This is initially going to start out very badly. I hope it ends optimistically, but eh, it might not. Because the last few weeks have been more than a rollercoaster. I feel like I’m on a ride that keeps going up and down and up and down and down and down and down and maybe back up a little. I wish I knew what was going on, but I really don’t. I’m struggling. Hard.
I took a survey, sent out by Cal Poly, about mental health. They sent it out in an email, offered a hundred dollars as a raffle, and I needed a study break. I’m always down to talk anonymously about my mental health, so I thought, why not? So I took the survey, and I was very honest about my answers. Very honest. At the end of the survey, I had the option to see some overall results about my answers. Kind of like a ranking.
So I checked my results. I feel like deep down, I sort of knew what they were going to turn out to be. My answers placed me with elevated depression and elevated anxiety (top tier of the ranges given). That really stuck out to me. I know I’ve been struggling, and I know that I have had a lot of really low moments, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was.
I guess what really got me was that Depression could sneak up so suddenly on me and completely take over without me realizing it in the slightest. I am in recovery, and I thought I was strong in that. I am still confident that I am far enough along in my recovery that I won’t slip to where I was years ago, but hearing those thing about myself made me completely aware that I am very much depressed again. I hate knowing that, but I also know I can’t avoid those emotions.
I have often referred to my Depression as emptiness and numbness because that is how it feels for me. I feel numb to the world and my feelings. I feel so completely isolated and empty, like I have no purpose and all I am good for is to be a placeholder. But lately, I have remembered that it’s also the intense feeling of hopelessness and knowing that no matter how hard you try, you won’t improve a situation. It’s feeling wholly sad and defeated about everything. I feel like a failure about my writing. I’m failing a class, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to bring my grade up. I’m doing very well in two of my classes but those As aren’t enough to make even the slightest dent in making me feel better about my future and my life as a whole. I cried while writing an email to my professor. I confessed my anxiety to him, and I felt like I was asking for pity. I felt like it wasn’t worth it to even make the effort to improve. I want to give up on this class and the work. I work harder for one class than I do the other three combined and somehow I’m not doing even average work. It feels pointless to try. I feel worthless. I feel stupid.
And it took me too long to realize that these things I’ve been feeling all quarter require a very simple explanation: Depression. I don’t know why it took me so long to think about it this way or how I didn’t realize it before. I’m well-versed in my Depression, so why wouldn’t I notice? Probably because I have been so comfortable in my recovery. The last few years I have noticed these Bad Thoughts but I haven’t regarded them as Actual Depression, just Bad Thoughts and glimpses of Depression. So I didn’t think about these as any more than slightly worse versions of my emotions before. But now I realize how badly I’ve been feeling and how poorly I’ve been handling these thoughts. I can admit to myself that I am depressed again.
The one thing that’s different about this time is that I’ve talked about it. I’ve confessed these feelings and I’ve cried openly about them and I’ve been honest. Those are all things I could never do years ago. I could never say one thing relevant to mental health to a single soul.
I’ve been more or less 100% open with what I am feeling and just how badly my mind has been messing with me. And while the fact that this is all happening sucks, it’s also oddly and wonderfully refreshing to be able to talk about it. It’s helped a lot. Before, I had to keep it all inside, which made it ten times worse. I had to shoulder the burden alone. But now that I’ve thrown caution to the wind and talked openly and honestly about my Depression and my Anxiety, I feel so much lighter. I don’t quite feel like I’m falling into a pit of darkness and despair. I’m still kind of in the pit, but I’m just there–not falling or sinking.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t see this coming…because it is so completely different this time. Depression has caught me in a way that I can actually sort of handle it. I mean, I don’t necessarily think I’m handling it well, but I’m not letting it take over me. At least, I hope I’m not. I’ve found so much release in just talking about it.
So often, I’m the friend giving the ear. I am hear when people want to just talk about their issues. They don’t need anyone to respond or give advice (yet), but to simply let them know their feelings are valid. That it is perfectly okay they are sad or angry or upset about whatever it is they are sad or angry or upset about. I never really had that in my life, and I think that’s an important figure to have in life. But now I’m letting other people be my ear, and it’s kind of one of the greatest feelings in the world. And it has wholly helped me as I navigate through this.
And I think that’s what huge in the stigma of mental health. We are afraid to talk about it (for whatever reason, we all have them), so we just don’t. But if I figure if I just say what I mean and what I feel, people will just start to accept that. They will either be my ear and support me or judge me and stop being my friend. But would I really want people who don’t support me to be my friends? The answer seems simple. Harder in practice, but you get the gist. I know I’m one person and I’m not really changing anything when it comes to the bigger picture of this conversation on the mental health stigma, but I’d like to think maybe I’m making a small difference within my social circle. I’m certainly making a small difference in my own life.
So as much as things are totally terrible right now and my brain is back to being its old awful self, maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it was a few weeks ago. Maybe I’m figuring it out. Maybe I’m strong enough now that it won’t be like it was before. Maybe.
I mean, I don’t expect to just be cured by talking about it–no way. And I don’t think writing this all out is going to stop me from crying after my Mon/Wed class everyday. I fully expect to cry at least twice a week for the remainder of the quarter. Maybe more and maybe longer. But I’m dealing with it. And I’m (trying) not to let it eat me alive.
And I guess that’s all I can ask for right now.
I’m thankful for the people who have been listening. I wouldn’t be able to keep doing life without you. I wouldn’t be smiling as much. I wouldn’t feel the encouragement to keep going and to keep pursuing my passions. So thank you for that. You all inspire me.