This topic may hit a little too close to home for many, but it’s something we need not be afraid to speak about. It has been (and will continue to be) an uphill battle for me when it comes to depression and anxiety. I have been dealing with these illnesses for the past three years and it has taken me a lot to get here; to be able to speak about it openly and share my experience with the public. Nonetheless, it’s a journey I’m proud to have had and share with those who may be going through the same.
I know just how draining it is to deal with depression and anxiety and many of the other mental illnesses and I want you to know that whatever it is that you are going through, it is valid. The way you cope with it, so long as you are not harming anyone else, is valid. Your experience is valid. Your strengths along with your weaknesses are all valid. This is so important to remember.
Back in 2013, my depression as well as my anxiety (that was not yet so bad) cost me a lot. It really took its toll on me to the point where I had to withdraw from my first year of university and head back home and go to community college instead (I went to a university that was a 6 hour drive away from my hometown). Not only did it take that away from me, it cost me some friendships too.
Over the past few years, I have tried many different ways to cope with my depression and anxiety. I have tried talking about it to friends, but I found that that wasn’t always the best option as I always felt like I was being a burden. This is by no means my friends’ fault. The ones whom I have opened up to about my situation were and have been very supportive and understanding. For this I’m truly grateful. It was just me. I didn’t like this coping method. I know that it helps some to talk about it; to let it all out. Being an introvert myself to begin with, this hardly ever helped me cope with my situation. As a matter of fact, I—more often times than not—felt that it made it worse.
I have always loved reading. I was born and raised in the Philippines and did not move to Canada until 2006 when I was 11 years old. With this being said, I had no choice but to learn how to speak the English language fluently. To help me with this, I took it upon myself to read as much as I could, whenever I could. It didn’t matter what it was that I was reading, I just wanted to learn as many new English words as my 11 year old brain could handle.
As life would have it, I soon stopped and completely abandoned reading—for years. During my high school years, I only read books when it was required in my classes and never read for my own pleasure. It was not until my last year of high school that I discovered my love for literature once more. I never planned to start reading again, it kind of just…happened. And am I ever glad it did.
While I was away for my first year of university, being away from my family (I come from a big one) really tore me. I was hours and hours away from my family and could not visit whenever I wanted to. Being used to being surrounded by my family all the time, this was very difficult for me. I was terribly home sick all the time. I was also in a city very foreign to me. I barely knew anyone, and I was very reluctant to make new friends. Not long after moving away from home, I started to become depressed and anxious. Halfway through my first year, I started calling my parents almost every night just to help calm my anxiety down. At the time, I didn’t know what was happening to me. At the time, I would cry myself to sleep almost every night and thought it was completely normal. I kept making excuses for myself. Even though I was starting to finally understand that I was depressed, I still kept denying it to myself. I thought that by admitting I was depressed, I was admitting defeat; that I was admitting to myself that I must be weak. I lost interest in the things that used to make me happy, I stopped going out with my friends, I spent more than 90% of my time locked up in my room, my mood was more often down than up, I stopped taking care of myself altogether and I had completely neglected my education.
By the end of the school year, I was finally ready to admit to myself (and my family as well as close friends) that I was depressed. This—as you’ll probably agree with if you’ve been through or are going through the same—was the biggest step I have taken that would lead me to where I am now: comfortable and strong enough to share my experience with those who may need encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. I was fortunate enough that my family and friends back home were supportive and understanding of my choices and my situation. I was initially afraid to open up because I was afraid I was going to be judged and misunderstood, without a doubt. I knew my friends and family were going to understand, but despite this, I was still afraid. And I am here to tell you that it is okay to be nervous—and yes, even afraid—to admit being depressed not only to yourself, but to your loved ones.
I think the biggest and most important thing to remember is that you could have everything: a supportive family, understanding friends, excellent health, a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food on your plate…but you can still become depressed. It pains me to see others say things like “your life is perfect, what have you got to be sad about?” Depression—and every other type of mental illness—is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not something that we can just totally avoid. So, please, if you are someone who is lucky enough to not be suffering from mental illness, understand that we did not ask for this. None of us asked for this.
