By: Michele Santiago

Strangely, the moment I truly came to terms with my depression was the moment I began clawing my way out.

I fought my way out one of the most horrendous, deepest, darkest holes: my mind. To feel like a prisoner in your own mind is nothing short of dreadful and something I can never truly put into words. My battle with depression does not define me, but it has challenged me and taught me. It will still do both as my journey continues.

Today, at this very moment, I can say I am utterly happy. Someone recently asked me, if I could do it all over again and not have a mental illness, would I? I pondered that question for some time, imagining a life free from depression and anxiety. For a brief moment, my answer surprised me when I responded, “No, I wouldn’t change a thing.” I am who I am today for a reason, and I’m very proud of how hard I have worked to become her. My struggles have made me a better person; a stronger person.

Taboo, stigma, shame, embarrassment are words often associated with mental illness. In opening up about my struggles with depression, I hope to break the fear many people have in regards to discussing it. I’ve come a long way myself in these regards.

There have been a multitude of changes in me, and I have become more self-aware of which changes may be due to my illness. The way my mind and body function today have a lot to do with my depression. Each day I am given the opportunity to improve, and here are some things I find helpful.

1. Exercise – I exercise 5-7 days a week. It’s one of the few times in my day where I can completely clear my mind of all the noise. I often have active rest days, and I always make sure to listen to my body and rest when needed.

2. Learn to Love Myself – We are often so hard on ourselves and are our worst critics. I take the time to discover the things I love about myself because my happiness starts there.

3. Be Thankful – Each day, I think of at least one thing I’m thankful for: the sunrise, a view, a friend, support. Whatever I’m thankful for that day, I take a moment to reflect and really appreciate it.

4. Family and Friends – I surround myself with positive people whom I care about and who care about me. These are the people I lean on when things get tough or I feel myself slipping.

5. Focus – My business and my career are what gives me purpose. I work to the best of my ability because I love what I do.

6. Work/Life Balance – In the beginning, I was running myself thin. There was absolutely no work/life balance, and once I realized how this was negatively impacting me, I made the necessary changes. My life is equally as important as my work.

7. Nutrition – I eat as healthy as I possibly can, eating whole foods to give my body the necessary nutrients. My alcohol intake is also limited.

8. Time – I make time for myself to reset. To me this means no social media, no TV or radio. Just quiet. It allows me to process and relax.

There is no finality in my journey with depression. It will always be something I lovingly care for. No longer do I look at each day as this dreadful battle, but rather an adventure to be had. Some adventures are harder than others, longer than others, but adventures nonetheless.


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