Coming back to life in Canada

The past two months have been rough. I started taking antidepressants, began seeing a therapist, and have continued experiencing stress at home. I’ve felt so much inner frustration for an array of reasons, the biggest being this gray haze of depression hanging in the air around me that refuses to go away. Depression has taken away my sense of purpose, and it’s taken away my ability to see the meaning of just about everything in life. It should be no surprise to hear then that because of this, some days I’m left reduced to a puddle of tears.

With all this going on, I left for a road trip to Canada this past weekend with three friends from college. I don’t really remember the last time all of us were together as a group to just spend time together, and despite the dark place I’ve been mentally recently, I decided I was going to join my friends on this trip. I figured maybe some Canadian adventuring with tried and true friends would be good for me.

The trip was a blast. We walked seven miles around the town of Niagara Falls, took in the beautiful scenery of the Falls while getting sprayed with mist, ate delicious food, and encountered a long list of hilarious mishaps along the way. We learned the value of a Canadian dollar, how to play slot machines, and what you can (and can’t) bring across the Canadian border.

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Somewhere in between being cut off in line for the waffle maker at our hotel’s continental breakfast and traversing the loud, colorful streets of downtown Niagara Falls, I realized something incredible: I felt happy and alive. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I felt like my old self, actually enjoying life again. None of my deep, looming questions about the purpose of life had been answered, and none of the problems at home weighing down on me had been solved. Yet there I was, packed into a car with three crazily amazing girls headed back home to the States after a fun weekend away feeling the most alive I have in a very, very long time.

What the heck changed me? And no, it wasn’t the strawberry daiquiri I had for the first time while dining out on the town. The answer is really simple actually. The love of my friends brought me back to life. It was being with three friends with whom I have developed roots and a history, having heart-to-heart conversations with, and being completely vulnerable around that breathed life back into a part of my soul that had been dying.

I needed a place where I could ask the question, “What makes life worth it to you?” and be taken completely seriously, and get back honest, thought-out responses. I needed a place where I could, for the umpteenth time, vent about still not being over a previous relationship and let out all the bottled-up pain. I needed a place where I could still encounter genuine faith in Jesus even though my own faith has been washed out and wrung dry. And that’s exactly the kind of place I found in the presence of my three friends this weekend over the Canadian border. A place where my heart, my personhood, felt affirmed and loved.

For months, life has been anything but beautiful to me. It’s been pointless, empty, and not worthwhile. On my drive to meet up with my friends for our trip, I placed my music on shuffle and the song “Life is Beautiful” by The Afters came on. I couldn’t change the song fast enough. No part of me could relate to the lyrics; no part of me wanted to listen to someone singing about how beautiful and wonder-filled life is.

On my hour long drive home from my friend’s house after we arrived back from Canada, my music ironically shuffled again to “Life is Beautiful.” Except this time, I let it play. And not only that—I sang along. I SANG ALONG. And what’s crazier? I meant what I was singing. I felt what I was singing. The heavy existential questions in my head faded to the background as I reflected on the words about the beauty of human experience. The beauty. There has been no beauty in my world for so long.

And it’s love that gave me the beauty of life back.

I don’t know how long this sense of happiness will last, but my weekend away in Canada has given me invaluable insight. I see now that my struggle with depression is much more than just struggling with persistent dark clouds. It’s intricately connected to feeling loved and knowing my worth. I’m thankful for friendships that have reminded me that I am both loved and worthy of love.

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