This past weekend, on Saturday, October 8, 2016, I attended the RiSE Lantern Festival again for its third consecutive year.
For those of you that don't know what the RiSE Lantern Festival is, it is an event that the Mojave Desert here in Las Vegas has proudly hosted for the past 3 years. Every October, 10,000-14,000 people come to Las Vegas from all walks of life to participate in, what feels like, the most magical night you'll ever experience. After driving about 45 minutes outside of the city, you park your car and begin a 15-20 minute walk into the middle of the desert. Once entering the gate, you have the chance to take a picture with the iconic RiSE letters. The evening starts with live music from local artists. Grab a bite from the food trucks, pick up a couple drinks, find the perfect spot and relax until the lantern release after sunset.
The RiSE festival gives individuals the chance to reflect-- on dreams they hold tight to, wishes that sit in their hearts, things they've healed from or things they're learning to heal from. And sometimes, you learn a thing or two about yourself you never knew. One of the most inspiring things is when you stop & look around at the thousands of people that are there. They carry so much weight on their shoulders & lug around baggage they no longer want. And although each one of us has our own dreams & heartache, we were all there for the exact same purpose-- to let it all go. It takes a lot of courage for people to tell their stories. Last year, I met a lot of amazing people at the festival who shared with me their experiences. This year, I had a better understanding of what RiSE meant to me.
There's something in that first release of lanterns that makes you want to cry. And even though this wasn't the first time I've seen it happen, I can't help but cry my eyes out every time! Because when you're standing under thousands of lanterns slowly floating away, you realize something. That there is something bigger than you. Yes, my problems are real for me. Yes, I have to deal with learning how to heal every single day. And yes, it's the most exhausting thing I've ever had to do. And believe me, I so badly wish I could put an end to it. This isn't breaking news, but things don't work that way. However, moments like this--seeing the simple beauty that fire & paper have to offer--is incredibly rewarding.
Over the course of one year, I put myself through a lot. Mind, body, and soul, I ripped myself apart. Different situations presented themselves & I never made the best decisions. I say this a lot, but I became someone completely different from the "Abby" people knew & loved. I was constantly being asked by so many different people what was going on. Eventually, the same people told me, "You're fine." Or, "You'll get over it." Sometimes I would get the occasional, "You're being selfish." Comments like that only made things grow worse. So I stopped talking to people. I stopped expecting them to understand. I stopped expecting them to help me. To them, I was changing. To me, I was growing. For my whole life, I've felt held back by uncontrolled emotions & people telling me I couldn't do something that made me happy. My dreams were always too outrageous & crazy. So I believed them. I became so depressed and angry. One day I cracked & I tried to do something to myself that would've solved the problem so easily. I told myself I was a burden to the people around me. I kept hurting the ones I loved & I could feel their disappointment in me. But hurting myself wasn't the answer and neither would ending myself. So with that, I decided that I needed to reroute these crazed feelings.
The RiSE Lantern Festival is the one thing I can give myself without regret. It's my chance to step away from all the people who were not genuine in their care. To step away from my parents, cousins, aunts & uncles, friends that try too hard sometimes. To get away from a place that holds too many traumatizing moments for me. A chance to escape my living, breathing hell. Even if it's just for one night, my mind, body & soul are peacefully sleeping. When I'm here, I don't think about what problems I'm dealing with or what things are going to be like when I leave this amazing night behind. For once I'm just living in the moment. Breathing in, breathing out, closing my eyes & actually listening to what's going on around me. It makes a world of difference when you can be calm & collected rather then anxious & enraged. It changes everything. When I'm here, I'm in such awe of whats going on around me. My body goes numb & so does my mind. I can't help but to smile. And THAT is what shocks me the most. It's hard to make me smile these days, but the lanterns floating away makes me smile like I've never smiled before.
This is my relief. The one thing I look forward to every year. Without something to look forward to, I definitely wouldn't be here anymore. Life will always find a way to surprise us. Just when we think we've reached our full potential & we've healed all the way, we get hit again. What you're feeling--the anxiety, the depression, the pain & the exhaustion--it's all very real. Believe me, it's real. But it isn't the time it takes for us to recover that matters. It's how we handle ourselves with care every day that it takes to recover. It's difficult for me. Especially writing for all of you that read this blog looking for comfort & help. Sometimes I feel like I'm a hypocrite for telling you how you can survive everything but then I don't even want myself to survive. But hell, I'm trying real damn hard to make it work because I'm in this for the long run.
You need to find your relief. Your one thing that makes you jump with excitement inside, because that's the first step to healing. It won't be easy & you will relapse a lot. But do this for yourself. Love yourself. Give yourself the chance to be you again. This is your time to shine. To prove to the world that we have something to offer. And by the end of it all, I promise you that you'll be stronger than you ever were before. And when you tell me all about how you came out of it & you share your stories with me, I'll be coming to YOU for advice.
This is the world that we live in and we can't change that. If I could make this world a better place to live in with the snap of my fingers I would. For your sake & mine, I would. But since I can't do that, it's up to you. Walk through this life unmoved. Believe in yourself & all that you can do. Don't just have a dream, LIVE your dream. Work towards making your aspirations come to life. And all of that will help you get better.
In honor of Worldwide Mental Health week, I challenge you to think of 3 things that make you happy. Do this every day for a week. They can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee or as big as thinking about having kids one day. Write them down. Keep them close to you. And from these, find your relief. Comment below what makes you happy! Or email me with your stories & share how you exercise your mental health.
Keep on keepin' on, survivors.