I have anxiety and mild depression. I am not like the stereotypical person with mental illness. I come across as fearless and carefree. I am happy and motivated. I am high-functioning.
But I wasn’t always like this. I did have a rough past. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression eight years ago. At first, I struggled to take care of myself…I didn’t even know how. I self-harmed and had thoughts of suicide. I had panic attacks and breakdowns every day.
Then, things happened that allowed me to view my life in a new light. Some of them were bad and affected me a lot, but it opened my eyes a little bit. Most of them made me just realize that I love life and I have a lot to be grateful for.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy. It took more effort than just changing my outlook. After these realizations, I did have to fight and put myself on a strict self-care plan. So, I am a lot better than I was two years ago.
I take medication daily, see a counselor, engage in self-care activities like using essential oils and seek help from friends when I need to. I also set goals and make plans, which keeps me motivated and keeps my life exciting.
Am I cured? Not quite. Mental illness can’t be cured; they can only get easier to deal with. I still have bad days. Everyone does. And every once in a while, I also go through a depression relapse. Relapse means something different for some people. I consider it a relapse when I’m depressed, without reason, for more than three days.
How do I deal with those days? How do I cope with falling after I made so much progress?
1. I allow myself to be depressed. For me, it is important that I let myself have bad days and let my brain do what it wants to do. Sometimes I’m tired of being strong. Or maybe I’m overwhelmed and a rest is what I need.
2. I tell my go-to person. Whenever I feel myself start to slide into relapse, I tell my best friend. Whenever I hit relapse, I tell my best friend. I tell my best friend everything because I learned from the past that I can’t go through it alone.
3. I identify any triggers or causes. After I tell my best friend, we try and figure out if something caused it. It’s usually because I forgot to take my medication for a few days or I had a flashback. Then we try and find a solution. Or, it could be because of nothing and that’s okay too.
4. I make necessary lifestyle changes. I decide if I should adjust my medications. I engage in more self-care activities. I treat myself to things I like. I make future plans to look forward to. Sometimes I will put myself on a daily schedule. I figure out what I need and…
5. I slowly get back up. It doesn’t happen overnight…I never want it to because it is best to take things slow, especially after spending a few days in a depressed state, doing very little. I don’t want to force my mind and body to do something it doesn’t want to do; it will only cause stress. But I try to make sure I progress, and not fall back down.
Jessica Victoria, 22, is a mental health advocate and freelancer from Ontario, Canada. She is familiar with the struggles of depression, anxiety disorders, and borderline personality traits, as she tackles them head-on in her daily life. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.