I’m at a really weird point in my life when it comes to my mental health.
Thanks to the right medication, I am finally able to do a variety of things to help myself, like exercising and meditating, and beyond that, I’m seeking even more outside help on a regular basis, like going to therapy. Finally, with what feels like the right combination of everything working together, I feel like I’m starting to break free of my depression. I can feel myself becoming healthier and more stable. I should be thrilled, right?
I wish I was, I really do, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s actually incredibly difficult to experience this change, even though I know, somewhere deep down, that it’s a positive one.
My depression wasn’t a result of one bad thing that happened to me; I’ve always had it, and bad things only exacerbated it. I thought no one could truly or fully understand what this was like for me, and I spent so much time and energy trying to educate as many people as I could, but things are shifting in my life. I feel like I just got so many of my friends and family to somewhat understand me and my depression and my anxiety, and now it’s…morphing into something else?
[bctt tweet=”I can feel myself becoming healthier and more stable. I should be thrilled, right?” username=”wearethetempest”]
The fear is starting to settle in. Yes, the fear of getting better. Believe me, it’s a thing. What if, even if the change is a positive one, my loved ones become frustrated that I’m changing? What if they feel like I’m not me anymore? What if they’re tired of keeping up with my “ups” and my “downs” and now this change is the final straw?
Even worse, what if I do appear to be getting better, and it’s so apparent to the people around me that they take away the compassion and support they have thus far been providing? What if they think I don’t need it anymore? What if they think I’m totally independent, because it seems like I am, but deep down, I’m not there yet? And then when I experience a low, I’m all alone?
And even worse than that, what if my friends and family become extremely relieved when they realize I’m getting better, and then me being healthy becomes the expectation? What if I slip up and disappoint them? Will they forgive me?
[bctt tweet=”The fear is starting to settle in. Yes, the fear of getting better. Believe me, it’s a thing.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I feel like I’m balancing on a high wire and the world is watching. If I do slip up, will it be worse than ever before? Does having come so far mean that when I fall, I’m going to fall farther and harder? What if I can’t get up again?
Yeah, I know. This is probably my anxiety talking. And a little bit of my depression. But that’s what is so funny about all of this – even during the process of healing and recovering, there are new things going on that trigger my depression and anxiety. There’s literally no escape.
“The goal isn’t to be 100% free of my demons,” I have to remind myself. “They will always find reasons to come out. The goal is to be able to function regardless and to overcome them more easily and more efficiently.”
[bctt tweet=”There are always going to be new things going on that trigger my depression and anxiety.” username=”wearethetempest”]
“Even healthy people have negative emotions at times,” I remind myself. “The goal is not to be free of all negative emotions. That would be just as unhealthy as depression.”
“You’re doing great,” I remind myself. “You always get back up.”
Even though I know I’m getting better, I need the reminders.
Breaking free of something I’ve been trapped with my entire life, as someone who has been clinically depressed since childhood, is beautiful. I wish I could think of a way to say this that doesn’t sound over the top, but I can’t. I genuinely feel like I’m meeting myself for the first time.
[bctt tweet=”The goal is not to be free of all negative emotions. That would be just as unhealthy.” username=”wearethetempest”]
It started like this: There was one morning several months ago when I woke up (this was a few weeks after I started new meds) and sat right up in bed, stretched, and smiled. I felt great. I stood up and stretched. I danced a little bit on my way to the bathroom. And by the time I got back to my bed, a few minutes later, it hit me. I had just gotten out of bed. It had only taken me a second, not hours of talking myself into it, trying to find the value of being awake or even alive.
And I felt good. I didn’t feel my entire weight being pulled down onto the mattress. I didn’t feel suffocated. I didn’t feel small. I didn’t feel dread thinking about the day ahead. I didn’t feel sick. The sun coming in through the window was warm. It seems like such a simple, normal moment, but it wasn’t. I hadn’t gotten up and out of bed like that in as long as I could remember. I remember calling a friend and crying from both confusion and joy as I told them what was going on.
The magic, for lack of a better word, that I felt that morning didn’t last, of course. Depression isn’t a switch you can just turn off one day. But slowly, over time, I’m seeing myself get better and better. There are still ups and downs, but the ups are a little bit higher and last a little bit longer, and the downs are a little less low and don’t last quite as long. That’s progress, and it’s a pretty big deal.
