The more I think about it, the more convinced I’ve become of this idea: If I didn’t have an escape, I’d go absolutely, positively out of my mind.
As I’ve said before, I’m an elected official. It’s not a low-stress job. No matter what anyone tells you, by and large, it’s a pretty grueling gig: Long hours, lots of stress, important decisions, and often a sense of helplessness that is not conducive to people with depression. Now, just to be clear: I love it. It gives me a change to change lives and advocate for the issues that I care about. I knew what I was getting into when I got this job, and I am not complaining, because this job is absolutely amazing.
But, loving a job and having it drive you nuts at the same time can certainly occur at the same time, and my experiences operates as proof.
So, going back to the challenges of my job: I know I’m not alone. No matter who you are, and no matter what you do, odds are decent that you get stressed out at work, life or with your family. For people who are more likely to get depressed or anxious, this goes double, and we know that chronic stress can lead to depression.
And that, of course, is why you need an escape.
It doesn’t have to be a literal, physical escape. For physical, emotional, job-related or financial reasons, a physical escape is often impossible. Between my family, job and trying to pay off student loans, a regular vacation isn’t an option for me, and I suspect this is the case for the vast majority of you as well.
So, that brings me to my central question: What is your escape? Where can you go to lose yourself, even if it’s only for a few hours?
Personally, I have two answers to that question. The first is the one that sort of inspired me to create this blog in the first place: My writing. I have found tremendous peace in my writing, and a sense of purpose as well. As I’ve noted before, I have a Young Adult Dystopian thriller coming out, one which features a main character that also battles depression and anxiety. At moments where my job feels fruitless, I can find solace and inspiration in the idea that this book can potentially do the same things I seek to do every day in public policy: Improve people’s lives.
Second, my not so guilty pleasure: Video games. We just bought a Switch and I have been obsessed with Mario Odyssey. I also just, finally, downloaded Civilization VI and am intrigued, to say the least.
Video games, of course, are easier than writing, which requires more work but a bigger payoff.
Anyway, my main point is this: You need an escape. A mental place where you can go – a hobby where you can lose yourself and hit that perfect state of flow – if only to recharge. Remember, an escape isn’t really an escape. The word “reprieve” may make more sense here – or perhaps “recharge.” Make sure you can find a place that you can go and get your bearings again. It’s an invaluable part of self-care.