Trigger warning: Mental health, depression, not eating
This was me exactly one week before the pandemic changed all of our lives. I went out with friends almost every night, I was ridiculously busy, and I really liked my life. I worked hard, I was optimistic, and I was really happy.
@katiemillard 11 on InstagramKatie Millard
And then quarantine hit
I know that I'm lucky in terms of my experience with the virus - I haven't lost anyone, only experiences. As a senior in high school, however, it felt like I'd lost everything. I suddenly had not only no life but no purpose. I'd been working for months on the musical, working for two years on the school paper, about to edit the final issue I'd get to work on, working in the same school for the past twelve years towards graduation and suddenly everything I'd put so much effort towards disappeared. Everything I knew just stopped.
Was this dramatic? Maybe. And I knew then, too, that I wasn't special for having these experiences. Everyone's lives had been completely turned upside down. But what I couldn't get was that everyone seemed to be handling it better than I was. I didn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I didn't enjoy things as much. My optimism dwindled along with my work ethic. And so, after a few months, I decided to start therapy.
Things fluctuated, there were good days and bad days. I had some really good experiences and learned some new things, I lost a friend and struggled with my mental health. I struggled in looking forward to things, because it seemed as if everything I looked forward to got cancelled. But there was very little joy in that, so I began using planning for college to cope. I got excited about my dorm, and my classes. I wrote up my schedule so it was pretty. My university had promised 50-60% in person classes so I looked forward to those. I got happier.
And then another disappointment came
I wasn't going to get to go to college in person at all. Not gonna lie, since that was pretty much my only coping mechanism, this was a little earth-shaking for me. But I was tired of feeling like I had no control over my life. I could control myself, and my actions. So I looked for a project, and quickly found one: my room.
Just because I was going to be living in my childhood bedroom didn't mean it needed to feel like I was. I'd worked so hard and excitedly planning my dorm, so I decided to turn my bedroom into the dorm of my dreams, at least in terms of decor. I made Pinterest boards, scoured the web, and planned all the things I needed to do to make my room what I wanted it to be.
Then, it was time to work. Everyday I tackled a different project. I cleaned out my mess of a closet. I got rid of "the Pile" at the foot of my bed. I threw out elementary school art projects and high school papers with the fervor of a 14 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert in 2012. And everyday I'd end feeling accomplished. Every night I liked sleeping in my room a little more. I played music again. I reached out to old friends. Just bringing back some simple little purpose helped me to feel so much better.
I got increasingly ambitious
I got rid of furniture, cleared out anything and everything that didn't make me happy or that I didn't actively use. It was so cleansing to let things go, and to be in charge of at least one little thing in my life. I even ripped up the carpet, turning my beige ratty floor into hardwood, which I still love.
I didn't want this to cost any additional money, so the only things I purchased for it (save for the small white couch I use for studying) were things I was already planning on getting for my dorm room. Now my room is full of little fake plants and cute decor. I even got a blanket I'd been wanting to take to my dorm for months that honestly made me so happy I was bouncing out of the store. And maybe that's not quite the thing I would've gotten so excited about before, but for the first time in a while, I didn't care about my old life or the life I thought I was supposed to get. I was just happy I had something to be excited about.
Taking this one thing into my own hands showed me I wasn't as powerless or purposeless as I thought, I just had to make my own purpose, and focus on the things I could control.
I got better and better. I started eating consistently again. I felt okay more days than I didn't. And the week after I finally finished my room my therapist and I agreed I no longer needed to meet consistently, only to call her when I needed. I haven't been back since.
I still struggle with my mental health sometimes. My optimism and work ethic still aren't what they used to be. But surrounding myself with a space I feel comfortable in and taking even one thing into my own hands did wonders for my happiness. So if you've been struggling, try and give yourself one project that genuinely makes you happy, and that you have total control over. It may just change your life.