For this month’s TREEO Newsletter, we asked one of our close friends and collaborators, Makayla, to write a piece on something she’s passionate about.
We know the smile behind The Happiness Project is a social media and photography whiz, but there’s a lesser known chapter of her story: she’s also struggled with her mental health in recent years. At TREEO, we’re all about empowering difference-makers and Comm|Unity Pulse is our platform to feature content and stories that help us accomplish this mission.
We’re honoured to be able to share Makayla’s story and like her, we hope it helps anyone out there that may be struggling in silence. We commend Makayla for her courage as we strive for a future where nobody has to suffer with mental illness in darkness.
When I was a little girl I remember laughing uncontrollably. I was silly. I loved life. I was happy.
Over the years my optimism for life continued to grow. There were so many beautiful reasons to be happy. And I was. At the tail end of 25 I was a newly married woman, happy with who I was and in love with my husband and our new life together. And then out of nowhere it came:
And it hit me hard.
It was my 26th birthday.
I remember my family making a big fuss, desperately wanting me to enjoy every minute of it. Maybe a small gathering would pull me out of the dark hole I had known to call home for the last few weeks. And so, I tried my best to keep a smile on my face and to appreciate the thoughtful gestures being made but the truth was, I was dying inside. What happened to that silly little girl with that zest for life?
No one seems to know the right thing to say, and they tiptoe around the fact that you’re not currently working, you haven’t showered in 5 days and that you’ve literally turned grey. If you’ve ever lived with depression, you know what I mean.
I spent most of the year in a bad mental state. I spent countless hours in therapy and was constantly in and out of doctor’s offices. Each month, I found myself experimenting with a new medication and dose.
A few days out from 27, I looked at my year and remembered nothing but a blur. I felt sad, and angry at my body for taking my 26th year away from me. As the sad and angry feelings weighed heavily on my body I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time. Determination. In that moment I realized that the medication and therapy, alone, weren't going to help me. I needed to help myself. I told myself that I needed one thing to look forward to each day, and as long as I could get out of bed, I could beat this.
The Happiness Project
I started taking photos of my everyday life. At that time, it wasn’t much but it got me excited and for the first time in a long time I saw glimpses of that happy little girl from my childhood.
Over the last few months I created something that I am so proud of. Something that saved my life. Something that I was meant to do.
At the beginning, The Happiness Project was an outlet for me to release my creative energies into the world. It still is, but it’s also much more. It’s who I am.
In the short timeframe of 4 months, day 1 being the first photo I took leading up to this very day, I have altered my life drastically for the good.
If you are reading this, don’t feel sorry for me. This is my life, and the path I am supposed to be on. I truly believe that great things come from struggle and that things happen for a reason. There is always a lesson, you just have to find it. As I watched myself come back to life, here is what I learned:
Find your Happiness.
Whatever it may look like, find happiness, choose happiness, and live happily. Put yourself first, because you are worth it. Once you make yourself a priority you will walk out of that zone that once provided comfort with your head held high, proud of how far you’ve come.
Change can be scary, but I promise you it’s a good thing. Accepting change as a choice is how it starts. Allowing yourself to make those changes willingly will put you in a better place every time.
Always be kind.
You never know what is behind closed doors. Everyday, people are struggling with mental illnesses that inhibit them from doing daily tasks like attending work, grocery shopping, or even having a conversation. Hold your judgement and try to be understanding. Think of others, and always be kind.
Thanks for your support and friendship, Makayla. We're moved by your story and inspired by your mission!