There is a tag going around and I’ve seen it both here on Facebook and on Twitter in different variations but its ultimate goal is the same. Too many people do not understand depression. Too many people feel that they have not been exposed to depression and therefore it does not affect them. The problem is simple – depression isn’t something we talk about. It is the very nature of this disease to keep silent, to hide, to keep to ourselves, to close the curtains and withdraw into the dark and lose ourselves to the black comfort of sleep. Talking about depression brings on doubt, ridicule, disbelief. A shake of the head, a laugh, as people don’t take you seriously, don’t understand you – they don’t know what it’s like to look into that bleak, welcoming, hole that is depression and to fall into it and stop caring. To stop living. They don’t know. And they don’t care to know. So we keep silent.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

But the death of Robin Williams – something I have yet been able to get myself to talk about or acknowledge – has sparked a sudden social media storm of people suddenly willing to fight to be seen and heard. In his last act of making us better people, Robin Williams has given us the ability to speak. To raise our voices and to say that he is not alone. That we are not alone. People have taken to Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #depression, #depressionlies, #thisiswhatdepressionlookslike, #depressionkills, #depressionawareness all with the intent to bring light to this disease. To show those people who believe they are unaffected by depression that at some point in their life – they have been. They have friends, family, lovers, who are quietly suffering – loved ones who have never spoken up. Until now.

Yesterday I said, quietly, “It’s always the happiest ones who hide the darkest feelings.” A friend laughed and jokingly said, “Does that mean we have to worry about you?”

It made me realize that there are a lot of people who have no idea how much I’ve fought against it. How much I still fight, despite my ability to find amusement in anything. Yes, I am quick to laugh. Yes, I love to make people smile and I love being the picture of ridiculous silliness. And while that IS me, there’s also more than what you see. So I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and sharing with you a little story. The picture below was taken of me in 2008. I look pretty happy right? Well I was. At least at that moment.

nikki-depressed

The moment captured in this photo is a hard one for me to talk about. In fact it’s been really hard to write this through tears as I remember this day and the ones surrounding it. It was the first day I was allowed to leave the behavioral unit at the hospital. In fact, it was the first day I had left the hospital entirely after trying to kill myself. I had locked my dorm room and taken an entire bottle of prescription pills and waited to die. I very nearly succeeded and while I don’t remember anything leading up to the ambulance ride to the hospital, I do remember being in the hospital and the pain and sickness that came with recovering. I remember being angry because I had failed. I remember being devastated that now I had to see the faces of the people who knew what I had tried to do. Most of all I remember the regret that I was still alive.

Even after I recovered from the physical pains, they kept me in the rehab unit in a separate building for awhile while I tried to get over the emotional pains. I kept a journal while I was there and it’s really hard for me to even look at it now, though I’ve kept it with me through the years as a reminder. After the hospital and rehab center, came the local behavioral house where I also started therapy before moving back on campus and seeing a counselor, a therapist, and a psychiatrist all at once. I withdrew from that semester at college and holed myself up into my own little world, trying desperately to claw my way out of the pit I had dug for myself.

That picture was the first time I got to go home. I was allowed only an hour off site from the hospital unit I was confined to. The first thing I did was visit my dog. That’s Spunky greeting me in that picture. I AM happy. I am happy because I honestly thought I had said my final good-bye to him and I was surprised by how relieved I felt to see him again. How glad I was to feel his tongue on my face because he was so happy to see me he couldn’t contain himself. And it felt good to be loved so much. This picture shows the first time I felt regret for what I tried to do, and the relief that I was still alive.

It was a really long road to recovery. And to be honest. I’m still not recovered. In fact, a little over two years later, I tried to kill myself again and landed once again in the hospital. Depression isn’t something that can be fixed with a few pills and a bunch of happy memes (though they can help). It’s a constant battle. It’s a fight to live. It’s a fight to wake up in the morning and breathe and it’s a fight to find happiness in the world when so many things seem so bad. When you’re in that mindset, in that downward spiral of feeling worthless, useless, dead – it’s hard to get out and remind yourself that depression does lie. It LIES. It is a battle. But, and this might sound cheesy and cliche, it DOES get better. The more you fight, the more you start really living and stepping outside your routine of just going through the motions, the more you open your eyes, the more good days you will actually have. The more light there will be on the other side of that dark tunnel.

