For me, my experiences with anxiety and depression feel like a constant war with numerous battles taking place over the past decade and beyond. There have been moments when the fight looked lost, and life could be over prematurely. But my darkest days are being followed by my finest hours. And that is because of the many lessons I have learned from these numerous battles. However, these are the three defining lessons from my struggles.
Lesson One – Living is the point.
To have come to the edge and waved at Death across the breach, before turning back, I learned that life is its purpose. We are humans birthed after nine months in the womb into the only life we will ever have. From the moment of birth, we face a life of struggle and pain, but alongside that, we experience joy, love happiness, excitement and laughter.
Throughout our lives, we will experience a myriad of situations, thoughts and emotions—some bad like discrimination, abuse, failure, heartbreak and grief. And yet on that same path, we will have so much good happen that the list is too long to fit into a blog. Our human lives are complicated, but they are our lives to live.
The purpose of life is for us to create an experience that is our own. That in itself is a necessary good because it is the most creative act we can ever do. To live is the whole point.
Lesson Two – People matter!
For me, the silence over mental health, especially as a man, hurt. It meant I struggled with the battles inside myself by myself. The stigma kills. The greater the silence, the greater the harm. That is why so much hard work is being done to break the stigma. That requires people.
It requires folk like me to find the courage to be vulnerable and to speak out about our battles. But it also involves folk listening. To hear our stories without judgement. To love us not despite our flaws, but because they love us for who we are. Our friends, our family and the family we choose.
They should not take us for granted, and neither should we take them for the same. We are all human. We all live on this planet, whilst our experiences are our own, we each share the reality that we have this one life to live. So let us live it loving each other because every person matters.
Lesson Three – Empathy is our lifeline
For a long time, I was so wrapped up with what was happening inside my head that I lost my compassion for the world around me. The result was that I neither care about myself nor my fellow humans who inhabit the world around me.
However, one of the most significant benefits for my mental health is to be compassionate towards others. To empathise with others is to create a bond between members of our human family. For whilst most of us are strangers, we are all part of the same human family.
The world we all live in feels so lost in rage, division and misunderstanding for all sorts of reasons. And yet from my experience of mental health, my exploration of my sexuality and other areas of life, I realise that our empathy and compassion for each other is the key to healing our broken bonds. Compassion not only helps others, but it also helps us. We heal as one family.
These are the three defining lessons I have learned through my struggles with anxiety and depression. I have learnt so much more, but to live, love and understand is how we can heal the world and heal ourselves.