I thought I would be the last person to ever have to experience living with a mental illness. Yet, here I am writing a blog about managing depression in post-secondary years. For about 2 years I was experiencing feelings, thoughts, emotions that I can’t necessarily easily describe. Over that time period I had lost friends and family members, but there was more to it than that. I stopped enjoying everything. Everything. Getting out of bed was difficult. And I don’t mean hitting snooze a few too many times. On one hand I had everything to look forward to. Great friends, great classes, a job I love, great marks, fantastic support system, etc. On the other hand, mentally I didn’t really care. And it confused me. I love finding the joy in everything and love being energetic, so how could this possibly be a way that I was feeling on a daily basis? I was going to a counsellor but it was not benefiting me in the way I had hoped. I reached out to friends and family and they were supportive and glad I was seeking help. Finally, I was referred to a different counsellor and I was finally getting the help I needed. She recognized that I had been trying for almost 2 years and was still struggling.
A lot of people would describe me as the happiest, most positive person they knew. I was so scared to tell people how I was feeling. But once I did, I realized how grateful I was and that I had nothing to be ashamed of.
I was finally able to see the light at the end of what seemed like a never ending battle with myself. Now, the point of me writing this was not to talk about myself, but to reach out to others and let them know that battling with your own brain every day is hard. Hiding that is much harder. A lot of people would describe me as the happiest, most positive person they knew. I was so scared to tell people how I was feeling. But once I did, I realized how grateful I was and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I am very fortunate to have relationships with my loved ones where I can tell them that I don’t feel okay, I am not fine, and sometimes I either literally need a hand to hold, or a few moments to collect myself. I realize mental illness is very much becoming more recognized in young people, and often we criticize each other saying things like “well are you on medication? If you are then wow that really is serious! Or if you aren’t then come on toughen up.”
Here’s my viewpoint: you don’t really know what is going on with someone until you ask. So ask. If you think your friend or loved one is struggling, reach out. If you are, then reach out to your loved ones. Let’s try to help each other out instead of putting each other down. It makes that daily battle much easier knowing you’ve got support on your side. I’ve learned about and started using coping mechanisms (I like to spend time in nature, write down plans for days so I know what will be happening, drinking tea and journaling, yoga). Through the help of medication, counselling, a constant trial and error of routine and self-help routines, I am finally able to say I am managing depression well. The most important thing my counsellor could have ever said to me was this: You are NOT depression, you HAVE depression. So please remember, you are NOT your mental illness just because you have one. You are an individual, a beautiful work of art, and you are going to get through this. Mental illness is a flaw in chemistry, NOT a flaw in character.