that it profoundly changes your perspective on how it feels to be you. I had no idea my depression was severe because as I became more and more depressed, I stopped being able to remember that I had ever felt differently.

When I was in the worst of my experience I knew that I used to have more energy and feel happier, but the depression and GAD were such dampers on my perspective that I couldn’t imagine or remember what feeling better felt like. In the end of my worst episode I was too tired to be awake for more than a few hours at a time, and I would feel heart-broken, like I was grieving an unimaginable loss, the whole time I was awake.

Even then, I only went to the doctor because in one of those moments I thought, “I can’t imagine feeling like this for another week. Actually, I can’t imagine feeling like this for a few more days.”. I thankfully had the insight to know that was a suicidal thought, and it terrified me. I shouted for my husband, and we made a doctors appointment.

 

I thought getting help would be scary

I hear this a lot from people experiencing what they suspect might be mental illness, and who are terrified about getting help. Speaking with a doctor makes everything feel so much more real, and when I was in the thick of my worst feelings, I just wanted these feelings to go away on their own.

The thing I didn’t realize was that I was in the absolute worst part already. Knowing what’s wrong doesn’t hurt you any more. It opens you up to help, resources, services, knowledge, and community. Knowing what’s going on opens a window that lets all kinds of good flood in.

Your doctor won’t force you to take medication. Your doctor will be a neutral outside party who can take your experience and objectively help you understand what’s going on. When you’re sick your perspective isn’t reliable, so having someone on your team who has done this before and sees things clearly is the best time and money you can spend.

 

I had no idea how much of what I experienced daily wasn’t normal (and was optional!)

I used to have a meltdown at least once a week. My husband and I would fight or get stuck in a misunderstanding about nothing and it would end it tears.

I would play conversations over in my mind on endless loops, especially ones where I did or said something I regretted. I had repetitive thoughts or day dreams that I couldn’t switch off. I spoke quickly (though I didn’t think so at the time) and frequently caught myself holding my breath. I hated calling people on the phone or speaking to people I didn’t know, I tired out easily and needed to nap on the weekends and be caffeinated at all other times. If someone startled me, I had a huge reaction and couldn’t watch any movies or shows with jump scares.

Thinking back through my life, I was younger, I would have crying episodes at least once a month where I would cry so hard I couldn’t breathe. I would get extremely frustrated and angry at times, over what seemed like nothing. Going to new places or meeting new people was extremely stressful, so I invented workarounds like visiting a new place the day before so I could plan where I would park and how I would walk to where I was going.

I was still myself. I was smart, quirky, and had it together, but no one – myself included – had any idea something was wrong until it escalated out of control.

In Minneapolis with friends in 2010

In Minneapolis with my friends & heart people, Mandy and Nora in 2010, when my GAD & depression were escalating. I was exhausted all the time and while I was positive and tried to fit fun in my life, it took a huge amount of effort. I didn’t do it to try to fit in, I did it because I thought everyone else felt the same way.

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We can only know what we experience, and I didn’t know that these are all symptoms of high anxiety, stress, or depression. And I’m  happy to say most of my life is now completely symptom free.

 

How I live (mostly happily) with depression and GAD

I know that I’m lucky. I’m sorry if you’re reading this and your situation is harder right now. I’m extremely lucky that my illness isn’t treatment resistant, that my symptoms aren’t not any more severe than they are, and that I haven’t had to switch between meditations.

I’m also extremely lucky to have met the man I was going to marry when I was 19, as my illness started to escalate. Jesse was just as loving, observant, non-judgemental, patient and hilarious then as he is now, and because we moved in together in the first year of our relationship, I had someone close to me who could help me watch my symptoms change when my perspective on what was happening wasn’t clear. (There isn’t enough gratitude or thanks in the world for him!)

These are the things that have helped me:

 

1. I spoke to my family doctor and was open to medication as emergency help

When I had my first suicidal thought (Unwanted! Though I’m sure they all are) it frightened me enough to shock me into action, and for that I’m forever grateful. My doctor completed symptom check lists with me, and I fit the profiles for both depression and GAD to the letter. Because I was in crisis, my doctor and I decided that a prescription was the fastest way to get me out of short term danger. I tried Effexor, and after we got to a dosage that I started responding to and some time passed my life started feeling radically different.

