Hello beautiful people!
I sit here contemplating how I want to go about this, I have so much to say about mental health and yet, I don’t even know where to start with it and with my story. I find myself stuck in my head, obsessing about the words and sentence structure, obsessing about how this will be received and worrying about how inspirational the message will be. As I sit here obsessing it dawns on me that this is my anxiety talking to me, one of my “symptoms” if we want to call it that, is this obsessive thinking pattern where I worry and overthink every little thing. As you can imagine, that gets exhausting really quick and this happens every single day from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. There isn’t a moment that goes by where I am not thinking, my mind is constantly working at full speed, like a hamster running on a wheel. That is literally how I describe it to people who don’t understand, it’s like my brain is a hamster and it’s running on a wheel chasing a piece of untouchable food, the food being my fears and the thoughts I obsess over. So with that said, I am choosing to talk about my anxiety and my depression for several reasons, I feel like it’s time to come clean about it, I have hidden so much of my struggles from anyone who knows me out of shame, embarrassment and guilt. I still struggle every single day with acceptance, accepting that this is how I am and how I will always be. So here is me coming clean, my name is Melanie, I am 25 years old and I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for most of my life. I am choosing to tell my story because I truly believe that the more people talk it about, the less of a stigma there will be. I know that a lot of people are now coming forward and bravely telling the world their story but there is still work to be done and progress to be had and if I can do anything to help, you best believe I will. I still get people who question me about my anxiety/depression and who doubt me. I feel like if we could just have an open conversation about it then maybe these people can have insight into what it truly feels like to go through this every single day. That is my biggest wish, if I can just open one person’s eyes to the reality of all of this, to get them to not necessarily agree but to at least understand then I feel like my mission is complete. And if I can offer my story in support of another human being going through something similar then that is more than I could ever possibly ask for. So here goes.
My story started when I was really young, I don’t remember much from my childhood but I have been told that that is where it really started. I only became aware of things changing when I turned 16, that is when I had my first real depression moment. I remember coming home after handing in this massive project that I had been working on for over a year and sitting on my bed, sobbing for what seemed like no reason at all. I remember feeling like I was being enveloped by this cloud of sadness and hopelessness. I was surrounded by this darkness and it felt like no light would ever enter again. I used to describe it as being stuck in this deep, dark hole and you’re screaming for someone to help you but no one can hear or see you. One thing people forget about depression is that it is extremely isolating and an extremely lonely place to inhabit. I never really spoke about it to anyone out of shame and guilt, I didn’t feel justified in my feelings. There was absolutely no reason for me to be feeling such intense sadness and anger, yet here I was sitting on my bed night after night basically crying myself to sleep. This went on throughout the rest of high school and well into college. There were days where it was extremely difficult to get myself out of bed, and I now understand that the only reason I got out was because of the anxiety. At the time the anxiety was mild enough that I didn’t really notice it, it paled in comparison to the depression but the fear of getting in trouble for missing class or failing classes got me out of bed every single day. I remember reading a quote from a therapist who explained to her patient that having anxiety and depression is like having a constant war going on in your head, which couldn’t be a more accurate description. With the depression, you no longer care about anything, everything seems like a hopeless endeavour and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. But then the anxiety rears it’s ugly head and you get this surge of adrenaline from all the worrying, stressing and fear based thinking that sitting still seems like the worst possible idea so you get out of bed. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because they balance each other out, if one pulls you too much one way then the other pulls you back so you never truly succumb to either side you kind of just float somewhere in the middle.
The depression got worse after I had reconstructed jaw surgery when I was 18, the trauma of the surgery alone almost made me crazy but having to deal with my whole face changing and putting on so much weight post-surgery made the cloud of darkness even darker. It completely changed who I was as a person, I no longer had the ability or the energy to be the person I used to be. It was exhausting to have to smile and laugh and pretend like everything was perfect. At this point, I was still hiding all of this, I wanted to remain the sweet, perfect child and if I admitted to the darkness I would no longer be that perfect being anymore. Over time though, that facade started to slip and family members started to notice that I wasn’t who I used to be, it became more and more difficult to pretend like my life was a happy one. Then an important friendship in my life slowly began to crumble then completely exploded, and this person was my rock, they were the one person I always thought I could count on. Then suddenly I blinked and that person was no longer there, it made me question a lot of things and made me question myself. It was an uncomfortable place to be in mentally and I will admit that it still plagues me to this day. I will also admit that there were times where the darkness got so intense that I questioned my place and purpose here on this Earth. I no longer felt like I had any worth here anymore, that my being here was meaningless. Thankfully, by the grace of whatever higher Being there may be up there that quickly passed. When University finally rolled around, my anxiety had finally made it’s grand entrance into my life and completely took control over it. The first day of Uni was a day from hell, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep that night I swore that I was going to have a heart attack and a stroke simultaneously. I don’t even really remember much from that day because I was so anxious and in my head that all I could think about was just surviving the day. Every day after that for four years was me just trying to survive the day, to just get through it without having a complete melt down. The anxiety slowly started to seep into every inch of my life, taking public transportation became a struggle, my grades started to take a massive nose dive because I just couldn’t focus on anything and every time I entered a classroom I would have a massive panic attack and have to leave. It came to a point where leaving the house became a struggle and a huge ordeal. For me, my anxiety presents itself as obsessive overthinking/worrying to the point where I feel like my head might literally just detach itself from my body because it is just sick of being overworked. The overthinking eventually leads to crazy insomnia, sweating, a racing heart that eventually turns into palpitations, intense nausea and shaking, and a, literally, paralyzing fear of the unknown. It’s a joy, I know. Anxiety has stolen a lot of moments and experiences from me, things that I may never get the opportunity to experience again. It is a debilitating and overwhelming struggle. It is literally chaos that touches every part of your being and your life.
It got to the point where my life no longer felt like MY life anymore, it was my life being controlled completely by anxiety. Every decision and choice was governed by the anxiety. I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, it would kill me. So I made the choice to leave school. To remove myself from a situation that sadly was making the anxiety a million times worse. Now, this decision was an excruciating one because school is all I have ever known and it is all that I assumed I was good at. I had been doing it for so long that I didn’t know anything different. But I left anyway and it was the best decision I could have made. Today, my anxiety and my depression aren’t nearly as bad as they were 6 months ago, every day is different, some days I feel really good and happy (a word I haven’t used or felt in a REALLY long time) and some days it’s still a struggle to do anything productive. I will say though, that over the past 6 or so months I have come to understand and learn a few things about anxiety/depression and myself. I have come to understand that every day will be different but as a long as I am doing the best I can on that day then that is okay and that is enough. I have come to understand that within every dark moment there is a silver lining and a lesson to be learnt. Every time I make it through the darkness, I understand more and more the power that lies in being strong for yourself, the power in true kindness and compassion for yourself that can later be payed forward to someone else who maybe hasn’t found the courage yet to tell their story. Most of all, I have come to understand that having a mental illness doesn’t change your worth as a human being. Yes, you may have things beyond your control but it doesn’t make your time here any less valuable or precious. We all have our purposes here on Earth and they are all vital and important, and that doesn’t change just because your mind doesn’t want to always cooperate. Having gone through the struggles I have has led me to this beautiful moment here on this blog where I get to share my story with you guys and hopefully inspire someone somewhere. If that isn’t a silver lining and a worthy purpose, than I don’t know what is.
Much love and kindness,
PS: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my story. I hope that whoever takes the time to read this will be inspired to share their story or even just their support for someone they know who may be suffering from a mental illness. Remember, in the words of Cinderella, have courage and be kind, nothing is more powerful nor more magical than kindness.