It's sophomore year of college. I've found myself alone in my room, staring at the ceiling at three in the afternoon, feeling like I want to cry, but without a reason. I've been here for a few hours now, and I can't motivate myself to get up and take a shower, something that usually helps break me out of this funk. I can't find a reason to pull myself out of bed and do something productive or distracting, because I'm worried it won't help. I'm scared I won't be able to break myself out of this place I'm in. I don't know what will work, and I'm not even willing to try.
My friends, this is what living with anxiety and depression is like.
It's like dragging around a ball and chain. It's an endless circle between feeling worthless, thus losing motivation, which leads to having a manic episode about not accomplishing a task, which ultimately again leads to the worthless feeling. It's a horrible cycle that is very tough to break out of.
Despite having these illnesses, I'm very lucky. I was able to seek help after I felt like I was losing control over my life, and I was fortunate enough to meet both a psychologist who understands and believes in my intelligence and capability, and a psychiatrist who has helped me with medication to boost my ability to fight through the difficulty I am faced with every day. I have been able to grow so much as a person since beginning treatment, and I am finally in a stable place mental-health-wise. I cannot even begin to describe to you how amazing that feels.
There is one saving grace about having these illnesses though — having learned to rise above them.
Thus, being able to share my experiences. A good friend of mine, who happens to be extremely similar to me in many ways, recently told me that she's really struggling with her mental health. She told me that she's having trouble focusing on simple, mundane tasks and that she's not really able to enjoy that which she always has, that which she knows that she loves, deep down. After hearing all of this, I felt the familiar twinge in the pit of my stomach. I remembered the shackles around my ankles, and I remembered the weight of the ball and chain behind me as I dragged along.
Instead of forcing all of that back down I decided to live in that place for a little while in order to help my friend. It was a brave decision, and I could not be prouder of myself being confident enough in myself and the skills I've learned to be able to stay above those feelings while still talking about them.
It's like a glass bottom boat. I was able to observe and recognize in her what I had once felt and struggled with, but I was able to keep myself separated enough from my own personal experiences in order to really listen and help her sift through her emotions in the best way I could. Not only was I able to help her a little, it was extremely healing for me to be able to address the feelings head on that I was still harboring inside my mental space.
I'm post-grad now and am finishing up the final year of my Master's degree. Looking back, I remember the first time I told someone that I had depression. At first, they thought I was joking, and that there was no way someone as "happy-go-lucky" and as "bubbly" as me could possibly have, and I quote, "something like that." They assumed that because I was outwardly happy, outgoing, and confident that everything was just as bright on the inside. That just goes to show that you never really know what's going on in someone's head until they share it, or until something happens (Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Kate Spade, Rest in Peace). That's incredibly important to remember.
I'm more than willing to share my story for that reason to show that mental illness does not discriminate, that it is both complicated and simple, and that we need to keep working to end the stigma. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to maintain that glass bottom boat.