Immediately, I was amazed by how much better I felt knowing that I was working on a solution with someone else in charge, because I felt strongly that this was beyond my control. Within three months I felt better than I’d ever felt before, and was constantly asking my friends and family “Is this what you feel like normally? WHY DIDN’T I KNOW THAT???” and in six months I felt twice as good as that. Within nine months I felt even better, which was worlds beyond what I had ever dreamed for my life, and when I started to truly appreciate how severe my situation had been.

I still have bad days every couple of months, and the stark Canadian winter makes my depression worse. I’ve been on a high dose (over 200 mg) of Effexor ever since and taking medication every day doesn’t bother me for even a moment, even though I thought it would. It’s what allows me to wake up happy, energized and excited for my life, being able to be there for my friends and family, doing work that I love and working for myself.

 

2. I started cognitive behavioural therapy & told my friends and family what was happening

After starting medication, I found a cognitive behavioural therapist and started going to regular sessions. I found the therapy approach profoundly interesting, but my therapist abrasive. There were some helpful pieces of what she worked with me on, like slowing my speech down and making sure I was breathing properly, but we weren’t a great match after the initial few sessions. As I learned that cognitive behavioural therapy is all about symptom reduction, and dove into everything I could read on it so I could start putting them into action without hefty therapy bills.

At the same time, I told everyone I love and cared about that I was diagnosed with GAD and depression. At the time, I felt relieved that there was a solution, but also mystified that I had lived alongside side people whose lives just felt completely different from mine.

I shared openly because I felt shocked and excited, but I unintentionally recruited a big group of caring friends and family, and set the tone for how we would talk about depression and anxiety together. This wasn’t frightening or emotional, it was a fascinating discovery that from that moment forward my life was going to feel better and better. I couldn’t stop talking about how we could all be so close, and still have missed that we were experiencing life differently.

My friends and family stepped in beside me, and as I stopped having to fight through the sadness and anxiety, there was a lot of celebrating to do. I was quick to laugh, more positive, curious, adventurous, and myself than ever before, and it was a joy.

 


Friday Finds no. 59

Friday Finds!

 

image by Cocorrina

image by Cocorrina

✖ Are you a blogger, creative or entrepreneur looking for support & community? You need to check out #fireworkpeople! The brainchild of Canadian writer Ashley Beaudin, #fireworkpeople is a free, encouraging, positive community that has weekly tuesday twitter chats, a facebook community, blog tours, and conference calls! If you’ve been curious about a group coaching program or mastermind? This is your perfect opportunity to see what that’s like and get involved before this explodes with members.

✖ Do you use Facebook pages for your blog or brand? Try this easy way to see what’s working for your Facebook page. Even better? It’s more accurate & more encouraging than just looking at likes.

These 8 ways a simple notebook can change your life show that the right app was there all along.

Monica Lewinsky gave her first public speech in 16 years, and don’t look now but she’s a kind of a badass. She speaks with humor, self compassion and heartache about what it was like to be one of the first people to have their reputation ruined in the dawn of the internet era, and on helping to keep the victims of bullying and gossip supported and alive as this has swelled to be a tidal wave in our society. Bullying is not criticism, and it’s rampant online. Why not change that for the better? Don’t visit negative websites that make money from your pageviews, and make what you want more of online stronger by supporting your favorite maker, teacher or resource with encouragement or a purchase.

Have you heard of dazzle camouflage? It’s ships painted into optical illusions so they’re harder to hit, and they are wild! you can’t make this stuff up.


The weekly habit that’s changed how I feel about my work & life

One of the tricky things about being interested in goal setting is that it’s easy to slip into what I call productivity shaming.  You don’t have to be a perfectionist for this to trip you up, though that doesn’t hurt, and it looks different for all of us.

For me, this often ends up being a day where I get a lot done but not the specific things on my to do list. For you, it might be a day when you slip into responding to email mode instead of doing the bulk of your job.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most underrated parts of working for someone else is having outside forces to attribute these problems to!

