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Navigating mental illness is the hardest thing I have ever worked through. Having struggled with numerous illnesses and episodes over the years, I can safely say that I would happily choose to be free of my mental health struggles. However, dealing with depression has only made me stronger and has taught me lifelong lessons that have changed me as a person. 

As a disclaimer, I still struggle with many of these issues and I need to practice what I preach. However, I wanted to share things that I have recognized over the years, as I believe realization is the starting point for recovery. Below, are some of the most impactful things that I have learned through my mental health journey. 

1.) Your life experiences do not define you. 

You define your life. Nobody chooses your story for you. You are actively writing it with your everyday experiences, conversations, relationships, and interactions. Always remember that while you are the main character, you are also the author. Throughout my life, navigating challenges and transitions, the pressures of society’s immense timelines have always challenged me – “You have to go to college, you have to get married, you have to have a job, you have to have kids.” Timelines do not matter. Everyone is on their own life journey. You can change your own experience starting today. Your life does not define you; you define your life. Start living according to that. 

2.) Growth is uncomfortable, so get ready to get uncomfortable. 

I wrote another piece surrounding this topic titled “Grow through what you go through”. Internal work and realizations will solve most of your problems, but you have to do the work. Medications do not solve all of your problems. I have learned that you cannot change the outside environment and expect a different inside result. It starts with you and I think it is really powerful to constantly commit to being uncomfortable. I always feel that the biggest mountain we have to climb is the mountain inside ourselves, so start to embrace things you fear, start to put yourself in situations and conversations that make you feel uncomfortable. I urge you to commit yourself every day to doing one thing that makes you feel uncomfortable and encourages growth to see how your life changes. 

3.) The challenging times are the most transformational. 

Pain and hardship are catalysts for change. Most of the time we wait until there is no other option and that is why pain, heartbreak, relapses, and job loss seem so devastating. Despite this, it’s important to trust these transformative moments in your life. Trust the moment when your world doesn’t feel like it can keep moving because I promise it will. You will look back on those moments and they may be the most transformative moments in your life. So trust the challenging times; things happen for you, not to you, and endings are just disguised beginnings that have the potential to be better opportunities for you. So as hard as it is, try to be open and trust those challenging times, because most of the time I have learned that it is a catalyst for something better. I’ve looked back at my hard times and realized they’ve changed my life. Everything happens for a reason, I promise.  

4.) Failing is inevitable. 

As someone who masked how they felt for a very long time, I have learned that you cannot run away from the things that scare you forever. Instead, try to learn to become less fearful of the things that scare you. Failure is the thing I fear the most, however, it is inevitable, and we are all going to fail at some point. Like I said above, I think those times are the most informative; you learn the most about yourself during those hard moments. I’ve learned that failure can teach you more than winning ever will. So, we have to become less fearful of the things that scare us. It is so important to come to terms with and embrace some of the things you have experienced and locked away and never talked about again. Sometimes fear can become paralyzing if you do not deal with your emotions, and it can start to dictate your life decisions and rule your mind and your life. When I feel failure creeping up on me, I’ve learned to give myself permission to truly feel and deal with those emotions. It is ok to not be ok. 

5.) Your feelings are valid.

Emotional health is just as important as your physical health. When I was going through my major depressive episode, it was so hard to not let my thoughts become my identity and to not run from everything I was experiencing. But you are not your thoughts. You are an observer of your thoughts but you are not them. Everything you have experienced like I mentioned, are things you have navigated but they are far from your identity. They are things that you have gone through and that have made you stronger. It is the trauma you have had to process, and none of that is your identity. You are so much more than that. 

Something I have learned too, is to just feel your emotions. Give them time. If you are feeling sad for a day, feel sad then develop a toolbox for how you want to move forward after you have let them feel their purpose. It is okay! You do not have to run from that feeling and like I mentioned, when you start running from your emotions, you start becoming really good at it and eventually you then let those emotions dictate your life which becomes paralyzing by not dealing with those emotions. Trust me, I know from experience. I like to feel sad if I am sad, then I have a toolbox I go to, in order to shift that mindset. I’ll workout, listen to music, or write to process what I am feeling and then I always bring in gratitude and shift my perspective by getting outside and mediating, journaling, and getting outside of my own thoughts. Reminding myself I am an observer of those thoughts and that they are not who I am. It is so healthy to feel our thoughts and not run from them all the time. Which I know, is much easier said than done because I struggle with this too. 

