Miles to Go: A Journey Through Depression
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
When I was growing up, mental illness wasn’t spoken about. Words like “depression” and “anxiety” were simply people’s ways of expressing a bad day or a time when they’re feeling stressed. My first glimpse into these words as illnesses happened when I went to college. I had a friend with an anxiety disorder that needed to sit in an aisle seat during class to feel safe. This is when I first saw the reality of mental illnesses.
After graduating from college, I moved to New York City and I loved everything about it. From waking up in the morning and putting on a cute outfit for work to catching up with family, (mainly my mom, who I still call 10 times a day at the age of 27,) during my commute. My mother had always been an avid runner. Since I always wanted to be like her, I picked up the sport from a young age. Running became my passion, so I’d take every chance I had to go for a run. I was fortunate for the life I had.
It took months to face the truth that this was not something I could overcome alone.
However, something changed two and a half years ago. I started experiencing a persistent feeling of sadness– All the time. I would also feel so anxious that all I could do was cry. I lost interest in most things surrounding me. I didn’t want to see my friends, and I didn’t even want to run. I didn’t leave my apartment much anymore and spent a lot of time in bed. I tried to only leave home for work. If I had to run an errand, I would wait until nightfall, so I didn’t have to come in contact with many people. All I wanted was to be alone. The state of mind quickly began to rule my body, life, and decisions.
It didn't take long before my family noticed a pattern; they knew this was not my usual behavior. It wasn’t easy for me to accept the fact that I was going through new feelings and triggers that I never felt before. In dealing with these new emotions, I didn’t want to speak about them or listen to anyone’s advice. I had always been a strong-willed person, so I wanted to deal with it alone and hope that it would go away on its own.
My friends and family told me that speaking with someone about the way I was feeling was the first step in getting better, but I didn’t see the benefit in it—or couldn’t at the time. I didn’t think anything would help, and I didn’t want to sit and tell a therapist—a stranger—about how I was feeling. My family stood by my side the whole time, even though I tried to push them away. My mother scheduled numerous doctor’s appointments for me, in the hope that I would agree to go when the appointment came. I never did. This cycle happened for months. Still, she never gave up and refused to let me give up on myself.
THE TURNING POINT
It took months to face the truth that this was not something I could overcome alone. I started to see how much I let myself succumb to what I was feeling. I remember looking in the mirror one day, and I couldn’t recognize myself. It was then that I faced the fact that I needed help to get better. I was ready to say it out loud. That day, I picked up the phone, called my mom, and told her that I would go to an appointment.
The first doctor’s appointment was uncomfortable and awkward, just as I thought it would be. I dreaded sitting in front of a stranger and being vulnerable after months of hardly letting anyone else in. Though with my mom by my side, I sat with my doctor, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety.
Accepting that I was living with a mental illness wasn’t easy for me. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t get a hold of my feelings and “fix” it myself. I didn’t know how or why this happened to me, and the first year was very challenging. I experienced many trials and tribulations when trying different medications to see what might work for me—or what made me feel worse. I began learning how to cope with certain situations differently, and how to ask for help when I needed it.
I know I am still sitting here today because I faced my reality, instead of running
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
There isn’t one thing to make everyone with a mental illness feel better, so I had to learn what things would give me a sense of joy. I think everyone has their coping mechanisms. Personally, when I found myself becoming overwhelmed with thoughts, I pushed myself to start running again. Since I stopped running for some time, it has a deeper meaning to me now. It makes me happy and gives me a sense of perseverance. It reminds me that I can be alone with my thoughts when I run. It pushes me out of my comfort zone when I want to hideaway from the world, and it’s helped me get to the place I am today.
Now, I sit here and wish that the girl who thought she could never climb out of the dark hole could have asked for help sooner. I sit here and wish I could tell that girl there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know I am still sitting here today because I faced my reality, instead of running from it.
Depression and anxiety can start at any time and can affect anyone, regardless of their life circumstances. It’s a disease that no one is immune to. I think something people on the outside don’t understand is that nothing major has to happen to start a spiral. If you are experiencing depression and anxiety, please know how strong you can be. This can be managed. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and always more miles to go.