Most of us don’t want to be in the situation of asking ourselves, “Am I happy enough?” but the reality is, a lot of us are. I feel guilty when I think about myself as unhappy. I live in a beautiful neighborhood in a great city, with a man who loves me and two dogs to follow me everywhere. I have a steady job with growth opportunity that pays me plenty to pay my bills and buy me the things I want and need. Yet, still I find myself entrenched in moments of loneliness and sadness.
Happiness, though, isn’t our surroundings or our circumstances, it’s our perspective on them. Depression is a disease that has the power to shadow our perspective and skew realities, and while others may not be able to see your illness, it is real. For me, this quote has always embodied what it means to be alive, and living your fullest life.
“At the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.”
For too long, I ignored my mental health issues, and suffered for years through a roller coaster of emotional episodes. I pushed myself, persisted forward because I was sure that I could simply move beyond whatever was happening to me. I blamed my body, and my physical appearance for my unhappiness, and felt shame around food for years. I was chubby, but certainly not fat. I was athletic, but not very talented. I was pretty, but not gorgeous. I was average, and I felt like a shadow of a person.
I first learned to love yoga in high school, when I started going to a hot yoga studio in Portland, Maine. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I loved that I could sneak into the back of the dark studio and disappear into the group. No one knew me, and I wasn’t worried what anyone there thought of me. Time passes, though, and when I went to college I lost touch with my practice.
It wasn’t until I came back to yoga after college that I began to truly understand this battle of mental health and wellness cannot be ignored. Finding the internal strength to rise above my mental illness was one of the most powerful and empowering experiences of my life. For me, this understanding came through my yoga practice, when I discovered I could cultivate emotional strength through a physical practice, on my own and with others. Yoga is independent, but also communal.
In the Spring of 2015, I was living in Atlanta, Georgia with my now husband. I knew nearly no one in the city, and I was desperate for connection, and community. I was so alone. I went to the same studio several days a week to sweat out my anxiety. One morning, as we began to wind down the 6:00 AM class, I was standing in Warrior II, dripping sweat onto my mat below me. Staring into my own eyes in the front mirror, feeling my arms shake, a simple thread of clarity came to my mind “you are a warrior, just keep battling and keep breathing.” I began to cry, but it soaked together with my sweat, and I suddenly felt this harmony within.
A year later I had the word “warrior” tattooed on my right forearm, so I would constantly be reminded of that moment. This mental clarity, this physical and emotional strength is available to everyone. Commit to finding your own. Become a warrior with me.
This journey isn’t one of weight loss or yoga or meditation or anything else I may mention, write about, or share. The journey I’m on is about finding yourself and loving yourself unconditionally, and the tools and methods I share are what I use to continue along this path of self-acceptance and self-improvement.
I spent too much time in the first 21 years of my life trying to make other people like me or treat me right, and all along I was ignoring the most important relationship of all.
The one I have with myself.