[bctt tweet=” I genuinely feel like I’m meeting myself for the first time. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
That was just the beginning, though. There was a time not longer after this when my friends were going out to some campus event and I asked, “Hey, can I come with?” Everybody was quiet and stunned. “Is that okay? Like…is there time for me to change and stuff?” I asked. More quiet stunned, stares.
It was so unlike the Aafia they knew to want to go out and socialize. They had assumed we’d just meet up when they got back, which was what usually happened. The quiet shock quickly turned into excitement, though. “Yeah, we can totally wait for you to change!” (Even though they were probably going to be late, I love my friends).
Does this mean I went out every single time with enthusiasm and socialized with everyone like crazy? No, of course not. But it means that at least sometimes (which is better than zero times), I am now capable of something I wasn’t capable of before, and at those times, I have more options, more choices, more times when I don’t have to feel isolated.
[bctt tweet=”More quiet stunned, stares. It was so unlike the Aafia they knew to want to socialize. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
What I started to realize, as I got healthier, was how many parts of me (the parts I had beaten myself up for constantly throughout my entire life) were not me.
Taking medication proved that; after taking the right medication, it occurred to me that no amount of effort or willpower would have made my depression go away the way medication did. And I know that because I have spent years putting in as much effort as possible, learning and using every single tool I could to feel better.
I had been working so hard on my own to change certain negative aspects of myself, and it felt like they were just stuck to me – they were just who I was and I had no choice but to continue to hate myself. But that just wasn’t the case and I know that now.
[bctt tweet=”Taking medication proved that the worst parts of me were never me to begin with.” username=”wearethetempest”]
It’s an enormous relief to realize you were not as bad as you thought you were – to realize, and to have proof of the fact, that you were just experiencing a mental illness. A majority of the actions and behaviors and thoughts and feelings that I thought were just a part of me, no matter how much I pushed them away, were just my depression and my anxiety. I was not a failure – I was sick.
But I’m getting better.
That means there are parts of me I have never known – parts that were clouded by my depression in such a way that they could never be expressed. Lately, I feel like I’m starting to discover those parts of myself, and honestly, they’re the best parts of me. And while it’s a shame that the best of me has been locked up for so long, I’m so grateful to have people in my life that were there for me even though I was never at my best. I’m trying to focus on learning who I really am.
I always thought I knew myself very well, but I knew my depression very well. In fact, I only knew my depression. Now, I’m getting to know me. As it turns out, I like a lot more things than I thought I did. I like to do more things than I had realized before. I like more things about myself than I had realized before. There is a lot more love and positivity in me than there is hate and negativity – this is a surprise to me, but more than that, it’s a huge relief.
[bctt tweet=”There are parts of me I have never known, clouded by my depression.” username=”wearethetempest”]
So here’s what I personally want you to know if you’re feeling any of the things I’m feeling because maybe you’re in a similar place:
Depression feels like it’s in your head, inside of you and a part of you – your identity. But mental illness isn’t a choice any more than a broken limb; you don’t have to take responsibility for it. Your depression, regardless of how down you feel or how well you’re doing, is not who you are. It’s not your identity – you choose who you are.
So, the way I see it, depression is an outside obstacle that brings to light your inner personality, the character traits you choose to embody in response to depression, such as self-awareness, empathy, patience, resilience, and strength.
[bctt tweet=”Your depression, regardless of how down you feel or how well you’re doing, is not who you are.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Therefore, becoming healthier isn’t a loss of identity, it’s the exact opposite – being healthier allows your true personality to genuinely grow and flourish in ways that it couldn’t before. Managing depression creates an enormous amount of extra energy and free space in your life, and with that energy and space, you’ll be able to discover that you’re so much more than just a fighter of depression.
Just remember that when you begin to feel like you’re beating depression, that is the time to start talking to your friends and family about how your needs have or have not changed. Maybe you feel like your sadness what drew people to you because they wanted to help, and, without that overt sadness, you fear losing them. Be open and make clear that you still require a support system in order to maintain your progress, if that’s the case. Because it really is hard to know what someone needs, even if you know and love that person if they don’t communicate with you.
[bctt tweet=”You’re so much more than just a fighter of depression.” username=”wearethetempest”]
And lastly, but most importantly, enjoy getting to know yourself. You’ve traveled through an ocean of depression and finally found yourself deep at the bottom of it. I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed with who you are underneath that ocean – I have a feeling you will love yourself so much that you will grab yourself by the hand and pull yourself back to the surface.