Hey y’all! I’m TeeJayye! Quick question. Have you ever gone to see a movie that was extremely hyped up but left feeling like it didn’t quite live up to your expectations? Leaves you feeling kinda bummed out right? Have you ever had a similar feeling in your normal day to day life?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 322 million people, worldwide, live with some form of depression. As someone who spent 5 years working as a certified pharmacy technician, it was devastating to me to see so many people dependent on medication to feel enough enthusiasm just to get out of bed in the morning. But then again, I’ve experienced that feeling as well.
On August 12, 2016, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I’d had some stomach pains on and off and I had seen a few different doctors, mostly receiving the runaround with things like, “Oh, you just have heartburn,” when I was finally referred to a specialist. They performed some procedures and later that day, I walked away with what seemed to be a new life sentence.
I was in denial. I just couldn’t accept it. The doctor had put me on a course of steroids but after two weeks, I felt fine again and decided I didn’t need drugs, or doctors and I’d take matters into my own hands. Time would prove that to be a bad idea.
A few short weeks later, I was staring at a hospital ceiling with a naso-gastric tube inserted through my nose and down into my stomach. I remember lying in that hospital bed, thinking that my life would never be the same. I’d never be able to accomplish any of the things I’d set out to do. At 25 years old, I thought my life was over because of an illness with no known cause or cure.
Even more devastating to me, was the fact that I’d just started to get motivated. I’d just started to truly pursue my goals. When I was younger, I always felt like there was some kind of pressure on me to perform, some expectation of success, and because I was so terrified to fail and let everyone down, I wouldn’t even try. It took years to get to a point where I was willing to give things a shot and now it felt like failure was imminent.
I spent months under a dark cloud of depression. I was angry. There were days when I was physically unable to get out of bed. My friends didn’t seem to understand what I was going through and I didn’t understand it well enough to explain it to them. I felt like I’d been diagnosed with an invisible illness, one where I was seemingly fine on the outside, but being ripped apart internally. I couldn’t have seen the sunshine if you’d’ve put me in broad daylight.
Then something silly happened. I watched the “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Now I don’t wanna spoil the movie for you, but it’s about a guy who develops photos for LIFE magazine. LIFE’s motto was, “To see Life, to see the world,” but Walter had never really done any of that. He simply escaped into his daydreams to avoid his dreary existence because he was too scared and socially awkward to make it into something of note. I related to his story so strongly, it spooked me. A thought started to creep into my head. I was Walter Mitty.
I started to question myself. Why hadn’t I ever followed through on all these ideas I’d had? Why did I think that I would be judged so harshly? Why did I think everything had to look a certain way for people to love me? Why did these expectations of society even matter to me? Was I just conditioned to believe that everything in life should be perfect? I never wanted to fit in before, why was it so important now? Why did I think I wasn’t good enough?
I realized it was because I wasn’t happy with what I’d accomplished in life. I’d never met the expectations I’d set for myself. Nothing I’d done, up to that point, was good enough for the little voice in my head. If I died that day, I wouldn’t be proud of the life I’d lived. I viewed myself as a failure. It wasn’t others’ judgment of me that was ruining my perspective on life. It was my own.
I decided I wouldn’t be resigned to going out like that. I was going to live a life I could be proud of, and I wasn’t going to fail. I started to make healthier choices, and I started watching the way I talked to myself, and most importantly, I lowered my expectations. I set small goals that I knew I couldn’t fail to achieve. If I could just make it out of bed. If I could just take one little step towards a goal. If I could just get started again.
It wasn’t very long before I started to see all of the little things I was accomplishing every day. It filled me with so much gratification. When something as simple as breakfast becomes a chore, you become pretty elated when you complete any kind of task. I became grateful that I had the opportunity to try to fix this and honestly, because I had the chance to eat food again. I could see that I was making small bits of progress and it motivated me to keep pushing forward.
Eventually, I found myself back on a golf course. Golf was something I’d messed around with a few times in the past but was never really anything more than an occasional thing to do when we were bored. All of a sudden, it was the only thing I wanted to do. I was on the course every weekend, finding myself enamored by the challenge of moving the ball forward and the serenity of nature. As anyone who’s ever caught the golf bug can tell you, it’s maddeningly addictive. Deceptively simple and endlessly complicated, as Arnold Palmer once said, it begs you to continue coming back, forever attempting to conquer it.
Oddly enough, it was golf that really propelled me forward. More so than having a chronic illness. The desire to get better at this silly game has driven me to eat healthier, to get in the gym, and to have better control over my mental game. It’s helped me learn to clear my mind, have more patience, and put less emphasis on the results. It’s helped me lower my expectations even more, trust my decisions and to have appreciation for even the most wayward outcomes.
While life, and golf, may forever be a continuous journey, I’m proud to say that I feel like I’ve come a long way. I’ve been medication free for 3 months, I’ve seen tremendous improvements in my golf game, I’ve backpacked through India and most importantly, I’m happy. With a simple shift in perspective, my view on life has become increasingly ecstatic, and with more hard work, I can only imagine it will continue to grow.
I hope that by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned over my few short years of life, I can help you see the beauty in the struggle, and instill the confidence within you to overcome it. Because, maybe, just maybe, a small shift in perspective and a relaxing walk through nature with a ball and stick is all the world needs to become a more happy, healthy, and harmonious place to live.