happydoor

Maybe I’m a hypocrite – I still fight every day. I try to do small things to keep me going. I call the door to my bedroom my “Happy Door” – every time I’m sad, I doodle a picture on a post-it note of something that makes me happy and I put it on that door. It’s now covered in small, colorful pieces of paper and it makes me happy every time I look at it. I made a playlist with nothing but happy songs that I make myself listen to when I feel down. When I’m dangerously close to horrible thoughts, I make plans with my friends so I’m not alone. I play the ukulele. I beat up villains in video games. I draw. I go to the dog park even though I no longer have a dog. I try to put myself into happy situations as much as I can because I know that I can’t do this alone. I can’t fight it when I’m by myself, with the covers over my head.

Taking that first step is the hardest part. Taking action is against everything your depression tells you to do. But depression lies. When it says you can’t do something, tell yourself YOU CAN. When it says you aren’t good enough, tell yourself YOU ARE. When it tells you that you will never be happy again, tell yourself YOU WILL BE. I am fighting too. I am with you. You are not alone. I am not alone. WE are not alone. THAT is why it is so important to speak up. To use this time when the world seems to be suddenly sitting up and listening to act and to say that this disease, this horrible horrible disease that kills so many people, needs to be acknowledged and that EVERYONE has in some way or form been touched by it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t roll your eyes when someone tells you they’re depressed and need help. Reach out your hand and take theirs and tell them you will do everything you can to help them. Even if you don’t understand it. Just tell them you’re there for them. Because sometimes, that’s all we want. To not feel alone.

We are living, breathing beings made of stardust and particles of forgotten galaxies. We are here for a purpose and in this short blink of a lifespan, we are given the opportunity to change the world. We are given the ability to make others smile and laugh and cry and live and we owe it to ourselves to sing and dance and LIVE. I am telling you this as much as I am telling myself. Because I am still fighting this every single day. But it’s worth it. Because you matter. I matter. This life we are living matters, to every single person around us.

“All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star…” – Francis Thompson

Nobody is untouched by depression. We are all connected. So this is my story and I’m sharing it with you all in order to bring awareness to those who think they are untouchable. And to hopefully help those too afraid to share their stories – who are too afraid to believe that they are not alone. You’re not. I’m here. We are here. We are in this together.

Please keep fighting. You can do it. I believe in you.

So it has recently come to my attention that there’s an anti-feminist Tumblr out there solely dedicated to pictures of women holding up signs about why they don’t need feminism. At first, this made me become SHE-HULK AND SHE-HULK SMASH THINGS. Thankfully it’s rare when I let things on the internet make me this angry. But after awhile, my anger subsided and instead it was replaced with sadness. Hurt. Heartbreak. I want to hug each of these lost women and hand them a copy of The Feminine Mystique and enlighten them. But I suppose, in the end, that’s what feminism is attempting to do. Not just reform the “equality” of men and women. But also to educate. We just need to keep trying. Anyway, I took to Facebook to voice my thoughts and I figured I’d share them here as well.

“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”
- Madeleine K. Albright.

I actually debated on whether or not I wanted to share this. Normally, when I read something that makes me this angry, I don’t share it because I try to keep this place as positive as I can. But this. THIS. I’m making an exception because this is important. These women think that they are above feminism. That they don’t need it because they aren’t victims. Because they don’t want to devalue men. GIRLS! YOU ARE DEVALUING YOURSELVES. How do you think the rights of women got as far as it has? Right now, you are using your voices, posting pictures of yourselves online, acting as strong women with opinions – BECAUSE OF FEMINISM. Because women continue to fight for our – FOR YOUR – rights. Feminism isn’t about playing the victim. It’s not about victimizing women AT ALL. It’s the damn opposite of that. And it’s certainly not about devaluing men – it’s about being treated as equals. It’s about getting paid as much, it’s about being able to have our say on an equal platform, it’s about owning our own bodies and being proud to have a voice. Which you have because of the feminists fighting for you.

