To put it mildly, my upbringing was pretty tempestuous. As a result, I developed woefully low self-esteem—I was inherently not good enough, no matter the situation—and grew from a reclusive young boy to an adult who struggled for a solid identity. I did not have meaningful relationships because I was never fully there. I could not accept love because if someone loved me, there had to be something wrong with them.

In spite of the vicious voice that had set up shop in my brain, somehow, somewhere, deep in my soul, I had a sense that I was good. This slight glimmer of hope gave me the strength to contact a psychologist and it was a crucial moment in my life. Through sessions with my therapist, I learned that I had clinical depression and that I was not an unlovable loser.

It’s said that knowledge is power. Now that I know about depression, I perceive it as Enemy No. 1. I have learned that the depression and the depressive voice constantly talking in my head are NOT ME. Fundamentally, I am optimistic and, at my core, a happy person. It’s just the crippling thoughts that cloud my perspective.

Throughout my life, and in spite of my depression, I have maintained a strong commitment to a fulfilling life. I knew there was more to it than the ugly thoughts that ran rampant in my mind—I knew it. I also knew I had a fight on my hands, a fight for a happy, purposeful, goal-achieving life.

Today I am ready to prosper and take on life’s challenges. I have been blessed with the love of my girlfriend for nine years. For me, this is monumental—a loving relationship is something I have never, ever had in my life. She provides a view that is opposite to my depressive thoughts. She encourages me and reminds me that my depression is not me. It is a blessing to be loved and accepted; from this place we can grow.

As I have moved forward in my life, I have developed tools to combat my mental enemy. First of all, it takes constant vigilance to overcome the negative voices. I frequently check my thoughts, asking myself “Is this thought congruent with the healthy goals I pursue”, and I build my resolve by meditating and writing in a journal. I cannot say enough about how effective meditation has been in my life. The practice of stilling the mind goes a very long way in identifying who you truly are. Meditation, coupled with journal writing, has given me clarity and hope for the future.

I will need this clarity, as I have been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Now, more than ever before, I need my meditation. I cannot afford to have my precious days clouded by depressive voices. I am a survivor and I know I will overcome the challenges that this cancer will bring. I know this to be fact because I am able to still my mind and move forward with dignity and grace.