Wednesday 17 February 2016

Accept yourself, accept your flaws and the best of you will shine

Angeliki writes about finding herself and overcoming depression through small steps in everyday life.

- Angeliki Antoniadou

Six years ago, if one of my close friends confided in me that they were dealing with mental health issues, such as depression or severe anxiety. I would have most likely been one of those annoying and ignorant people who tell you that it’s just a phase and that others have it worse than you. I am extremely embarrassed to admit it, but like so many others, I had an incredibly limited knowledge of what it means to be depressed.

That is, until I started feeling overwhelmed and miserable in my first year at university. At first, I blamed it on missing my family and friends who all lived multiple countries and hundreds of thousands of miles away. I constantly said to myself that my feelings were normal. Everyone feels at least a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work expected from students, the need to make new friends, the need to join societies, network and manage their own finances and household. Stress is common among students. I said to myself ‘I will just give it some time, maybe a week, maybe two and then, I will be back to being me.’ I said this to myself every single day when I wouldn’t get out of my small room, wouldn’t shower, would cry listening to music, would miss all my lectures and seminars and stay in bed staring at the ceiling contemplating about how much I have failed in my life.

Before it happened to me, I am not sure I could ever comprehend the hopelessness and the profound sadness that hits you when you are depressed. That powerful, suffocating thought that you have somehow caused this to yourself and you are unworthy of love, happiness and success. That vicious mix of desperation, misery, anxiety and emptiness. That voice in your head of a little bully informing you that you are a lazy, scared and laughable person with no hope of achieving anything in life because no one wants to be friends with you or employ you, or even sit next to you on the train.

In all honesty, it took me three whole years to accept that I needed help and support from a doctor and a counsellor. I thought I could deal with it on my own, but most of all I was afraid of what people would say. I kept smiling and being kind, thinking that I could hide my true feelings. I didn’t want to tell my tutors because I was afraid they would confirm the very thing I was most scared of; that I wasn’t cut out for university and I wasn’t cut out for a degree. I didn’t want to confide to any of my close friends or my peers because I didn’t want them to pity me or change their attitude towards me. I didn’t even want to tell my family since they tried to discourage me from studying abroad. Telling them would be like I was admitting defeat.

A year ago, I finally decided enough was enough and I went on antidepressants. Unfortunately, they didn’t “fix” me. I still felt what I was feeling before and sometimes, I felt even worse. One minute I would be feeling numb and empty wishing I could disappear, and a moment later, I would be restless with many thoughts racing through my head. The antidepressants caused insomnia and I would go without or with very little sleep for multiple days. Having said that, they provided me with a little bit of confidence and clarity for a few hours within the day to attend my seminars. I was probably awful since I had done minimal preparation, but it felt nice to finally be part of a group even if it was just for a few hours every week.

A couple of months ago, I thought to myself that it is vital to change. I didn’t want to go on like this and now, I consider myself proud of what I have achieved. I am taking a step towards re-evaluating my life and my goals. I think I have started to accept myself for who I am. I will probably never be thin, nor the most organised person in the world or good at sports but I accept that. Whenever, I am panicking and feeling restless, I will take a shower, or go out for a walk. On sunny days, I will get out and stand still for a few moments just to feel the sun on my skin and on cold, dry days, it is extraordinarily calming to feel the cold air on my face. I know that for others, those achievements may mean nothing, but for me they mean so much, especially after spending all these years hating myself and failing to take positive action because I believed I deserved it.

I have begun to accept the past because I cannot change it and by thinking about it persistently, I manage to ruin my present. For all these years, I have been watching others graduate, get jobs, finding love, and even getting married and having children. They were living their lives. All I did was exist. I only watched my life walk past me. I don’t have a single moment in those 3 years that has stayed in memory, probably because everything that occurred was insignificant. I know to my heart that I never want this to happen again. For every year that passes, I yearn to have memories, whether they are good or bad.

Of course, depression doesn’t just go away. I still have days when I am feeling miserable and don’t want to leave the house, and I still have anxiety attacks, but I try to remind myself that my worries and fears are not necessarily valid. I try to take one thing at a time and set short-term goals, rather than thinking where I would like to be in 5 years. I write down my plans for the next month, not the next year. I try to be reasonable, and make them work. I get disappointed when they don’t work out but I make an effort to move past it.

I will never go back to being the me of the past and that’s completely fine. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to be the person I was 5 years ago. I like her, but I like her current version more. I have become more compassionate now, less judgemental, and I am kinder to others and myself. I have become more educated with regards to mental health issues and I have developed as a person. I have been through so many horrible times in the last few years, yet I don’t leave any regrets about it because I am a stronger person now.

For more support on coping with depression, anxiety and work loads at university click here.
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1 comment:

  1. This is very useful post for not only for students! Keep blogin' and I'll vist you more often! :)