Student @ Trafalgar
I was never able to eloquently express my feelings. I would, and still do, trip over my words, my sentences coming out as a jumbled mess, leaving the other person confused and me feeling stupid and insecure. So whenever I was asked to explain my feelings of depression and anxiety, it always came out as “I don’t know. I’m probably just stressed”. This left me frustrated every time. I knew I wasn’t just stressed. There would be days where I spend hours locked in my room, laying still in my bed and staring at my ceiling. You’d never be able to tell that my mind was going crazy, the little voice in the back of my head, suddenly louder, telling me everything I didn’t want to hear but thought that I deserved to.
I was never officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety. As a person of colour from an immigrant family, mental illness was never addressed in my household. Even when I could feel my sister and my mother go through it, it was never discussed. I tried to bring it up once but the conversation ended quickly and awkwardly.
Like I said, I’m not very good at talking about my feelings, and because I wasn’t officially diagnosed, I felt like my feelings weren’t valid. I felt like I was overreacting and that everything would be fine if I’d just stop being lazy and got to work. I started experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in the 11th grade. I was living in Montreal at the time and was about to graduate high school. Fun fact: high school in Quebec ends at the 11th grade and then students move onto CEGEP. I was extremely scared and anxious for CEGEP; I had no idea what I wanted to do for my future, I was receiving immense pressure from my parents to pursue the sciences and from my friends to do “whatever I wanted”. I didn’t want to study science and I had absolutely no clue what I wanted. If I had to pinpoint where this all started, I would say here. It got especially worse during the months of November to March. It was cold and dark and I spent my days in school, then afterwards in my bedroom until I needed to eat. At this point in my life, I still thought that I was just being lazy, that I wasn’t actually experiencing depression or anxiety, even though all the signs pointed that way. I would get anxiety attacks, where I’d feel like a giant rock was sitting on my chest.
I would overthink every single one of my interactions; did I say something stupid? Does that person hate me? Why did I say that? I should just stay quiet. Most days I just wanted to vanish into thin air, pretend like I never existed.
In April, I got my acceptance letter. I was going to go to CEGEP with my best friend, until my parents told me that we were moving to Brampton in September. It would be my last summer in the city where I grew up and lived in for 14 years.
My first year in Brampton was actually good. I had to do Grade 12 and I made a lot of friends and excelled in my classes. I thought it was gone, I was cured. It wasn’t and I wasn’t. I did a lot of research on depression and anxiety and by a lot, I mean that I went on WebMD. When I went to counsellors, I never told them the full story so they also thought I was just experiencing stress. I compared myself to others, believing that other people had it way worse, that I should be grateful to still be alive and that I should get over it. Eventually, I came to terms with it and accepted what I was feeling but I became very cynical and didn’t want to get better because it would always come back. I accepted that this was my life now.
At the time, I was studying Art Fundamentals at Sheridan College. I was always comparing myself to my peers. I believed that my art wasn’t good enough and that I’d never succeed. This mindset affected my school life. I was planning on applying for Animation but I never got around to building my portfolio because I didn’t even want to try to get in anymore. I thought my work would never be good enough so why bother. I was thrown into another spiral of feelings of depression. Getting up in the morning was a challenge. I would breakdown almost every single night. But, somehow I persisted.
I can proudly say that I’m in a much better place now. I realized that everyone experiences mental illness differently and just because the way I’m experiencing it is different than others doesn’t mean that my feelings aren’t valid. Realizing that really helped me. The next step was to take those steps to recovery.
Recovery no longer seemed like a goal that was out of reach. I started going to counselling, I tried to stop being so hard on myself and allowed myself to make mistakes. I tried to pick up hobbies that I abandoned because of my depression, such as reading. Before I could barely focus enough to get through a chapter but this past summer I’ve read 14 books and I really enjoyed it. I think that helped a lot. I started doing yoga and meditation, practices that I never believed would be beneficial to me. Although I still experience depression and anxiety, my mindset has changed. I believe that I can get better through self-care. I’m in a program that I love, I’m doing things I’m good at and I have an amazing support system. As I’m writing this blog post, I still feel anxious that my feelings and experiences aren’t valid. That will take time. But I truly hope that whoever is reading this takes away one key message: Allow yourself to get better.