Month: March 2014

Started from the bottom, now we here

Yes, I did just quote Drake, and no, I am not sorry. Although the cliché may be entirely overused, I feel like it is actually quite fitting for the place I am at in my life.

Sometimes, I love that I have depression, and that my struggle with it was absolutely horrible. You may think this statement is absolutely absurd, but allow me to elaborate.

The beauty about hitting rock bottom, like I did, where I can confidently say I was at the lowest point in my life, is that there is absolutely no where to go but up. I couldn’t possibly get any lower than I already was, and no matter what I did, was only going to be a step up. As depressing a thought that may be, it’s strangely liberating and allows you to take a few risks, because you have absolutely nothing to lose. I learned that if I wanted more reasons to exist in this world, I had to create them. I made a conscious effort to become more involved on campus, so that I would have more responsibilities or activities in my life, but ones I actually enjoyed – not the boring responsibilities that come with classes. In the past month alone, I’ve received two positions that are entirely different. The first; Co-President of the UBC Mental Health Awareness Club, and the second; Chairperson of the Sauder Squad. Obviously mental health is extremely important to me, which is why I am so honoured to have such an important position. I’ve wanted to be a part of the Sauder Squad since my very first day at Sauder, when I saw the Sauder Squad going around Sauder with our mascot, amping students up. To see myself go from that little first year, to a person who was so deep in the throws of depression, to today, where I have two phenomenal opportunities I could not be more ecstatic about, I know that there is hope for conquering depression. Here I go again, feeding into the stereotypical sayings, like “it gets better”, but it really is true. Quite frankly, I know that without my depression I would not have felt the need to step this far out of my comfort zone to apply for Sauder executive positions, or have had that deep desire to pursue mental health initiatives. I am deeply grateful for my struggle, and these are the things that make the bad days much more manageable than ever before.

I’m not out of the woods, because with a lifelong illness, that isn’t always an attainable concept, but I definitely find myself at a clearing, and that makes me feel a lot better. In the moments where I start to feel bad about myself, because I’ve done something wrong, or been criticized, or anything else that can set me off, I remember that I have these things that I have worked to accomplish, and that one small wrongdoing doesn’t seem so big anymore. Doing things for myself, and getting involved in the community, contributing to something that gave me strength and happiness in the past, helps me put a lot into perspective, and brush off the little things, because I can’t sweat the small stuff (especially if I’m in a business suit).

Keep Surviving by Living.

 

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We endure. We are survivors. We are the definition of strength.

It goes without saying that people who struggle with depression, or other mental illness can be more prone to bad days. You may be thinking “everyone has bad days”, and that would be correct, but my bad days are a little different. I guess you could say I’m kind of like a sports car – my mood can go from 0 (being calm) to 100 (being angry/sad) in a blink of an eye. Granted, the shiny exterior and nice look doesn’t really describe how I appear in those moments. It’s ugly. It’s tear-stained cheeks and red eyes with clenched teeth. For me in particular, bad days aren’t just about me being sad. Because of my conversion disorder, my body has an interesting way of somehow correlating sadness with anger, so instead of just crying and being sad over nothing, I end up absolutely fuming over nothing.

When most people have a bad day, or are in a lousy mood, they can usually, but not always determine a reason why their day has gone down the crapper – their coffee got spilled, construction woke them up, they had a flat tire, their boss pissed them off, anything really. When I have a bad day, I get all riled up for no reason, which makes me even more riled up. I don’t have that reason, no matter how small, to be having a bad day or moment – I just have them. I can’t control it, I can’t calm myself down, and I most certainly can’t even begin to understand it.

There are certain things that can make me more prone to bad days – stress, lack of sleep, or anything else that makes other people more likely to take a page out of Oscar the Grouch’s book and spend the day with a bitter outlook. The difference is that I don’t just become bitter, I become miserable – nothing is right, and this unbearable wave of emotion comes over me and makes me feel like I’m drowning. It’s probably one of the worst parts of depression, because I can see how absolutely ridiculous I’m being, but my emotion is just so overpowering and it’s hard to reign it in and keep it contained sometimes.

Nevertheless, these bad moments pass. Perhaps not in minutes, maybe not even hours all the time, but it no longer stays forever. And that is how I know I am well on my way to being able to take control of my depression instead of letting it fully control me.

I think of it as The Hulk, sometimes I go into Hulk mode and get really angry, because I’m really just very sad, and then eventually I go back to being me again. The hard part is realizing that I’m not The Angry Hulk person, and not letting that define who I really am.

There is a phrase about only being able to experience highs if you experience lows, and I must say, when I’m in a really low state, the idea of a high is unthinkable, but when I get out of that really dark place, it’s amazing – it’s like I can breathe again.

People who struggle with mental illness are warriors – they can’t adequately wage a war against their enemy, because the enemy thrives in their own minds. Every day I remain on this earth, is a testament to the idea that depression isn’t the end of everything, it is only the beginning. To find the strength within myself to not allow depression to control me for extended periods of time, and forgiving myself for having bad nights, was probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. And you know what? I’m glad I did it, because other people may not be able to forgive me or help me when I am going through a horribly rough time, but eventually I will. When it feels like I’m being consumed by my depression but I know I’ll come out of it eventually, speaks to the survival and endurance a person with mental illness tackles on a daily basis. Many people say, just take it one day at a time. Me? I take things one minute at a time. A lot can change in a day, and each minute I endure and survive, contributes to surviving another day, and when you’re living, surviving comes more naturally.

Should you come across a person who is perhaps depressed and upset, do not take their crying or low mood as a sign of weakness. Take it as the greatest sign of strength, because it means they would rather endure that pain and horrid mood, than choose to end it all.

In short, yes, I have bad days. Yes, they suck. Yes, they can screw my plans up a lot.

No, they cannot control me. No, they do not stay. No, they do not hinder me from living the life I deserve.

Keep Surviving by Living