Reflections

My Journey with Mental Health

Today’s blog post wasn’t easy to share, but the purpose of having a platform and a voice is to use them to share stories, even the difficult ones…

I was seventeen when I was diagnosed with Depression.

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my Wellness teacher had us all complete a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). It was basically a form that we used to self-assess our wellness in order to determine if there was greater cause for concern or not.

After reviewing our HADS results, she called me to her office. I had scored highly on both anxiety and depression. (This was not the kind of test I had wanted to ace). It was recommended that I see the school psychiatrist to get a better understanding of the severity of my situation.

The school psychiatrist (who soon became my therapist) confirmed what I had recently learned and I began going for weekly sessions shortly after.

This is going to sound so strange, but when I was told that I had Depression and Anxiety, I felt a sense of relief. For nearly a year, all I had wanted to do was cry and sleep and work and repeat. I finally had an answer as to why that was. Better yet, I knew that there were ways to manage it and that I didn’t have to figure them out on my own.

In therapy, we began to slowly work through where some of my anxiety and depression had been coming from, and why it had been triggered in a boarding school environment. We discovered that I’m an introvert who never got any time alone. I was either in class with other people, at lunch with other people, in extracurricular activities with other people, at dinner with other people, or going to sleep next to my roommate. I never had alone-time or space to reenergize in school and it had been draining me since I stepped onto campus.

It had taken me 17 years to learn that being sociable and outgoing does not always equate to being extroverted. I wasn’t shy, but I did need time alone to recharge after a heavy day of socializing. Human interactions actually drained me.

It sounds a little too simple, but learning that I need to be alone and in silence every once in a while actually saved my life. Having an hour once a week to just talk through everything that was going on in my head was like breathing again for me. I no longer feel guilty for needing space from others. I’m just very upfront about it with friends and family. I’ll even excuse myself from social situations if need be.

I’m lucky because my Depression wasn’t severe enough to need medication. Going for therapy and having my own room in which to isolate myself from the world has proven to work wonders for me. But overcoming Depression and Anxiety is not a linear progression. It’s easy to trigger one or the other if I don’t take enough time for myself or if I’m placed in a negative and high-stress situation. Sometimes I need to go back to therapy, and other times, I just need to write. I’ve found that channeling my thoughts into lyrics has helped me express what I’m feeling even before I know exactly what it is.

Below is a song that I wrote before I knew that I was depressed. My mum heard it and cried, and she’s supported my mental health journey ever since. My whole family has. They keep an eye on me and will ask me if my home and school life are balancing well enough for me to thrive.

Don’t ever be afraid to seek help. If you think that you’re a little bit more than sad, talk to someone. If you are sad and you just want to be absolutely sure that you’re okay, talk to someone. Even if you’re happy and life is dandy, talk to someone. Prevention is better than cure.

Mental health is a delicate topic to navigate and everyone’s story is very different. This was a part of mine, so thanks for sharing it with me.

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