depression feels like
not having the right to be sad because my life is pretty great and other people struggle so much more than me

depression feels like
letting down the people i love because i’m struggling, but not reaching out to them for help because i probably sound like a broken record

depression feels like
exhaustion and a lack of motivation because participating in the world beyond the bare minimum only leads to heartbreak and disappointment

depression feels like
minimizing my pain because at least it’s not as bad as it was back then and maybe this is as good as it gets

depression feels like
not wanting to call it depression because i’m probably just feeling sorry for myself anyway...

I wrote this a month ago to practice putting into words the heaviness and shame I’ve been feeling on and off for much of my young adult life. I’m more comfortable with melancholy than most (hi yes, enneagram four here) and I’m generally a self-aware person, so I thought feeling this way was normal for me. And it is normal, in the sense that most people experience a level of depression and anxiety at certain times in their life. But I thought I could pull myself out of it on my own through hard work and healthier habits. I had no idea my stigma against therapy had gone so deep that I could encourage others to go but had never considered it for myself. When the sheer scope of my blind spots finally dawned on me, I felt like a failure. Even now, I doubt the wisdom of sharing this post. But if it wasn’t for other people talking openly about how the tool of therapy has helped them, I wouldn’t have reached this point. So I’m here to say with as much simplicity and sincerity as possible: We’re all humans who need a little help sometimes (including me).

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I keep my questions to myself, mostly. I’d hate to be labeled as a “struggling” Christian, though nothing describes my faith quite so honestly. “It’s okay to have doubts,” the pastor says. “Even I have doubts.” But has he ever asked the questions I do? The ones that feel like loose threads which, if pulled, threaten to unravel the delicate fabric of my beliefs.

The way we talk about “losing" our faith makes it seem like faith is a misplaced key, a wedding band, a stolen passport. Is it that easily buried in the bottom of our backpacks? Does it fall out of our pierced ear one day, never to be seen again, with only its duplicate to remind us? Faith feels like a mustard seed: Small, and easily lost.

Let’s try a different metaphor, shall we? Faith is not so fragile. Faith is fingers in the Messiah's side. Faith is a doubter begging for belief. Faith is Jesus saying, “Don’t be afraid.” He stands, steady as ever. The wind blows, I panic, and faith is Jesus reaching down to save me from drowning. In that moment, I realize: It was never the waves I was standing on. “I’m here. Take courage.” Jesus speaks, and the sea calms.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

Magnolias always seem to bloom later than I think they should. As soon as I notice the days lengthening, my impatience for summer has me searching their lush green leaves for signs of the fragrant gifts to come. It’s June and the blossoms have made their formal debut. I’ve already made myself dizzy from breathing in their essence.

I’m impatient with myself, too. I already feel like a late bloomer. People often call me an old soul and I had just turned 17 when I started college, so since then I’ve been determined to take advantage of my head start. When I graduated, I was so sure of my purpose in life despite the path itself being misty and dimly-lit. I thought I could skip the “lost 20-something” stage. But here I am, about to turn 25, and my so-called dreams have lost their shimmer. I’m not who I thought I was. I’m certainly not who I thought I should be. Instead, I’m someone different.

I’ve been grieving this ever since my realization in March. But it has also felt like a long, slow exhalation of relief. As spring turns to summer, I’m settling into the fact that I don’t have to live up to the fantasy version of myself - the badass female Oscar-winning director (which sounds exhausting, frankly, knowing the film industry). Instead, I can be myself. The version of myself that I am right now, sitting at my desk, typing this out on my iPhone. I’m the lost 20-something who is just starting to know herself, who likes writing in coffee shops, who loves her soft cat, who is sometimes motivated but usually slow-moving, who spends too much time on Twitter and not enough time swimming (even though she loves it), who goes to sad movies alone because it feels so good to cry, who loves her city but still isn’t sure where to call home, who nurtures succulents on her windowsill and a sourdough starter in the back of her fridge. Maybe I’m not a late bloomer. I’m just anxious for summer and forgot to enjoy spring. Each season has its own vibrant blossoms, so drink them in, drink them in.

what if we already are
who we’ve been dying to become
in certain light i can plainly see
a reflection of magnificence
hidden in you
maybe even in me
– 'Four' by Sleeping At Last


As a Third Culture Kid, I’ve struggled with my cultural identity for years. I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl from Texas but my first memories are watching cartoons and eating Kopiko coffee candies with my wrinkled retired neighbor in northern Thailand. We were usually the only “farang” family for miles. I played with the neighborhood kids just fine but I always stood out for obvious reasons.

