Facing depression by creating and noticing beauty

White Swiss mountain flower

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Rachel Carson

I’m not sure I’d ever properly experienced depression until last year. I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager, but anxiety was more my jam. Last year, though, was when the colours started to dull in the world for me.

I felt lethargic and empty and unsure of where I was going to go next, or if I could. I felt so lost and overwhelmed and disconnected from the world.

I’d felt sad before, sure, but then it was an angry type of sadness – of wanting to hurt myself and feel something. This time, I was feeling nothing. I didn’t know why I was working towards my projects. Part of me wondered what the point of it all was.

I was being swept away on an invisible current of grief and emptiness that no one else could see but me. And honestly, if it had swept me away – out of this world to someplace else – I would have let it.

In early autumn last year, I found comfort by working on a book draft I’ve been chipping away at about courage and finding your own individual path. Here’s one section I wrote, sharing my guidance for myself on the most difficult days:

Stay for the birds you’ll see in springtime. Stay for all the things you are yet to create. Stay for the woods you haven’t yet walked in. Stay because there have been beautiful days and there will be more. Stay because time will bring joy back into your life. Stay even if it’s the hardest thing you can do, solely for the unknown promise of what comes next.

Writing about a hard day when I knew I had to do things differently, I added:

I made it my job to seek the beauty around me, the little magic shows of nature unveiling in hedgerows and verges, and the changing of the seasons. By turning my attention outward and finding places and creatures to love, I found beauty to focus on. I had reasons to stay.

The start of my way out was forcing myself to notice. To notice the beauty in the world by slowing down looking around by looking for beauty with intention, not waiting for it to come to me.

Lately, as I’ve been noticing the shadow of the black dog behind me, I’ve been trying to do the same.

I remind myself that the trees in the park down the road will still be reaching out towards the sun – and I go to visit them, researching what type they are and marking them in my Collins Tree Guide.

I make myself notice the birds that are still flitting between the trees. I tend to my plants on the balcony that are still reaching out for a glimmer of warmth in dark Danish winter, occasionally harvesting enough kale to go with my dinner.

Since I started writing here on Live Wildly, I’ve worried about making it seem like I have my shit together and that I’m in a position to tell others what to do. The other place I write, Tolstoy Therapy, literally has therapy in the name. But here, I worry about making it seem like I know all the answers. Because dang, I really don’t.

But living wildly is all about embracing that, though, when I think about it. Experiencing the full spectrum of what life offers contributes to my creativity. It offers a gateway to appreciating shades of life that might otherwise go unnoticed. My mental health struggles are part of me and my experience of the world, and the same goes for anyone else on this earth.

It’s not that we shouldn’t seek therapy or treatment (I owe so much to EMDR therapy in particular), but it does mean not judging ourselves or feeling like we’re broken.

I’m here and I’m creating every day – even if I don’t realise it – whether it’s growing the vegetables on my balcony, brewing my tea in the morning, focusing on my writing, or building a life here in Denmark.

Creating, noticing, and feeling – that’s being human, really.

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