life is to be lived
and enjoyed to the fullest
"If you don't celebrate, then what's the point of living?"
Growing up, ...
I lived in a family that was big on celebrations. Regardless of the occasion, we would have a party to celebrate it—we did not miss any excuses to celebrate! I remember my mum hosting glamorous New Year’s Eve parties full of glee. We did not miss any birthday celebrations either. I’d put myself in charge for my mum’s birthday, and to adhere to my limited budget, I’d only invite a small group of close friends or families. Then, I would go to the bakery next door to order a birthday cake. On the other hand, 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 an absolute blast every time!
My dad is a very focused man who’s extremely good at getting things done alongside all the fun. He always made sure that we had our eyes on what to do next. After every achievement or accomplishment, he’d often ask, “Do you have the next plan?” or “What’s next?” and right after that, he would say, “ok, good, now let’s celebrate!” Watching him as I was growing up, I learned that it was possible to focus and enjoy life simultaneously.
I was big on elaborate birthday parties with custom cakes, decorations, and everything in my university days. I’d often celebrate my birthday with two of my good friends, who happen to share about the same birth date— mine’s on October 13th, while my friends Sangaré’s and Ba’s were on the 12th and the 14th of October, respectively.
We always looked forward to hosting big parties to mark the occasion. Hence, in essence, I grew up being big on life, working hard, while not forgetting to celebrate each moment. However, as I journeyed through my illness, I became less keen on celebrating the joy of life. My interest in celebrations decreased at an phenomenal rate over the years.
During my adult years,
Recently, I was offered an opportunity to join back the workforce in an energy market transformation. Desi’s Aunty Adela suggested we have a toast to celebrate within our family, with a few drinks and light snacks. Even though it was a happy occasion, I was not in the mood to celebrate. So, I declined the idea. When she pushed back, I gave the excuse that I did not want to ‘jinx’ the new opportunity with a celebration. Though there was some truth in that, I mainly refused because I didn’t feel any joy in my life. Life was good, but life had no flavor to it.
I vividly remember the therapy session where I explained to the therapist that I don’t feel like doing it; I did not feel like celebrating. At that moment, she gave me an answer that 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 the session, my psychotherapy team diagnosed me with a current moderate episode of major depressive disorder (MDD).
I got on regular antidepressant medications, and my therapist encouraged me to capture special moments in my life. Essentially, she meant taking mental snapshots of fun and worthy moments. I was tasked to take regular breaks to acknowledge and appreciate simple moments such as working or spending time with friends and families.
Luckily, I did alright with my task,
With a fresh and optimistic view, I began responding well to my prescription medications. Along the way, it felt like my life has somehow gained some flavor to it. The antidepressant helped to control my lows, and I became increasingly deliberate about treasuring every moment in my life.
I had to be more intentional with my happiness. Though this thought has always been at the back of my mind, my lived experience helped me gain wisdom about the importance of acknowledging the little moments and celebrating the small victories. Every success brings joy, and every triumph needs its celebration.
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 shades— thinking, laughing, crying, worrying, or playing. My boys make sure to show me how living is made. I appreciate them so much for pushing Desi and me to the limits every damn day. They always remind me of how precious life is. Life is to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest.
Living a healthy life necessitates one to manage their mental health well. We must continually look after and strengthen our mental health, just like we do for our body and our spirit.
Thankfully, this was possible for me,
Because of my mental health team, my cardiac care team, family, friends, and especially my lovely wife and our boys. They gave me continuous inspiration, motivation, and continual reminders of what this life is all about—to be lived and enjoyed.
While the team and I pay a lot of attention to the physical factors of my illness, we understand that mental health, thoughts, attitudes, or emotions are equally important. Poor mental health can often accelerate the onset of heart disease episodes and become an obstacle to attaining improvement in health and wellness.
Therefore, I strive to be mindful and maintain a lifestyle that prevents me from declining and swiftly treating the low-lows. In addition, I take my antidepressant daily and regularly talk to my therapists/coaches to ensure continual operation at a ‘high-performance level.’ (more on all of that another day!)
Living a healthy life necessitates one to manage her mental health well. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this even more daunting, but remember, it is not impossible. We must always look after ourselves and strengthen our mental health, just like we do for our physical well-being.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health disorders,