The summer between eighth grade and freshman year of high school marked a point of great change in my life. My parents had just recently gotten divorced. My self esteem was extremely low and I struggled with self image- I obsessed over having a ‘thigh gap’ and being thin. I’d count my calories and started dieting at fourteen years old. I had trouble in school, not with grades, but with my acquaintances. Then I moved to a new state and begged to be homeschooled because it gave me too much anxiety to go. But that didn’t work out exactly as planned. Although I did make friends, I had many fallouts and spent a lot of time alone. Plenty of people didn’t like me. Most of them would openly degrade me to their friends, sometimes even make jokes to my face. The more I heard them, the more I believed them about myself and repeated them when I went home.
The cloud that appeared over me that summer carried through, on and off, to my senior year of high school. As more emotional weight appeared, I began to further empty myself. I pushed everything down and detached. A cavity grew inside me. And I became numb- acting recklessly and hurting people in my wake. Which made me feel like an awful person, someone who deserves bad things to happen to her. Then when it got so deep that the numbness was too much and started scaring me, I resorted to self harm. It became not only a source of punishment, but also a mode of release.
There were people who had an idea of what was going on, but I neglected to ever openly ask for help. Instead, I entertained the idea that someone would fall in love with me and rescue me. Or that something wonderful and life changing would happen and I’d forget I was ever sad. Maybe I could just run away and it would stay behind. I waited patiently for that day. It never came.
I felt so incredibly alone and regretful of the pain I caused. Everything was too much to handle. I decided I had two choices- end it or see this through and put the effort in to keep from slipping further away.
I did get better. I worked really hard on myself, to cultivate self love and a loving environment for myself. I searched for the joys of living and found them in the little things. I suffered through many, many setbacks. But I learned to stop criticizing myself over them because humans mess up. I can’t expect myself to be perfect all the time- that’s unrealistic. Nothing about it was easy and so much of it was ugly. But four summers later, this photo was taken. Whenever I look at it, it is a reminder of the happiness I felt. It was genuine. I had stopped self harming. I stopped judging myself and instead I forgave. My reality had turned light.
But very slowly, the shadows crept back in in 2019. I’ve been a morning person my whole life. I started feeling resentment towards each day ahead and sleeping in more. I didn’t see the point to getting up, especially if there wasn’t anything planned. When people asked about my future, I’d almost get offended. But only because I didn’t know. I couldn’t think of any goals. What was the point of having them anyway? I wouldn’t make it to next year. And even when I tried looking through the veil, the only thing in sight was a black void. Time disappeared and all the memories and moments ceased to exist past where I stood.
I waited for someone to kick the dirt in. I romanticized it because there are so many awful things happening in the world- what could I possibly do to help or make a difference? It wouldn’t be so bad if I just left. I gave up my creations and let all the stars burn out.
Depression is a real bitch because most of the time, you don’t even know what’s wrong. It’s hard to fix something when you don’t know what the problem is. There are days you’ll wake up and you don’t know what’s come over you, but you are empty. You become fearful of the next day because living is a pain. Keeping your eyes open in the morning is difficult, so you keep the blinds closed. And when you do finally work up the courage to go out, you can’t stop thinking about when you’ll be able to go home, shut the world out, and go to sleep again.
The fact that you have no control over when it’s going to act up is really disheartening. You just have to let it come through. Some days I can’t find it in me to clean my room, to throw out the water bottle that’s been laying on my floor for days. Everything becomes a challenge. You fight yourself to get out of bed. Then to shower. To get dressed. To eat. You start figuring out what the bare minimum is for doing things- not because you’re lazy. It just feels so mindlessly repetitive to do the same things over and over again each day.
There are days I’ll be out attempting to accomplish things and I’ll have to turn around and go home. I just can’t find it in me to do it. On Christmas Eve, I was about to leave to my grandparents house for dinner and one thing happened and I just burst. I had a full ‘episode’ and delayed everyone an hour. Then had to pull myself together to go out.
There’s a feeling I get in my throat that feels like something trying to crawl up. It starts at the pit of my stomach, heavy as a rock. And it scratches its way up my esophagus until I burst. Sometimes I’ll start feeling it when I’m out with friends and I’ll leave without giving a ‘good enough’ explanation as to why.
And when even the littlest bad thing happens, it feels like a monumental inconvenience. It sticks with you and you begin to fear that your future will be a repeat of the past. Your current experience is eternal and whatever happens to you stops mattering. You’ll slip out for days and stop answering everyone and then have to try to explain why.
“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Go into your healing knowing depression is going to be one of the most difficult battles you will ever face because when you’re fighting, the end is unforeseeable. You’re in conflict with your own mind and thought process- the shadows that follow you around and feed off your irritability and misery. Hold onto the mindset that life doesn’t throw you anything you can’t take. You are strong- as corny as it sounds. Be incredibly patient. Because the more you fight, the more light you let in. There are going to be ups and downs. Without the bad, there wouldn’t be any good. We need to be able to see the difference.
You can’t keep waiting for things to happen because when you do that, you end up disappointed. And if you’re going to be disappointed, you might as well know you at least tried. Work on yourself with little expectation and be consistent. Time alone is good. Baby steps because even the littlest amount of progress is still PROGRESS. Take it as it comes. You might not notice any big changes until you’re far down the road, but keep moving forward. Don’t stop. Only look back to sort through your baggage and to reflect.
