sometimes it snows in April


(I want to preface this and say that these are just my musings and I’m not offering any kind of professional advice on how to deal with depression.)


 

Sometimes it snows in April 
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending
But all good things, they say, never last
All good things they say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past
 
-Prince, Sometimes it Snows in April

I used to get the blues really bad. It was at its peak when I was in grad school and right after I graduated. I struggled the most in the mornings. It was hard to start the day, to get out of bed, to feel hopeful. I used to attest my state of mind at that time to undesired life events: various disappointments at school, or break ups with boyfriends, the long New Brunswick winters. And all of those things matter too, having been surrounded by five foot banks of snow for the better part of the year did have an effect on my mental state. However what was really at play for me is the rundown state of my body and mind. I didn’t feel strong, I felt tired. My youth allowed me to push myself far but it took a toll on my mental health. 

 

(sharing this embarrassing exhibit A. I remember I worked all weekend. Night shifts at a bar and day shifts at a pub, I fell asleep crying while editing the introduction to my thesis. I sent this picture to my best friend during the pre-snapchat era. I’m glad I have it, it’s a good reminder.)


At the time in addition to being a grad student, I was working 20 hours a week at a restaurant, as well as TAing for a class. Add a social life to that and I literally didn’t sleep. It makes me tired just remembering it.
Right after this intense period, I moved back to Toronto in the spring and left for a hiking adventure in Spain in the fall right after my 25th birthday. That trip taught me the most about how to take care of myself. I had been burning the candle at both ends for 3 years without a break. And suddenly my life was reduced to 2 main things: what will I eat and where will I sleep. What I chose to prioritize in between was for me to think about and decide. It was a radical approach to giving my body and mind a full reset.
 

(half way through the hike, I had a pulled muscle in my right leg, I couldn’t walk one day at all. But that night I met a man who taught me an exercise that allowed me to manage my injury and finish the second half. I thought he was my angel.)


The first thing that became really clear, what a wrecked state my body was in. All my fellow ex or current servers and bartenders you know what I’m talking about. Being on your feet 11+ hours a day, will do a number on your body. I also hadn’t been getting enough sleep for so long my systems were totally down. I felt fatigued all the time. I felt overwhelmed by simple tasks. Everything felt daunting. And that translated emotionally too. As soon I was on the trail and went through all the initial body conditioning and the pain of a through-hike, I just cried for two days straight.
I pitied myself, I replayed all sorts of memories, some I didn’t even know I archived, I felt the hopelessness deeply. Once I got to process all that internal dialogue, I released it. And some of that pain will still loop back sometimes but it’s not a stagnant mass anymore that used to suffocate me. 
 

(blue Spanish skies, my bad knee, this was right after my emotional detox. I was listening to Metals by Feist and that day there was a beautiful ascend and really big mountains. My heart elates at the sight of a mountain, olive trees, or an outdoor laundry line.)


This trip taught me how to check in with myself. If I can’t get to the source right away I do a scan of my day or my week. I find the prickly parts and examine them. What triggered me, why do I feel guilty, or ashamed, is my body tense, why don’t I feel like myself. Sometimes all it takes for me is to acknowledge the thing and it’s gone. Painless.
Other times if the wound is deeper I try to figure out if there is pattern there. Because if it’s just my ego making itself known, it’s not worth my time, my creativity, or my well-being to give in to it. If I can’t get past it by myself I start with my list, I call my best friends, I call my mom, I go see my osteopath, I make a chiropractor appointment, I meditate, I get extra sleep. For me that will get me where I need to be. I tried therapy once in grad school but it wasn’t the right fit at the time. But I’m open to it. I’m open to anything where the aim is to help me be more at peace. The tough ones are not painless and they take work to unrave.
I don’t think everyone needs to do a 26 day through-hike in Spain to find answers but it was what I needed. I believe in that internal voice that gives you these ideas. Planning and going through with that trip was one of the first times I listened to it. 
 

(my last night in Alicante, where I took myself on a whim because I wanted to soak my weary bones in the sea. I spent 7 glorious days there. I never thought it possible that I could feel this good.)

 

Things I’ve learned:

Emotions that are unprocessed get trapped and affect you in ways you can’t predict.

Physical movement helps with processing.

You have to feel it all to move forward. 

Being outside in the fresh air is the best feeling in the world.

Clearing your mind is harder than cluttering it.

I get sad when I feel lost.

Feeling lost makes me feel hopeless.

Feeling hopeless is a spiral.

Feeling hopeless kills creativity. 

Resistance in the face of personal growth is inevitable.

You never arrive at a place where things are perfect.

Every day is a new day.

Meditation is effective.

Mental health is a journey.

Feeling good is a priority.

Feeling bad is a clue.

Being honest can save you.

Being happy is making an effort for yourself.

Most people want to help you. 

Believing in yourself is the most important thing.

 

Things that soothe me:

ESPN documentaries including but not limited to 30 for 30,

Going to the movies solo,

Catching up on my French on Duolingo,

Going out for supper with a friend,

Reading wine labels in the vintage section,

Baking,

Cooking with a new ingredient,

Spending time with my family,

Watching The Talented Mr. Ripley for the billionth time,

Going for a walk, a hike, spending time outside,

Laying in the couch with Marls (my cat),

Meditating,

Listening to Paul McCartney’s album Flaming Pie and imagining it as a musical,

Repotting my plants,

Finishing any kind of abandoned project (two weeks ago I repainted and lined my kitchen cupboards; it felt damn good),

Going to a coffee shop and having a coffee with whatever the freshest thing out of the oven is,

Filing my receipts with Chef’sTable playing in the background,

Looking up what all the podcasters I listen to look like,

Painting + drawing,

Looking through old sketchbooks.

 

The thing that helps me the most is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, knowing in my bones that if I need help I can find it as long I stay open. Thank you for reading, and I hope wherever you’re at you still have hope and if you don’t that you’re looking for it. 

 

Things that I recommend (that ignite my fire):

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (this book is about the resistance within and how to recognize it as such and move past it. You can listen to it for free on the public library’s One Drive app)

Jordan Rides the Bus directed by Ron Shelton (this is why and how I graduated from being an admirer of Michael Jordan to totally obsessed. It’s about how MJ loses his father at the peak of his career and his choice to dig deep and humble himself in order to heal. This is one of the best 30 for 30 docs in my opinion. Others that I highly recommend are The ’85 Bears, and Bad Boys)

For and Against by Sharon McCartney (this is the most perfect book of poetry. It’s raw and clear and isn’t afraid of itself) 

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