When I moved to the States, I blended in - a relief for this painfully self-conscious girl - but I didn’t fit in. I was missing years of cultural context. I’ve spent over seven years trying to catch up but I’ll never know the 90s nostalgia my peers experience. At one point, I thought maybe I would fit in with Asian Americans, who too straddle Asian and American culture. But that wasn’t me either. Theirs is an experience all their own.

So where’s home? What culture can I claim? I can’t say I’m Thai. I’m not. So I’ve learned to downplay my Asian influences for fear of overstepping my bounds as an outsider. And yet I feel more out of place in a room full of white Texans than I do in a village in northern Thailand.

This return to Thailand has brought the healing I’ve long been needing. On this trip, I realized that although I may not be Thai, I have loved Thailand. The childhood I spent here - 14 years of my young life - has left a permanent mark on me.

This moment with a northern Thai farmer, cutting open fresh coconuts for us in a spontaneous display of hospitality and generosity, perfectly encapsulates the people and culture I have had the precious privilege of knowing. I am overwhelmed with the honor of carrying this affection with me always.


Life is a series of plot twists. And not the satisfying climactic moments you later realize you were piecing together in your subconscious, or those everything-was-leading-up-to-this-moment moments. I’m talking about a cliffhanger at the end of a show that never gets renewed or the credits rolling after an ambiguous ending to a movie that’s several minutes too short. When the storylines I tell myself to survive a severe season are severed, my ability to suspend my disbelief is weakened. Distrust is born. Hope grows harder. Participation is painful. Why dream when dreams are only that? Dreams. Nothing but wives tales. Ghost stories. Urban myths. Bedtime stories for gullible children.

Despite plot holes and muddy themes, I will always have an affection for narrative. At the end of my life, I’ll have some story to tell. Maybe right now I’m far too plot-focused, trying to reduce my life to an IMDb synopsis (Contains Spoilers) instead of the series of impactful scenes and quietly unfolding moments my life was always designed to be. Once again I’m forcefully reminded of how enthralling it is to go in blind.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

Candid shot of the classic Patenaude problem-solving process as we devise a method to take a new family photo during our brief time together this weekend. We're used to making things work as a family, from cheese-less mac & cheese in 1990s northern Thailand to once-a-week digital gatherings across time zones to meeting "halfway" for a family vacation in Italy to celebrating Thanksgiving AND Christmas over a weekend in October. "Where there's a will, there's a way." Our family mantra. Yes, we've always found a way, wedging memories into the nooks and crannies of our lives.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

"I know I [am] lost but [I'll] miss [these] days." – Bleachers

Here I am, 24 years old in ATX. Not where I wanna be (not by a long shot for this idealist) but highschool me would be impressed and middle-aged me will be nostalgic. Risking a mirror selfie in the office bathroom is my personal invitation to occupy this body and settle into this moment.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard

Adrian PatenaudeComment

I'm 16 and terrified. I am leaving my childhood behind in Thailand and moving to the opposite side of the world. The far side of the sea. God speaks to me through Psalm 139.

Where can I go from your Spirit? 
Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast.

I'm 24 and tired. I am lonely even while surrounded by friends and loved by family. I feel directionless and ache in privacy. God speaks to me through Psalm 139.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 
You know when I sit and when I rise; 
you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Only one Person has witnessed my every quiet moment. He saw me at 16. He sees me now. He hasn't missed a second. Oh my soul, be present, be present. Be present in His presence.

Adrian PatenaudeComment

Sometimes I feel like I'm cosplaying the person I want to be when I grow up. Like last night, casually screening a short film I created with my brother and dearest friends at a patio bar in Austin, Texas. Short hair, a pretty dress and easy conversation about new opportunities and upcoming projects, lit by twinkle lights under darkening skies. I never feel like I'm doing enough, but these moments of celebration are special, and a welcome reminder that God's a bigger dreamer than I'll ever be.