Shattering Shame: My Anxiety & Depression Story
Today is World Mental Health Day and what better day to share my own story about my mental health journey.
Growing up, I experienced a depth of emotion I didn't have the words to describe. When I turned 18 an emptiness struck me: the reality of having been adopted overshadowed my life like a grey veil. I had no idea who I was, where I came from, what my roots were. A void of darkness consumed me for years. I emotionally ate to coat my depression with carbs. I sedated my sadness with more alcohol than I should have probably been drinking. I was the actress of my life's movie, pretending I was “fine". Pretending that my depression didn't exist. Pretending that I wasn't crying myself to sleep every night hating myself for not being happier, more grateful, better at it all. Every part of me ached.
Depression isn’t forward. It isn’t in-your-face. It’s a silent layer beneath the surface of a smiling face, a bellowing laugh, a thin layer just below the surface of one’s glimmering eyes. It’s an invisible blanket that hardens over time, hardens us from experiencing life. It numbs us.
During that time I was just starting my Bachelor’s Degree in university studying something I learned I despised. I managed to make it through 1 year of torture (then dropped out), barely passing my classes, failing some. It wasn’t like me. I was a straight-A student up until then. The teacher’s pet all my life. An engaged and curious girl. Extremely intelligent. But this emptiness inside of me wassomething nothing and no person could fill, that I couldn’t relinquish, and it consistently loomed over everything I did.
This was the distorted issue: I was so ashamed to feel how I felt. I had never been taught about depression or anxiety. I was never taught about emotional intelligence, transparency, open communication, that sharing is healing. I thought I was a burden to those that loved me, so I kept it all in. I thought I shouldn’t feel the way I felt because I always needed to look happy, because I thought that putting on a fake smile was what I was supposed to do. Meanwhile, I suffered so much I contemplated not existing, and the leeching poison of depression trickled its way into my heart; a hot coal burning my skin and bones.
I was a broken girl searching for something. Searching for myself. Searching for the Mystery’s answers of what this all meant, why I was placed on this planet. I didn’t understand my own emotions. I didn’t understand the feelings I felt or the reasons I felt the way I did. I thoughts my emotions were something haunting me outside of myself. I had never known otherwise.
That was then.
Fast forward to today and, although I am in an utterly different place in my life - a joyous one and exponentially more fulfilled one - I do have tremendous emotions flowing through me every day, including sadness, anxiety and more.
The difference is: I understand myself and my emotions with infinite more profundity. I understand their roots and more about what triggers them, where they stem from. I understand that I sometimes experience this world with so much depth and feel so much all at once that it can overwhelm me. Paralyze me. Leave me sobbing for hours. What I know now is the importance of sharing what lays heavily on my heart. I know now that whatever I experience is in direct co-relation with my inner self and self-awareness. The more I fight my emotions, the more they come chasing with pitchforks and fires blazing. But the moment I take a step back to look at myself with honesty, with compassion and not hatred or shame, the more I see myself as simply a human experiencing life and the more I love myself. Whatever it is that I feel, it is a beautiful and raw expression of being a sensitive woman. Yes, I have anxiety, I may have bouts of depression, but that doesn’t mean they are what and who I am.
Here’s the thing: emotions are a part of us, but they do not make up the whole. We are the experiencers of them, but we are not them. They do not define you. Whether you are diagnosed with depression, an anxiety disorder or anything else related to the state of your mental health, know that you are not alone. That’s the one thing I would have wanted to know in those dark years of my life: I wasn’t alone. I had people around me who loved and cared for me and wanted to help me. I now see my emotions as branches of vulnerability that connect me to others. They aren’t mine to keep. They are not precious jewels in a treasure chest meant to be tucked away for safekeeping.
Despite the social constructs, how we may or may not have been raised, and the way society is built, remember : We are the shapers of our reality and it is WE who can shatter the stigma TODAY. I refuse to succumb to feeling ashamed of the way that I feel and its in this rebuttal that I see the power of my authentic self expression to share and bear it all. It is my gift. I see my emotions as an opportunity to go deeper, to know myself in a much more intimate way. I see them as a way in, not things to escape from. I know that in sharing my own experience and through healing my own wounds, I heal the world. And maybe it’ll make someone else’s pain just a little bit more bearable. Bearable enough to see the blessings in the depth of it. Creating enough clarity so that we can all see the truth of it; so that we may all see one another in a softer light - the light of our humanity.