I like fish. Fish live in a world all their own, but one that can teach us something about our human problems, including depression (have you ever seen a depressed fish?). We can learn something from these aquatic creatures! From paying attention to the fishbowl, I’ve learned quite a few things, including:
- Patience and perseverance. I’ve learned that good things do come to those who wait. Be thankful and content with what you have and always count your blessings (before they wash or flush away.)
- How to stay active. Sitting still gets me nowhere. Having a goal and a purpose each day makes me try to get out of bed; makes my life worth living. (When you’re in the depths of despair and depression, getting up out of bed is quite the accomplishment!)
Chato B. Stewart was a Florida board Certified Recovery Peer Specialist – A (CRPS-A). Chato is also the 1st place winner of the DBSA 2009 Facing Us Video Contest. In his powerful public service announcement, he tells his personal story of living with a mental illness through a montage of his cartoons. Adding to his little list of accomplishments is being part of the 2010 DBSA Stand-Up for Mental Health comedy night and being invited back for the 2011 Conference to be a Stand-Up comic in the show. In Dec 2011 I was named 4th in the Top 10 Online Influencers – Depression by ShareCare Now. This past Year WEGO Health named me the winner of 2012 Hilarious Health Activist. I was also in the cast for the 2013 DBSA Stand-Up for Mental Health comedy night.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
- Not to bite just any hook that comes my way. I’ve learned discernment. I’ve learned what lures to avoid — the ones that ultimately lead to pain, suffering, and death. I’ve learned how to eat. I’ve learned which food is healthy for me and which is not. I’ve learned what “leaves a bad taste in my mouth” and how to “rinse my mouth out with soap.” I’ve learned you “are what you eat” so, eat well and live well.
- How to keep living. I’ve learned to just keep swimming! I’ve learned to never give up. I’ve learned endurance. I’ve learned how to breathe under water during the waves of an emotional depression, a tsunami. I’ve learned how to be flexible and move. I’ve learned how to cope. I’ve learned how to treat my depression using various therapies and to stay positive in my recovery. I’ve learned how to be buoyant. I’ve learned how to keep afloat during tragedy. I’ve learned the old adage “oil and water don’t mix” is really true!
- How to swim in “clean” water and how to avoid shark attacks. Overindulgence and the abuse of alcohol and drugs are deadly for me as well as ignorance. I’ve learned the value of school; ongoing education is crucial. Understanding depression and mental illness means bettering my education. The better my understanding of choices, options and their consequences means better decisions. Better decisions will lead to a better quality of life. I’ve learned to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.
- There are other fish in the sea and what I say and do affects them. Others deserve love and respect as much as I do. I’ve learned depression dramatically affects the family dynamic. Seeking help and outside peer support can help the family survive. No one is alone. Many support groups offer help to sufferers and caregivers and family members. Support is critical to survival in these stressful times. Reaching out to others is important and an act of courage.
- Fish come in many different colors, sizes and shapes — rainbow, gold, red, blue — each unique, it’s true. Young and old alike, we all need a beloved relative, friend or doctor in our life that can help lift our spirits out of the dark waters of depression. Living in friendly waters helps me feel welcome, needed, wanted, and loved, useful during my lifetime despite my illness.
- It is interesting how goldfish grow. You can stunt their growth and keep them small. However, if you put them in a bigger bowl or a pond, they get bigger. I’ve learned that adversity and trials in life cause growth. Living with depression has forced me to grow in various, unexpected ways outside of my comfort zone. Love, family and friendship are important to me and I treasure my time with family and friends. My values and priorities have changed from material to spiritual. My outlook and perspective hopefully have grown to include greater compassion and empathy for others and their problems. My mind has widened and opened up to the broader possibilities in front of me each day. The road of recovery offers the infinite; an amazing “ocean” awaits — not just a fishbowl!