We all have threads of assumption woven through the our days that show up in the stories we tell ourselves. If you let your mood run away with them, you’re going to end up in a mess.

This is how I changed that for myself.

image by Sylwia Bartyzel

November 2014 marks the start of my fourth year of being completely self employed, and I’ve spent much of that time wishing that I’d spent it differently.

Even when my work goes beautifully, and even when I’m proud of what I put out, there’s always something I would have changed.  And it’s true right now,  when I wish that wasn’t the case!

What’s helped the most for me is definitely practicing self compassion (must watch video alert!) and also finding ways to punch through my mood at the end of the day or in the middle of the week when I’m more likely to let how I’m feeling at the moment colour how much I’m helping someone I work with, how I’ve made someone laugh, or how I’m learning things that I couldn’t have imagined when I started out.

As you’ve already guessed, I’m talking about drugs and alcohol.

Just kidding!

My solution is a lot more effective than numbing yourself, and it’s something I learned while working with the lovely Molly from Stratejoy.

This is a simple but effective part of our coaching calls that I fell in love with, and since then I’ve used it once a week to check in with myself, when I ask myself these three questions.


Friday Finds no. 58

Friday Finds on KylaRoma.com

I haven’t done Friday Finds post in a long time, but I’ve been finding so much great content to share between Pinterest and Twitter that keeping it from the blog just seems weird. So out with the weird (unless it’s the good kind of weird!) and in with the new.

Here’s new weekly inspiration from around the internet – links about beautiful things, creativity, social media, positivity, making a living online, community building, and of course some good old fashioned juicy photos…

Amy Roth Etsy Print

Perfect Citrus Wall Art by Amy Roth

The Science Behind How Emotions Lead to Smarter Decisions

New Evernote Web App Takes Decluttering to the Extreme (Now bring it to the desktop app!)

Not sure where to start with your social media campaign?

✖ If you have anxiety, depression, or just a case of the fates conspiring against you, check out this guide to getting back on track when life is hard.

Twin Peaks is coming back, with Lynch directing. Time to get weird… (This is definitely the good kind of weird!)

✖  I shared a lot of my favourite apps and resources with many of the the ladies at Designer Vaca, so if you’re trying to get more done in less time I thought I’d share them here too:

Services / Friendly Robot Helpers

TimeTrade: Let clients book appointments directly into your calendar, without 1000 confusing emails.

Xero: Accounting that works beautifully for multiple currencies, imports your Paypal feed, and lets you invoice clients directly. Integrates with nearly everything.

IFTTT: Stands for “If this, then that” and will let you automate a lot of your online life. Stop doing boring things! Start using robots.

Zapier: Zapier is automation between apps and services that you already use. It’s like IFTTT on steroids – and can do a lot of what you might pay someone to help you with, like recording sales or adding customers into your newsletter list. Basic plans are free, paid start at $20 per month.

ScannerPro: POOF! Your iPhone is now a scanner. This works incredibly well, and many of the illustrators and letterers mentioned that they only use this tool now.

Any.do: A simple, pretty way to track your to do list, and it’s Chrome browser extension turns your emails into tasks for free.

OmniFocus: Paid app that lets you turn your emails into To Do list items that you can organize, action, pause, defer and more. Personal favourite of mine.

Fancy Hands: Get support from a virtual assistant at a fraction of the price

Books & Ideas

Breaking the Time Barrier: Free download that will help you make twice as much as you do now.

The Art of Growth: by Tara Gentile, my business coach! I’ve been following her work for a long time, and this is a great intro to her work.


My Designer Vaca Experience

Designer Vaca Experience

This year I’ve made getting outside of my comfort zone, and getting into settings where creative people share ideas a priority. So when registration for Designer Vaca went on sale I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Designer Vaca is the creation of Promise Tangeman and Alyssa Yuhas, and the idea is to take a vacation in sunny Palm Springs with designers from all over North America, with a sprinkling of conference setting that gives you a chance to “talk shop” and learn from each other.

The conference part of the getaway included dinners in the evening (complete with the photo booth above), hearing Jessica Hische and Kathleen Shannon share their perspectives, and morning group discussions on key topics that the attendees chose. Afternoons were free time mostly spent by the pool building friendships.

