This is what I want you to know about my depression

February 23, 2018

It can be risky to publish posts like last week’s. But lately God has been granting me more and more opportunities to speak up about my struggle with mental illness. This truth has helped tie authentic relationships even tighter, while allowing me to seek help and support, and partner with others in the hurt so they know they aren’t alone.

Well, I promised things would get real around here. So today we’re getting even more real, if you will.

There have been moments this past year when I have not wanted to wake up the next day. When I wished I could lie down for a nap and let the world slip away. When I thought my heart was literally going to explode in my chest. When I thought it was possible for me to drown on oxygen. When thoughts I never even knew humans were capable of having ran wild through my head. Like someone else was controlling my brain. Scary sh*t.

It didn’t make sense to me, and it certainly didn’t make sense to my loved ones as I pulled away or put my walls up.

I heard multiple stories this week (including my own) where family members and dear friends wanted to know what they could do to help, who wanted to understand what mental illness actually looks like. I felt the tug to share my honest experience here.

From my perspective, from my experiences, this is what depression can look like: waves of happiness and laughter followed by the crushing blow of helplessness, exhaustion, disinterest, and darkness. Even for me, who many describe as generally joyful and engaging. Who appears to be thriving. There are weeks, there are days, where I may experience this seemingly unending and inescapable darkness.

But it isn’t all just like that. There’s more to our story. Know someone suffering through depression? Here’s an insight into our lives, and how you can be supportive through it all:

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Hanging Out My Dirty Laundry

February 16, 2018

Growing up I heard a saying: don’t air your dirty laundry. We were taught to handle our scandal behind the scenes, smile, brush the bumps from our ponytails and conquer the world. I believe it is a generational thing, keeping the struggles behind closed doors. But as our channels of communication multiplied and facebook and Instagram happened, so did our sharing.

All this sharing, however, can pose its own set of problems. I’m a strong believer in living authentically — but as we all know (cliché, cliché) the Internet is where we turn to paint the prettiest pictures of ourselves.

I’m guilty as well. I live in freaking Hawaii. The best beaches in the world where people travel thousands of miles to vacation at are now my home beaches. I get paid to snuggle dogs. I get paid (sometimes) to write. I hike in scenery right out of heaven. I love it. I’m living a dream.

Moments I post are filled with joy, wonder, adventure. They’re my attempt to share some of the excitement and beauty of my island life.

Yet not everyone gets a peek behind the scenes. Not everyone sees the dirty laundry before it’s hung out to dry. Being away from the hustle of the city has given me plenty of quite time to reflect and get honest with myself. And when I did, here’s what revealed itself:

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January in Pictures

February 5, 2018

January. The new year started fresh, me in bare feet and a red sequin dress. We danced under the starlight in Oahu, Hawaii, my new home.

The roomies 🙂

One very dapper group — thank you for welcoming me

After surviving the oddity of the Missile Alert f&*k-up, I met with a few of the world’s greatest humans from SF for a soul-filling long weekend in Kauai. Our goal was to sit in wonder, and in wonder we did sit — under the ocean on a SCUBA trip, and under the stars at a life-changer of a campout at Polihale. (more to come…including a rad video wrap-up)

Waking up on the sand at Polihale

Triple-decker hammocks for six for the sunset at Poipu Beach

The tricycle rides again! My besties Will & Janine visited from SF for a long weekend of sun, fun, and one very wet and muddy sunrise hike. (worth it)

The top of our v v rainy sunrise hike to Lanikai Pillboxes

Back to our usual shenanigans, this time at Duke’s Waikiki

…and at Lanikai Brewing Co.

Hiking glory captured by Will

Mah bestie and former roommate Lo also made the visit (all the way from Chi Town!). We chased sunshine around the island, taste tested IPAs, and somehow managed to stick to our grandma bedtimes and chick flick movie nights.

Sunset catching & mai tai sippin’ in Waikiki

North shore, big waves, big wave surfers, and Banzai Bowls

Not matter how often (or not?) I shower, you’ll typically find me covered in plenty of dog hair, sea salt, and a fine layer of sand. I don’t hate it.

Doggie days at the beach are a bit less relaxing with this one in tow, but can’t be much happier

My fur baby niece Chesney feelin’ the aloha in her new bandana

Dog friends and friends with dogs, yes please

…have I mentioned, PUPPIES?! Not mine, but definitely considered snatching up Mr. Peanut Butter.

So now that my skin is tanner, my hair blonder, and my feet WAY dirtier (from forgetting my shoes on a daily basis..whoops) — the question is, do I look local yet?

