Mental Health Struggles "Where Did The Joy Go?"
I remember waking up in Greece a few years back after a thirty-six-hour journey from Vancouver. My girlfriend and I had arrived during the night, and we were exhausted. I had been focusing so hard on getting to the right hotel, that I had not been able to take in the moment and surroundings fully as we found our way to our nights' lodging.
As we lay there after our nights rest, the sun started filling the room with the warm Mediterranean breeze coming through the open window, all of the surroundings outside came back to me in a rush. The single-story gleaming white buildings perched on the brown hillsides looking down onto the crystal clear turquoise blue waters. It sent shivers down my spine. The anticipation of exploring a new area, taste another coulters foods and be outside my bubble of comfort was a complete rush.
All of that stopped once I started battling my depression, anxiety, PTSD, social anxiety disorder and an overall blanket of mental illnesses.
I knew so little about depression, anxiety and panic attacks when they first hit me. The lows were the most challenging and unbearable, not being able to complete my daily actions or work for some weeks and constant social phobia. I thought at the time; this low was what the full extent of what depression was. I knew I wasn't going to get out of it in a day or even weeks, but once I was able to live life regularly, then everything else would be normal again.
Prior to this I always had an even keel type of mentality. I rarely allowed myself to get too high and while weathering my lows, I kept them manageable. But these spurts of excitement and bliss would pop up here and there, and I welcomed them with open arms, even went out of my way to find them more and more.
Fourteen months later and I have realized that maybe perhaps a new norm is here for me. And I'm unsure when it will ever go away. Will I ever get excited again for those little things in life?
This new normal in my daily life hovers around the line of "just fine."
How was your workout today? --- "meh, it was a workout."
Congratulations, you booked the commercial, a $5000 payout --- " ok."
How was your trip across the world --- "it was fine."
Rarely 24 hours passes where I stop for a few minutes after doing something and think about how I just floated by an area in my life I should have celebrated in some fashion.
No matter how hard I try, I can't fake that connection with myself.
This inability to connect with others and the world around me has been a challenging stage to accept and almost harder to realize it was occurring. I didn't quite understand that this was going on in my day to day reactions because of my level headed outlook on life I had before the extreme bouts of depression and anxiety.
I would come across others who would give the most over overly excited reply to a simple question about a daily routine.
It would completely bewilder me how such a reaction of " wow I just had the best workout I've had in months." especially when they would give this reply every week.
How can a single 60-minute workout that happens daily be so damn exciting?
To me, the act of working out was a daily routine that occurred because I enjoyed its long term benefits. Since it was a day to day activity, why would it bring this level of joy each separate time?
After hearing these replies to such mundane daily activities. I start questioning myself and not these people who were acting this way.
Why does this seem so odd to me?
Why do I not seem to care so much about this?
How can someone get so excited over a daily action?
Is this something more than my "realistic" look on life?
Working On Finding Happiness Again
There is no exact way to treat depression but by slowing down and learning more about myself, I have added many areas to my daily life, and also doubled down on areas that I used to practice here and there in hopes to bring my brain back to the way of working I remember so fondly. Slowly getting back my mental health awareness.
Things like working out, eating well and getting proper sleep were all things I did before the mental health issues came about, but over time I realized that these were things I had to focus on daily now. Doing these regularly helped the symptoms of depression reduce.
Growing up playing every sport under the sun by the age of 8 has been a blessing to this day in many ways. The best thing I was able to take away from my time being an athlete was the passion I obtained for working out. At one point, it was there as a tool to better my endeavours on the field, but now it is a far more critical daily check in with myself. However, the usual six days a week in the gym just don't cut it for me anymore, doubling up a few days a week with a yoga session or outdoor run are needed to feel that endorphin kick.
Treatments For Depression
Eating right for my body at this time of my life has always been a thought in my head, even if what I knew at that time was a poor representation of what most of us would call healthy. However, I now choose to eat right for my mind over my muscle gain or fat loss, yet they usually work together hand in hand. Cutting out most sugars and incomplete carbs is a choice I make now to try to keep away unexpected bouts of depression and anxiety.
Sleep in this stage of life can be hard for some. I have not had a problem sleeping per-Se however, the rest I get seems to be just a formal action my body is taking, yet that is all it is doing. I wake up from a full nights sleep not tired, but not rested. Its as if my body is going through the motions to get to the morning. Reading and journaling before bed seem to help change this a bit and getting off of social media. But nothing so far has given me that profound awakening I remember so well.
Adding a morning routine that incorporated reading and meditation I have found allows me to start my day with a clear head and helps me think about my day before. What I did right, what I did wrong and how I can tweak that for the day ahead.
The best thing I can say is to stop and seriously think about what you are like in your daily actions. Perhaps how you think others look at you but more importantly, how you look at yourself. It is a time to take away those rose coloured glasses and be truthful with yourself, no matter how hard it may hurt.
You will have to break yourself down to see your faults and cracks in your armour before you start building yourself up again. But the person you will grow into over time can be who you want to be, and not just a facade that you are only fooling yourself with.
For you in the men's mental health realm of this, let your wall down and open up to someone you trust or a professional, there is no shame in being vulnerable.