Talking to my bloggers last year about their experience writing for the project was incredible. Many were uncertain about writing, others were unsure how their content would be received. After the month was over, many told me how therapeutic is was for them to write and be more at peace with their feelings and experience. When I heard Shannon's account of forgiveness, I thought it would be especially appropriate for her to write and share that experience for Life is Sweet month.
“I forgive you”…three small albeit powerful words that can change you.
Last year, I had the privilege of sharing my story for the Life is Sweet project. Sharing my experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression, in I Want You to Know that Life is Sweet, was difficult and terrifying and almost did not happen. However, something from deep within urged me to break open the past and with a giant breath I shared the details of something I rarely spoke of—the time I tried to commit suicide. This part of my past was the skeleton I kept hidden in the furthest depths of my closet since I was 12 years old, in hopes it would just disappear. I hated acknowledging its presence because of the pain surrounding it and because it felt like my “dirty little secret” that would expose me for who I really was…not perfect, and simply human.
Twelve months later, I am incredibly grateful for embracing the opportunity that Ashley and the Life is Sweet project presented. I am grateful because of what I received in return, forgiveness. Forgiveness from the most important person in my life, myself.
It did not dawn on me—though it makes absolutely perfect sense—that I needed to forgive 12 year old me for a choice I made 22 years ago. That part of my journey feels like a lifetime ago and while I am not defined by my depression or my actions all those years ago, there was a small hole in my heart that ached when a glimmer of my past came to mind.
It wasn’t until recently, when reflecting on the 13 things I was grateful for in 2013, that I realized what had occurred. I did not actually have a profound moment where, looking in the mirror, I boldly declared “I forgive you.” It just happened. It happened through breaking open my past and participating in Life is Sweet. It happened as I shed the many tears while writing. It happened as I listened to and read the reactions of loved ones, friends, and even strangers and as they continued to embrace me in the same way they always had. It happened as people bravely confided in me their experiences with depression—I cannot begin to tell you how much that meant to me. It happened when I let go of the “dirty little secret” concept and the skeleton just evaporated into thin air. “I forgive you” just happened because it was time. It was time to forgive myself and love myself completely. I knew this moment of forgiveness had come when I thought back to my experience with Life is Sweet and my past, and no longer felt that tiny aching hole. It was a powerful realization.
As I shared in I Want You to Know that Life is Sweet, the depression I live with now is very different from the depression I experienced growing up and thoughts of suicide never cross my mind. There are days though where I do struggle with SAD and depression. It seems to sneak up unexpectedly and the easiest of tasks and the things I love most feel like the biggest, most exhausting challenges—like I had climbed Mount Everest without any training. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I know that I don’t have control over that. What I do instead is embrace those moments, even when it is hard to do, urging myself to be gentle and kind to me until it passes—I take a nap or two…or three, cook a favourite meal, curl up with a cup of tea and a good book, curl up and watch a movie, practice yoga, close my eyes and calm my mind with meditation, or simply just be. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it stays a little longer, but it does pass.
I also shared that I would be transitioning from medication to working with a clinical nutritionist to treat depression naturally. That has happened and I have also: returned to therapy, slowly but surely started practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis, and have started exploring light therapy. So far these have been working for me.
For those who are struggling with depression and those who have not yet forgiven themselves for something from their past, I leave you with this:
I want you to know that life is sweet. I want you to know that so many wonderful things are in store for you that you do not yet know about. You are not alone and there is love around you, even if it may not feel like it. If you need help, please hold on to hope and reach out to someone. Your experience around depression is not a “dirty little secret”. You are human. You are amazing, and deserve to know that life is sweet. And, when you are ready, forgive yourself. You deserve that too.