I remember a year ago, my new year’s resolution was to rid myself the desire of ‘fixing’ myself.
The usual resolution is to eat better, think better, do better, but what is so wrong with what we’re doing now, that a countdown to a new hour of a new day is going to change all that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change, setting goals, and striving to be a better person, but I also prepare for failure.
Its nearing the end of 2015, did I keep my resolution? Absolutely not. I’m still trying to believe I’m not broken to begin with. With 2015, I’ve finally found the root of my mental battles, but it took a knock to the ground for me to find it.
I’ve been open with my mental illnesses before, both speaking and writing about it, and mental health is one of the most important things to me. If you haven’t heard of my history before, I developed an eating disorder at the age of 12, and depression by the age of 15, only to be free at 18/19.
Although I fully recovered, I never prepared to have my second round of depression so soon, at 20. In June 2015, I was the happiest I have ever been. I didn't have a worry or strife, to me birds were singing, flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. I remember walking to a friends house and I had a skip in my step, and I turned to her and said, "life is great!"
I had a job waiting for me in Dublin, the city that I missed so much since my departure in 2013. I was so excited for my new adventure. And then I started my first day. It was nothing I expected or dreamed of. Queue the devastation, the panic and floods of tears.
Within a week, I went from feeling like my life couldn't get any better, to fearing if it could get any worse. For a month, I didn't want to wake up the next day for work. I didn't want to hear that morning alarm at 6;30, I just wanted to rewind back to that girl that was excited for life, full of confidence, but she was stuck in a miserable job.
I never saw it coming, and I thought it was situational depression. Now I’m not for antidepressants, but knowing my job was influencing these feelings and I couldn't quit any time soon, I ran as quickly as I could to the GP for what I called a ‘pick-me-up.’ I took them for a week. Who was I trying to fool? I needed to change my environment, again.
Fast forward to a rush back to college, moving house, barely scraping rent, it took me another month for me to see my situation was following me. I had very little money as I waited for my student grant to kick in, so much so that spending money to print of cv's was risky, because I knew I'd need it for food.
College was demanding, and I was inundated with assignments. I wanted to do well this year, secure a good grade for my diploma, but it felt a good grade felt further out of reach. I was also incredibly lonely. Even though I live with my friends, I became paranoid that I wasn't wanted, that they all hated me.
I suddenly started feeling like my 15 year old self where I would spend every day alone, locked in my room. After four months of the same day, the same feelings on repeat, I realised I had been saying that I was in a slump, for four months. I realised that I had depression again. There I was in my room sitting on my bed thinking “how the hell did I get here again? How did I let everything fall apart?”
Although, I can get out of bed most days. I’m doing better in college than ever before, because I have to put my energy into something. My studies have become so important to me that missing a 9am lecture has reduced me to tears. It’s all I have right now, and that’s the problem. I feel like I’ve nothing else that I’m clinging on to what’s left, what hasn’t been destroyed. But with those missed lectures comes missed material, and yes, I’ve almost cried in the middle of a lecture because I felt like I knew nothing.
Maths and Accounting has surprisingly been one of my best subjects for the last two years, I felt like I could secure another decent grade again this year. After 13 weeks of college, its incredibly frustrating to sit there and know nothing, and not be able to grasp what number goes where. Getting the courage to get out of bed most days is something I was never able to do before, but I do have days where the mystery outside scares me back under the covers.
I’m living in constant battle between two minds, one who wants to escape the present, and one who dreams of the future.
The future is bright, but depression dims that light, until there’s such a vast fog that you can’t see past what’s right in front of you. And in that moment, everything around you is falling apart. Everything is grey, and you’re alone, because everyone else can see through the fog, while you’re stuck getting lost in it. They can feel the sun dance on their skin, while you can feel the rain soaking your bones.
I had my first meltdown recently, while walking home toward my apartment, I spaced out and saw a representative image of my life literally in flames, and as I climbed my stairs like a zombie, I got to my room and I was reading about a due assignment, and I snapped. I lost it.
