Everyone has a story of how they came to be the person they are today. My name is Brenda and my struggle began in 2007 at the age of fourteen. Before I begin sharing the details, I have to express what I now know but failed to see back then. We all have a mental health that needs to be taken care of as much as our physical health.
This fact unbeknownst to many for reasons ranging from the stigma surrounding mental illness to a lack of awareness has resulted in an ever growing prevalence of depression and anxiety in society today.
Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, a lack of serotonin – what makes a person feel happy. For someone suffering from depression, it can feel as though eternal darkness controls every fibre of your being each and every minute. However, it is also human nature to feel sad – this sadness almost always associated with ‘feeling depressed’ leaving it hard to distinguish the difference between feelings of extreme sadness and depression as a mental illness itself.
Mental illness can be hereditary, or a manifestation of an underlying issue never resolved. For me, it all started with an eating disorder that consumed me (the irony) – but regardless of the root cause, I neglected caring for my mental health. It felt as though I was chained to the bottom of an endless hole of impending doom, suicidal thoughts began at 15 alongside self-harming and constant questions of the easiest way to take my own life.
Focus and concentration were non-existent, I did badly in high school despite being the daughter of a teacher (hello, stereotypes!) and as years came to pass, I became a four time university drop out. I felt a constant need to escape and so I ran down the path of self-destruction in hopes of finding solace, only to meet my demons face to face. It was a vicious cycle that only I, myself, could break. I was tired of being depressed all the time, I knew something had to be done – but what? How could I escape the gallows of my hopelessness embedded so deep within me? How do I change things? I began to question myself, then I questioned everything. I knew then I had an underlying issue waiting to be discovered, so I started seeking professional help.
Addressing your struggles and facing them courageously is magical in its own ways. When you suffer in silence, it’s impossible to take steps towards nurturing your mind. Talking about it not only helps you express what you bottle up inside – it can also encourage others to speak up about their difficulties. We are all only human and it is natural we experience waves of emotions – we feel sad and anxious, happy and content. Negative emotions can stem from almost anything – a lack of confidence, self-worth, or a manifestation of something so deep seeded, buried in our subconscious. No matter what the cause, it’s never the end of the world. It might be tough, can get a lot tougher, but it can also get better.
It’s one thing to be sad and feel depressed, but if you’re in a situation where it feels as though a void swallows you whole – it’s probably time to seek professional help, especially if it affects your ability to perform on a day to day basis. The only way out is to take control and do something about it. From talking a stroll, to seeking counselling services. I’d like to think the only person who can really help you is yourself – but before getting to that very point some may need guidance. There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help from a counsellor or a psychologist. Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are great ways to untangle the root of your struggles.
While everyday is still a struggle for me – and I try hard to practice what I preach – one thing I have learned from my battle with mental illness is that I am not alone. On some days, a light shines and I see my battle as an advantage; the very essence of what shaped me into who I am today. We all have the courage to push through walls, climb over them if we have to. The severity of my struggles cannot be compared to another, but everyone suffers – pain is a constant, but so is change.
My advice to anyone struggling with any form of mental illness is to learn to take control of your mind, body, and spirit. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Change can happen when we start making conscious decisions in spite of how painful it may be, every choice you make creates a ripple effect – so staying in the same spot will only sink you deeper. I read somewhere that when you feel too depressed to do anything, the best thing to do is the exact opposite. It’s tough, I’ve probably tried it 1 out of 10 times – but it worked wonders and planted within me a seed of hope, and healing grew whenever I watered it.