Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.
Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email email@example.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the wonderful Naomi Elana Zener.
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Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, see you next weekend (3/7 and 3/8) in Atlanta for my next workshop!
Dear Life and the wonderful people reading this,
I am used to navigating through life through and with heartache. The past 8 years were full of relationships with heartaches. They have created my darkest moments and have thus been the creations of my lightest moments. I am finally done with them, and I am depressed. I don’t have anything to complain about, except for missing my family sometimes, who lives across the ocean. I feel like I have no purpose and no direction, and I don’t know where to start. I crave adventure and meaning in life. I love to inspire and help people, but I can’t do that unless I can help myself. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about life, but these bouts of out of the blue depression are starting to get old and I do not know how to navigate through and out of them.
All the love,
By way of opening disclaimer, please know that I’m a satirist/humorist, but I take what you’ve written seriously and I’m approaching it with the utmost compassion. I was raised by parents who espoused stark and stern, but truthful aphorisms such as: “suck it up buttercup,” “you stoop to conquer,” and “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,” all of which was never helpful whenever I felt low, angry, sad, or conquered by the circumstances in which I found myself. However, only later with the benefit of hindsight in my rear view mirror, did I realize that they all tended to work. It’s what led me to live by the motto of “I’m not mean. I’m just honest.” By recounting them to you, I’m not telling you to live by them because in fact you already are. You are aware of the world in which you now find yourself: you’re unhappy, depressed, and seeking help. You’ve taken the most honest step one can by admitting that you both need help and want to live a full life by helping others, recognizing that you can only do so by helping yourself first. You’re already living my motto.
Are you human? Obviously, the answer is yes. Thus, you can complain about anything you want. That’s the beauty of life—we are free to complain about a change in wind, especially when the scent wafting in your general direction, as a result of that change in wind, stinks. At some point, every person on this planet has felt that they had no purpose or direction in their life, unless that person is Kim Jong-Un, Ann Coulter, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, each of whose sole directed purpose is to make every human they can reach miserable, or worse. None of them would let you complain, but then again, they aren’t really “human.” You are none of these people. ‘How can she know that?’ you may be asking yourself. Someone who self-admittedly wants to live life fully, be happy, and help others, makes you a good, strong person. Anyone with the temerity to ask for help, after sharing your honest, heartfelt feelings and life experiences, is a person who has humanity, which is something those aforementioned “people” are lacking. Having humanity makes you good and strong. And, terminating toxic relationships also tells me you’re a strong person. Regarding the people by whom you no longer burdened with whom the obligation of maintaining a toxic relationship no longer exists, I say good riddance to rubbish. Do you know what kind of strength it takes to excise people from your life who bring only negativity and harm? The strength of either mythical gods or that of a wrestler on steroids. So, please know that you are STRONG and you’ve already taken the steps to start in a new direction.
You’ve been through eight tough years—I’m sorry that’s been your experience—and that’s awfully hard. For anyone to tell you to “let it go” and forget about it obviously had their brains frozen by Queen Elsa of Arendelle. Unless plagued by the ravages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, we never forget what happens to us, but we try to learn and move on from them. I think everyone I know has had horrible things in the form of a fireball from Hell happen to them at one point in time or another. There is no better way to express my empathy for you other than to say it sucks. The last four years for me have been quite hellacious—replete with death, two life threatening experiences (one for me and one for my child), job loss, discrimination, money woes, sick family members—with the exception of three bright and wonderful events which keep me going: I gave birth to my two children and I became a published author. Those are three bright spots in a bleak landscape that allow me to persevere in the face of what feels like a never-ending blackout. You, too, can persevere and things in your life will turn around for the amazing.
I want you to be excited about life. To do that, you need to address your depression. You should talk to the loved ones in your life who support you, but moreover, you need to talk to your family physician (and if you don’t have one, get one), who can help you get psychological counselling, either with a psychiatrist or a psychologist. There is no shame in undergoing therapeutic treatment with a mental health professional. In fact, it’s brave. It demonstrates strength and courage: the strength to endure, and the courage to confront the demons who haunt you. While I’ve never suffered from depression, as the child of a mental health care physician, I take that illness as seriously as I do cancer. Having cancer or depression are no different in that if left untreated both are life threatening. I want you to seek help. You’ve got the strength to do it—you reached out for help through your letter seeking the voice of another to guide you on a new path.
You are brave. You are strong. You are good. You are courageous. You have emerged from the darkness into the light. The eight blighted years are behind you, with only the bright light of the unknown possibilities of the future lying in wait ahead of you. Focus on today, not what came before, and not on what will come next, for the future is unknown. Worrying about what you want to see happen is a control mechanism that exerts no control over anything. Instead, it only creates further anxiety that will plague you. That is not to say that you can’t plot down plans of what you hope to do and achieve (e.g. helping others, seeking out adventure, traveling the world), but don’t be constrained by a set path towards both your mental health recovery and intended goals. Life is fluid. You need to take baby steps always remembering that life is full of obstacles, detours, and monkey wrenches that aren’t designed to stop you in your tracks, but rather are signposts to trigger you to think about whether the direction you’re taking to reach your destination is the right one. Every time you think of the past or something bad that could trigger negative thinking, I command you to read something funny and let the laughter envelope you, lifting you up to the heavens above. And, if you can’t find something funny, use this image: a threesome between Ann Coulter, Kim Jong-Un, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which all three are dictating what the other should do without reaching consensus or orgasm, while ordering the execution of the other. Let the immortal words of Alice Morse Earle’s novel, Sun Dials and Roses of Yesterday: Garden Delights, guide you and inspire you every day so that you treasure each day as it comes, finding beauty and gratitude in its gifts: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
With light, hope & optimism,
Naomi Elana Zener
Naomi Elana Zener is the author of both Deathbed Dimes and satire fiction, which is posted on her blog Satirical Mama. Her vociferous blogging has been read and appreciated by industry bigwigs such as Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Paula Froelich. Naomi blogs for Huffington Post and her articles have been published by Kveller, Absrd Comedy, and Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club. She’s currently working on her sophomore novel. You can connect with her on her website or on Twitter @satiricalmama.
Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.