Name three things in your life, that you are doing strictly for yourself, that make you happy. These three things cannot include your kids or significant other, or things you do for, with, or about your kids or significant other. What three things make you happy?
I woke up today thinking how different my life has become as compared to a year ago. Different in a good way. I love my life. I love what I do. I find joy and contentment in what I’m doing, and in what we are doing as a family in our unconventional lifestyle. I find my happiness in all this.
It all started with a question. Name three things, just three things, which make you happy. Things you do just for yourself. Everyone has at least three things they can say make them happy, right? Rewind back to a year ago. I’m not sure where, or in what context I saw this question, but I remember that it had that caveat about kids and significant others. That was the kicker. It was a question which was meant for you to focus strictly on yourself and self care. It was this question that became the proverbial straw on the camels back. I couldn’t name one thing.
There wasn’t a single thing I did for myself which brought me happiness. How was that even possible?
That scared me. As much as I love my kids and love my husband, I wasn’t taking the time to love myself. I couldn’t name one thing, just one I did for myself, that made me happy. This raised a mental red flag. I had recovered from a very bad episode of depression the previous year, and I was going through some intense physical medical issues at that point in my life. I knew the balance between a healthy and an unhealthy mind was precarious, especially for someone who already had a history of suffering from depression. I knew I had to do something or I would hit the bottom again.
I won’t delve to deep into my personal mental health struggles, but I have had several “bad” episodes of depression over the course of 20 years. They’ve gotten fewer and farther apart, but when I do get them, they drag me down fast and hard. One of the main things I’ve learned through therapy and treatment is how to identify my warning signs and how to find what I call “my balance”.
Those who suffer from depression often refer to their mental health as a balancing act. You can “feel” when your mental health balance is slipping or weighing towards one side more than the other.
My last bout of serious depression was in 2016, and it had been almost 7 years since the last major episode prior to that. I was proud that I had managed to maintain my balance, catch my warning signs and flags. This time I didn’t even see it coming and it was like a head on collision. I was alone with all three kids. We had just moved back to Texas because of my job, we were readjusting. Hudson was finishing his last month of work in San Diego. I had just gotten over a bad case of strep throat and flu. Work was stressful and had become devoid of any joy. I was drained, exhausted, burnt out. Then one day, I realized I was at the bottom, mentally. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I felt so alone and so tired. Looking back, I was at a scary point. Thankfully, I had a great support system in place. I had friends who took the kids so I could rest and who were amazing to me. Hudson came back early to join us. My boss granted me a leave of absence. Slowly, I got better and re-found my balance.
Flash forward to 2017. Having no answer to something as simple as, what makes you happy? I knew something had to change or I would be back in that dark place all over again. I knew I loved traveling. So we made it a point to take time off in the summer to visit family in San Diego. We visited more places locally and within Texas as often as our schedules allowed. As I was looking into a potential next travel destination I stumbled across the Tiny House movement, Van Life, full-time RVing, travel nursing. I had seen all these things before, but now they really spoke to me on a different level. The flood gates had opened and we felt the pull.
Jump to today. I wake up and am amazed at how different life is or at least my perspective on life as compared to one, two, five, twenty years ago. Studies have shown that traveling is not only good for a persons physical health, but has significant benefits to emotional and mental health as well. I am a believer. Since our adventures started I have noticed a decrease in my stress levels. Yes, things do get stressful, but not in an unmanageable, unhealthy way. I feel more in touch with who I am on an emotional, physical and mental level. Things about my mental state I may have previously ignored I now focus on improving. It’s easier to gauge my balance and my moods. Maybe it’s because of the slower pace, or the quiet time I allow myself every day, but it’s almost as if I’m getting to know myself all over again. Finding out who I am as a person. I feel like I’m more adaptable, flexible mentally and things that may have caused me anxiety before are easier to deal with and manage.
Not everyday is perfect, but I am content and happy. It’s easier to find the joy in the smaller things. To acknowledge when I need to slow down, have some me time. I’m not saying leaving everything behind to live a life full time on the road was the be all end all answer. Rather it has become part of a series of actions that has helped me find my balance and allowed me to maintain a healthy state of mind.
Overall, I can say with confidence that our journey thus far has helped me become a better mother, nurse, wife and human being in general. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
**I understand that mental health is a sensitive subject. Often a taboo topic and often misunderstood. If you find yourself in a dark place mentally, you are not alone. Please seek out your support system and/or professional mental health assistance. I don’t normally include links in my blogs, but I have provided some free online resources below. [No affiliations].
Thanks for joining our journey, go live your adventure!