I feel the soft cushion of my bed against my back. I see my dog laying on the ground. My eyes open, and I could feel the stiffness of my neck, worsening by the second as I slowly wake up. I must have moved around so much that my dog couldn’t take it anymore and jumped off my bed. I don’t blame my dog because I would too. Is this how a day in the life of a depressed person starts?

I’m sitting in the middle of my ill-lit room; I accidentally left my damaged lamp on because I had given up hope of it living again. I hear the fluorescent buzzing noise, and in the realization of the new day, I internally sob. Almost enough to radiate physical tears from my face. I’m in a psychological entrapment — not directly trapped, though not able to escape.

I’m starting a new day of fake-smiling, un-satisfaction, and depression. Having to make a living to survive, I need to go to a restraining job every day, which confines me, trapping me more and more each day.

I don’t see specifically what is wrong with my job, though, and I make an effort to go every day, accepting the conditions of schedule. There was, therefore, no knowing reason explaining the want to escape so, very badly. Even if I did know, it still wouldn’t matter. I could never leave. And even if I could, I wouldn’t have any means necessary to make an honest living while being content with myself.

I decided to travel to the unfamiliar

Using my mother’s very repetitive advice to travel, I decided to succumb to a pursuit — self-development, and peace. Instead of using my mother’s methods — staying in a resort for a few weeks, I decided to travel by, for me, the unfamiliar way of train-transportation across Europe for five months.

I remember the comfort of the hot sun radiating over my face, an almost soothing experience. After lugging my bags, filled mostly with unnecessary items, up flights of narrow wooden stairs, I stepped into the nearly relaxing atmosphere of a quiet, tidy hotel room. Looking around, I realized I couldn’t bring myself to be happy.

I’d never done anything alone, much less relaxed by myself — at least as far as I could remember. My life was too filled with a debilitating continuous daily routine of work and sleep.

I sat down on the tightly made paper-white sheets of my bed, unsure of my goal. All I had done was get on the nearest flight in the spur of the moment. My flight had been booked for the following day, as my mind could not think straight. I wanted to leave — escape, even if it was only momentarily.

The idea of grasping a sense of freedom was all too great to pass on

I left my hotel room to see the world, only to find myself back, sprawled across my bed, under the thick white sheets, hindering any additional potential fatigue from passing on to me. I walked through pathways with soft gray stones, combined with such accuracy that the joins were almost indistinguishable. The walls were of faded salmon-pink brick, with sharp edges and corners, akin to my home.

Moments of compassion, passing smiles, and displays of appreciation, creating worth to the background of a weathered canvas of colors surround me. It may have brightened my day, have been a diversion to walk through, distracting me from my life momentarily, though I decided not to notice it, spoiling the illusion of temporary lull. After walking through the streets and surprises of Belgium for a while, I had yielded to fatigue.

My legs were failing, muscles worn-out; curiosity was causing an unknown, grueling exercise. I’d given everything I could, from drinking finely brewed hot nutty-flavored coffee — smoke visible in the limited freedom it held to fly through a small crack in its cup, warming my hands to the perfect degree.

To sipping the renowned hot cocoa of Belgium; complex flavors forming together to create a bond of sweetness, though just enough bitterness to make it unique. But even with all the caffeine eating at my essence, advancing was improbable at this point.

I had mentally collapsed

I spotted a park nearby. Through busy people and a tenacious spirit the city held, I found myself sobbing as I watched happy people smiling and laughing — actually enjoying life. No amount of creamy chocolate or fluffy blankets could heal my injured spirit.

After a week of sudden spurts of happiness — though never enduring, I packed my things upon proceeding to my following destination, not knowing if I would ever attain happiness, though now gaining a brand-new sense of confidence, which was unfamiliar before. I now understood something about myself, the first feeling my body decided to share with me — there is more to life.

I made it to France, which I traveled to on the newly known train, sitting in a corner seat the entire ride, feeling dark at the clawing realization of my home life. Why am I not realizing what’s wrong with my life? I thought.

What I wasn’t realizing was due to there being no possible answer, at least yet. After all, I wasn’t me; I was someone I thought I was, going through life doing things I thought I wanted to do.

To find my answer, I would first have to find myself

The sadness that flooded me while walking to my apartment, watching the energetic sun settle into slumber along with its occupants of families and children, was more painful than anything I’d ever felt before. It resonated in my chest, causing each breath to be deeper and darker. It swelled my eyes and lifted my breath.

I never had someone I loved, much less had ever loved myself. Constantly watching people’s lives happy and untroubled always told me the same thing — the time to act was now.

So that is what I did.