What struck me most about the conference was how incredibly open everyone was.

The women who attended were open to sharing their process, stories, and lives.  They were open to expressing their opinions, to considering other people’s different experiences. They shared what’s working for them, what’s frustrating for them, and what lights them up to anyone who asked, regardless of if they knew them or not.

discussion signs Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca

Discussion points from the morning sessions

guitar Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca

Lobby guitar by Samantha

tiny shop at Designer Vaca

A tiny pop-up shop with handmade goods appeared nearby our hotel

Promise Tangeman and Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca

We finally meet! Promise has made something really special with Designer Vaca.

Parker Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca Noirve Design

Wesley, Vanessa, Katelyn and I at Parker. (Why yes, Wesley’s so cool that she literally glows)

photobooth Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca

Photobooths and celebratory drinks

halo Kyla Roma at Designer Vaca

This sums up my feelings about the trip!

While there were groups of the ladies who were rooming together, or knew each other already, nothing about it felt cliquey or exclusive. There was genuine interest and earnestness to spare, which made it even more welcoming and energizing. Even better is that I know I’ll be friends for life with some of the ladies I met. How can you top that?

The biggest lesson I learned from hearing about how other people work is that it’s alright to embrace the way I work, and to be lead by my passions instead of my checklist – even just in day to day work. I’m already feeling more loose and inspired, and I know that my clients will be able to feel the difference.


10 Ways to Make Waking Up Easier With a Seasonal Morning Routine

Is it just me, or is September is the new January? With back to school in full swing and the leaves changing (or thinking about it, at least!) I’ve craved healthy new habits, fresh starts, and changing the energy that I put into important areas of my life.

And I’m not just talking work!

This time of year reminds me that there’s still some summer sun to soak up, more farmers markets to take in, more bonfires to stir, more big questions to ask and dreams to dream, and more tiny adventures to fit in.

One of the ways that I love marking the change of seasons is to set aside an evening to look at what I’m craving, and how I can add in or pull things out of my daily and weekly routine that will nourish me, charge my batteries, and get me jumping out of bed for the coming months.

Seasonal Morning Routine Shake Up!

Your routine might be something you think about or something you’re barely aware of, but if you’re not sure where to start, consider what you typically do when you’re starting or ending your day.

Right now, my morning routine looks like this:

✚ Wake up
✚ Light workout or dog walk
✚ Get showered & dressed
✚ Have breakfast of overnight oats (With different toppings, this has been my breakfast most days since 2009!)
✚ 15 – 30 minute Pinterest spree
✚ Get down to work in my home office

Your shiny new routine might be just as good as what you did today, but changing your routine seasonally will give it newness that will make it more engaging. That “new & shiny” factor can make it easier for you to get out of bed because you have something new to look forward to.

If you live in a part of the world that doesn’t have sweeping changes between seasons, this is a great way for you to take the lead and make a change that will mark the new season.

(Aside from satisfying your PSL addiction, I mean.)

And if you haven’t created an intentional morning routine before? This is the perfect time to start.

Ways to shake up your daily routine in a beautiful way:

  • Brew a new special coffee or tea to enjoy
  • Wake up 15 minutes earlier and write morning pages
  • Start rolling out of bed and into a workout or yoga practice as a way to care for yourself
  • Set an extra alarm so you have time to hit snooze, roll over & cuddle with a pet, partner, or little one
  • Drink warm lemon water in the morning to kick start your digestion & gently detox
  • Read a book you’re fascinated by as you wake up instead of turning on the TV
  • Write down 10 ideas, and don’t scratch them off your list when you’re done (you needed get through the “meh” ideas to get to the great ones!)
  • Join More Love Letters and send encouragement to someone who needs it before you start the day
  • Take yourself on a walk in your neighbourhood without distractions, to check in with yourself
  • Spend 20 – 30 minutes on a new skill you want to master, like calligraphy, knitting, or pole vaulting (whatever you’re into, my dear!)

