“Self love is the most essential key to joy, and tool to living a full, happy, energised life”
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) was something that I didn’t know existed until my elder sister was diagnosed. Her mood swings and depression confused me, and was something that was difficult for me to understand.
I soon learnt that 3 Million people, just in America struggle with it every year, so how was it possible that I had never heard of it?
Depression and suicide, is a difficult and emotional issue to speak about. I believe we should all get involved, asking our friends and family about what they are going through, and sharing it. I think with this topic in particular, it is so important for our friends and family members struggling to know they are not alone. In this interview Sonya mentions how having validation and knowing that it wasn’t her fault was really important to her. Lets have more conversations, easy and difficult and share them as frequently as possible. Lets learn how best to support our community, and also share tools to deal with depression.
Sonya, just graduated from UCSC and is in the process of opening a coffee shop and community center in Bronte Beach, Australia. She was, and continues to be the most stellar example of strength and beauty that I have had the privilege of looking up to throughout my life. She was brave enough to share with me her struggles with seasonal depression, suicidal thoughts, self love and eternal summer.
Vulnerability is strength!
What is your mission in the world
(SI) My mission in the world is to create really sacred spaces that people can come into and that I can share with them. Spaces that represent my heart, I want them (the spaces) to foster and help people feel enlightened, excited to live and grounded through the ritual of coffee.
In the future, I also want to bring that mission to more cafes, daycares, yoga studios and pilates studios, that support communities to make their daily rituals as beautiful as possible.
What is so Magical about Warm Weather to you?
(SI) I think warm weather is heart opening, I see it as energising. When I lay in the sun I feel the sun's energy filling me up. There is something about being tanned that energizes me. Almost like going to the suns gas station, it fills me up with energy, and when my tan fades it’s like driving and losing gas. That is really how I feel in winter, like my tank is constantly empty.
I think Seasonal Depression is something people just don't know much about. How you would explain it?
(SI) I have experienced that it’s often taken as a joke, people think it’s not a big deal because they have never heard of it. For me I have faced a lot of people using the narrative against me that everyone struggles in winter. Which may be true for some people, but doesn’t really have anything to do with depression or having an imbalance that triggers it.
I would define seasonal depression as having a distinctive change in energy, mood, behaviour and life force during a particular season.
What in your words is the difference between winter blues and seasonal depression?
(SI) When I would have a phase of being down, I would feel really sad and lethargic. I felt like why is this happening again? Where is this coming from? I would try to blame it on external things. I would feel so alone, I needed external fulfillment because I felt empty and sad. I went to class and I didn't feel like it. I would try to find things to get me out of bed, and routines became important for me, like my morning coffee. I was gripping onto any rituals to feel happy and sane and ok. That's how I became so connected with coffee and what guided me to want to open this coffee shop.
The difference is in summer, I walk around and feel the sun and I feel full, and normal and happy. I feel like my life force is flowing again, I have more resilience, and I have the strength to face the world again, just like that.
When you are in your more difficult moments, what tools did you use to climb out of those spaces?
(SI) I started seeing a therapist once a week and that helped me so so much. I started after I was extremely depressed during my second year of college. I would have phone sessions and no matter where I was mentally I would always come back to my center at the end of those sessions and have some sort of clarity. My therapist would always ask me, how are you feeling from that? Or how are you feeling now? And that was so important for me because those were the questions I needed asked in those moments. They would recenter me. Working with her made it feel more doable, more surmountable to get myself out of those places.
I would also listen to music.
When I would be in those really exhausted spaces, I would just let myself be exhausted and watch netflix. But I got scared at one point because I thought I had a netflix addiction, and I looked it up and it said yes, the internet that is, if you are blowing off friends to watch netflix at home you have an addiction, and I was definitely inclined to that.
In winter usually I would be like do I want to go out to some random thing that I am not excited about? Or do I want to stay at home and have a glass of wine and make myself a beautiful dinner and watch netflix. Yes that is what I would rather do.
(SI) I think learning to be with myself, also. Taking those moments where I didnt feel like seeing other people, and being ok with that and learning how to have fun by myself. It helped my self worth so much. Also I would plan things to look forward too, like taking a trip. Taking extra care with little things like my skin care routine or going to the gym. Whenever I would get up and I wasn’t feeling well I would put on a song that I knew would give me energy, like disco 60s mix, or when dj khaled's album came out shining. That was like my energy song, and that would always get me out of bed. I would put almond oil all over my body after my shower and feel fresh, using my senses and taking the time to smell it in my hands, things to make me feel alive. Self care became really important because you are holding yourself and you are being gentle with yourself. In those moments it's so inefficient but we do it all the time, or at least I did but I would have this immense guilt and judgment and criticism of like why can't I just get up. What is wrong with me? I remember being in the shower sometimes, and I would just cry and feel like I would never get over this. I think it's important to let those feelings come through you because you can’t stop them. Cry it out, and then be like ok, that felt good what can I do now to lift myself up because I know I am not in a good place and need to be extra gentle with myself.
We spoke before about how some people use this unfounded notion that depression is weakness, how would you stand up to that?
(SI) My first reaction to that is that my soul goes into a child, and I just feel really wounded and hurt. I think that was a really big struggle I went through. I felt weak because I felt like I had let my depression affect my life so hugely. And affect my energy and life force. It was something that I never imagined me, going through. So I was really judgmental to myself about it. I definitely saw it as a weakness. That was a big struggle to deal with, and I needed people to tell me that I wasn’t weak, and that it wasn't happening because I wasn’t strong enough to fight it... That validation relaxed the emotion, because when an emotion comes up if you are judging it or fighting it, you are not allowing for it to be released. Which means it doesn’t come out but unfortunately it will find a way out. I think it is so important to allow for our emotions to happen and just to try not to judge them. It lets down the barrier around it and with that, the power that it has on you.
