I thought I would finally start blogging a little more about my experiences with mental illness now that I am feeling a bit more motivated again. So I think the best place to start is begin to tackle some of the topics i’ve wanted to write about for the past while. I know i’m not going to hit every point I want to make in this post, but I think it’s a start and I know that I still have much to learn in the coming years.
So here’s to a post about some of the things i’ve learned not only about mental illness but about myself.
- My struggle with depression has reminded me why I am deserving to still be here.
I’ve been struggling with intense emotions and suicidal thoughts since I was 14 or 15 years old. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder in December of 2013 at the age of 21. Getting help, getting medication and getting therapy is helped me and taught me so much about myself and my interactions with those around me. I’m not cured and likely never will be and I still have dark days but I now have the resources and supports I need in place to remind me that I’m not alone anymore.
- My depression and anxiety has taught me that feelings are a valid thing to express.
I used to get upset when I felt misunderstood and expecting others to just “get it.” That was my mistake. I can’t expect others to be empathetic or sympathetic. I have to accept that others may not understand my mental illness and behaviours. I have to understand others may pull away because it is out of there realm of normalcy. I’ve grown to not be resentful towards these people. I respect their distance and it is probably best for managing my mental health anyway. But I think the one thing i’ve come to realize most is that I am allowed to express how I feel and I shouldn’t me made to feel shamed or be labelled as “weak” for doing so. It’s important our feelings are not ignored by others and at the basis of any meaningful relationship the concept of respect and understanding should come into play. Depression is not my fault and there’s no guideline to determine whether what your feeling is right or wrong (ex. how long bereavement should last or processing failing something), if it feels off to you then only you can determine that. Don’t ever let someone tell you how you should feel or feel like you have to punish yourself for feeling a certain way about an event or circumstance.
- I’ve started to learn to take care of me first before taking care of others
I know to care for myself first: take my meds, eat right, enjoy nourishing movement, and meditate. Even though I’ve always found myself being a supportive person I now find myself checking in on others. Now I reach out to those I care about, just to see how they’re doing and have a nice chat to catch up. Sometimes we don’t realize how nice it is just for someone to ask the simple phrase: “how are you doing?” and actually mean it. I also schedule myself for volunteer events to give back to the communities I reside in. Connecting and building relationships truly heals the soul and it reminds me why I was put on this planet- to help others.
- Depression doesn’t rule my life and it sure as heck doesn’t define who I am.
For years I let my depression rule my life. Even though I would never have gone through with it, I spent hours thinking of ways to take my own life because I saw no end to the pain and loneliness. After seeking treatment and medication, each day I woke up, I realized I had survived, and my mentality changed. I had a new respect for life and desire to learn to change my train of thought to fight the low days. I was given a tough battle to fight because somewhere the universe knew I was capable to overcome it and keep pushing forward. Sometimes I have bad days or even weeks but each time I come out of the other side I grow stronger and learn more about myself and what i’m willing to do for myself. I will not let my depression control my future.
- Happiness is a choice and it starts from within yourself and don’t live for the expectations of others.
I’ve learned you will NEVER be happy if you try to put your happiness in the palms of someone else. Happiness starts with you and there’s no one else that can help you find it. It’s a journey of self-growth (ex. finding passion) and self-love. Before you can receive you must learn to give and you can’t give if you have nothing to start with.Growing up, I was constantly worried about pleasing others. Especially my parents when I was younger. Everything I did was to please others and not disappoint them.
Now every morning I wake up and decide that, I WILL be happy today, and I WILL NOT let my anxiety or depression control me. I’ve realized after everything i’ve been through that I wasn’t going to get better until I decided that I was going to get better. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have bad days and it’s okay to sometimes have to take a step backward but you can’t unpack and live in that place. I have to consciously make the decision that I am going to be happy each day because I deserve to be.
- I’ve learned forgiveness.
I’ve learnt that people make mistakes and they will sometimes say awful thing. We all make mistakes throughout our lives either through circumstance or naivety. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes and have always blamed myself my whole life for most things that have gone wrong. Whereas I’ve also been put in situations where I was blamed for the circumstances or emotions of others and why they were unhappy. I’ve also blamed myself for being a recluse. I’ve blamed myself for putting myself in certain situations. I’ve blamed myself for not standing up for myself when I should have and because I blamed myself for every single one of those things my depression and anxiety levels reached new highs. So now, I’ve learned to forgive. Because honestly life is too short to be carrying such heavy weight and negative vibes.
- I learned what the word normalcy actually means.
For me, normal is such an strange word. It’s such a subjective term, who created it and who dictates whether something fits into something or not? I yearned for years to feel “normal” or to feel like how society wanted me to feel. It’s taken me years to understand that I create my own normalcy and I choose what I want to feel. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to seek solitude just as there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be out all the time. Therapy and reflections have given me the ability to see myself outside of my depression. Recovery isn’t linear for everyone and it doesn’t mean I will be cured. I have my set-backs and theres no one “drug” or therapy that will help me be normal. It’s okay to not feel the same way as other people have after a certain event or set-back. I’ve learned to recognize how I feel and now know when I feel “off” and how to get where it feel is “normal” for me.
- Surrounding yourself with empathetic and sympathetic people is important.
It took me a long time to learn that it’s important to have people around that can be empathetic and sympathetic. Both provide effective support through mental health. But that it’s also an important component to have within ourselves and to understand that everyone is going through a battle we may not necessarily know about.
My depression has taught me to recognize my limitations.
Awareness of how I am feeling is key. When I need time to myself, I am now afraid to take it because I know the impact it can have on me and those around me. With this protecting my sanity and peace will always be my number one priority. I only get one life to live and i’m not going to live it suffering in darkness because I am made afraid to deal with my stuff. I am mature enough to admit that I have problems and strong enough to tackle them given the right space, resources, and time.
- I’ve learned how to talk about and express my growth.
It’s one of the reasons why I have invested so much time and energy into my blog and finding my place in the mental health advocacy community. Because of this i’ve learned to never judge the quality of my wisdom on the lack of listeners whether online or in person. Some of the lessons that I have learned regarding my mental illness has made me a better person and given me the ability to share my experiences with others. I’m still learning about how to take my battles and share them with others and how to talk about how I’ve changed them into lessons learned.
It’s incredibly rewarding when other people open up to me about their own struggles and battles and their desire to get better and reach their full potential. I love having the ability to have a voice and be known for my passions and it’s so inspiring when I do hear from someone about how i’ve inspired them to open up or even to just be a listening ear for them because they aren’t yet ready to seek help. What keeps me passionate about advocating on mental illness is that I hope I can help people get to a place where they feel they can do the same and keep the conversation going.
Every story and experience matters and i’m grateful for the support i’ve received over the years from everyone around me whether it be mentally, emotionally, physically, or even financially. I’m incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so many people who care about my well-being and I hope I can continue to be even half as caring as those who have gotten me to where I am today and stood by me during my darkest days. Hopefully someone out there will take something from this and learn from my personal experiences or even share their own with those around them. It’s important we all do our job keeping the conversation surrounding mental illness open and that we all strive to achieve what we feel is optimal for our own mental well-being.