photo by Ravyn Sanford
Last year I fell into a slump. It was my junior year of high school, Year 12 where I'm from. I don’t fully remember how it really happened. It just felt like everything around me caved in slowly, then all at once. In this day and age it is fairly common to talk about mental illness, at least with your friends or family. So when I started to fall into a bad bout of depression I didn’t mind telling my friends and family who were familiar with the illness. What I didn’t realise was how difficult it would be for me to exist after telling them. The difficult part for me were the updates. Every time someone close to me would ask me how I was doing I felt stupid. It was always the same response. “Not the best. You know how it is at the moment.” “I’m tired of exisiting.” For many months I would give them the same response. My parents, my best friends… it felt like I was slipping away from my loved ones. But I didn’t mind slipping away as long as it meant that I didn’t have to remain the bearer of bad news.
To be honest, I felt guilty. I felt like I was letting my friends down by not getting better. I began missing school, sleeping all day and not leaving my house. I thought to myself that this was the best way to be, barely existing. Not bothering or disappointing anyone. Just sleeping during the day and laying in bed at night listening to Seigfried by Frank Ocean on repeat. I remember texting my mum in class saying something along the lines of ‘I feel worthless. Please let me come home. I am don’t want anybody to see me.’ The girl who sent that text seems like a distant stranger now. Or at least a person that I rarely encounter or let rule my every thought.
It’s January now. A new year. Whatever that means.
Things have changed for me. Or rather, I made them change.
Not every day is great. Sometimes I still struggle. But I am definitely not in that dark place anymore. Below are the actions I took to do my best to improve my state. If you are experiencing something similar I hope they provide you with at least some comfort.
1. Try and leave the house at least once a day. This was the first step that I took to begin to heal myself. I told myself that I would go outside every day for at least 15 minutes. I couldn't do it everyday, heck, sometimes I still don’t, but when stuck to, this makes you feel so much better. Doing something like going to the supermarket for groceries, walking your dog, getting coffee with a friend, reading a book at the park, or just walking the streets makes a huge impact on your mood and enables you to look outside of yourself and your own head temporarily.
2. I stopped telling myself I was disgusting and worthless. It sounds simple. But it was something I had to actively implement every day. I had to look into the mirror and turn what I was saying around. Instead of calling myself unworthy I would look in the mirror and silently say: ‘you deserve to be here. you are a beautiful person. i love myself. the people that are in my life love and care about me. i am worthy of this life.’
3. I started seeing a therapist. Perhaps this is the most obvious tip, but it certainly worked. Depending on where you live and what age you are, you may get access to a few sessions of free therapy. In my country if you are under 18 you get 3 free sessions. These sessions worked wonders. It was helpful to be vent to someone who was familiar and educated on what I was going through. Sitting in a comfortable room with scented candle, cushions and a full box of tissues, talking to a trained professional enabled me to be honest with myself about the habits I had fallen into and the illness I was struggling with. I said exactly how I was feeling and was given advice and reasoning for why I was feeling the way that I was. I remember sitting outside in the carpark after my first session. A huge weight was lifted off of my chest. I had begun to heal.
4. Go on medication, or at least see a doctor to learn some information about it. Medication for mental illnesses had a bad reputation, but trust me, it will work wonders on you if you truly need it. I personally did not need it, but many people I know take medication or have taken it in the past and have had positive experiences. Someone described taking anti-depressants to me as “It takes away the dark cloudy fog and enables you to see things from a fresh perspective. You feel lighter and less scared.”
5. Find out why you are feeling the way that you are. I was able to do this by looking at my families history with the illness, talking to a therapist about my life events and figuring out a plan of action. You have to have some kind of plan in order to move forwards, and that’s the goal right? By tracing back to the root of the illness, I was able to rationalise with my mental state and stop viewing it as a weakness, but instead as something I deal with, that I am able to fix or improve, much like a broken arm or leg that needs to be treated in order to heal.
6. Take care of yourself. Try and clean your sheets, or at least turn them over once a week. Fuel your body with the healthiest meals you can. By getting the right nutrients you will be healing yourself in other ways. Exercise if you can. Shower, wash your hair and exfoliate. Spend time with animals. See your friends. Journal for mental clarity and mindfulness. Get outside. Watch a film. Hang out with children. Whatever makes you feel better.
7. Spend time with friends. Try to be honest with them. Let them know how you feel. Please do not push them away. I learnt this the hard way. If they are true friends they will be there for you no matter what.
And finally, believe that you will get better. One day you will wake up and things will seem a little brighter. You will feel a little less caught up in your own head and a little more thankful for the sun and the trees and water. If you are struggling with depression you are not alone. So many people deal with this. These tips won’t drastically change your life and teleport you to a dreamworld, but they will help you start making change. It takes time, but trust the process.