How mental health has impacted my life is something that is hard to describe; I can’t remember a time I wasn't depressed or anxious. From a young age, my default emotion has been sadness. I rarely looked to the future with a hopeful glint in my eye, nor did I believe I would find any kind of success in life. The anxiety I had stopped me from ever feeling safe or in control. Later in life, around eleventh grade, I had become able to control my anxiety, yet my depression had seemingly been getting worse. I had no confidence or value in myself. This caused me to have many problems in life. I felt terribly lonely and thought that nobody would ever care about me. Even when I went home to an incredibly loving and supportive family, I still felt alone in the world. And that is what depression does; it makes you feel like you're entirely alone, regardless of how many people love you. I would seclude myself to the point where I didn’t even spend time with my own family. Like most people, I wanted to be in a relationship, I wanted to care for somebody and somebody to care for me. But when faced with an opportunity to have one, I always ran from it. I didn’t think I could ever make a good partner because I thought I had nothing good to offer anyone. How could I believe somebody could love me if I hated myself? This is an aspect of depression I admittedly still struggle with. It was this mindset which led to me becoming suicidal for the first time. I didn’t think I could ever find a way to be happy unless I ended my life, I saw no other option.
Sometime in January of 2017 I was experimenting with drugs. I turned to these substances because I wasn’t fulfilled with the life I was living. I was attempting to find meaning through them. During this time I had what my family doctor called a traumatic experience. While on psychedelics, I had a vivid and terrifying night where I witnessed my greatest fears becoming true. In the months following I was unable to live a normal life. I could not leave my home. I would lay on my couch detached from reality, my mind racing so fast I wouldn’t speak for hours. This experience, among others, had pulled my anxiety back into the foreground, functionally eliminating any work that I had done in the past to cope with it. A couple months later my family doctor told me I was showing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anything in everyday life, whether it was a colour, a voice, or a piece of furniture could cause me to have a flashback and throw me into a panic attack. My vision went blurry, my heart would race, and I would experience all of the feelings of hopelessness and fear I experienced months earlier. One of the characteristic signs that I was going to have a panic attack was, strangely enough, an intense pressure in my gums just beneath my teeth. It would last only a few seconds, but seemed like I was standing in place for days within a living nightmare. Once it passed I could do few things other than become overwhelmed and cry. Every day was a fight. I would wake up thinking “What’s going to happen to me today?”, “Where will my next panic attack happen? What will cause it this time?”
It has been over a year since then, and I have improved greatly and learned much about myself and my mental health. The most important thing I have learned is that when you feel like you are at your weakest and can’t continue is when you can muster your greatest strength. By not giving up, you can overcome things you never believed you could. A long time ago I read a quote. I don’t remember where I found it or who wrote it but it has stuck with me since. It went somewhat like this: “To be your best, make everybody around you their best.” And that is the philosophy that helped me improve myself. By offering your hand to somebody in need, you will learn not only learn about them, but also yourself. And when you are surrounded by happy people, you can’t help but see things in a brighter light. One night I learned that two of my closest friends had at one point been or currently were suicidal. It struck me like a bolt of lightening that these people, who I held so dear, could be suffering from such pain and neither of us knew that we felt the same way. It was through us being honest and caring for each other that led to one of my biggest breakthroughs. It’s true that some days I still wake up feeling like I’m fighting an uphill battle. Some days I fear I am what my depression tells me I am. But what helps is knowing that I’m surrounded by a loving family, caring friends, and incredible coworkers. I now know that life is worth living, and if I did end my life, I wouldn’t able to experience such beautiful things like art or love. I would miss out on so many experiences and emotions and would leave so many ideas unthought. I know that, like everybody reading this, no matter how sad I am, I’m not alone. There are millions of people who, like I did, struggle in silence everyday. These people should know that they deserve to live a fulfilling life filled with happiness and love, and that they possess more strength than they realize, they just need to let themselves find it.