virtual hugs & buddy breathing
Wow... I can't even begin to express how humbling and overwhelming it has been to receive so much support from so many people. Between the words of encouragement, and those of you who reached out to me privately to let me know about similar experiences you had been through, I couldn't feel more touched by the kindness of my friends or more proud of the type of people I have chosen to surround myself with.
When I made the decision to go down this "road less travelled", I'm sorry to say that I was expecting to be faced with more waves of skepticism and currents of judgment. But for one of the first times in my life, my heart is so sure of what's right that I didn't feel like I needed the opinions or validation of others. I feel like I'm finally being authentic to my true self. And it turns out, I haven't had to ride out any waves or swim against any currents. I feel like I have the wind at my back, thanks to all of you. I would like to give each and every one of you a virtual hug!
If there is one person who has really been my champion through this decision, it's Navin. The day I finally gathered the confidence and courage to take this risk, I was very nervous to come home and tell him. After all, I'm not the only one who is affected by this change. It also means a loss of security and a threat to the kind of lifestyle that we have enjoyed together. But when I told Navin I needed to quit my job, he immediately responded, "I know." Not only is he genuinely supportive of my decision, but he has encouraged me to prioritize taking care of myself. This isn't the first time he's been there to hold me up when I otherwise might have fallen over. When we were in New Zealand in November, we went to an amazing (only 600 year old) volcanic island called Rangitoto. The highlights of this landmark are the view from the summit, and the lava caves... both of which required hiking to the top. Still weak from being deconditioned after my jaw surgery, there was a point in our climb where I hit a wall and I just couldn't take another step. Navin took one look at me and immediately knew that I had reached my limit. So he took the camera from me, helped me cool off, and encouraged me to keep going because we were only 10 minutes from the top. I'm so glad I listened to him because I would have missed out on an amazing experience. I'm pretty good at pushing myself...sometimes I just need a little boost.
Here's a picture of me & Navin at the peak of Rangitoto Island. As you might be able to tell, I am proud and exhausted. Navin looks pretty exhausted from what it took to get me up there too...
In the diving world, Navin would be my buddy. And even though he doesn't actually dive... or snorkel... or swim... when I was out of air, he metaphorically handed me his regulator and allowed me to buddy breathe, sharing his air supply with me. Aside from telling Navin, I kept my decision to embark on this new journey to myself for some time, but I couldn't be more appreciative of receiving a similar response from my entire support system.
I'll admit that when I hit publish on that first blog post, I felt terrified. I had just revealed a lot of private information that even a few months ago, I would never have shared with anyone outside of my most inner circle. This wasn't only because I felt that I would be judged by others, but because I judged myself. I didn't understand enough about what I was going through to be empathetic toward myself. I felt ashamed. I saw myself as weak and expected myself to snap out of it...which quite frankly only made things worse. But as I developed self-compassion, understanding and learned to be gentler toward myself, I also realized how deep the stigmas of mental illness and mood disorders are within our culture. I couldn't even forgive myself for feeling the way I did because that same stigma had been living deep within me.
So, that's why I decided to be so open, honest and transparent about my reasons for making this life decision. I could have chosen to be vague and ambiguous and protected myself from this feeling of exposure and vulnerability. But who would I be helping by doing that? Hopefully this transparency will be comforting to those who may be going through something of their own, feeling alone and isolated. Or maybe it will help those who, much like me less than a year ago, don't understand but could be of help to someone close to them who is struggling. Because according to a survey taken by the National Mental Health Association, nearly a quarter (22%) of Americans see depression as a weakness. So now that I've helped myself, I want to help others. And based on some of your responses, I already have.
This is an amazing video that I found by the World Health Organization which helped me during my rough time, and hopefully might help anyone who is going through their own dark time or who is just plain struggling to understand:
And now, to end on an uplifting note (I promise my future posts will be more fun as I dive deeper into my journey)...
Because the most popular sentiment in response to my last blog post was "inspiring", here is the most inspiring video I've seen lately. It. Is. Amazing. Some of you may have already seen it, and to those I say: WATCH IT AGAIN! Nothing like a pep talk from a hilarious kid to make you feel inspired.
Also, just to set expectations, I likely won't be posting to this blog every day or even along every step of my journey. But I had to respond to your responses and say: Thank You.