I’m on a train from London to Edinburgh, and I feel very J.K. Rowling-esque as I write these words. I may have read somewhere that she wrote the entirety of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on a train to Edinburgh, but I’ve never been good with facts, so don’t take my word on it.
Blasting in my ears is the pop, upbeat sounds of Noah & The Whale, and I’m grinning at all the frightened passengers who pass me by. I think the sun still peaking up from the ground could be the reason everyone seems a little disturbed.
I should understand, because flash back to this time last year, I am sitting in my college dorm in Providence, under my sheets at 5 PM, figuring out why I should ever get up. I had surpassed the stage of crying and wailing to anyone who would listen and had reached a level of Sad that created a hollow concave within me. But still, I kept repeating the mantra in my head: this sadness will go away if you just try hard enough.
When I was in high school in Saudi Arabia, I thought the sadness was brought upon by the city, the people, the quasi-oppressive lifestyle. I kept a mental note of the days until college, until I could go abroad, until the sadness would melt with the change of scenery. But then I was a freshman, and I found the sadness now was even worse than homesickness.
So I kept making more and more excuses. I’m sad because I haven’t seen my friends and family in a long time. I’m sad because I am not excelling like I thought I would. I’m sad because the boy I liked didn’t like me back. I’m sad because it is too cold outside. I kept telling myself that it would fade once one or two circumstances changed. But it wasn’t until I was in a beach in Mexico that I realized I had run out of excuses.
[bctt tweet=”It wasn’t until I was in a beach in Mexico that I realized I had run out of excuses.”]
Despite the yellow-orange sunset and the feeling of sand pressed against my hands and friends all around me, I was sad. I was so upset that I had to stay in the hotel the next day while the rest of the group went on with their day. And just as I was on my way to muffling another excuse into my pillow, I realized I had no excuses. There was nothing concretely wrong ‒ I was just sad, and I realized that my sadness has always been an uninvited rock accompanying me whenever and wherever I am.
So instead of trying to speak for my sadness, I let my sadness tell me what it needed. And it needed help. For the first time in my life, I went out and looked for help. Once I came to terms with understanding my sadness as depression, I learned how to treat myself a lot more kindly.
The first thing I knew I needed was a break from the place I had been in, despite knowing my campus wasn’t the root of my sadness. It might sound contradictory to say that at the same time I had learned that you cannot run away from something inside you, I “ran away” to another city, but I wanted to test myself against elements I knew I would usually hide from. When I first arrived to college, I let all the new factors of my life pull me down instead of embracing them to grow and change. I wanted a chance to put myself in an environment that would challenge me while taking a break from the monotony that I had developed in college. If I were learning to honestly listen to my mind, I wanted to learn it in a place that would help me discover things I never knew about myself.
In a new city, I could let all the fears of not being liked enough, missing my family, not feeling strong enough to pull through lead me to a fight where I win the battle. I can learn to acknowledge the difference between anxiety over a new place and sadness that comes when it comes. I can learn to live a fulfilling life with my sadness.
And that is why I am here in Edinburgh, running around trying to find trains and buses as I smile and nod at all the Scottish accents I can’t fully understand. I’m learning how to reinvent myself with my depression, not in spite of my depression. I’m learning to manage it, and I hope anyone else who has felt the rock of sadness for too long takes note: you did not create the rock, and it is not your fault that the rock is there. Once I accepted this, accepting myself became a lot easier.