“Reading that article was the first hint my subconscious gave me that I wasn’t okay.”
I’ve put this essay off till the very last possible day. Anytime my lecturers ask me to write something for my assignment, the question that pop in my mind is always, ‘When is the submission date? The deadline?’ It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, but these assignments gave me such a strange and creeping anxiety. It’s happening right this very second, as the words are coming out of my fingers. Sure, I think I’m a pretty good writer, but it’s not like I’m J.K Rowling! What am I freaking out about? My lecturer and my friends will see it, they will even read it, and if I’m lucky they’ll get something from it.
No. If I’m honest, in my head, it’s more like this: My lecturer and my friends will see it, they will even read it, and if they don’t get anything from it then maybe it’s a reflection of my worth.
Let’s talk about something else.
I read an article about Stephen Fry speaking movingly about living alongside his mental health problems, rather than being able to banish them forever. “I’m not going to kid myself that it’s cured, because it isn’t,” he said, comparing his bipolar disorder to a scab that can still break open and bleed on occasion. Reading that article was the first hint my subconscious gave me that I wasn’t okay.
I talk about this with a close friend of mine and she told me to take DASS test. DASS test is a set of three self-report scales designed to measure the negative emotional states of depression, anxiety and stress. It was constructed not merely as another set of scales to measure conventionally defined emotional states, but to further the process of defining, understanding, and measuring the ubiquitous and clinically significant emotional states described as depression, anxiety and stress. I did it online and my result are severe on depression and anxiety, moderate on stress.
I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t laugh after that. I’m still hesitant to call it depression. Mostly out of fear because I don’t know what reaction I will get. I told myself that depression is scary and no one wants to hear about that.
Keep it hidden and keep smiling. I’d felt drab and melancholy. It gets worse every day. Sometimes I cried from uncontrollable, overwhelming, life-swallowing sadness. And all the time, the sadness and crying itself freaked me out. I would start crying, and then immediately hate myself. Why was I crying? Why couldn’t I get this sadness to go away? What was wrong with me?
Exhaustion. I’m too often exhausted to do at least one simple activity or even get up from bed. I’ll lay in bed until my anxiety about being late builds to a point where it can overpower my mind. Some days I can’t bring myself to get up in time, and I’ve kept friends waiting for up to an hour. Other days despite my best efforts I realize that I really can’t get up at all, and I cancel on friends at the last minute. I ended up lying in my bed the whole day, hiding from the world in the safety of my bed. I’d spent the past couple of days feeling a little despondent. I can’t explain why getting up is so hard. I’m just so tired.
Sometimes I would have this extreme anxiety before going to school, sleepless nights before games or tests, endless thoughts of everyone being against me, and days where I felt completely alone in the world. I chose to pretend that I was sick on quiz and test days. I felt helpless and lost. Books didn’t interest me anymore. My grades dropped. I was stuck in my own prison of thoughts. I was afraid to talk to anyone. I was afraid that people would judge me. I was afraid to fail. I wanted to break away from this prison and free myself. But it was not easy. I didn’t know what to do.
And the one day, I stare at my reflection on the mirror with tears streaming down my face and begging myself to just hold on and be strong.
It was on one of those dark days that I thought back to something that had once brought me real joy; immersing myself in nature. I could still feel the excitement when the first time I go to the beach with my family. But because of depression, everything that I was passionate about, including this beloved activity, were left to the wayside as I tried to adapt to a new environment.
Realizing this, I snapped out of my thoughts, and decided to go outside of the house even though It’s a gargantuan effort to get up from my bed.
I ate a hearty evening meal and then set off for a brisk amble and sunset on the beach. I walk around the seashore until I came across a fallen coconut tree that I could find to sit on and enjoy the view of bright orange sun just about to hit the water on the horizon. After an exhausting battle I have with my mind, I finally felt relaxed staring into this beautiful act of nature.
Sitting there and enjoying the solitude I have, I closed my eyes and I started to hear the soothing sound of the waves brushing the sand. There was a slight breeze that kept brushing strands of my hair right onto my face, but I did not mind at all because that breeze felt so cooling on my warmed up skin. Along with the breeze came tiny bits of salty sand flying all over the place, as I move my hair out of my face, I get some sand in my mouth and taste the mixture of the grains and the salt, but it does not bother me.
I open up my eyes to this intense assortment of orange, yellow, and pink colours all over the sky with fiery sun already starting to hit the water. The ocean water is now mirroring the colours in the sky. There is a small boat in the distance that is in the exact same path of the sun, which in my view, looks like it adds a little extra beauty to the scene.
After a couple of minutes, I decided to reach out and put my feet out into the water. As soon as I put them in, my body cools down immediately, it feels refreshing. Standing in the water, my eyes start to get watery as more of the salty breeze sweeps my face, my hair is no longer in my face but flying back behind me. The breeze feels amazing, cooling, and soothing, it makes me want to just put my hands out like I’m flying. After a couple minutes of just standing there and enjoying that moment, I decide to go back to my grandparents’ house.
When I got home, I sat on the front door and removed my sandy flip flop slipper, heaving a sigh of relief because I felt lighter than when I set out. I’ve realized that being in nature can help my mental wellbeing. Moving my body can be difficult when my brain is aching and my mood is low. But if I can muster the energy for a little walk in nature, it’ll make me feel a little bit better than before.
I remind myself, whether I suffer from a mood disorder or not, to get out into the fresh air, breathe properly, look at the sky, appreciate the sounds and the smells of nature.