Growing up I knew mental health issues existed, I just never thought I would end up with them. I had used the phrase “I’m so depressed” many times as a teenager. If I could go back, I would tell that ignorant girl to wait a few years and then she’d know what depression meant.
I’ve always been an introvert; withdrawn and quiet. I had faced obstacles just like everyone else does at some point in life. But what surprised me was the way I reacted; when things got hard I became even more detached. Activities that I had once enjoyed – reading, going out, even eating things I liked – became too difficult.
It wasn’t until my workplace picked up on it, I guess, that I did too. That’s the thing about depression you don’t realize you’re in it until you’re far gone. I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, it was just a bad day that turned into a few bad weeks and then a bad year.
After a pretty mortifying conversation, my boss made me promise to seek help.
That night I locked myself in the bathroom that night and sunk to the floor and cried for hours. I was worried about what the doctor would say, embarrassed and ashamed of the person I’d become. It was then that I realized how empty and hollow I’d become in the last year.
The diagnosis was severe depression and I was given anti-depressants. The first few weeks were hard. Overall, the antidepressants didn’t make much of a difference to my mood, but the side effects were awful. I was always nauseous and I lost a lot of weight. They made me shake continuously. It was a good thing it was getting colder out, so I didn’t look like a complete nut.
I went through three different sets of anti-depressants, meant three sets of side-effects. None of the anti-depressants particularly worked. It started affecting my life and my ability to work and I took too many sick days. After a particularly awful panic attack, I broke down and quit. It was impossible to keep working when my body was basically attacking me.
I told a few people about the depression but I kept it mostly to myself. Mental health was a taboo subject; it wasn’t something my friends or people that I knew talked about freely. I was worried about what people would think of me and I was so ashamed that I had let it get this far.
At this point, I decided to tell my parents what had happened. Discussing mental health with my Indian mother was pretty painful. She meant well, but she didn’t understand. She couldn’t comprehend why I couldn’t just ignore it and get on with life. Over time she has become a lot more understanding about it. Around the same time, I also chose to stop taking the anti-depressants as I had become so unwell from taking them.
So here I was 24, mentally unstable and unemployed. It felt like the end of the world, but it was merely the beginning.
It was during the darkest of my days that I discovered my love for writing. I’m not sure I would have found it had I not been searching for an outlet. Looking back; the depression had always been within me, I had just never acknowledged it. I have been seeing a therapist who is helping me understand how to deal with depression and anxiety. The whole experience made me realize how unhappy I was with my life and forced me to make some changes. I am learning to do the things I love, even if they frighten me. Especially when they frighten me.
For the first time in a while, I am excited to see what I can achieve and how far I can push myself.
I’m not fixed.
I’m sure that this is something that will always be a part of my life and I am finally learning to come to terms with it. I have days where I can’t get out of bed or do simple things like shower and eat. I still have panic attacks. These are things that won’t change for a while. But I’m learning to deal with it when I have a bad day I don’t let it destroy me anymore. I take each day at a time and I’m still learning so much about mental health and myself.
The funny thing is if you asked me whether I could erase the last year and take away the depression, I’m not sure I would. It’s a huge part of me and I’ve become stronger because of it.