The Two Year Mark.

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To be honest I’m not quite sure how I want to start off this entry. There have been so many times in the past few weeks that I have tossed and turned in bed wanting to write out the thoughts running through my mind, but yet I tried to hush these thoughts in an effort to help me fall asleep. I wanted to make a post today though, I think two years is a pretty significant mark, my journey is still ongoing and every year is a sign of (hopeful) progress. It also makes me realize how much of a process this is in healing. It’s so strange to think that I was diagnosed two years ago today, sitting in the doctor’s office crying not understanding why I felt so sad, anxious, and depleted.

For those of you who may be joining my adventure for the first time let me catch you up. I was diagnosed with a severe major depressive disorder in December of 2013 after suffering silently for many years. Many would have described me as happy, involved, and always with a cheery smile on my face, but the truth was I was suffering alone and silently. This blog has really been my small effort to bring attention to the fact mental illness can happen to anyone, i’m sure more people close to me would never have guessed the pain that I felt deep inside was tearing me apart. I want to be part of the conversation. I want to play my small part in bringing attention to mental health, to open the conversation and help others silently suffering to feel strong enough to embrace seeking help.  This blog or post is NOT to seek your pity, but instead ask for your hand to join me in this effort in removing the stigma that surrounds this illness. Pity is for the weak. Having a mental illness does NOT make you weak, in fact it makes you strong in hanging in there and fighting for the happiness and normalcy that once encompassed your life.

This year has been an incredible whirlwind of events. Starting off the new year celebrating in Venice in a relatively new relationship and finishing off the year studying for my master’s at King’s College London.

I can’t quite pinpoint how I feel and in someways I find that to be disappointing. The past four months have been an incredible roller coaster of emotions. Aside from the normal stressed of school the beginning/middle of the year was relatively uneventful. I would say that I was generally happy and content with where I was sitting in life. It felt good to wrap up my time at Western and see myself once again on the Dean’s List, compared to the year before where I really struggled to push myself to finish the school year. It was also incredible seeing my hard work  for the past four years see me walk across the stage in my graduation gown in front of my proud loved ones in June.

Now we move to September and the big move to the (real) city of London. To be perfectly honest, it was a lot harder on me emotionally then I thought it was going to be to move so far from home (leaving loved ones behind) and not know anyone. On the surface it looked like everything was great and cheery, but deep down inside I had never felt more scared, vulnerable, or alone. I spent many nights alone in my room crying and lying in bed not knowing how I would be able to push myself to get out and  enjoy my time here. Not only was not knowing anyone incredibly difficult for me, but the course work, particularly for ethics, was incredibly hard to grasp, leaving me to feel all the more hopeless. I can honestly say that’s the lowest i’ve felt in the past year and a half. If it hadn’t been for my parents, sister, or boyfriend pushing me through those first few weeks here I don’t know what I would have done. I won’t lie, there were a few times where I did consider ending it all (not that I would actively pursue it) to take the “easy” way out, but I could never find the will to do it (a) because it seemed to easy (b) it would be hard on those who actively care about me (c) i can’t give up.

To push myself, I sought counselling while i’ve bee here and it’s helped quite a bit in finding my grounding. It’s fantastic knowing that there are always resources that can be sought, whether from your school, many workplaces, and even free mental health group therapy sessions. I would be more than willing to sit down with you and help you figure out what steps you can take and I would applaud you for taking such a positive, proactive, and inspiring step in working to get better.

Yet over time things got better. I’ve met some of the most incredible and inspiring people pursuing my master’s at a top university. I’ve had the opportunity to travel (very briefly) to some interesting places, and i’ve begun to learn an incredible amount not only from my course work, but from all those around me. I still have my moments where I feel weak, largely around the weight that I put (back) on over the past year lowering my confidence, but I’ve come to terms that I can work to achieve that, just like I can work to be happy and make a positive change in my thinking. The first few months here saw a bit of a set back in my studying, sleep, and work habits, but I strive to do a be better and will continue to push myself to be the best I can be.

I guess I would say I feel more anxious finishing off this year compared to feeling depressed. I would say a lot of this comes from the fact that I don’t know what the future has in store for me and this unknown scares me. It’s scary to be on the verge of leaving school, the safe cocoon that it is. There is so much I want to do in this world and it’s been incredibly difficult to come to the acceptance that it’s not possible to learn or do it all. It will be interesting to see where I find myself next year when I finish my master’s.

I want to finish off this post with a video a dear friend of mine shared recently with me, reminding me of how I felt when I explained the diagnosis to my mom for the first time. Please take a few minutes to watch this incredibly powerful and inspiring video of how many of us feel when opening up to loved ones about depression.

If you ever feel alone, know that I am always willing to lend a helping hand, open heart, and listening ear. Mental illness is no joke. I don’t lie about how I feel, I don’t want to lie in bed and miss out on life, but sometimes with depression I can’t help it. It’s not an excuse, I work hard to get involved and be proactive, but it’s by no means easy. There’s a difference between being lazy and being depressed. I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, it’s a terrible life-draining shadow that follows you around. It’s real and it likely affects quite a number people you care about, whether you know it or not.

My motto: “Hard work pays off”. There’s a reason why I won the “Perseverance” award in grade 8 (luls, my attempt to be funny).

I  want to bring attention to mental health. That’s the goal I seek to achieve. I encourage you to join me in removing the stigma from mental health. It’s as simple as asking someone you love “How are you today?”.