feminism
print by dothandmade

Your ignorance isn’t just shameful, it’s hurtful and detrimental to women everywhere. It’s a slap in the face to women in other countries who don’t have your rights – who are forced to succumb to the will of a man every day in more ways than one simply because they are seen as inferior. Those women are not allowed to speak up. You can and you do. You’re showing that right now. But your message is extremely misguided. Just because we are lucky enough to have been born into a country where women have as much power as we do, does not mean that our job is done. Women are still paid less than men in the work place simply because of our gender. The opinions of women in many male-dominated industries are not taken into consideration… simply because of what’s (not) between our legs. Even in our society, women are still not seen as equals by the government. But we could be. If we keep fighting. If we keep working for a better world. If we continue to educate others and welcome people – women and men and every variation – into the fold of feminism. Don’t shut it out. It’s why you’re able to do what you’re doing now.

This tumblr and these girls are doing far more damage to the cause than they realize. And their ignorance is so… heartbreaking. They have no idea. Their eyes are closed. And that is why feminism will continue to be needed for a long time.

Anyway. There’s my two cents. I’m going to go watch some kick-ass feminist Sailor Moon because I can.

don’t grow older. grow bolder.

be bold

I woke up at seven this morning and couldn’t get back to bed. I had this weird urge to get out of the house so I took Rose on a walk around the block. I love how quiet my neighborhood is in the morning and also how friendly. There were two older women working in a garden by the sidewalk, chatting as they dug into the ground. They greeted us warmly and went back to the conversation. As we were passing I heard one of them say, “Don’t grow older. Grow bolder.” I stopped in my tracks, turned around, and told her that was the best thing I’d ever heard. I think she could see on my face that it really had made an impact because she stood up, came over to me, and gave me a big hug. “It took me 70 years to learn that. Start now while you’re still young and you’re gonna change the world.” I thanked her and hugged her again (and tried not to lose it). Walking back home, I felt like my whole body was filled with electricity.

Every single thing in this universe happens for a reason. Today is going to be an amazing day.

hank01

I was kind of a hermit in high school. If I wasn’t in class, I was in the art room. I never used my locker – all my stuff I stored in the art room. It was where I ate my breakfast and lunch, and spent much of my after-school activities of doing homework and throwing paint on canvas in that room. So the majority of friends I had were also people who frequented the art room. Hank Butitta was one of them. Senior year we were the only two in AP Art who finished our portfolios and sent them off – him for architecture and me for painting (painting trees to be more specific). Thankfully, one of us continued to use the skills they learned in school (hint: not me).

hank04

The Kid Who Bought a Bus

If you’ve been following me recently on Twitter, you’ll have seen me post a bit about Hank and his incredible journey. Hank bought a bus and ever since then, the world can’t seem to stop talking about him. In a spontaneous decision, Hank bought an old school bus off Craigslist and renovated the entire thing for his Masters Final Project. (This isn’t the first time Hank has taken a large vehicle for a joy ride. Senior year, Hank, our friends Kadi and Andrea, and I were tasked with bringing artwork over to the public library during school hours. We did it – but then took the van for a spin around town and down to the Arboretum and climbed trees – you can tell he hasn’t changed much.)

hank02

A Designer’s Dream Interior

The end product of Hank’s hard work is this absolutely gorgeous, minimalistic tiny home on wheels. The interior is every designer’s dream-come-true. The clean lines, the wood paneling, the bright natural sunlight. This is what I want to emulate in my future house. Hell. I want to just own this bus.

Hank didn’t just do it as a final project. He’s hoping that his bus and the road trip will promote the idea of living a minimalistic lifestyle. In his own words: “I hope this experience can help expand the dialogue about tiny living spaces and their viability. The bus prompts lots of interesting questions that could (and have) led to hours of discussion, which is truly the point. Our definition of home is so narrow, and our image of a mobile home is even more limited (and generally looked down upon). I think the tiny house movement is terribly interesting, if not entirely viable as a large scale solution. It helps remind those of us who have grown up in a traditional home that we could get by with less. A lot less. 200sqft is small, but I know people who have lived in apartments that are smaller. I want people to see the bus, be shocked at how comfortable, functional, and affordable it is, and maybe reassess what they’re willing to consider a viable home.”

hank03

Adventure Bound!

