Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we truly aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.
We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.
I have chronic major depressive and anxiety disorder.
I was 15 when I started noticing signs of depression and anxiety. It started out small — I lacked motivation to fulfil daily tasks, or I suddenly dreaded any interaction with others. People told me it was a "phase" and I would eventually learn to outgrow it, but I didn't believe them.
Oct. 17, 2014
Yesterday I was unexpectedly sad. There was no way to explain it besides just feeling useless in the moment. I don't know what I want to accomplish anymore, and I have trouble getting myself to feel any motivation. It's like I lost touch with everything around me and my body is being inhabited by another person. I want to be like my old self, but it's not working.
How Anxiety and Depression Control My Life:
It's not a good feeling. Anxiety, stress, and doubt rise from within, like bile, and convince me I'm going to fail no matter what. Somehow, the mentality manifests to physically harm me. As much as I want to force myself to hold it all in, it can't be stopped. There are days the panic attack will make me lose feeling first in my toes and eventually throughout my whole body, making it impossible to stand. It's a matter of repeating the same sentence — "I'm OK" — until I actually believe it a little. I catch my breath and tell myself it's over because I'm wasting time sitting around and waiting for the next one. The problem is, every time it happens, I'm too exhausted to do anything about it.
Every day I'm here, I have to try to live fully and thoughtfully because I didn't make it this far and put in this much effort to let go of my own worth now.
There are times when I can bear it a little better and I'll be free for a whole week without an attack. Every once in a while, it will last for hours in a day. I'm not convinced it'll be different in the future. It just feels like a part of me now. Whether I like it or not, it will affect me in some of the worst ways. A lot of people tell me to deal with it, as if it's something that needs to be tamed. What they don't realise is, in reality, I feel like I'm constantly fighting myself. I can't ignore it and I can't fix it. Yet, the world keeps telling me I'm responsible for somehow treating an incurable mental illness.
April 24, 2017
There's no way to really feel what I feel, but I just need people to be OK with me. I don't want people to judge me like I'm damaged, because then I'll start to believe them. Isn't a mental illness just like a physical one? We work hard to overcome what challenges we face. It's not our choice to be ill. I never asked for all this to be a part of my life. I'm jealous of everyone out there who will never experience the level of depression and anxiety I face. I'm only 18. How have I been dealing with this for nearly four years already? I've already tried three times. Sometimes I think I'm mentally insane. Is this just a part of life? It confuses me, too.
How I Cope:
When everything first started, I quickly learned how to lie to doctors and therapists because I believed they couldn't "fix me." However, there was always a part of me that wanted to scream and plead them to do their job — to help me get better. Nearly four years later, I finally accept treatment. It does serve its purpose. I find techniques and tricks to calm myself down, I take medication to alter my brain, and I try to surround myself with situations that bring ease. Beyond that, I also learn how to reconstruct my resting places. Simple activities like taking photos to share on Instagram, picking up someone else's worn piece at a thrift store, and watching students pass by as I sit on campus reminds me I'm not as lonely as I think. Then, my anxiety and depression lays to rest.
Jan. 15, 2018
I admitted there was something not right with me. Dad said he was nervous for me. That he finally realised something was up. Leo and Naomi told me they were proud. They were happy I finally admitted it because, for years, they were worried how everyone seemed to treat it as a phase. Even I tried to convince myself I was getting better. I just needed some peace of mind.
The Biggest Lesson I Learned:
A "normal" life doesn't exist. Life sucks sometimes, and it doesn't always go the way I expect. Early on, I was convinced I would never be able to share my illness — it was me against the world. Regardless of how long it took, I'm finally learning how to accept and ask for help. I also gained a new perspective over the years: I find it easier to empathize with others because I get the extent pain and anxiety can damage someone's spirits. Being able to open myself up a bit more to the people around me also helps me relearn the value of trust and respect and saves me from wallowing in self-pity.
Depression is still something I will continue to deal with every day. Sometimes, it gets pretty miserable when I'm reminded there is no cure. But, if I make it through one day, days start to add up to weeks, months, and years. Eventually, I will be able to look back and be amazed that I actually made it through. Despite all the negative stigmas, doubtful gazes, and my own fears of living, life isn't as much of a b*tch as I thought. I know my limits haven't been reached and I'm still finding myself some well-deserved happiness, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the little victories in life right now. If my depression has taught me anything, it's this: Every day I'm here, I have to try to live fully and thoughtfully because I didn't make it this far and put in this much effort to let go of my own worth now.