To See the Good In the Bad

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Disclaimer: SickNotWeak does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I always felt like a bottomless well of emotions, and I always felt like that was a bad thing. My life was intense bouts of frustration or sadness sewn together by lengthy periods of detachment. I was taught that feelings were a sign of weakness so I pushed down my emotions until I burst into inexplicable explosions. Eventually, I began ripping my razor across my wrist to contain the swirling frustration and pain in the fiery sting of the cuts and the burning sight of my red blood.

The painful emotions skulked under the radar

This continued for years, the painful emotions skulked under the radar until they demanded attention in drastic ways. This continued, until moving to college shattered my shield, leaving me raw and hurting every second of every day. I couldn’t make it through a meal without crying. It took all my energy just to cajole myself into getting out of bed. I was lost. Aside from ridiculing myself for not succeeding like everyone around me, I just felt empty with a gnawing ache in my heart.

One night, fiddling on my computer instead of sleeping, I came across an online quiz. I rated each feeling statement from 1-never to 5-extremely often and hit submit. Suddenly a new window popped up on my screen and an ethnically ambiguous female in a white coat began speaking, “You have depression,” she said.

This honestly still breaks my heart. It hurt so much to have this video pop out at me and tell me I had a disease I knew nothing about, aside from the overtly negative depictions in movies or pharmaceutical commercials. In my mind, this stupid stock actress just told me I was lesser, weak, and wrong.

**Of course, now I understand much more and appreciate that it wasn’t about me as a person, just my sickness**

Thanks to the persistence of my then-boyfriend, I finally went to the college’s counselling services. Mind you, I was so incredibly scared walking in, he had to come with me and nudge me up to the front desk like a parent with their kid on the diving board. My stomach sick with anxiety and my throat tight with tears, I asked for an appointment. With a cold and emotionless face, she said “Ok, you can get an appointment in about 6 weeks, late November”. It was OCTOBER. I had just worked up all the courage, energy, fear, and everything I had to get my ass to this place for help and you’re just telling me hold on for another month and a half. I barely felt like I could hold on for one more day.

But somehow I did, mostly because I wanted people to think I was normal. I scraped by, trying to resist the screaming instinct to go the hell home and cry to my mom and dad (oh wait, I did do that but just for the weekend). When my parents came to visit, I started sobbing in the middle of Sava’s. During the first few months of school, I kept saying “I just want to go home” or “I just want my mom” feeling embarrassingly childish. But I realized later on that those were the only words I had to describe what I was experiencing and I really just missed feeling okay and like I wasn’t floating in the depths of depression.

I saw a psychiatrist, who prescribed an SSRI, and a therapist. I began to feel alive again. I switched roommates, started making friends, took better classes-I was trying.

I reached for the blade again, once or twice.

I never stopped trying, but that wasn’t enough. I thought if I took my medicine, I would never have a problem again. I thought I was cured. But as I continued through the painful transformation college had in store for me, I experienced dips into depression again and again. Although I knew the cause, it didn’t stop me from crying hysterically for weeks, withdrawing inside myself, and disengaging with everyone around me. I reached for the blade again, once or twice, but I realized quite quickly that it brought nothing but temporary distraction.

My senior year of college, from sun up to sun down I was on edge, shaking my legs and resisting the urge to explode. I could not sit still physically, but more importantly, mentally. I avoided time alone with my thoughts at all costs for months. Again, I had no idea what was going on, blaming myself for being weak. Again, I had to find myself at a breaking point-aka a panic attack when I missed a teacher’s office hours-to finally reach out for help. Again, I sought out a doctor and a therapist and began the intensive work of actually listening to myself.

The dreadful fear of returning to the darkest depths of depression never leaves me. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being afraid of those monsters. But I have accepted that I will never stop dealing with anxiety and depression. No matter what I achieve, or the loving partner I have in my life, or the joys that are sure to come, I will never stop fighting depression and anxiety. And that’s okay. I always come out the other side.

In a very weird way, in hindsight, I like what I have gone through.

In a very weird way, in hindsight, I like what I have gone through. In my moments of calm, I appreciate my demanding emotions and brokenness. It has made me who I am-loving, sensitive, and emotionally aware. And I like who I am (most of the time).

My trials have set me up to be able to understand so much of other people’s pain, to sense what they’re feeling when they cannot describe it, to care for those I love in their times of pain, because I know what pain is.

My depression and anxiety don’t make me who I am, they aren’t even the sole reason for a single one of my qualities. But in addition to my genes, the nurture I received, and my heart, my depression and anxiety have given me my biggest strength–my empathy.

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