Oh friends, the call of the island is real. This place has a way of sucking you in, challenging you, and breaking down the carefully built walls you hoped to remain in place for the duration of your reality escape. But I’d have to say, once I stopped resisting reality, my wonder at this beautiful, crazy life came rushing back like a wave at Pipeline. This is life. Do with it what you may.

Oh hey February, don’t speed along too fast, mmkay?

Not Just Vacation — My First Week on Oahu

January 22, 2018

It has been 3 weeks since I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket and crossed the Pacific to the little island of Oahu. WUT.

hiking with dogs in hawaii

The first few days were a vacation with my sister Kendall around and Katie in town— we joined Kendall’s friends for nights out to dive bars and house parties, rang in the new year at a Gatsby-themed soiree, soaked up some sun on the beach, drank too many mai tais, and got fresh ink on the North Shore. Our musical friend Peter even island-hopped over from Kauai for a brainstorming sesh and yes, a few more mai tais. We went out in Kailua and Waikiki. Spent too much money on expensive appetizers. Got my honorary first sunburn.

Vacay life, ya know?

But not all island living is sunshine and coconuts.

north shore pipeline surfing

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Aloha to you, 2018

December 19, 2017

The fact that aloha means both hello and goodbye seems accurate right about now — these past few weeks have included waves of both, peppered with joy in anticipation for the new and the next, yet coupled with the nostalgic ache for what is now past. Friends, it is true. Finally, ten years after a dream was born in a little sunkissed blonde girl’s heart and buried in the sand of Poipu Beach, Kauai, it’s a reality:

Hawaii, here I come. Aloha, my new island home.

When preparing for my shoulder surgery and a solid month away from work and 3-4 months away from my spin studio, I received an encouraging text from my dear friend Dom after I frantically texted her while in a panic about my life being put “on hold” for a few months:

“You’re being forced to turn off, look inward, spend time with God. Get to know yourself deeply. And really truly turn off, unplug, and recover,” she wrote.

That’s exactly what I had to do. For once, walking down the hall was an excursion requiring super-human strength. My morning power-shower turned to baths, hair washed by my sister or my aunt. I slept nearly 18+ hours a day. I watched 3 seasons of Vikings in a scary-short amount of time. I lived off of toast and water for the first two weeks. I celebrated my 27th birthday in a drive from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, post-op doctor’s appointment and falling asleep during a movie marathon. I started (but have yet to finish) four different books.

Lanakai Beach, my new home beach

It was during this time my heart began to change. My mind said enough is enough! to all the dreams and the maybes and the one days and instead began whispering, now now now. And then God slipped under my skin and cracked my heart open back home in Colorado over Thanksgiving. Before I knew it my fingers  were skittering across the keys of my keyboard researching flights and facebook-posting a room for rent.

It all happened so fast: A one-way ticket to Honolulu on December 30. An inbox of house-hunters eager to begin their SF journey in the bay-windowed bedroom that saw me through so much. A gentle goodbye to my love from the past year, filled with hope and encouragement and nothing but the best wishes for one another. A two-week notice to the agency full of some of the most talented (and hilarious and amazing) people I know.


Excited to be auntie to this fur baby for a few months!

Furniture is sold, books and knicknacks are in bags. Clothes are sorted and awaiting donation. An assortment of swimsuits, a couple t-shirts, 2 pairs cutoff shorts and the only pair of sandals I own make a pile on my floor. Many goodbyes have been said, yet others await for hugs after Christmas or big aloha snuggles with already-booked visits to see me on the island.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know exactly what to expect. My timeline is open as I walk barefoot steps to trust the Big Guy with whatever comes next. I’m grateful for my sister and a room to myself in her home, a furry companion to look after while she is away, and a car to drive. My computer and notebooks will accompany me, along with copious amounts of time to just write, finally freeing the words swimming deep down somewhere behind my bellybutton, pulling them to the surface once again.

2018, I am SO ready for you!

It’s been a tough year wrought with trials that knocked me off my feet and left me gasping for air — but finally I am slowly crawling back to standing. Writing is the way I not only continue my journey past these demons, but allows me to spread awareness that mental illness is a very real thing — but there is hope, oh so much hope, of brighter tomorrows. One just may have to take a step out of the ordinary to find it.

So yes — I’m back. I’ll be here weekly (#goals) and on Instagram @averykjohnson sharing my adventures from the land of aloha. It’s time for a new year, a fresh start, and a new chapter on an island where very few know my name. Through it all I am consistently reminded God didn’t give me a spirit of fear — so across the ocean I go.