life is to be lived
and enjoyed to the fullest
"If you don't celebrate, then what's the point of living?"
Growing up, ...
… at home, we were big on celebrations at home. Big or small, we would have a party for the occasion – we did not miss an excuse to celebrate. My mum used to host glamorous New Year’s Eve parties. We did not miss any birthday celebrations. For my mum’s birthday, I put myself in charge. My budget was limited. So, I only invited a small group. Then, I would go to the bakery next door to order the birthday cake. My dad and his friends used to organize boat parties, and they would invite everyone from the neighborhood to join in, and we would all have a real blast.
At the same time, my dad, a very focused man and good at getting things done, always made sure that we had our eyes on what to do next. After every achievement or accomplishment, he’d often asked – “Do you have a plan? What is next?”. But, right after that, he would say – “ok – good – now, let’s celebrate!” Thanks to him, I learned that it was possible to be both focused on life and enjoy life.
Fast forward, in my university days, I was big on elaborate birthday parties with custom cakes and all. Often, with two good friends of mine, we would celebrate our birthdays on the same day. I was born on October 13th, and my friends Sangaré and Ba were respectively born on the 12th and the 14th. Boy, were we motivated to host a big party and mark the occasion! So, in essence, I grew up being big on life, working hard, and celebrating every moment. Yet, somehow over the years, my flavor for celebration decreased unusually. As I journeyed through my illness, I became less keen on celebrating life’s (unique) moments.
But recently, ...
… after being offered an opportunity to go back to working in energy market transformation, Desi’s Aunty Adela suggested we have a toast to celebrate – just family, a few drinks, and some light snacks. But I was not in the mood to celebrate. I declined the idea. When she pushed back, I excused that I did not want to ‘jinx’ the new opportunity with a celebration. Perhaps there was some truth in that, but my main reason was that I just did not feel like joy in my life at that time. Life was good, but life had no flavor to it.
I remember the session during which I explained to my therapist that I just did not feel like doing it – I just do not feel like celebrating. Her answer temporarily surprised me: “If you don’t celebrate, then what’s the point of living?” I looked at her as the words sunk in. Soon after this session, my psychotherapy team diagnosed me with a current moderate episode of major depressive disorder.
The psychiatrist prescribed me an antidepressant. My therapist suggested I captured my life’s special moments. Essentially, she meant that I take a mental snapshot of my life’s fun and worthy moments, the big or the small. My assignment was to take regular breaks to acknowledge and appreciate moments like working or spending time with family or my boys throughout the day-to-day.
Luckily, I did alright with my assignment, ...
… and I began to respond well to the prescription. Slowly, with time, life seems somehow to gain some flavor to it. The antidepressant helps control my lows, and I am becoming more and more deliberate about enjoying and celebrating life every moment. By the token, It is as if I needed to be more intentional with my happiness. Though I always knew this, my lived experience has helped me gain some wisdom about how important it is to acknowledge the little moments and take time to celebrate the small and the significant victories. After all, happiness is a series of victories. Every success brings joy, and every triumph needs its celebration. The celebration can be small or big, long, or short. That is a prerequisite.
Moreover, I guess one can say that life is for the living, and the point of life is to live. Living comes in many forms and so many colors – thinking, laughing, crying, worrying, or playing. And nowadays, my boys make sure to show me how living is done. I appreciate them so much for that and for pushing Desi and me to the limits every damn day. They always remind me of how precious every moment of life is. Life is to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest.
Thankfully, for me, this is possible, ...
… in a big part thanks to my mental health team, my cardiac care team, family, friends, and especially my lovely wife and our boys for the continued inspiration, motivation, and continual reminders of what this life is all about – to be lived and enjoyed.
While my team and I pay much attention to my illness’s physical factors, we understand mental health, thoughts, attitudes, or emotions are equally important. These can often accelerate the onset of heart disease episodes and become an obstacle to improving my health and wellness. So, I strive to be mindful of signs that may indicate an imbalance. I strive to maintain a lifestyle and habits that will help me prevent and swiftly treat the low-lows. In addition to the antidepressant I take daily, I regularly talk to my therapists and my coaches to ensure that I continue to operate at a ‘high-performance level.’ (more on all of that another day).
In closing, living a healthy life necessitates one to manage her mental health well. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this even more daunting, but it is not impossible. We must continually look after and strengthen our mental health, just like we do for our body and our spirit.
To learn more about mental health disorders and for additional resources, visit www.samhsa.gov.