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Lessons from one woman’s journey with depression

Oct 20, 2023, 5:41 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 7:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As Rachel Lam picks up her acoustic guitar, she hints at one of the things that brings her joy.

“I actually really like playing Christian worship songs,” said the 44-year-old Salt Lake City mom.

Lam is an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at Weber State University. And her journey to mental wellness has been a long one.

Even as a child, she masked the sadness that sometimes dominated her feelings.

“Part of my time growing up, was just believing that I really wasn’t a worthy human being”, Lam said.

Rachel Lam playing her guitar.

Rachel Lam playing her guitar. (KSL TV)

In 2014, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

“It was actually like a gift for me. There’s a thing I can name and say, ‘Oh, I can get a handle on this now. I can problem-solve and figure out what works for me to manage this thing. What I wasn’t getting was the coping tools.’” Lam said.

Managing her depression has led to daily practices that now give her confidence and balance. Lam has added meditation and yoga to her toolkit.

“If you don’t practice them, they don’t stick. The brain learns from repetition”, she said.

And now Lam has added the ancient Chinese practice of Qigong.

“My Chinese grandmother did this. My Chinese grandmother lived in Utah with my dad for about 25 years before she passed,” she said.

Four generations of Lam's family.

Four generations of Lam’s family. (Courtesy: Rachel Lam)

Qigong is the practice of movement and breathing to develop spirituality and health.

“The translation is something like infinite chaos, but the intention of the practice is to manage chaos,” Lam said.

Lam says her mindfulness practices have brought her sustained happiness for the first time in a long time. She believes similar routines can benefit anyone coping with anxiety, stress, and depression.

Intermountain Health is hosting a free Mental Health Services Awareness Night on October 26th from 6 to 9pm at the Ragan Theater at Utah Valley University. It’s open to anyone in Utah who will interested in connecting with available mental health resources in the community, both for those individuals struggling and also for family and friends looking to support a loved one. There will be 40 different booths there explaining local resources.

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Lessons from one woman’s journey with depression