Hey you, long time no talk! I may or may not have abandoned my passion for writing a little way past its bedtime. And, it may or may not have had an effect on me this past year. Please bear with me as I try to flush out so many thoughts that stayed stored away in my head and dwelled in my heart this past year.
Alright, first things first: I’ll be talking about mental health illness in this post. I want to send out trigger warnings on anxiety, depression, PTSD, hopelessness and debilitating thoughts, or struggles surrounding the search for meaning and purpose in life.
Back in mid-2018 I posted a picture on Instagram expressing my confidence that I would tackle my last year of undergrad like a boss. This is a humble update to let y’all know that I failed in taking on this last year with a bang. But I have much to bring you in epiphanies:
- Life is so complicated.
- Mental health is so real.
- Physical health can and will reflect how you are doing mentally.
- Time limits are fake. Pace is YOURS.
- Burn-out, which leads to a nervous breakdown, can change your life.
- Success, whatever that means today, is not worth losing yourself over. (Especially when your lack of attention to your health gets you to the point where you’ve isolated yourself and lost meaning because you have no family or friends to share said success with.)
We are glamorizing lack of sleep in our society. Lack of healthy habits, including healthy eating and media/information consumption. That hustle-grind-get-to-early-retirement mentality is as if that’s what God made us to be.
Life is so so so much more than chasing security and comfort, peeps. And yes, it’s NOT easy.
I was spoon fed growing up thinking that life is this perfect fairytale, that it’s all black and white. Yet when it went grey this past year it became too overwhelming to understand so I thought I should forget about trying to figure it out and give up on life in general.
It took me breaking down completely and hitting rock bottom after my 21st birthday this past December in order to learn a new perspective and to start the horribly painful work that is dealing with emotional pain. The pain from my childhood. The pain from broken relationships. Broken dreams. And the overall heaviness that is life itself, as a person who tries to live everything and love everyone.
I’m working through admitting that it is okay not to be okay, meanwhile still holding on to the hope that it won’t stay so gloomy forever. I’m excited to work through my mental health with family and friends, and even professionals. I’m excited to get back to a physical state that grounds me better than I used to be.
I’m realizing that to admit you’re not okay, and far from perfect, is the first place to start the journey of healing.
As a Christian it almost felt wrong to be struggling, though. I was in huge denial when I had a breakdown. I thought this was something else I could fix on my own. It wasn’t until I was in bed for a week with debilitating thoughts that I reached out for help. I realized I needed a drastic change of mentality and lifestyle. If I didn’t reach out for help I don’t know where I’d be right now.
I went into my Bible as well looking for answers; some kind of explanation as to why I feel like life is not worth living, and found so many people who struggled the exact same way.
The Psalms are my favourite right now. And don’t get me started on Job.
Now I stopped creating this past year because of anxiety. This fear that I was being judged for my every thought and every move. That I wasn’t good enough. That I had to fit into a box and I couldn’t quite find this box. And it made me sick. Mentally. And physically. I was also incredibly burned out from the past 3 years of college. I’ll talk more about burnout in another blog because that’s a whole other thing.
Writing was my outlet. It was the way I coped with anxiety, stress, emotions too intense to understand. I went to writing when I didn’t want to do anything else. I loved creating videos too because I’d forget about the world and its brokenness while I dived into editing. I got to write the story. I got to express myself and the potential for a world I’d always imagined. When I stopped doing all that creative work I think a part of me died. And it started to infect every other part of my body.
After teaching in Jordan, I couldn’t even bring myself to write thank you cards for my supporters. I couldn’t even write out my thoughts properly because I had anxiety that I wouldn’t do the experience any justice. I kept it all inside because I feared nobody would understand my experience or my “why,” and I would be de-validated.
So began my spiral.
I was a mess for the last couple months of 2018. There is much more to admit about this spiral but I can start off by saying how my lack of creativity led me to crash sooner than I would have had I kept up the writing/creating.
Fast forward to December when I crashed. I had to opt out of my European exchange program that I worked so hard for.
I worked 5AM-8AM teaching online, and part-time at Forever 21 for 4 months in order to make enough money to go. And I took online courses so I could limit time spent at school/commuting. I learned how to cook. Prioritized the gym. Everything you needed to know in order to live alone.
I gave up on this exchange program because I feared being all alone in a foreign land. And honestly it doesn’t get me closer to healing when I keep replaying in my head the reason why I backed out; because I feared being alone with my thoughts.
But I know this much: whatever I give up now in order to work on myself will be returned to me twofold. I hold onto this hope. That being with family now instead of being in school is what I need right now. That being on a mini trip to Europe is exactly where I should be. And that having time to read and write is what I’ve not only wanted, but needed all along.
I’ve gotten to know Jesus on a deeper level through this. I’ve gotten to figure out what kind of life I want to lead, after following in His footsteps; what boundaries to put up, and which walls in my heart I need to break down. I’ve been on my knees more times than I can count the past 2 months. And I felt a nudge saying “get around community.” That I can’t and shouldn’t do life alone.
I will however disclaim that I am privileged in this fight. I have access to healthcare at low costs, I am able to get away from my environment by visiting family in Europe, and I am blessed with supportive friends and family. Not everyone has these advantages. We must make an effort to reach out to those “strong” people. To those “got-it-all-together” people. We must be kinder to everyone. More patient. More involved.
But we must not take it upon ourselves to be the heroes. That’s a sure way of making matters worse both for yourself and the person struggling. And we cannot blame ourselves or feel guilty when we fall short of being kind or patient. We are all human first, before we are friends or children or parents.
There is much more to say about this struggle. Especially when I want to thank a list of people for being there for me to guide me when my light went out. And especially when there is so much more work to be done in my community when it comes to the stigma surrounding mental health. People often think something must have happened to you in order to validate poor mental health. But, I think it can also come from wrong thought processes and a distorted image of life, purpose, meaning. And when we live in an egocentric world it makes it even more complicated.
I think I’ll stop here for today. I really felt called to be part of the conversation, noting that it’s my last day on this trip to Europe and that I’ll have to face reality when I get back. It is almost my perfect excuse to get back to writing. Thank you #BellLetsTalk.
This is a vow to hold myself accountable on a day like #BellLetsTalk to work through my mental and physical health and to know that having anxiety or depression is not a badge of honour. That it does not make my identity. That I am never too strong to ask for help.
Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue, I see you. I hear you. I love you.
Please do not stay silent. There is more help and hope than you believe right now.
- Going to my family doctor for a professional referral to a counsellor or therapist
- A Bible Plan on The Bible App
- Reaching out to people who have been through similar mental health issues
- Good friends and family
- The Tiny Buddha