Mental Health Awareness month is a month-long event hosted by Leah @Uncorked Thoughts and Ula @ Blog of Erised to draw attention to mental health and the issues surrounding it. All throughout June, bloggers are encouraged to read, review, and discuss books involving Mental Health. There will also be guest posts, interviews, giveaways, challenges, and other fun things as well. Check out the sign-up post for further information.
As part of my contribution to Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would share my personal experience with mental health issues. It is something that won’t be surprising to most of my long-time followers; I have briefly talked about my depression before in my Graduation 2013 post and my mom even mentioned it in her guest post. But it’s one of those things that plays a huge role in my life (even to the point that I’ve already written this post once, scheduled it, and then deleted it in a fit of bad feelings), and it’s something that I think most people don’t realize if they don’t know me.
For today’s post, I’m going to talk about My Past With Depression, focusing on my major breakdown. Next week (unless I delete the post in another fit), I’m going to talk about My Present With Depression, and how even though I am at a much better place than I was three years ago, I still struggle with issues surrounding my depression and anxiety.
WARNING: These posts will be personal, and they will be lengthy. Continue at your own risk.
My Past With Depression
In 2011, I suffer from a major breakdown. I was depressed.
I think for many people around me, it was completely unexpected. I was a straight-A student who was engaged to my high school sweetheart and completing my final year of my elementary education degree. Everything I had planned for myself (my career, my romance, my life) was exactly how it should be, and I had no problem playing the happy-go-lucky girl I thought I should be.
But something wasn’t quite right. I was so close to having everything I wanted, and yet it didn’t seem quite right.
I would come home to my fiancé and feel so disconnected from him. I would go to my student teaching placement and be overwhelmed by the students, the supervising teacher, and everyone else. I would go to write a lesson plan and struggle with the fact that no matter what I did I wouldn’t be able to reach every single kid in that classroom. I would be everything I thought I should do, only to feel like I wasn’t really achieving anything at all.
And so I sought an escape.
There was this old online game that I played almost ten years prior that I re-downloaded, and I lost myself in it. Suddenly, I decided I rather spend time talking to people online instead of talking to my fiancé. Instead of working on lesson plans and reflections that were necessary for student teaching and graduation, I played puzzles. The responsible, hard-working, organized girl I worked so hard to be all my life? Gone as I tried to find a way to desperately escape from myself.
And while I continued to push myself away from reality, I got angry. I was upset with my fiancé for not reaching out to me, to make sure I was okay while I stayed up all hours of the night lost in this other reality. I was angry with myself for not doing the schoolwork I needed to do when I was this close to graduation. I was mad at the world for making things worse: all the car problems I would have while trying to get to my placement, the five stitches I needed when I cut my thumb open while prepping for a lesson plan, the guy who took advantage of me while I was not at my best.
Eventually I just lost myself. I snapped.
The fiancé and I broke up. I was angry one day when he came home from work and told him I didn’t think we should be together anymore. His response? “Okay.”
I quit student teaching. My supervising teacher begged me to stay. She had cancer and she told me she was relying on me to graduate and finish my degree so that way if something happens to her I could cover her in the classroom. The pressure was too much. With only ten weeks left before graduation, I walked away.
I moved back home to live with my parents for the first time in four years and fell into a deep hole of depression.
Now, I personally think depression is different for different people. My depression was a complete loss of self. A loss of identity a lost of soul, a loss of life. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life (and even when I think about it now, my stomach clenches and I feel a little bubble of anxiety growing inside of me) – feeling as if I no longer was me.
See, the thing is, as much as something wasn’t quite right before all this happened, I always felt like it was okay because I knew who I was and if it wasn’t okay now it would be because I was working towards all my goals. If I were to just persevere, it would be okay because I had myself and that was all I needed. I engrained that in my brain and really pushed myself because I knew if I wanted to get anywhere it would be with me.
And then suddenly there I am, and I don’t feel like I have me anymore. I don’t feel like I have my very soul, my very essence, anymore. I felt as if the person I was had abandoned me, and all that was left was this physical shell. And when your soul has left you, when all you are is but a shell that used to hold a beautiful person, then what’s the point of carrying on? What’s the point?
That was the deepest and darkest part of my depression. Everything boiled down to not knowing myself and hating it. All I wanted was me again, and I didn’t feel like I would ever get it back.
To help share what I was going through at the time, I decided I would share entries from the journal I kept during my depression. I would spend a hour writing each page, spending most of my energy on trying to make the page pretty instead of focusing wholly on my emotions. And yet they always found their way in…
How I recovered from such a low point, I’m not quite sure. I think it was a combination three things: picking back up the things I love, exercising, and creating new goals.
One of the main things I did during my depression to try and help me find myself was to pick back up the various hobbies I abandoned over the years. I started to read again, which I had neglected for a long time due to uni work and playing online games. I doodled a lot, and tried not to hate myself when it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it to. I played the keyboard again, and even picked up my old bass guitar. I did a lot of the little things I used to do for fun and was happy that I could still do them. I felt a little less lost, and was happy that it gave my mind a break from it’s constant self-abuse.
Exercising is something that I never did too regularly. I would go through little work out phases here and there, but never stuck with anything for a prolonged amount of time. But during my depression, I would drive a half hour to the nearest state park and walk on the trails. I absolutely loved it. When I had gone to the doctor for my depression, he had told me that I should exercise because he had never seen a person so tense – and he was right. Walking in the woods where it was so quiet and beautiful really relaxed my mind and helped my body. I thought a lot while I was out there, but it never felt bad because I was surrounded by so much beauty. There was always something there to make me smile, even if it was just the beauty of a leaf that had fallen on the ground.
And, lastly, I created new goals. I thrive off of goals. I was destroyed when I gave up on my original goals, because not only did I feel like a failure but I had no idea how to live life without a goal. I didn’t know what to do with myself. So as I struggled through my depression, I found myself making new goals. They weren’t always the smartest goals – deciding to fly to another country to meet a guy I met online when I had never been on a plane before wasn’t probably the safest or most intelligent decision in my life – but they made me feel better about myself and made me a bit more ambitious. I suddenly felt like I could be a little more crazy in my dreams because I had nothing holding me back. Why not do something crazy? What did I have to lose?
Somehow, through a combination of those three things, I pulled myself out of my depression. I slowly figured out that I was still me, even if it wasn’t the me I thought I was. I made new plans career wise and went back to school to finish my undergraduate degree in General Studies and applied to UK universities to study for a Publishing MA. And reading became a part of my life again, to the extent that I decided to start a little book blog on the interwebs to share my bookish thoughts.
And of course, I think you know what happened next. I’m in the UK, living with and loving that boy I flew over to visit almost two and a half years ago, and blogging about books. And I’m me (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).
What Do You Think?
I usually like to finish my posts with a question to help encourage conversation, but I’m not quite sure what to ask. What do you think about my depression? (That sounds a bit odd.) Have you struggled with depression before? (That’s a bit personal.) How do you pull yourself out of your bad funks? (That’s not too bad.) Share your thoughts, no matter what they are!