One of the biggest struggles I had with the concept of starting Project Helping was the understanding that I would need to “come out” as having clinical depression. It took me almost four years to bring myself to a point where I could do that. Now that I have, I have noticed some amazing self changes starting to take place.
I am fully aware that all of these changes are a process, and that I am only in the beginning stage of fully understanding (if I ever do fully understand); however, the process itself has been enlightening and lightening. I have also had to remind myself through this process, that depression, for me, is not something that will ever fully disappear. Depression could always be there, reminding me that it’s certainly possible on any given day, that I may still have a “bad day” and it will be incredibly difficult.
Coming out has been so much different than I thought it would be. There is still a fear that surrounds it. A fear of the unknown and a fear of how people will react. I now get asked regularly if I have noticed that people talk to me differently or treat me differently. The short answer to that is “yes”. Yes in the best possible way. Having spoke up and spoken out, I find that other people are willing to share their own struggles with me and are willing to open up about their own stories. So in that regard, it has certainly been different and encouraging.
At my current point in the process of dealing with and understanding my depression, I have found that I am looking back more than looking forward. The process of looking back has lead me to a much deeper understanding of myself and what I truly need to be happy. The process of coming out with my depression has lifted so much of the shame and guilt that I felt regarding depression. The support from friends and family and strangers for that matter, has been overwhelming. The process of letting go of the immediate shame has lead me to re-frame all of the decisions and events of my past in the spirit of what I like to call self-empathy.
Empathy towards others can be such a strong tool in forgiving and healing relationships. It allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to try and feel what they are feeling and understand their motivations and actions. Just as it is important to empathize with others, I think that it is also important to use empathy for the relationship we have with ourselves. The process of looking back into my past with a deeper understanding of who I was at the time and then who I am now has been incredibly cathartic. Reframing the decisions and events of my life through a much more realistic and empathetic lens, has allowed me to understand why I made the decisions I did and why I reacted the way that I did. Now that I am using “self-empathy” to understand those past decisions, I have been able to let go of some of the regret.
And speaking of regret, I have come to the realization that regret, for me, is not rooted in feeling like I have made the wrong decision, but more in not truly understanding WHY I made the decision that I did. By re-framing my past decisions with my new found concept of self-empathy, I am able to fully understand why I made the choices I made and what needs those choices filled at the time that I made them. This process has rid my heart of a great deal of regret and shame for “mistakes” of the past.
I hope and trust that the end result of this process is the ability to truly forgive myself for all of the things I have held onto so much regret and anger for. At the end of the day, I feel like the ability to understand, self-empathize and forgive ourselves comes from self-understanding. This process has started to build a feeling of deeper discovery for who I am and what truly makes me happy. The better we understand ourselves, the better equipped we are to make decisions going forward that will allow us to live an authentic, fulfilling, happy life.
However it ends up, the process has brought me a great deal of self-realization and peace and the entire process started with the decision to come out publicly about my depression.
Justin – Project Helping Founder and CEO