Dealing with Dark Days
Living in the 21st century can be really tough, especially when it comes to mental health. There is a stigma about mental health and how it is percieved in todays world. However, my view on it is very different.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was sixteen years old, though I feel like I should have been diagnosed much earlier in my life. I did not understand at the time what I was feeling- one day I was good and happy while the next day I could not even get out of bed. I felt like there was a dark cloud hovering over my body. I felt sick to my stomach and my migraines were horrible. I had no motivation to do anything... I just wanted to stay in bed and cry. At the time, my parents were concerned to see me in this state. Originally, I went in to go see someone about my mild A.D.D. but from the checklist that was given to me, I marked stuff that I was feeling. (i.e. low self-esteem, unhappiness, emotionally unstable, suicidal even). From there, my counselor let my parents know about her concerns from what she had learned about me.
I never could comprehend those feelings, but I also did not want to talk to anyone about it. I felt ashamed and insecure, vulnerable even. How could I approach my parents about the emotions I was feeling and how would they react. Would they have believed me. Those thoughts were circuiting my brain as I tried to tell them more about it. I continued the therapy up until I graduated high school. And to be honest, that was surprising. Graduating high school at least. I started to give up on myself. I felt like I could not succeed and that I was just a failure when in my parents eyes, I was not. I had missed so many days of school because I could not muster up the courage to face all my classmates, let alone get out of bed.
I was not myself. I would cry myself to sleep because I felt worthless. There were nights where my mom would sleep in my room to make me feel safe due to reasons that will be explained later in a whole other post. I was just so unhappy with myself- my mental health, my physique, just everything.
My counselor recommended medications that were later prescribed to help get me to sleep as well as anti-depressants. At one point when taking them I started to hallucinate and boy was that scary! One moment I was fine, sitting in my sisters bedroom, the next I was just a sobbing mess telling things to get away from me. I don't remember what I hallucinated, I only know what my mother told me and apparently I saw little mushrooms talking to each other and going into their homes. It was very strange to say the least.
Days went by after that, rather slow actually. I still felt pretty low, to the point where I ended up contemplating my life. Because I was too afraid to do that, I ended up self-harming which, trust me, you think it helps in the moment, but the scars are awful to look at. I wanted to feel some sort of physical pain because the pain I was feeling on the inside, in my heart and mind was unbearable. I regret doing that to myself, but I just needed some sort of release. Some sort of pain to get out of my head.
I thought it was a phase and that it would just pass on, but it is something I still deal with to this day. I still see someone at my school because it is helpful to talk to a professional. It is good to hear them tell me that "You're not alone" because for far too long I felt like I was drowning. I isolated myself and told myself that I was the only person in my high school suffering from depression. I was an idiot. People have depression and/or other mental illnesses. But that should not let us stop us from living our lives. Yes, there are days where I just stay in bed all day and do nothing. Literally, nothing. I will just lay there buried beneath my duvet and just hide away from the light in my window. I won't even eat those days, which is seriously not healthy. I tried going days without eating in the past or threw it up, but that was not good for me.
Like my counselor, there are many other people in my life who are there to support me. There are couple close friends who I go to when I am having a rough day as well as my boyfriend. When days are super bad, I end up calling my sister or my mother to have them just talk to me. Hearing their voices really just calms me down. When I am having rough days, which is become less frequent as of late, there are some things I do to get out of my head and to reduce the negative energy such as:
1. I write in my journal. I have a small jar of prompts next to my bed where I will grab one out and write about it. It can be anything, but it really just keeps my mind occupied rather than consumed and drowning in bad thoughts.
2. I listen to music. That helps drown out the thoughts and calm me down. I tend to listen to up beat music where I can dance around my room. I know it's silly, but it really helps!!
3. I adopted a kitten in September (which will be another post) and hanging out with him has been really good for my overall health. I understand though not everyone can get a therapy animal, but for me it definitely has improved my mental health.
4. I go to the gym. It is really nice to have access to our school gym where I can just workout the bad vibes. I like to go with my boyfriend or a friend so I am not alone, plus it is more fun to have a workout buddy!
5. If I can't go to the gym, I'll go on a walk to clear my head. Our college town is pretty small, so my walks are not too long. Sometimes I will even stop at our local coffee/boba tea stand or Dutch Bros.
6. I am not the worlds best artist, but I like to draw, paint or color. I have collected a few coloring books for a adults (I can put a list of the ones I have at the bottom). I like to do this in a quiet space or with calming music on so I can just zone in.
7. I have been starting to cook more homemade meals which has been beneficial not only for my mental health but also my physical. Diet plays a huge role in our overall health and attitude, which people seem to overlook.
8. When I am really upset, I will put on my favorite show or watch funny YouTube videos. At the moment, my favorite show is Brooklyn Nine-Nine but if I really want a laugh, I'll rewatch episodes of The Office.
9. I'll hangout with friends. They always put me in a better mood. I don't always tell them what's going on, but sometimes they can tell I'm in a funk. However, they don't ask me about it much unless I want to tell them. But just being with them gives me comfort.
10. After a long day or in the middle of the day, I will draw myself a hot bath with bubbles or bath bomb. I will light some candles and relax. I will sometimes put on calming music like the Piano Guys.
11. I play piano and even though I don't have one at my apartment, when I go home to see my parents, I will sit down and play.
12. Sometimes I'll meditate and do some deep breathing exercises. I have Headspace and that has been really helpful to keep my self sane. On Android or Apple products, there is a trial run if you'd like to try it.
13. Even though it is not for everyone (especially if you are on a budget) retail therapy! Sometimes you just have to treat yourself. Whether it is a new article of clothing, makeup, collectables or a sweet treat!
I know this is a long list, but for me these have been super helpful. Feel free to do some of these activities or do your own, whatever will help YOU get through the dark days. The media has portrayed mental health as something to be ashamed of and even though it is getting better at how the world sees it, please do not hide away from this. OWN IT! By doing so, you are improving how you will feel in the long run.
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Coloring Book Ideas:
~ Color Me Calm: A Zen Coloring Book (mine is in paperback)
~ Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book (Hardback)
~Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book
~ Creative Haven: Creative Cats Coloring Book
*Image not mine*