I sat on a leather couch in my therapist’s small office, relaxed, almost confident that this session would be a breeze. I had just returned from a week long vacation in Puerto Rico with the memories of my sister’s wedding and exploration of the island still fresh in my mind. There were things to talk about but not so heavy as in the past. Or so I thought.
After a while of sharing, my therapist stared at me worryingly. She said, “The way that you are expressing yourself, Eleny, I think you may be going through a mild depression.” I look at her bewildered. I didn’t feel depressed at all. I went to social functions without much hesitation, I had summer goals and plans, I tried to be as involved with my sister’s transition into marriage. So it was difficult to grasp the word depression as a part of my current lifestyle.
Slowly, my therapist tried to help me put the pieces together. She said, “You said you couldn’t look in the mirror, or that you don’t like the way you look, so you don’t try at all. You sound really unhappy, Eleny.”
“What is one thing you like to do? What are you studying in school? What are your passions?” She attempted to light a spark in my eyes with the little desire I seemed to have left. All I could come up with is “I don’t have a clear career path or passion, some of my relationships with people seem unclear and I don’t feel comfortable in certain places that I previously did. The only constant I feel that I have other than God is my marriage.”
I tried not to cry as she talked about what I had experienced this year. “You have gone through a lot of difficulty and transitions. It is not easy to go through what you have and process all those things seamlessly. But you have to find what makes you happy and focus on that. You will find the strength to push forward and feel happy about yourself when you are involved in your passions and helping others. So what do you want to do in life? What makes you happy? Ask yourself those questions and we will explore it further when we meet for the next session.”
I was grateful that my husband had the day off and was waiting for me in the car because I left the session feeling heavier than when I came in. All these realizations came to flooding into my conscious mind. I had become less merciful with others and myself, my feelings self-worth had lowered and I couldn’t even take a compliment. It was frustrating to go shopping for clothes or look in the mirror. In my struggles, I felt lost and unable to find a safety net. I felt that God had been silent, so my anxiety had worsened. I had quietly slipped under the radar and become a subdued version of myself. I was slowly drowning in a pool of my own misery without realizing it.
So I’ve realized something about unhappiness since then and I am on a journey to leave that place. This is what I have learned on my way out.
1)You will feel better if you treat yourself better
Dress up even if you don’t feel like it and care about your appearance. Those times that I did care has helped me to feel happier about myself because my confidence went up. It’s not about getting attention, it’s about treating yourself better. Do things to help your physical and mental health. This has to do with exercise and taking time out to rest. You can choose to accept the negative thoughts you have about yourself, or focus on the things you love about yourself as well as who God made you to be.
2)Have a routine and stick to it
Although I have not stuck to my routines lately, having a morning and evening routine did help me to be more productive and less anxious. I am able to have the energy to take on goals and tasks because of the balance I create. Going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier puts me in a good mood and helps me to do more of the things I love.
3)Have goals even if they are small
I may not see my passions or dreams being fulfilled just yet but achieving small goals helps to keep moving forward. There is a time in everyone’s life that is not as productive as the person had intended it to be and that is okay. What is not okay is to not have a vision and goals. You must keep moving in the right direction even if sometimes it is at a slower pace than others around you.
4)Do not play the victim card
You cannot resort to playing the victim. Things happen and most likely it is not because of you or who you are. Bad things occur simply because we live in a fallen world. We cannot give in to negative circumstances or feelings by allowing it to determine our way of thinking. Many people are relying on us to be the best spouse, family member, friend, leader, co-worker, etc. that we are called to be. A victim mindset is the biggest killer of God’s plans for us. It gives a way for complacency, jealously, pride, anger, and depression to lead our path and determine our steps.
You are on a journey and you will get to the destination somehow if you keep moving forward. Bad seasons seem to come suddenly without warning or a plan. It’s all about the your mindset and what you decide to focus on during those difficult times. Do not give up because of a bad day, week, month, or year. Choose to push through the temporary and trust that God has a plan.
6)What you’re looking for is found at the feet of Jesus
Do I know when my time will come to live out my purpose? Not entirely. But when I spend time with God, I find peace, fulfillment, healing, wisdom, and clarity. I have been taking the time to read a physical bible and writing down the scriptures that speak to my heart. I feel more in tune with God after seeking him out and being honest with Him about all I am experiencing. I want to get better in my spiritual disciplines. I have realized that I have chosen other things over God that weren’t necessarily sinful, but I attempted to use it as a tool to remedy this emptiness I felt. Unfortunately, these things added to the negativity in my life and my hope is that I can find ways to get closer to God.
7) Get around godly people and invest in relationships
When I surround myself with godly influences, they make me feel better about my situation and they will point me back to God. I am evaluating relationships that are leaving me drained. You should not hold on to friendships that are meaningless or negative. This can add to your low self-esteem and loneliness. So be wise about the friendships you hold dear or the people you associate with.
What I realized is that the roots of unhappiness are silent and deadly. When unchecked they can kill the possibility of what you have already achieved and what you have yet to accomplish. Happiness is circumstantial. But joy holds on no matter the circumstance and feeds on the promises God has for us. Joy finds purpose in the small victories and the hard times. It doesn’t allow us to effect what is important like a righteous and noble character.
2. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, 3. because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Hope this helps someone who is experiencing unhappiness