How it all began…
A few years ago I found myself living through an interesting situation. I had a job I enjoyed, was in a loving relationship and had a lot of good opportunities come my way, but yet, I felt irritable, sad and empty. I realized I needed to figure out how to feel better, and chances were I probably couldn’t do it alone. I needed to get help.
As a Brazil native, I had survived enough harsh Boston winters to know that the cold and I just don’t get along. Every winter I would fall victim to what is known as the ‘winter blues’, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I had lived many years with debilitating fatigue, intrusive thoughts and a series of other extreme symptoms that greatly disrupted my life, that I realized I needed to address this.
Life wasn’t always easy growing up. I lost my mother at age five, and after living in a toxic family environment for several years I had the opportunity to move to the United States to live with relatives, at age fourteen. Without speaking a word of English, I was immediately put into a school environment with minimal assistance, and had to adapt and learn fast. Right after high school I started working full time and moved out. After a year working two jobs I was able to move into a new apartment with no roomates. It was hard, working almost every day and rarely having a day off, but that was the price of my independence, and to me it was worth it. Eventually things started looking up. I found a better job with better pay, began a new and healthy relationship and started having several more things go my way but my mood was as low as ever.
I didn’t understand why although my life was improving in so many ways, still I was miserable. When I sought professional help I learned that there’s a big difference between ‘winter blues’ and Major Depressive Disorder (with a seasonal pattern): one makes you sad and tired during the winter and the other can destroy your life if left untreated. Learning that, made all the difference.
Desperate to understand how my mind works and how to treat my depression, I began researching and learning as much as I could about mental health. I learned about the coralation between mental health issues and trauma and how it can be linked to genetics. It was like all the boxes were slowly getting checked off: history of childhood and early teenage trauma✔ family history of depression and anxiety✔evidence of brain chemistry imbalance due to lack of sunlight during winter✔ It all made sense.
It not only validated why I had been struggling for so long, but it also opened my eyes to the fact that this could ruin my life if I didn’t address it.
The Google Search That Changed My Life
In my misery and despair, I turned to Google for help. I typed into the search bar:
and what came up was life-changing.
I spent hours reading page after page, watching videos and listening to audio content on “how to be happier” and all of it had one main focus in common: the power of the human mind and the importance of taking control of it. For the next several days I consumed only that content, all day long. I found that doctors, psychologists, counselors, professors, specialists, gurus, have all done studies that point to the human mind having power over basically every aspect of one’s life. The mind is what determines someone’s behavior, their actions, their interactions, how they process events and what effects those events have on them, in the short and long term.
The most eye-opening part about this discovery was learning that, throughout history, as well as in modern day, the people who are the happiest and lead the most fulfilling lives all have one thing in common: they make taking care of their minds a priority every day. That meant that if I wanted to recover from my depression and lead a happier life, I too had to make my mental health a priority every day. Since I made that decision my quality of life has improved in countless ways, and I wholeheartedly believe every person can benefit from doing so. That is one of the reasons why I share my story.
My Passion For Raising Awareness
For so many years I struggled in silence. Without fully understanding what my mind was going through, I felt ashamed of feeling depressed and was scared to be judged for being, what I perceived as, a failure. I felt completely alone. After better understanding my own struggles and learning more about mental health in general, I figured there were probably so many people who, like me, were struggling in silence. I thought “if someone had shared their struggles with me, I might have felt less ashamed and alone”. So I decided to be that person.
Motivated by that hope, I started being more vocal about my struggles with depression and was surprised to find that I wasn’t alone. More and more people who I knew personally, started sharing their experiences with me. Many of my friends and family members had been struggling like I had, a lot of times also in silence. We all felt alone, even though we were all going through the same struggle. That motivated me even more to share my story and help people feel less ashamed to seek help. There is no reason to feel ashamed to go through mental health issues, and the more we support one another the better we feel.
I felt in my heart, a need to serve the mental health community by fighting stigma associated with mental illness, educating people on the importance of a healthy mind and working to promote access to better mental health care for everyone. And by everyone, I mean, literally everyone. Every human being on the planet can benefit from this. As a mental health advocate I have made the decision to dedicate the rest of my life to doing this work, and hopefully contribute to building healthier future generations.