I always wonder about these motivational quotes that float across social media like the seeds of a dandelion a child blew to smithereens. Do they really work? Really? Really.
They don’t work for me. I don’t read about a shark taking a bite out of Monday and say to myself, “Woo…I am a shark. I am snatching life into my jaws!” I’m a realist. And a cynic. And a sarcastic, mouthy individual. Instead, I end up muttering, “Sharks don’t know that it is Monday because the calendar is a man-made concept.” And I keep shuffling at whatever pace I started my day until I decide that I need to hit the gas pedal…or slam the brakes.
I react to stories. I react to emotion. I react to real. We are human begins. I swear that the person who has a smile plastered across his or her face at all times of the day and thinks the everyone is a ray of sunshine with Chanel sprayed on for good measure is either smoking something, has popped some pill, or had loosened some internal wire before coming out of the womb. There is a reason why I like the box of 96 crayons instead of the five primary colors: Variety. And as human begins, we have more than one or two emotions. I say use them. But I am a Scorpio. And I live with depression. So maybe I’m not the best person to give advice on this. But I do know that sharp wit and internal grit do not flourish without the darker colors of the emotional spectrum. And empathy does not rise if we have not experienced our own depth of fall hues.
As a result, I would rather share my story than plaster a swift motivational quote to kick your butt into gear. Quite possibly, your butt doesn’t need to get kicked into gear. Maybe it just needs a nudge. A soft tap to say, “Move an inch off the couch. Stick a foot out of the bed. Let gravity carry you a step or two.” Picking up a book, stepping onto a treadmill, drawing in your eyebrows, texting a friend, petting your dog, saying one kind sentence to yourself in the mirror. These all seem like normal deeds to those who do not deal with the throes of depression. But those of us who ride waves of emotions like surfers balance boards in the waters off Hawaii shores know that these small acts take great effort.
So, my advice? Start small. Let that small act enthrall you. Let it move you…literally and figuratively. Don’t rush the small movement. Live within it. Appreciate it. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t mean anything. It means the world that you let the sole of your foot touch the soft carpet of your bedroom floor. You took a step out of bed. Take another. Walk to the bathroom. Wash your face. Take a deep breath.
Don’t punish yourself.
Don’t belittle yourself.
Just be yourself and walk the next step.
I just received a thank you message about my recent Instagram posts regarding my experience with depression, and that message both warms my heart and makes me cry at the same time. I don’t want anyone to feel the debilitating and destructive effects of depression, but I also find comfort knowing that I am not alone and that my experiences help others. I have had clients who deal with eating disorders and/or clinical depression themselves, and they say I tend to be the only one who actually understands them.
In seeing what a reaction I got from making those couple of posts, I am going to continue to put myself out there by writing and talking about it more, both on Instagram in Instastory vlogs and posts as well as on my website in my blog. In all transparency, I really would like to actually have motivational or empathy-type seminars for people in the bodybuilding or athletic industry to attend and have a safe place to listen, learn, and share. This industry is a double-edged sword: it both saves us and destroys us, especially those of us with depression. My extensive competitive experience combined with my years of teaching, public speaking in front of groups of 100+, and designing and running workshops in the corporate and education sector have certainly paved the way for me to be able to get my thoughts out to others in a professional, empathetic, entertaining, helpful manner.
Here’s what I do know: Most friends don’t understand depression. Most relationships include someone who doesn’t understand depression. Rob Thomas’s song “Her Diamonds” expresses this perfectly as he described his wife suffering through bouts of depression while he sat by her side waiting but not fully understanding. It doesn’t mean people don’t care. But when someone doesn’t understand something, it often feels like they don’t care. It can create a lonely feeling, one of despair. A cocoon with a warm sticky interior. Depression scares others. It’s an unknown. It’s not like a cold where a person sneezes: a symptom one can point at and say, “Aha! I know how to fix that!” and offers a liquid that curbs the sneezing until something physically tickles nose hairs or a germ sneaks its way in again from someone who didn’t wash his hands before grabbing the doorknob. Those diseases are tangible and fixable. But depression. Sigh. Depression is stealthy. Quiet. Sneaky. A thief. A Ted Bundy type of criminal. A person with depression looks and feels normal (whatever normal is), and then voila! Suddenly depression seeps in, this sticky goo oozing into the soul and covering whatever unicorns and sprinkles existed in the day.
I know how to put the boots on and clomp through that goo. I hate that I have to do it. But I know I do it better know than I used to. Honestly though, it’s exhausting. The amount of mental and emotional energy it takes to walk through the stickiness sometimes depletes me of any mental and emotional energy I need for other things: work, creativity, competing, dating, basic conversation in public. I don’t think “normal” people understand this. So I want to share it. I do feel a need to state the following: I won’t ever commit suicide, though in all transparency, I have had days in my past in which I entertained the thought like a DJ entertaining a rave crowd. But I like glitter and my puppy and Doritos and Game of Thrones and a slew of other cool things in this world too much. And I have this uncanny ability of partitioning my mind and seeing in the same moment that I hate myself and hate my body and hate my face and hate my life that none of that is true, and I don’t hate anything except these stupid little critter chemicals my body is producing all on its own that are infiltrating my mind and wreaking havoc on my sanity. That constant fluidity of awareness between the two worlds helps me hold on and keep plodding through the stickery that threatens to bind me through and through. For I know all of life is cyclical. Where we end is where we begin and where we begin is where we end. It all comes around and happens again. Everything in nature is a teeter totter. Up and down. Over and over. But once in a while, balance certainly finds a way.
The special thing? Because balance doesn’t occur every day, when it does arrive, it feels like that first sip of Diet Coke, shaking your brain awake and making you giggle and want to take another sip, see another day, continue fighting your way.
Jodi Leigh Miller is a Women's Physique IFBB Pro with experience in all divisions. She is a record-achieving power-lifter, posing specialist, certified trainer, life coach, and author. She holds an English degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is a certified educator. She is an experienced, knowledgeable, multifaceted phenom.