The sadness I felt that prompted me to explore something more than my room was something I would never have thought of doing before — in a life full of things that blinded and trapped me.

That life, quiet and gentle, was the peace I thought I wanted

It would not hurt me, danger me, or hunger me. It would provide me a sustained life, and that is all I needed to live.

That was until I began to notice there could be more to life than endurance. That there was more to me than obediently following my schedule, more to me than being life’s confined and submissive instrument.

I was my own person, slowly owning my life, and my blindness to happiness and navigating life through the eyes of freedom held me back for my most vulnerable years.

For the next few weeks, I continued my quest throughout the wonders called Europe. Climbing mountains 8,000 feet of stone above the earth, perceiving the boundless landscape overlooking the gray jagged mountain range, with pebbles flying off it as I rested my feet in the comfort of its edge. An abyss of hazing clouds hindering my view with a sense of calmness brought with the aidings of soft grass and fresh wind.

My plan to stare at the world

On an island seemingly remote of anything for thousands of miles, waves crawling gently to shore, melodious families of water had a rhythmic pulsation, unmatched by any other piece of nature. It produced its unique sounds and animated its harmony, the tune of the sea, with its poised, throbbing heartbeat.

Visualizing gratifying vastness, endeavoring to grasp its cadenced wave music, I felt my mind ceasing in an attempt to fully understand the melody of freedom, feeling like a spec on a paper map of the eternal blue ocean, exploring the new meaning of solitude.

My every-day plans were simple.

To leave my hotel; stare at the world; go to sleep; do it again, this time with even less social interaction. I was alone, not sure if I was more sad or happy.

The unforeseen changes on a day in the life of a depressed person

I walked through empty fields, only to find myself crying rather than enjoying life. I washed away my tears at coffee shops and markets. I attended the show that ocean reserved for me day after day. I still couldn’t fully progress.

But I knew I still had a purpose. I continued learning who I was; I was an unyielding, fierce person just out of reach. I knew that the anguish was merciless, the gnawing darkness was real, but none of it could outdo the idea of reliving my past. Life couldn’t take me down, and I wouldn’t let it.

Now, where my journey met its end was where my body would either give up on me or save my life. I made my way back to my hotel room in apprehension and anxiety because of the worthlessness of this journey. Walking through a narrow rock-lined passageway, I saw something that piqued my interest.

It wasn’t ordinary interest, though. It wasn’t seeing some shirt that I thought would look nice on me. No, this was something else. Something I knew was valuable. In the small, tinted-glass window frame of a building, filled with the unmistakable essence of Europe, I saw a painting. Somehow this triggered a distant memory of my childhood. Long nights, sitting in my room with my mother beside me, her warmth keeping me calm, something I yearned for deeply now, while my paintbrush stroked a canvas of pure-white, dressing it with color.

I need to find strength in myself

That was pure emotion, not something stained with the goal of pleasing others. It was something I loved for myself, not something I thought I wanted. It was something I never knew I grieved for until this moment. I knew this was the act of my body telling me, once again, a message — this is your choice, your path.

As I stepped toward the store in slow, steady steps, steeling myself, I opened the dark-shaded wooden door and entered the room of new-light.

My job was my whole structure; my life revolved around it, and it was how I made a living. My choice would not only cause me to quit my job, but it would risk any chance of me making a living suitable enough to survive again.

I would need to find strength in myself, I would need to push through it, but in the end, I knew who I was and the things I was capable of. After all, this was always my only real choice.

I began my new life

After a few months, I had created my harmony, my own rhythmic pulsation, as I began a new life of online retail selling art. Wake up, stare at the ceiling, get on my laptop, progress with my website, shut down my laptop, sprawl across my bed, breathe until anxiety leaves my body to fall asleep. Remember, brush my teeth, take my dog out, shower, aimlessly use my phone, sleep with my dog. Wake up and find my dog on the floor upon doing it all over again.

It was day after day, week after week, month after month. I collaborated with people, making new business partners, sometimes even friends. I started from scratch, finding new hobbies, favorite pizza, favorite restaurant. Sometimes crying on my walk home alone as I realize anguish would never fully leave me, teardrops meeting the dark abyss of night. Smile as I make my first sale.

A few years later, anxiety would be easier to surpass, and the boundaries of sadness would slowly distance. New meaning would enter my world, clarity, and happiness would set before me, and while walking home, seeing my reflection in puddles, I would now smile, realizing how far I’ve come. I learned who I was.

The fierce, unyielding person who I’ve always admired was now me. I made it, and I finally owned my life. I finally lived life. The only stains that were shaping my memories now were love. I became me.