Five ways to make this week feel more manageable

Ways to make your week feel more manageable

Sometimes by the end of Monday, I’m ready for it to be Friday. Even more frusterating is that it’s usually entirely about me and how I’ve started the week (or reacted to life!) that gets me tied up in knots. In case you’re having one of those weeks, I’m sharing a few simple ways that can help you turn a week around or keep it headed in the right direction.

1. Set a maximum on your daily to do list

At the start of the day, getting everything on paper is a great way to shake everything out of your beautiful mind. But the mistake that can drive you into overwhelm is assuming all of those things belong on your list for today… and then seeing the huge list of things you didn’t finish at the end of every day.

To get the most out of your list, make sure you have a maximum on what can fit into a day. I like to keep my work & personal to do lists for each day to 3 items or less each, and to prioritise things that will make it easier to do things done in the future.  This is a really practical way to make sure you’re not expecting yourself to be superwoman, and from feeling like you’re always behind.

 

2. Declutter your world for 15 minutes a day

I think that feeling like your world has slipped out of control (at least a little) and you have no time to make a big difference in your home life is much more common than it feels. Especially when you’re in the middle of it.

Instead of falling into overwhelm, set a timer for 15 minutes a day and work on a specific area in a specific room in your house.  Focus on the areas of your house where clutter has started to collect on open surfaces first, and then slowly expand out to take on one junk drawer, or one shelf of your books.

15 minutes a day is all you need to transform where you live into a tidy, stress free space, and for you to start seeing little victories everywhere. Don’t think about it, just start!

 

3. Make your phone to light up with fewer notifications

Push notifications can be amazing but if your phone is constantly flashing and beeping at you, it’s natural for your body to start bracing and anticipating interruption. If you use an iPhone you can easily change this by switching your application’s notifications from “alerts” to “banner” style, which means you still get all your notifications – but only when you pick up and unlock your phone.

One of the things that makes our lives amazing is getting into a state of flow, which is how psychologists talk about those stretches of time when we become absorbed in something that time seems to go by in a flash. The problem is that you’ll never get to that state if you let yourself be constantly pulled out of the present moment.

Re-learning to experience uninterrupted time is a skill, but it’s often also what we love about vacations or road trips. Less interruptions will make you feel less hurried, and will reduce the stress hormones your brain dishes out when your phone springs to life.

 

4. Journal your challenges & celebrations during the week

It’s often tempting to treat our well being and self care practices like it should happen on a perfect day, when we can really enjoy it… but we often need it most on the days when it’s least convenient! A habit that’s made a huge impact in my life is grabbing my journal a few nights during the work week, and writing out my challenges and celebrations at the moment.


Weekend Dare: Start Small, Today.

If not now, when?

We all have that thing on any given day. It simmers away at the back of your mind. It’s something that you want to put time into, but haven’t got to yet. It’s an idea you can’t unhook yourself from. A “sticky” challenge or problem.

Sometimes it’s simple and small.

A book you’ve been wishing you could jump into, writing that blog post you meant to get to, or starting the chores that have been driving you crazy all week.

Sometimes it’s huge and intimidating.

Changing jobs. Feeling happier and more alive day to day. Sharing your truth with someone and not knowing how it will pan out.

 

It feels like an end of summer thing, to have a lot of these things piling up. In my mind, I‘m used to navigating around stacks of these things that I dream up for myself as shoulds, wants and (God forbid!) musts. I’m used to knowing that I will never get them done, and filing them in Pinterest and Evernote for future reference if they’re really tempting. But lately I’ve decided to change my approach.

 

I’ve started a habit of starting small.

  • Instead of blogging from start to finish, I’ll write for 15 – 20 minutes and then come back to continue another day.
  • Instead of cleaning my whole house, I’ll de-clutter part of one room for 15 minutes and continue the next day.
  • Instead of setting aside a whole day to work on my personal creative projects, I’ll wake up earlier and give them a half hour.
  • Instead of putting aside 3 hours once a month to talk shop with my business partner, we check in throughout the week.

It’s not revolutionary, but it feels like a superpower! After two weeks, my house is cleaner that it’s been in months, I’m writing again, I’m creating things for myself for the sheer fun of it, and the things that have been burning a hole in my piece of mind are things I can feel accomplished about.

Sounds good, right?