Hank is the kind of person who can be completely quiet, working intently, and out of nowhere, with the most serious expression on his face, say something ridiculously funny that leaves you in stitches, unable to remember what paint color you were trying to mix. We once staged a paint fight in an empty hallway in our high school for our friend Laura’s photography project – I dumped an entire can of purple paint over Hank’s head and the walls of that hallway I’m sure still to this day show signs of the fight. It took weeks before I got the orange paint out of my ear. I can just imagine the hysterical conversations and happenings going on on that bus. I don’t know about you, but I would LOVE to see it all in person.

Come to Austin, Hank and Co! We have beer and live music and all the breakfast tacos you can eat!

All the photos you see are from the talented Justin Evidon, Hank’s co-pilot on this adventure. You can find out more specifics about the bus on their Tour of the Bus page. Find them on Twitter and Facebook too!

The Declaration of You, published by North Light Craft Books and available now, gives readers all the permission they’ve craved to step passionately into their lives, discover how they and their gifts are unique and uncover what they are meant to do! This post is part of The Declaration of You’s BlogLovin’ Tour, which I’m thrilled to participate in alongside over 200 other creative bloggers. Learn more – and join us! - by clicking here.

The Declaration of You!

When all else fails: Turn to the Internet!

A little over a year ago, my life took a nosedive when the company I was working for laid off a bunch of people, including more than half of the marketing team I was apart of. I felt betrayed, lost, hurt, and ultimately, like I had somehow failed. I wasn’t sure where to go with my life or what to do, so as I do when I’m on a hunt for answers, I turned to the internet (I had just lost a job as a social media strategist – of course I’d look to the internet for help!).

I had started following and talking with Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up Coach, over Twitter about a year earlier, but it was at that moment that she had opened up the Clubhouse and in a spontaneous burst of inspiration, I joined. All of a sudden I was surrounded by people who were just like me – trying to figure out what to do with their talents, how to make a business of it, how to be successful. It was one of the best things I ever did and I am so thankful to Michelle and all the amazing folks in that community. It not only helped me to structure my goals, create a plan, and find support, it also helped me in my journey to begin trusting myself again.

Learning to Trust Again

It’s amazing just how damaging losing a job you love can be. I no longer knew if I was good at anything, and I didn’t trust myself to start branching out. I hesitated at everything and felt like I had lost my footing on a path I wasn’t sure was my own anymore. I felt like I couldn’t even trust the people around me anymore – the community I had built at work for the past three years had been stripped away in one afternoon. I went home and just cried and wondered what I should do with my life now (a little dramatic, but I felt I deserved it, at least for the day). I am so thankful that Michelle had come into my life when she did – I already trusted her judgement and felt that connection with her that’s so important when working with a career coach. The Clubhouse was instrumental in teaching me to trust myself again, to trust my heart, to trust my gut, and to find trust in the close-knit community I built around me.

The Book!

The Declaration of You!

When you have a faith in yourself again, it’s like opening a door and finding opportunity everywhere. And that’s why I’m so excited to be a part of this book tour. The Declaration of You is an inspiration book for creatives searching for their place in the sun. It was written and illustrated by Michelle Ward and Jessica Swift. I’ve been a big fan of Jessica Swift for years. Her artwork is colorful, motivational, and inspiring, and I have many of her prints up on my walls – including my cube wall at work! I’ve even written about her work here before! To see two of my favorite community people getting together to create something so wonderful is a dream come true. Check out the book trailer if you don’t believe me.

Join Us Today!

The Declaration of You Facebook Party

Are you looking to join this amazing community and find out more about Michelle Ward, Jessica Swift, and The Declaration of You? You’re in luck! Today over on the Facebook Page, there’s going to be a comment party all about this week’s topic: TRUST! If you can, we’d love for you to join us at 9:30-10a PST/11:30a-12p CST/12:30-1p EST.

My Declaration!

Over the past year, I’ve learned to not only trust those around me, but to trust myself again. It’s been a long, up-hill battle, but I am proud of who I am today. I’ve worked hard, become more organized, defined the goals I want to achieve in my career, and I’ve done it with the support (and trust!) of an amazing community around me. My declaration for the day: It’s always a good thing to have a little faith, trust, and as much pixie dust as you can possibly handle!

What’s your declaration of you?