6.) You do not need to be productive 24/7.

I cannot stress this enough. We have a culture where toxic productivity is the norm and I struggle with this more than anything else in my life. I’d become obsessed with an overworking toxic productivity and I realized it is a way to essentially mask our own thoughts by staying busy 24/7. Making time for stillness is probably the most underrated advice I have gotten but it is so important in so many ways. I was constantly trying to fill voids that I was never able to run away from. Practicing stillness starts hard but it gets easier. The art of doing nothing can be a beautiful thing. Allowing yourself to sit alone and be content with your own thoughts is something I have practiced to become better at, as I still struggle with toxic productivity. However, embracing stillness is so important and is something I have become more comfortable with over time.

7.) Mental health is not linear.

Sometimes mental health recovery can feel like two steps forward, one step back. I have learned to live each day in the moment, as well as I possibly can. Getting from yesterday through today and into tomorrow is the best that each of us can do. Overall, it’s still progressing. And that’s okay. I’m still miles ahead of where I once was and that’s what I keep on reminding myself. Two steps forward and one step back.

8.) Mental illness is not your entire identity. 

For anybody experiencing mental illness, it may be easy to think your diagnosis is the only thing that defines who you are. However, I want to encourage anyone who is reading this blog, that your mental illness is not your identity, but rather something you navigate in your everyday life. Yes, it is a part of you, but so many other components make up the beautiful human being that you are. This took me so long to understand for myself, but now I know that it is just one aspect of who I am and helps explain my experiences that I navigate as a human. Any thought that you have had, somebody else has probably had it too. Anyone who has had a hard time during a transformative moment, felt anxiety, or has struggled with any mental health illness, you are not alone and will never be alone. I’ve learned if you can open up to one person and get them out, by starting to normalize the way you feel, it will open the doors for you in so many ways. 

9.) Time is truly the greatest commodity that we have.

I was talking to somebody about this the other day. Can you imagine if we treated time and energy like the way we treat money? We treat money like it is the greatest commodity that we have because it is our currency, but what about time and energy? We do not treat time and energy like it is a currency and commodity in our lives. We all need to learn to value our time like it is the commodity that it is. If we all knew how precious time was, we might treat it differently. We have to stop obsessing over yesterday and focusing on tomorrow and start embracing that now is all that we have. I think that if we start treating those two things in all that they are and truly embracing the present, by not planning for the future, and not thinking about yesterday, that change in perspective will change your life. 

10.) A good life is based on how we measure it. 

Are you defining your life based on your job title, your relationships, or your income? All of these things can disappear and none of these things can fulfill you. Even when you get that money, or title that you’ve been wanting, that happiness is really fleeting. This goes back to a lot of the things I have mentioned about living in the present but also about determining what you want in life. We all make goals for ourselves for things we want to be better at, but a lot of the time, our goals don’t have to do with our happiness or part about how we should measure life compassion to how society tells us how we should measure life. So, what is it that you want out of life? 

Happiness is not a destination, but is something we have to choose to recognize every single day and that is something I have learned but also something I have struggled with. When people asked me what I wanted, especially when I was struggling, I said peace and happiness. Because what I was thinking was that happiness is a destination you have to get to but that is not true. What most of us don’t realize, happiness is around us every single day if we choose to recognize it. Again, this goes back to our abilities to live in the present and to recognize the value in time, energy, and moments we have with people that we love. As I said, all of those things will fulfill you so much more than any kind of raise, job title or materialistic item ever will. So, how do you want to measure the quality of your life? 


If you take anything from reading this, know that you are not defined by your struggles. They have made you who you are. Learn from them. Grow from them. Let them strengthen you. I am so proud of you for surviving even though sometimes inside you want to just crumble. Trust me, I am where you have been or are. Everything happens for a reason, and even when the time is right, you will know why. But until then, keep living. Be you.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text the 988 Lifeline at 988 or chat at


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