A few days ago, a blog post I wrote about my experiences with mental health was shared through Project Pilgrim. I was shocked by the overwhelmingly positive response it received; people who have never spoken to me on Facebook sent me messages thanking me for sharing. I had people thank me for speaking on behalf of those who weren’t brave enough, and who told me that my message was poignant because it was relatable.
I honestly never expected to receive such a response, and I was hesitant about writing something in the first place. I am so glad I did, however, and I thought I would share it here as well.
Sometimes I’m not okay.
Most of the time I am, but there are some days when I’m not. I may wake up in a bad mood, and it will not take much to set me off, colouring all of my actions and emotions for the rest of the day. One day will sometimes – rarely – turn into a number of days.
I don’t know how to label this – extreme moodiness, overly sensitive, pessimistic? – but I’m not sure it needs to be labeled. I wouldn’t say I have depression either, because I have had some experience with depression – I believe my Psych 102 class would have called it a “Major Depressive Episode” – and that was beyond anything that I have experienced in these past two years.
I have found that being alone often amplifies my feelings of sadness or pessimism. When I spend extended periods of time alone, my mood generally trends downward. I wish this weren’t the case because I used to enjoy being on my own, but in the past few months, I have come to dread it. I like to be around people, but for this past semester in particular and everyone’s different school schedules, I haven’t spent as much time with the people I usually interact with.
I don’t know how to fix these moods, or how to prevent them. I feel like I’m hardwired to take things very personally, and I’ve found that people’s actions/words have an incredible impact on my mood or wellbeing. I wish they didn’t.
Prior to university, I had a very limited exposure to any discussion of mental health. Though I’m sure people I knew suffered from various forms of mental illness, they either kept it entirely to themselves or chose not to confide in me. It was only when I entered university and after experiencing a depressive episode of my own that I truly started to think about the importance of mental health.
My high school experience was a positive one. I was in a specialized program that allowed me to develop and maintain very close friendships, I was playing ultimate Frisbee, which I loved, and I was in a very healthy relationship. I was happy and excited to start my undergraduate degree at UBC. However, in that transition summer between high school and university, my relationship turned sour and ended just before the beginning of my first semester.
After almost three years, I didn’t know how to be on my own. It’s hard to properly explain, but it felt like I had lost my sense of self. I had such anxiety on the first day of class that I was two hours late to my orientation and barely spoke to anyone. I hardly ate for two months either, which was “the opposite of what I should be doing” according to my friends, who were surprised by my refusal to accept their proffers of ice cream and chocolates. In hindsight, I’m sure I would have enjoyed the sweets.
It did take time, but I eventually relearned how to be on my own and how to appreciate that time as valuable. It was only when I felt confident in myself as an independent person that I even began to consider the possibility of beginning another relationship. I’m glad I took that time to be on my own. It was hard – very hard – at times, but I’m a better person for it.
Nowadays, I go through phases where I enjoy being alone and where I detest it. I can’t seem control how I feel or why I’ll feel one way and not the other, but I wish I could eliminate those stretches where being alone makes me incredibly upset.
This blog post has been one of the most difficult things I’ve written in the past few years. Finding the words to properly articulate how I’ve been feeling has been challenging, but at the same time it has been incredibly therapeutic. Writing has been a passion of mine forever, and when I was younger I would often use writing as a means of organizing my thoughts or my anger about a particular situation. I would write a letter sharing all of my anger, fold it up, and seal it; this acted as both physical and emotional closure and was surprisingly effective.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to return to writing as a form of therapy but in the past month, I decided to take the leap and start a blog. When I started it, I was in one of my “I hate being alone” phases and had been feeling quite down for a few days. I was shocked, however, by how much better I felt as I started to organize my thoughts and compose my first post. It was extraordinarily calming, and I resolved to turn to writing more frequently – especially when I’m in a negative mood or having one of those days.
Connor was the first person I told about my blog and he was incredibly supportive, which really helped me decide to pursue it. When he asked if I would like to write something for Project Pilgrim, I was hesitant. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I would have anything substantial to contribute to this conversation. He assured me that I was free to write about anything pertaining to mental health, so with that loose guideline, this is what I’ve produced.
The stigma around mental health is still so strong. People still don’t understand that an affliction of the mind can be just as debilitating as a physical handicap or illness. For this exact reason, I think Project Pilgrim is coming at the perfect time. By sharing his own experiences and by providing a platform for people to collectively share their own experiences with mental health, Connor is taking a massive step towards eradicating the stigma and creating more open channels of communication. His willingness to share his own story is truly admirable and has been a huge influence on my decision to write this and to share my own experience.
The original link is here: http://projectpilgrim.org/guest-blog-mental-health-matters/2016/3/17/gmyge7mzchi661kzjdk48d0m3nhv7u
Check out Project Pilgrim also – it is an amazing initiative aimed at normalizing conversations about mental health.