The below is a guest blog post from one of our longtime members, Stein Esser. He won ATL tribe’s Positivity Award, and has an amazing story to share.
This week, I won the November Project Atlanta Positivity Award for being So Chill, So Popular™.
If you had told me a year ago that I would win something for being a positive influence on others around me (and have a catch phrase), I would never have believed you because I was in the midst of a particularly brutal, year long bout of depression. I’ve touched on it in a previous blog post, but In light of recent events with the passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to this award if I didn’t share my own history with chronic depression.
I should first say that I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up with a loving family and friends. I had an amazing childhood and upbringing. If you ask people that know me, they’d say I’m kind of an oddball. I’ve always loved comedy and goofy humor. But at the same time, depression is something that I think I’ve always dealt with in some capacity. For me, I think it emanates from a deep fear of rejection and failure. As a pretty introspective person, those feelings of self-doubt could snowball into a constant barrage of negativity. As a result, I’d go through periods of depression that could last any amount of time. If I had to describe it, it’s like constantly hating yourself so much that your body hurts and you’d rather feel nothing. And so, to get by, you check out mentally and emotionally. While all of that is going on internally, to the outside world, you’re either a robot that’s going through the motions or an asshole that’s projecting negativity. It really fucking sucks.
Depression is really hard to talk about. The stigma of it all puts you in a shame cycle. Ideally, you could say, “Hey, my brain feels broken. Who can relate? WHOOOOO” (shout out to Logic). I’ve always been fortunate to have had people support me and help pull me back out of my depressive episodes. They may not have known it, but their simple act of kindness or just reaching out really went a long way.
I am so grateful for all of the meaningful connections I’ve made and positive experiences I’ve felt this past year. I feel like my genuine self again and am more present than I can remember. Depression is something that I don’t think will ever leave me, but it’s more manageable. A philosopher named Sean Francis Early once said “Fuck them, Be you.” For me, that’s a powerful message about being true to oneself and telling that negative self-doubt shit to fuck off. To win the Positivity Award means so much to me not only because of all I’ve been through but also because I’ve made it a goal to reciprocate those good vibes. When a person seems checked out/low/sad/tired/depressed, just be there for them. It matters.
Here’s Stein’s speech that he gave for the Positivity Award.
You can check out Stein’s hilarious Instagram stories by following him: @steincasso.
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