My mind became an elastic band that couldn’t stretch any more. I laid on the ground bursting into tears shaking with adrenaline. I wanted to scream and smash everything. I just kept telling myself over and over again “you’ve really fucked up this time Sarah.”
Not much is different between this round of depression and my last. I still feel isolated, lonely, I cry almost every night, I’m angry at myself and others around me. I’m paranoid everyone hates me, I’ve become suspicious of peoples actions towards me, including my closest friends.
Most days I wake up and I can’t even think – my mind is either filled with a fiery chaos or grey smoke. I was sleep deprived, just lying there feeling like an empty shell. Except this time I’m irritable, anxious and restless. I honestly felt I was going mad, I imagined physically injuring people so vividly that if I was strong enough I probably would have. My heart would race at random times throughout the day, and i got frequent adrenaline rushes. I felt so on edge at all times, that it felt like I was surrounded by a bed of nails.
Aside from the loneliness, the tears, the anger, I have had suicidal thoughts.
You’re probably sitting there thinking why would I ever think like that, knowing that I can survive it, that I have before, and that I know it gets better.
It’s true, the evidence is right there in front of me, but I spent three years depressed, and when you battle it and survive, you come out feeling like you can do anything, that you are a fighter. Getting it again, I’ve wondered how many times in my life will I have to deal with this?
How many jobs will I quit, friends I will lose, relationships I'll destroy, days I will spend in bed, antidepressants I’ll take, counsellors I’ll visit. I live in fear that one day, my illness will kill me.
Depression is difficult, battling it every few years is torture, because when you take 10 steps forward, you’re pushed a mile back.
Depression breaks you down, it tears you apart, and there comes a point where you feel like you can't be destroyed any more.
If you broke your arm every 3 years, wouldn’t you want it gone too? But you wouldn’t get rid of it, because even though breaking your arm hurts like a bitch, you get used to it, you’ve accepted it’s going to happen every so often, you just got to ride out the pain. When your arm heals, you feel fantastic, you feel that you can get back to normality. You need your arm, and I need my future.
We get told to live in the present, and not to worry about the future, but sometimes the future is better than the now. Because although my illness is screaming at me to give up, end all the pain, knowing I’ve got the power to quit, my illness doesn’t see that I have a future.
It doesn’t see that I’ve a diploma waiting for me in a year, that I’ve fantastic supportive loving friends and family around me. It doesn’t see my dreams, my talents, my achievements. I feel lucky that I can separate who I am, and my illness, that I can recognise that there is nothing wrong with me. I may not feel happy, but I know I can be. Depression slowly infects your brain to rid you of happy thoughts, and you end up trying to escape the illness, but only ever escape your future.
So, I’ve accepted it. This is who I am, someone a little unhappier than the rest.
As I’ve said, I’m a huge advocate for positive mental health, so it would be reckless of me to ignore it and not treat it. My new year’s resolution is to take action on my health, and who knows, maybe I’ll never have to feel this way again. And I guess with that, I’m halfway through the battle.
I know I can get through this again, I just have to find my way out. It's important for me to be productive and to stay active. I'm working hard at college, I'm learning new arts and crafts, and I'm focusing more on my spiritual beliefs. Working on the things you love and matter to you will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride. If you do it, I can promise that you will start loving yourself day by day.
So here’s to a prosperous new year for you and I. Don’t feel like a new year is daunting, its just a new day, and with every day comes a fresh start. Don’t feel stuck, we all get lost in the fog; your future is there, you just can’t see it yet. You are more than your illness.
Yeah I may have to deal with depression for the rest of my days, but no matter how hard it gets I'm not gonna let it kill me, and neither will you. We are battling this together, we will survive it together; we are not alone. Make 2016 a year of healing, love, and empowerment. I wish you a merry Christmas and the happiest new year.