This shouldn’t be a surprise to those that know me best but I figure we should rip the bandaid off and get it out there: I suffer from depression and mild anxiety. My therapist recently labelled me an introvert, which explains a lot, to be honest. For years, I never knew how to explain what I was feeling or why I wasn’t feeling at all. What I felt was more a dull kind of melancholy. For years, I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in with others or why I couldn’t relate to others when I was trying so desperately to make small talk. Instead I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. No one was ever able to guide me to understand what I was experiencing. Sometimes I ask, “why did depression chose me?” and to be honest, who knows? But as an adult, I’m happy I’ve been able to figure it out.
I’m what some would consider a “media figure” or “influencer”. From the outside, you would have never suspected that anything was wrong with my mental health. I was really good at being ‘on’ for people and playing like everything was fine. It was exhausting doing this, if I’m being honest. At the time, I was running a wildly successful blog and being invited to events nearly every day. Mentally and emotionally, it was taking its toll on me. But rather than have some self-awareness and understand how it was wearing me down, I filled up on social fluff and so-called fun by using drugs and alcohol to mask the pain I felt. I endured the long hours and social events, I would make the aspirational Instagram posts and desperately hoped for new followers and likes on my page. I couldn’t wait for the next fix to help my deep-rooted insecurity, but in return it triggered my depression and anxiety something fierce.
Looking Fierce AF for an influencer campaign photo shoot.
Through social media, I showcased a person who was living their very best life. But mentally and emotionally, I was falling apart. I wish I could say that depression just happened one day, but it didn’t. It’s always been living inside of me. Depression and anxiety have been my lifelong friends, and they were just waiting to consume me. In November of 2015, it happened. I had what I would consider a mental breakdown of sorts and I decided I need to step back and really realign and focus in on what I needed to get better. This meant ending my blog and this meant ending some other relationships in my life. I needed to take my mental health seriously and I needed to become committed to making real life changes for myself so that I could become a better person for me and the people around me.
I wish I could have cured my depression with a simple face mask or red lipstick (although a quick trip to Sephora to stock up on those items has always helped) but it’s not a cure. For me, I have gone through several processes. I have been seeing a therapist weekly who let’s me talk about my thoughts and feelings and is letting me work through the various traumas I have been suppressing for years. I’m now enrolled in a therapy program at the Women’s College Hospital which is 16-weeks long, where we have mapped out goals to complete throughout this time. Our hours together are usually filled with tears, and I’m kind of okay with that because they are good tears.
Working through my mental health has been messy and emotional at times. To say that I wasn’t an awful person previously due to my depressive state would be an absolutely lie. In the process, I hurt a lot of people’s feelings and severed a lot of relationships I really valued. To reflect back on my actions makes me sad and knowing that I can’t change the narrative but only face it now in therapy and see what I did and correct the behavior is well, hard. Really fucking hard. But I’m facing it and making an effort to tell the people who have stuck by me just how much I love and care about them. My mental health progress and healing is not linear. For the friends who know me, they can see the work I’ve put in and that’s what matters. For me, it’s about more feeling and more real friendships. It’s about knowing I am supported and I’m not on this journey alone. It’s about getting to a place where I feel mentally and emotionally stable and to be honest, I don’t know if and when I’ll be there. Mental health is a lifelong journey and continuous battle.
While a bubble bath may be relaxing and great for self-care, it’s not a cure for depression. If you are struggling with any kind of mental health issue, try to find community either on the Internet (check out the hashtag #TalkingAboutIt started by NYC based writer Sammy Nickalls) or with your friends. Next up, figure out a plan for your own mental health journey. Only you can decide what it best for you, as mental health treatment is a personal journey. Finally, know that you’re not alone and you shouldn’t have to face whatever you’re feeling alone. If you’re ready to seek help from a professional team, don’t hesitate to reach out to CAMH: Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. Some days will feel tough and as someone who cries often on the subway, I get it. But from one depressed, anxiety-ridden friend to another: you’ve got this. Trust me, you really do.
If you have a friend in your life who has a mental illness, stop to ask them how you can help them. While Google is often times your best friend and can lead you to some great resources on mental illness (spoiler alert: you’re human and no one expects you to have all the answers) – the best thing you can do for someone who is in a tough spot is listen to them, provide them with empathy, be present and available, support them when they may need it and just be a pal, each and every day in good days and bad days.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Ama Scriver)