I like to think that I'm a pretty optimistic person. However, there are days where it just gets exhausting. I feel like I'm pretending to be happy and pretending to have this positive outlook on life when all I really want is to tell people that none of it matters and we're all going to die eventually anyway. (Dark turn, sorry.) I wanted to write this article to address a few things that don't get talked about nearly enough. I wanted to talk about trying to accomplish that feeling of positivity, whether or not it can be a bad thing, depression and anxiety, and overcoming obstacles related to those illnesses that too often aren't viewed as real issues.
I want to start by saying depression and anxiety are something that I have personally struggled with since high school. I never really seem to get a grasp on it, it's just something I've gotten better at hiding as the years go on. I take medication now, and that helps a little, but there are still days where it feels like those dark thoughts in the back of my mind are going to eat me alive. Sometimes it can feel like you're all alone and that no one could possibly understand what you're going through, and while your specific case may be special, there are so many people that have these illnesses that you can talk to about it and not feel quite so alone in this terrifyingly huge world.
I was probably at my lowest point freshman year of college. I was so stressed out all of the time, anxious because I wasn't really making friends and it seemed like my teachers didn't care if I failed or succeeded, and I was depressed from missing home and all of my friends and just overall loneliness. The medication wasn't helping at all, and I hadn't developed good coping strategies yet. I didn't want people to know that I was such a mess, so I just acted like I was perfectly fine for all my classes and on the phone with my friends back home. I remember looking up ways to help me cope with everything, and there was this quote that said something along the lines of, "If you tell yourself that everything is going to be okay every single day, eventually you'll start to believe it." And so that's what I did. I wrote a sticky note that said Everything is going to be okay. I posted it above my bed and looked at it whenever I felt sad or just repeated it over and over and over again in my head on the days that it felt like my emotions were going to swallow me whole. Eventually, I did start to believe it. Every day tasks became bearable again. I didn't feel like I was drowning. I started to feel like I might actually be starting to have a handle on my life for once.
The power of positive thinking can be a really powerful thing. Our thoughts dictate our mood, and so even if the thoughts we have feel like fake optimism at first, eventually your brain isn't going to know the difference. Sometimes I really did want to just tell people what I was going through every single day, but I felt like it was easier to just pretend like I was fine than it was to admit that I had a problem. Feigning optimism was my way of solving the problem, when I realistically should have just talked to someone close to me about what was going on in with my emotions.
The problem with that is I wasn't sure how the people closest to me would take it. Depression and anxiety are sometimes not viewed as "real illnesses". People see them as just being sad, when in actuality it's something that follows you around all day, every day, and it's inescapable. It feels like no matter how hard you try, nothing you do is good enough. Those "sad" emotions that the naysayers tell us to just get over are actually something that consumes our every thought and makes it really hard to focus on anything else. It's hard to maintain friendships or relationships because you don't feel like you're worthy of people's attention. With anxiety, you're constantly worried everything you're doing is wrong and that everywhere you go people are staring at you and judging you, so you just stop going out.
These are incredibly difficult illnesses to tackle, and it's so much harder to do them all alone. If you're struggling with either of these illnesses, talk to the people close to you about how you're feeling. I promise you that having someone that you can finally talk to about the emotions you've been struggling with feels so much better than keeping everything to yourself. Also, if you haven't already, talk to your doctor about medications or ways that you can take your life back. There are also online support groups where there are thousands of people going through the same thing that you are going through that are more than willing to talk to you about your story and your struggles. No one is ever alone in this world.