Looking After Myself Before Everyone Else | The Column
I’ve always suffered from depressive episodes, ever since I can remember, but two summers ago, I experienced one of the trickiest ones I’ve ever encountered.
Last summer, my world felt like it had fallen apart. It was the summer before I started my Masters, and I had stayed in my University town to work. Everyone had left for summer so I was on my own.
THE CALL THAT CHANGED IT ALL
I was about to get ready for work, when I got a message from my brother. Our Mum had attempted suicide after another manic episode and then left my Dad. I sat on my bed, alone and terrified. My stomach sank, I just sat there and sobbed, unable to catch my breath.
I got the first coach I could back home, but when I got there, she was gone, leaving no trace but strange letters on my bed. The aftermath was ugly. Everything felt broken. Everything was ruined. This was the latest episode in a tragic saga of events. I returned to University and couldn’t stop thinking about how everything had come undone.
What could I do to fix it? Was I somehow to blame? And what if next time it was my Dad or my Brother? My brain was invaded by relentless paranoid thoughts, and an awful emptiness – I was stuck in pit of depression.
I started self-medicating and self-destructing, because I felt like I couldn’t control anything in my life, or help the people around me. Basically it all got, well… pretty messy.
A LITTLE SUPPORT FROM MY FRIENDS
With the help of my friends I managed to get some distance and perspective from the chaos in my head. They made me realise I can’t fix everything, and sometimes I need to take a step back and focus on myself.
They made me realise it was OKAY to feel the way I was feeling, and that what had happened was devastating. I decided to go the campus wellbeing centre, I had a vent and a cry and was taught some methods to cope when everything got hairy;
1.) Surround myself with people who make me feel safe: I made sure I wasn’t around toxic people who would trigger me and removed myself from relationships that exacerbated stress and impacted me negatively.
2.) Be in an environment where I feel comfortable, have my own space: My university house was my main safe space, and when I returned home, it was my bedroom.
3.) Engage in activities that make me feel positive and happy: I started writing creatively again, sketching and painting and even took up exercise which improved my mood more than I could have imagined.
It sounds simple, but it really helped!
GETTING BETTER AND BETTER
With time, I managed to shut out the obsessive worrying, and still the sadness, without having the dissociative episodes I used to have, and bit by bit, I stopped taking responsibility for everyone else.
I stopped self-medicating and I threw myself into my work. I talked about how I was feeling with my friends. I made sure I was in a safe space, with people around me who I felt safe with, and trusted, and most importantly had fun with.
Don’t get me wrong, its still hard sometimes, and I’m still working through a lot, but it’s baby steps.
I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY IS:
As cliché as it sounds, its okay to not be okay. The mind is powerful, but also fragile, as much as you may hate to admit it. There is only so much stress, strain, and trauma it can take before it needs some chill out time, so don’t beat yourself up when your brain fights back.
Breath. Take a step back, you can’t fix everything around you, only yourself.
It gets better.
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