Click to tweet it: Today I give myself permission to start small & remember that I’m not behind. Not now, not ever! 

 

Whatever that thing is for you, I have a dare for you today:

 ①  Take a small step & celebrate it.

Take the first impossibly small step toward that thing that you can think of. Making a list could be a good place to start – but just writing the list, not even doing anything on it. Set a timer for 15 minutes, do what you can, and then stop.

Stopping is hard, but it’s a powerful practice in letting a little be enough.

The magic is in the repetition. Do this little bit every day, or every other day, will make your accomplishments stack up in fabulous ways.

 

②  Remind yourself that you’re doing great, and you are not behind.

No matter where you think you should be, that idea is just your imagination. You are only exactly where you are, and with tiny repeated effort you will move mountains!

You are not behind. And while we’re at it you are also not too old, or too young, or too fat, or too thin, or too late, or too early, or too anything. You are putting one foot in front of the other, and you are doing great. 


Notes To My Younger Self

Today I’m posting as part of a blog crawl to help spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. A huge group of amazing bloggers are sharing what we learned the hard way – so you don’t have to! You don’t have to wait till your thirties for a better job, a cuter apartment, financial stability, better relationships + friendships. 

Notes To My Younger Self - Kyla Roma

Becoming yourself is not for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth the effort. If I could pass some advice back in time to my younger self, this is what I’d want her to know:

•  •  •

Your intuition is a muscle: start to use it!

Tuning into my intuition in the past few years has had a huge positive impact on my life! It’s helped me fine tune the direction of my career, recognize mis-matches between clients and myself, and to take the reins on a big business development that will be launching this winter.

But for years, when my inner voice spoke to me I couldn’t tell if my worries, ego, or intuition was speaking up. I always wished that it was easier to tell the difference between those competing parts of myself, but I’ve only found out how when I took the time to learn.

What’s helped is taking dedicated time to just be still and become aware of what kid of thoughts my mind starts running toward. I’ll identify the kinds of thoughts that I’m having by name – like “Worrying”, “Planning”, or that old classic “Judgement”, and then try to let the thought pass without getting swept up in it. It’s a form of meditation that’s a great way to take the temperature on how you’re doing on a given day. The effort has helped me recognize when I’m caught up in the moment, or when what I’m feeling comes from a deep, core priority  that I need to pay attention to.

 

What other people think of you is none of your business

In my early twenties I was incredibly curious about what other people thought of me. And I was more invested in what they thought that I would admit to myself. When you are in the middle of defining yourself, or when you’re unsure about the direction your path will take, it’s comforting to get positive feedback because it makes you feel like you’re on the right track. The thing is, there is no right track in life other than being yourself and doing what makes you happy!

We all have incomplete understandings of who the people around us are, so we fill in the gaps for ourselves. If someone accidentally puts you in the wrong “box” in their mind, and then gets upset when you’re being who you are? That’s about them, not you. Laugh about it and keep on shining.

The sense of certainty you get from someone else giving you a pat on the back doesn’t hold a candle to the feeling of knowing who you are and accepting yourself – imperfections and all.

 

Check in and see if your normal is normal

One of the biggest surprises of my early twenties was finding out that I’d been living with clinical Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for years, and that life could feel totally different than it did. I’d always been a worrier, it didn’t take much to exhaust me, and I’d always had bouts of deep sadness, but I thought that everyone experienced those things.

Use your curiosity to consider your experience as a person in this world, and don’t assume that your normal is what everyone else is living through too. Speak to your friends, speak to your family, and speak to your doctor about anything that comes between you and living a happy, full life.

You could gain years you would have otherwise spent trying to figure out what’s wrong – and your whole life could be the other side of that discovery.

Consider the cost of risks you don’t take

When I quit my day job in late 2009 I’d done some groundwork to help me feel confident that I could make it on my own – for a few months at least. It was scary to take that leap – but it was made easier by the fact that I had a clear picture of what I was risking if I didn’t try to become self employed. On some level, I had felt out of place and uneasy in every job I’d ever had – and if I didn’t try to make something for myself, I could picture what it would feel like to live with that every day of my life. And I didn’t want to find out how accurate my imagination was!


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