So guess what? On September 30th I officially turned 30 years old!
I’m actually super excited for my thirties. I often say that every year of my life I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to being ME or who I was meant to be, and yet at the same time I can’t help but become a little reflective around the time of my birthday and I sometimes have these moments where I wonder how I even managed to get this far.
I’ve felt depressed and suicidal more times than I can count and yet here I sit in my beautiful home, with my beautiful dog, waiting for my amazing husband to come home for dinner. I have a career and a community that I’m super proud of, and I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I feel comfortable being open and honest about my mental health struggles. So, how did I get here? Cue the Talking Heads song lol!
I’m not sure I can really put into words or pinpoint what it is that kept me going or made me reach out for help during those very dark times. I wish I had some kind of recipe or guidelines to share but I think the will to live or to pull through during a really difficult moment is personal and unique to each individual. One thing I do know is that I always had the desire to live a more meaningful life and sometimes I think that maybe deep down I had this hope that I could turn my struggles into something useful.
I really had no idea how to make this happen though until I discovered Strala yoga. The philosophy and practice of Strala is all about getting better and better at being YOU. The idea is that each one of us is unique; which means that each one of us has something special to offer. The practice of Strala is to tap into that uniqueness, embrace it, and share it with others.
So instead of looking at my depression as this “bad thing” that needs to be cured or overcome, I can see it as something that makes me unique and capable of connecting with others in a way that not everyone can. It’s what has allowed me to support and relate to so many different people no matter their age, race or gender. I’ve been privileged to have a woman in her fifties tell me that I inspired her to start a new career path and create the life she’s always wanted. I’ve been humbled by the amount of people from all different backgrounds that say they feel comfortable in my yoga studio because they know that I understand and support them in their mental health struggles. I’ve connected with young women dealing with body dysmorphia and disordered eating that say they feel safe and not pressured to “perform” when they are in my classes. And most importantly, I’ve met so many inspiring people that have helped me to grow and evolve into a better version of myself. All this came from embracing and sharing the parts of me that had challenged me for so long. If I had continued to struggle and hate my depression it would have likely vanquished me. Instead, somehow, I found the courage to accept it as part of who I am. It’s not all that I am, but it is something that makes me unique and by sharing my stories and supporting others I have managed to create meaning from it.
In the practice of Strala we are encouraged to ask ourselves three questions that can help align us with our intentions and lead us along a path that feels meaningful and unique. If you’d like to try it I suggest finding a quiet space where you can be still and breathe deeply for a moment. Once you are feeling calm and at ease go ahead and ask yourself: Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve?
The answers don’t need to be immediately clear and they will likely change and evolve over time but I believe these are questions worth putting out there and coming back to any time we feel lost or uneasy in life. The key is to remember that who we are doesn’t necessarily have to be made up of only “good” things. The purpose is not to create some list of all the good things about us that we should be emphasizing while working on eliminating the “bad” things. Who I am and who you are is a WHOLE person with many different facets and they don’t need to be categorized into good, bad or otherwise. All parts of us can be used to get the things we want in life. When we embrace all parts of ourselves, the possibilities for what we want and how we can help others become endless.
Five years ago if you had asked me who I am and what I want I certainly would have left out the “mental illness” part of me and what I wanted was more related to specific goals like having a certain type of body, owning a certain type of home and advancing in my career. That’s because I was focused on emphasizing the “type-a”, “high achiever”, “queen of multitasking” side of me that I knew was impressive and highly regarded in our society. In doing so I was ignoring a big part of me that actually puts me in the unique position to help and support so many people.
So where am I at now at 30 years old? I am a person that has too many layers and facets to be conveyed through this blog but one big part of me is that I am someone who has felt immense internal pain and has been to some very dark places inside the mind. And what I want is to be able to make meaning out of those struggles, I want to embrace all parts of who I am, I want to become more and more accepting of them and I want to use those parts of me to helps others who may still be stuck in the darkness and feel like there is no hope or nothing worthwhile inside of them.
How will I serve these people? Well, it started by going to a Strala training in 2015 and learning how to connect with others and guide people back to themselves. From that training I’ve continued to come back to those three questions and I’ve built up an even deeper understanding of who I am and what I want.
I know that I want to become more and more accepting of struggles with depression and body image. And I know that the more I practice this the more I can use my experiences to support others. Leading yoga classes is a big part of this equation for me and it’s something that I absolutely love to do but I’m excited for what year 31 of my life has to bring because I plan to do some other types of trainings and volunteer work that will support and improve on what I already do. That being said, I think it’s important to not get caught in this trap of thinking that we need to have all our shit figured out and have gained all the knowledge and wisdom available to us before being able to help others in some way. Trainings and work experience are very valuable and interesting but it doesn’t mean we can’t start to help others or build a more meaningful life with whatever knowledge and experience we have right now. I think this idea that we are never enough and there is always something we need to work on or learn before we can put ourselves out there is often what keeps us stuck in this feeling that there are parts of us that need to be fixed or perfected. We don’t have to become “perfect” in order to get what we want or in order to be considered good enough to help others.
I hope you know that YOU ARE ALREADY ENOGUH. If you’re looking to build a more meaningful life then it all starts with YOU, as you are, right now. Spend time being with yourself and find out who that person is. No need to change anything. Embrace what you find and use it to get what you want and most importantly: share it with others so they can do the same.
WHO ARE YOU?
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
HOW CAN YOU SERVE?
Feel free to share your thoughts on this with me so we can all grow together.