If I Have the Answer, I Don't

This past weekend I had the opportunity to share some of my story, my journey to okay, to a group of women ranging in age from the mid-twenties to late-sixties. Only one person fell asleep, and she surprisingly perked back up at the end to ask a question. She said, “You said you used to have a lot of problems with depression and anxiety. How do you deal with it now when it reappears?”
 
My first thought was, Yay! She's awake! My second thought was, How do I distill down the last few years of my life into a couple of sentences?
 
I’m a relatively smart person, but no amount of intellect could help me figure out my depression and anxiety. I was dying a slow and merciless death at the hand of my own thoughts and emotions. When I thought about, statistically, how many years were left in my life, I felt dread. And I felt this way for over a decade.
 
I tried to answer her question as succinctly and tactically as possible, providing a laundry list of the things I’ve adopted into my routine one-by-one over the course of many years (therapy, meditation, prayer, reading, writing, exercising, helping others—each with waxing and waning amounts of commitment and enthusiasm). I wanted to solve her problem. I wanted to be able to tell her, If you do XYZ in this order for this many months, then you too will have... Will have what? I don’t know.

And that’s when I stopped talking. I realized I was trying harder to solve her problem—to say the “right” thing—than to share my experience, which is the only thing I can share with any amount of expertise. My experience tells me the answer to her question is trial and error. It’s doing different things on different days. It’s doing things I don’t want to do or that I believe won’t work. It’s staying open to solutions working their way to the surface, because then they do. It's listening to suggestions from people who have what I want, not in the way of material things, but in the way of purpose and joy. It's asking those same people to share their experience with me, to show me how their lives have evolved. And it's steering clear of people who have “the answer” even when that person is me.