(Photo above by Zach Farmer)
Lillian I realized that her struggle with depression made her the person she is today.
In my family, there was a certain expectation of what type of life I would have based on my upbringing. When I say “certain,” I mean high expectations.
I was born in Taiwan, into what people might perceive as a privileged family. However, underneath it all, we were the furthest thing from a happy family.
My dad and grandfather fought constantly—to the point that, when my grandfather passed away, he didn’t leave my father a single dime. My dad fell into a deep depression and turned to alcohol.
Throughout the majority of my teenage years, I dealt with my family problems by partying and using drugs as a way to escape.
I was constantly trying to become this image of myself that I or other people had created for me. I felt like a constant disappointment to myself. I didn’t even know who I was.
My low point came in 2013 after graduating in the U.S. I was severely depressed and wasting my life away, drinking and spending my parents’ hard-earned money.
My day would go like this: I would wake up and, as much as possible, complete my responsibilities for the day. Most days, though, I would routinely call in sick to one of my part-time jobs and, on occasion, make it in, if I felt up for it. I didn’t even feel like I was living. Just passing the time, watching hours on hours of TV dramas and movies.
The first time I said Nam-myoho-renge-kyo a few times out loud, it was almost like something that had died inside of me woke up.
All I could think was, Lillian, there’s more to your life than you think.
When I attended my first SGI meeting in my neighborhood, I had never met people where I genuinely felt zero judgement, just being embraced and accepted for who I am. That was the beginning of me starting to learn how to value myself. I dove right into the practice.
Even though I had started chanting and attending SGI meetings, I was still the same person with the same baggage. But this one morning, I learned how chanting could really change how I lived my life.
I woke up and, in my usual routine, had my “sick email” drafted and ready to send. Then I remembered that an SGI member had said before starting the day to try chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times. So, I thought, OK, I got to do my Buddhist practice. I chanted three times and immediately felt, You don’t have to live like this. You can choose to be happy. Whatever you’re feeling is not all that you are.
I stared back at my phone, deleted the email and went to work. For the first time I learned what it means to use my Buddhist practice to break through my struggles.
When I didn’t know how to create value, my depression felt like this ugly shameful thing. But by having this practice I realized that it is because of my daily struggle with depression that I could find my unique purpose in life and help others do the same.
Through my Buddhist practice, I was able to land my dream job totally out of my league doing public relations at a prestigious nonprofit arts organization, even though I didn’t have the required experience. Why was I hired? I was told it was because of my energy and passion. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, because the year before, I couldn’t even get out of bed.
Right around the time I started my new job, my mom called me and said, “Lillian, I want to give chanting a try.” Since then, my family has become closer and happier than we’ve ever been. Although we are all in different places, my family now has a group text where we often share photos and videos with one another. Of course, there are still many challenges but the difference is that instead of begrudging my family, I decided to take full responsibility for becoming the best daughter and best sister that I can be.