Since I entered my early teen years I could sense that I had a slightly more sensible personality. I would get upset very easily and that sadness would sometimes persist for days or weeks. At the time I thought that’s how the years of self discovery and the road to adulthood are supposed to be like. Being bullied throughout secondary school certainly didn’t help either.
Then I hit the age of eighteen and set off to a new country hoping that things would change for the better. For the first three years, even though I continued to have small panic attacks due to university work or job worries I still had a pretty stable mind. With the first job came the first anxiety attacks; even though being pushed to complete more and more tasks at work felt rewarding and exciting at the same time, the beginning was all very frightening. I remember crying my eyes out the night before my first shift in a small ice cream kiosk on my own because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to use the till correctly since I have never done it before. The days came and went and even though at times it felt like I was riding some sort of roller coaster, overall I still felt in control of everything.
Then came the third and final university year. Dissertation. Being promoted to a managerial position. Full time working. Full-time university course. Feeling abandoned. Feeling alone. Feeling unwanted. Being constantly afraid of failure.
The anxiety attacks became more and more frequent. Crying constantly. Whenever I’d be at work or at university I’d put this mask on and smiled as much as I could. I didn’t want to give any hints away. I just wanted to go unnoticed. I wanted to disappear. Die. Stop existing.
Everything felt like a chore I had no interest taking part in. Up until the final year I thoroughly enjoyed my course, yet in my final year all I kept on thinking was I want to get out of it. I couldn’t stand it any longer and I thought I have wasted all my time and money on something I’d never use in the future. Also, unless you had a family to support you and which you could live with the job prospects in the field were basically non-existent for someone with no experience. At work I felt trapped; stuck in a job that didn’t give me any sense of achievement at all, just worries piling on top of more worries.
I dragged myself through a good six months of feeling like that. I frequently self-harmed; doing it was nothing new to me as I went on and off it since I was sixteen. But this time it felt like it provided me with a release I haven’t felt before. It was a guilty pleasure.
As the second half of the year was quickly approaching and I saw myself drowning in deadlines and projects I began looking for help. Got a GP appointment, gave him a short overview of my mental issues and quickly got prescribed my first antidepressants.
It took a few days for them to start showing their true colour. Headaches. Dizziness. Feeling like a vegetable. It was like fog set all over my brain and neurons. I hated it. It made me feel worse. It increased my paranoia as deadlines were approaching and I wasn’t able to think properly because of them.
I went back to the GP and he put me on a different brand of antidepressants. The joy. He also advised me to start seeing a psychologist. By this point my anxiety and depression were both ranked as severe. The pills seemed to work better than the previous ones, but the vegetable-like state persisted. I was able to focus on my projects a bit better but the constant panic attacks were still there.
By the time I began seeing the psychologist I was almost done with my dissertation, yet felt more lost than ever. There was no sense of accomplishment left inside me. I just felt exhausted. Sad. Alone. Confused. Unable to see a prosperous future.
Summer came and I decided to quit my job. The place in which I grew up into an adult no longer felt like home. Being overworked and underpaid definitely didn’t help with my mental stability either. Doing at least 50 hours a week and getting way less than the other managers that were less qualified than me made me feel like I was being exploited. I couldn’t stand it any longer. Handed in my notice without having any job offers lined up. I didn’t care. I just wanted to escape even if that meant living off my savings for a few weeks.
I went through with a few psychologist appointments during which I kept on being asked to complete weekly ranking tests. The appointments consisted 90% of me talking about my current situation, family, close friends and past mental health trends. The other 10% was devoted to being constantly asked “and how do you feel about this?”
I couldn’t stand it and it didn’t feel like it was helping in any way whatsoever. The medication seemed to be working for the few weeks, but after that I didn’t think it made much difference. I stopped going to the appointments and taking the prescribed antidepressants.
“You shouldn’t stop them abruptly,” they said. My rebellious personality didn’t care. I just didn’t want to feel like a vegetable anymore. I wanted to experience once more what being truly alive feels like.
Shortly after that I received my BA with honours diploma and got landed a new job. It wasn’t a job I would see myself do in the future, but it was okay for the time being. I still felt like I was heading nowhere with no clear plans for the future whatsoever. I saw my best friend beginning her Master’s degrees and I felt more confused than ever. I kept on having random anxiety attacks at work. My heart was constantly racing and a feeling of emptiness persisted throughout body and mind. At times I would lock myself in the office and just cry. I felt like a failure, for my parents; for my friends; for everything and everyone.
Throughout that year I kept on experimenting with different substances. Some, like alcohol, made me feel happy for about ten minutes and then mess up with my neurons for the remaining of the night. Others, like cannabis, made me feel creative and at times even content with myself. I started using it whenever I would have a depressive episode or an anxiety attack, only after work or on weekends as it sometimes made me feel less in control of my thoughts and I didn’t want to experience that whilst working.
I also began meditating more and more and looking closely at what is truly causing my manic episodes. Meditation seemed to help and provide a sort of silent guidance through the months. The months passed by and my outlook on life started to change. No, it wasn’t all of the sudden and even though I began having more and more stable days and even “happy” days, I still would experience periods of depression.
With the help of alternative medications, meditation and the constant love and support provided by my friends I kept on having more and more “happy” days. I also started travelling frequently which has increased my overall mental health greatly. I found that escape, but also something that would take me out of the ordinary and mundane life and help me experience different cultures and behaviours. Purchasing a Nikon camera facilitated too as I thoroughly enjoyed taking snaps all around Europe and later on going through them as soon as I got home and felt down again. Looking at the pictures and enhancing them provided me with a sense of accomplishment and made me feel almost proud of myself.
I have also managed to set myself goals and started taking steps in the right directions to get closer to my dreams. Consequently, I decided to go back to education and embark on two Masters of Science starting January which I hope will help me greatly in pursuing a fulfilling career. Hopefully one day not even the sky will be the limit.
I would like to thank everyone that has supported me throughout this journey and I would like you to know that I will forever be grateful for your constant support and understanding.
Thank you for making me feel wanted.
Thank you for making me feel surrounded by loving friends and family that wouldn’t give up on me even when times are hard.
I love you all.