Judging life by social media, adulting seems easy. It looks like everyone is having fun with their dogs and relaxing on beaches; life is perfect all the way around. Except when it's not.
Those who know me would say I'm smiley about 99.9 percent of the time, but even I have rough patches -- like this summer. It was the summer of surgery for my family. From my dad, to my brother-in-law, to my mom -- there were lots of near-scary moments. Everyone is fine now or close to it, but it was a lot to handle.
When I found out my mom needed a second hip surgery, it felt like getting stabbed in the gut. I tried my best to take good care of her after the initial procedure, and she seemed to be healing so well. It was a hard pill for my entire family to swallow when we heard the news.
I felt awful for my mom -- this surgery would not be as easy to recover from. The sadness I felt for her and myself was like a blanket I could not remove. I tried to not let it bother me, but it did. My wife tried to listen and comfort me, but for some reason I didn't want to be comforted. What was the matter with me?
I thought that the Jewish holidays and fall -- my favorite season -- would cheer me up. I would get to wear my favorite outfit of shorts and a long sleeve shirt -- it's the little things, right? And then I got hit hard on Yom Kippur.
On our way out of services I felt my phone buzz. One of my closest friend's wife sent me a message saying my friend was not doing well. My wife tried to comfort me and offered to drive home. I said no. I tried to block it out and hold back the tears. Men aren't supposed to cry (for some reason). I heard my phone buzz again as I drove, and I wouldn't say I ugly cried, but trying not to cry and failing is not a good look.
More so than depressed, I felt helpless. All these people close to me were struggling and I couldn't do anything to help them. I don't remember the last time I was this down. I'm usually the borderline annoyingly happy/optimistic person. Smiley 99.9 percent of the time, remember?
Even though it didn't feel like enough, I did what I could. I reached out to my friend and got his assurance he was doing okay and taking care of himself. I checked in with his friends and family too, and they reassured me.
Next, it was my turn to talk to family, friends and colleagues. I couldn't keep it all bottled up -- I knew that would not be healthy. Instead of a canned happy response to the typical, "hey, how are you?" at work, I started opening-up. It helped to get my worries off my chest. Despite the news, there are lots of caring people in the world, especially at a Jewish non-profit.
And I would be remiss not to mention that for me, as a trainer, a big part of my emotional wellness was tied to my physical wellness -- that exercise would help. When I was down and my mind filled with a million different thoughts, my workouts were unfocused and seemed boring. It was time to switch up my routine. I did some Instagram research for new fitness trends and started mixing together kettlebells, bands, and suspension training. It was challenging and fun.
I also added comedy to my exercise regimen. Instead of listening to music during my workouts, I put on comedy specials. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. And for peace of mind, I went back to using the Headspace app. I might not stay focused for 10 minutes the first time I do it, but on the way home from work (I take the train) I add in another 10 minutes and that helps me relax.
With our digitized lives keeping us from having more meaningful personal interactions with each other, many people feel alone in their struggles. But once we show our vulnerability, others will follow. Don't be afraid to ask for help or lend an ear. The winter months -- due to a combination of little sunlight, cold weather and holidays -- often lead to Depression. Look out for your friends and family, and remember that despite what you see on social media, everyone is going through something.