Start small. Set a goal for the day; i.e., fixing your bed, brushing your hair. Practice switching your thoughts from negative to positive. Create a routine and switch it up a little bit so it doesn’t get boring. If you stop seeing the point behind it, change it. Stop doing things that feed your numbness. Trust your intuition and if something makes you feel icky when you do it, that’s a clear sign to not do it again.
When your foundation is based in self love, it becomes difficult for the bad to get in. Self love is a goal, but it isn’t something that when you reach, you can stop working on. It is a conscious choice you make at every moment in the day. It’s the way you treat yourself when something happens and it’s the way you project onto others. Take care of yourself. Yes- face masks, massages, and painting your nails are self care, but it’s about maintaining your mental health. It’s about prioritizing yourself and self respecting. Master your balance and happiness regardless of circumstance. It comes from within, nothing you buy or engage in can give you that.
Nurture your inner child. When I start feeling sad, I notice that doing really simple things help get me out of it. Think back to what made you happy as a kid, then think about what you can recreate. Be playful and don’t take life so seriously all the time. Things happen to us as we grow up. We hurt. No one is excluded from pain. We experience things that linger and carry them everywhere. Take a good look and don’t hold the emotions in. Allow them to get messy, then flow out. Spend time with those emotions and understand them. Try to forgive yourself and whoever hurt you. Let go.
Let go of toxic people who feed your negative thoughts. Having people around who you can be vulnerable with and who are positive/encouraging are so important. Surround yourself with people who awaken the joy inside you and make you laugh. Friends are meant to be uplifting. We need those good memories to awaken the liveliness within us.
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was not reaching out when I just needed someone to listen. To have someone to tell me things were going to get better or simply have compassion. Even if it’s only to one person, speak up. We all have hard times and there’s someone out there that can understand at least one thing you’re going through. It’s honorable to ask for help and want to fix yourself. We can’t do it on our own all the time. We recognize our pain, but another eye can help us recognize our patterns and help prevent us from falling too far in the future.
I’m not going to lie, life is unbearable sometimes…but get crafty. When you find an outlet, when you focus on it and let it bring you bliss- life goes from gray and fuzzy to full color in HD. It can be anything; drawing, writing, biking, hiking, reading, working, gardening, etc. When everything seems useless, give yourself a purpose. We can create our paradise. The human experience is not supposed to be suffering. And whoever made you think that was terribly mistaken. We are to enjoy life.
I’ve never felt like I belonged here. And that can be unmistakably lonely- feeling like I’m on another plane, being uncomfortable living. I try really hard not to focus on what’s sad or evil in the world. It makes me happy to think of all the good things and I shouldn’t be condemned to my pain. When I thought I was getting bad again, I made a promise to myself to try different ways to get out of the depression hole and stay out.
I began creating goals and giving myself things to look forward to. What do I want? What makes me happy? Then I wrote it all down on colorful post it notes and put it on a goal board. Then I made a list of the little things I could do to help me feel okay:
- Putting reminders on the mirror and repeating them to yourself every morning-“My heart is good.”, “I am worthy.”, “Everything takes time.”, “Be Patient.”, “I am beautiful.”, etc.
- Journaling every day and looking back every month to track progress
- Talking things through- in your journal or with loved ones
- Practicing turning negative thoughts into positive ones- “I’m terrible at rock climbing.” to “This is my first time trying it. I will get better. I am learning.”
- Allowing time for self reflection
- Creating goals for yourself- short term and long term
- Going for long walks and getting fresh air
- Planning activities or events to give yourself something to look forward to
- Practicing Optimism
- Breathing- slowly, in for 5 seconds, out for 5 seconds
- Naming things you are grateful for
- Trusting yourself and your cycles
- Finding hobbies
- Setting alarms so you wake up earlier and not sleep too late in the day
- Practicing being present and not thinking about anything other than engaging in the current moment
- Listening to podcasts to help you feel less lonely- one of my favorites is Ologies by Alie Ward
- A mentor of mine I had in high school once told me that when she’s sad on the inside, she’d sit in front of the mirror and smile really hard until she felt so stupid, it made her laugh. So if else fails, give it a try.
One last thing that has always helped me combat not wanting to get up in the morning is leaving the blinds open. Let the sun in. I overheard the little girl I care for tell her older brother, “All you need is a warm sun, not a volcano.”. And she’s right. The power and healing nature of the warm sun is often underestimated. What you need isn’t something gigantic or fantastical. It is simple.
If you live near the ocean, go sit in front of the salt water. Feel it run over your hands and cleanse. Feel it hit your bones. If you live near the mountains, walk to the top of one. Look how big the world is and find the comfort in being small. Walk barefoot through the grass. Run down your block and feel the wind hit your face. Remind yourself what it’s like to be living.
I’ll say it a thousand times over- YOU MATTER. Everything you do has an effect. When you’re happy, the feeling tends to radiate outward and make other people happy too. And when we all put in the effort, the world becomes a better place. Know that everything you’re feeling is valid and I hear you. Things are going to be okay.