This is something that is difficult to talk about and I am lucky that you are my sister so that we can talk about it so openly. Suicide is something that I believe everyone has been somehow touched by, I know you have dealt with these thoughts, and I am just wondering if you have any insight into what helped when you were in those places? What saved your life and what protected you?
(SI) I think in moments of darkness its really easy to think that it would be easier if you know, you weren't there. I had moments where I felt that way. I had moments of feeling like I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up. It was really hard for me and embarrassing for me even though I had such an amazing and open family that created spaces that allowed me to speak about it. It was really important to vocalize it. I think that is something that was so important for me because once again it releases its power and allows you to see people's responses to you potentially going through with it. Strangely enough what really helped me in my darkest moments, was the show Thirteen reasons why. I saw the reaction of the mother and I felt like wow I could never do this to my mom. I dont like when people say suicide is the most selfish thing you can do, I think that is judgmental but I think what that stems from is looking at the ripple affect it can have on the people around you. Although it might feel easier to do that in the moment, life can be and is so exciting and if you let that moment pass it will get better. I think a huge thing for me was realising nothing in life is permanent, that moment is not permanent you will not feel that way forever. I know because I have gone through them and I have been driving and wanted to just let go of the wheel. In those moments I think it's so important to reach out to someone. I know that sounds so cliche but just to call your sister, or call your best friend or call your parents. You don't even have to tell them what's happening but just to connect and pull you into a different reality. Your mind is really powerful and can take you into deep, dark places. I think it's important to do anything to pull yourself out of it, and deal with it when you are feeling stronger. You acknowledge it and enquire about it with love and without judgment and really gently ask yourself how that happened, and then go from there.
I feel like in life we all have these personal magic moments of joy. For me when I dive into water, open my eyes and see the sun rays streaming through I always have a moment. I have lots of these random moments that are my happy moments. What are those moments for you? and what do you think is the key to harvesting those moments and making them a lifestyle?
(SI) A moment I thought of when you were speaking now was being in my house in Santa Cruz and making my morning coffee while listening to a Julie London record. Pouring it into one of my favourite cups that I felt like was the one I wanted that morning, my cup of the day. Sitting on my couch and sipping it while listening to Cry Me a River with my door open so I can smell the morning. And then this beautiful scent of the morning sun pulls me outside and into the garden, and it's not too hot but warm, and it warms me. I smell that morning and it's like the excitement of a fresh new day. That makes me so excited and inspired like I could write poems I could design a whole store, I could draw I could do anything from there... For me its ritual and I think acknowledging and realising how important those moments are for me. Making sure that I am doing everything in my power to have those moments and make them a priority. I do get really disappointed when I miss out on those moments or when I don't use those moments to the full. When I don't completely give myself that much time drinking coffee and sit there as I should. So I think being present in those moments to put your life towards special moments rather than empty achievements. Because those moments are what make you happy and feel fulfilled and feel excited about life.
Amazing, now you have the tools, how do you make sure you don’t get to those places in winter? How are you able to prevent it?
I worked on myself so deeply and had to face myself completely so it doesn't have the same power over me anymore. The biggest power my depression had over me was the thought that I wouldn’t be able to get out of it. It was the fear of not being able to overcome it and be any different. That was what was weighing me down. The huge weight were these questions; am I ever going to be able to get over this? am I ever going to be able to be happy? am I ever going to figure out what’s wrong with me?
If you could speak to yourself knowing everything you know now, what would you want to say to yourself to support you? What would you want to tell yourself, or someone who was going through something similar?
(SI) I think I would want to say that this too shall pass, this is not permanent you can feel different, you will feel different. Let yourself go through it. Let go of the judgment you put yourself through about the power and the pull that it has on you because that's only going to make it harder. Give yourself so much love, be gentle with yourself. Obviously you're going through something, don't ignore it but don't let it devour you. Give it the space it needs the attention it needs, let it be an opportunity for you to teach yourself more about loving yourself and about how amazing you are. It's an inner alarm you need to switch up. It made me who I am today, I wouldn't have it any other way. I think it is absolutely a huge part of who I am and how I got to who and where I am now. I grew so fast because I had to, and learned to be with myself and learned about my boundaries. It's not that those moments don't sometimes still come up, I still have a crises of feeling that life is too hard. That I am too sensitive to deal with it. And then I think, oh ok here’s one of those moments. I have the tools now to deal with them, I have the tools of being like ok, obviously I am overwhelmed. I need to go within myself and I need to be alone right now, or I need to talk to my therapist about this. Let's take it one step at a time, life is overwhelming me, great what’s the opposite of me being overwhelmed? Just taking it slow. Dealing with one problem at a time rather than trying to deal with it all at once.
(SI) Self love is the most essential key to joy, and tool to living a full, happy, energised life. Its a muscle you need to keep working it, everyday. It’s not an attainable destination, it is an everyday practice. A thought comes up, you judge yourself, and then you notice that judgment and you remind yourself oh I don’t actually need to judge myself, that’s ok, im ok, I love myself I am doing my best. That's my everyday practice of self love.
What is the first word that you can think of that is an antidote to sadness
(SI) Cozy. feeling held, wrapping yourself in love and blankets, in essential oils incense. Sometimes ice cream, sometimes cookies.
Thank you so much for reading. Vulnerability is beautiful ! Vulnerability is your strength ! Tell your story !