When I was finally all settled in back home with my family, I was lost for a bit (or for quite a long time, since we’re being completely honest with each other). It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do about school, about my situation and about life in general. While I was on the road to finding myself, my biggest pass time was reading books. Through the pages flipped between my fingers, I was able to find the biggest escape I have ever found. The different stories and different lives within each book that I read allowed me to momentarily forget the battle that I was fighting with everything that I had and have. Through these different characters and worlds, I was able to appreciate each passing day and gave me a reason to get up in the morning because it meant I had another day to read more.
Reading was and still is the most perfect way for me to cope. When I read, I don’t have to feel like I am bothering anybody, I don’t have to feel like a burden. When I read, I get so immersed in each stories that I feel as though I am living within the pages that I hold in my hands, thus allowing me to feel something else other than utter sadness. When I read, sometimes I am forced to put myself in other people’s shoes and at times this can be humbling. When I read, I am able to do it at my own time, at my own pace, and I can feel in control. Books have provided for me more than I can even begin to explain to some. Whether or not you suffer from a mental illness, if you’re a book lover, I’m sure you’re able to relate to this one way or another.
The beginning of this year (2016) was when I started my bookstagram account (and this very blog) and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. To some, it may just be an account online. To me, it is my holy grail. Through the bookstagram community, I am able to share with others the one thing I am most passionate about: books, books, books! I am able to talk about the things I love about books, the books that I hated, the books that I have bought, the books that I am currently reading, and etcetera. The bookstagram community has been such a friendly and judgment-free community that I feel blessed to just even be a part of. When I say in my posts that I appreciate every single one of you, I truly do mean it. I appreciate every single one of you who share my passion, and every single one of you who care enough to even read the content I put out.
I am still fighting depression and anxiety, and it still affects my life to this day. But you, yes YOU, are part of why I am getting better and better at dealing with my depression and anxiety. Everyday. I want to encourage everyone to keep looking for a coping method that works for you. It may take you a little bit longer to find what works for you, but please keep going. Keep looking, and don’t ever get discouraged. Whatever coping method you think is for you—so long as you’re not harming anyone else—it is valid.
If you guys have any other questions or thoughts or concerns, you can either leave a comment below or (if you’d rather stay private or anonymous) you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You are more than welcome to share with me your experiences as well if you’d like. I am here to listen, even if you do not personally know me and I do not personally know you. I am all ears.
I appreciate every single one of you. I promise.
Now I know some of you are curious to know what books helped me cope. Here are some!
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
by Jenny Lawson:
Not only does Jenny talk about all of her mental illnesses, she also spins up her story with humour. This will make you laugh and cry.
- Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection
by Sara Andersen:
This is actually a graphic novel. Again, another funny read! If you’re another introvert like Sara Andersen and I, then you will absolutely love this.
- Chinese Cinderella
by Adeline Yen Mah:
This is a nonfiction book. Go ahead and read the synopsis. Once you’ve read it, you’ll understand why it was such a humbling read. I know it’s wrong to say “others have it worse” to someone suffering from mental illness, but just knowing the tribulations that others have had to go through or DO go through, you are bound to be forced to put everything into perspective.
- The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
by Percy Jackson:
A middlegrade read will never fail to make me feel like a kid again, thus ridding me of all the adulting I am forced to face everyday *eye roll*
- The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules: A Novel
by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg:
This was such a cute read, it will most likely make you smile or even laugh out loud. It is literally about a little old lady who broke all the rules. The title couldn’t be any more accurate.
- The Tail of Emily Windsnap
by Liz Kessler:
This is one of the very first books I’ve ever read when I was only a little girl and it has a special place in my heart. I actually plan to re-read it soon and the rest of the books in the series!
- Twilight / New Moon / Eclipse / Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer:
This series wasn’t quite THE books that got me to start reading, but they’re definitely the books that got me to KEEP reading… Does that make sense?
- Any Stephen King books!
- Any classics!