Shattered dreams. Lost hope. An endless loop of negative and suicidal thoughts. An intense feeling of being judged. A dead-end ahead! That is how depression and anxiety can impact your life and reduce you into a mere shadow of your past. People around may advise you to snap out of the irony, but bear in mind you are up against an invisible monster, not ordinary feelings of sadness. Depressive and anxious thoughts feel like being sucked dry of both physical and emotional energy. As a result, staying in bed and sleeping become your best coping mechanisms, something you cannot afford when significant life goals are far from realized. Let’s find out how I dealt with deteriorating mental health from school to work life.
My Battle with Depression and Anxiety in High School
My experience with depression and anxiety began in adolescence—a time when the transition to adulthood takes place. A high school student barely 15 years old, I was subjected to bullying, which flipped my world upside down. Getting up and going to school became a nightmare for me. A constant uphill battle that I had to embrace for the next three years and beyond, with moments of hope and rejuvenation in between.
Throughout high school, my parents remained oblivious about the ill-fated treatment I received at the hands of my classmates. I never told my family and kept suffering only to lose what little was left of me. Bit by bit, my self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy eroded and affected every area of my life, including academia. I constantly struggled to keep myself together and improve my academic performance, which I did to a certain extent.
The last year of high school, especially, was the best in this regard. My grades got better amid the rude behavior of my classmates and lack of motivation. Somehow, I was able to muster enough courage to study hard and complete high school. One thing that helped me survive was my passion for physical activities that included playing cricket, swimming, and running. I also had dreams and aspirations, just like other students of my age. I wanted to concentrate on my studies and have a rewarding career. Still, depression and social anxiety disorder always restricted me. I never realized why social gatherings or striking one-on-one conversations with people instilled fear in me. It triggered negative thoughts and required psychiatric treatment–something I finally sought when I turned into a living dead during college.
My Struggle with Mental Health Issues in College
When I first enrolled in college for higher studies, I was very excited. I wanted to bury the past demons related to my high school experiences and start afresh. However, mental health problems continued to haunt me. Although nobody intentionally hurt me in college, my mind refused to let go of negative thoughts. Like high school, I remained socially paralyzed. The fear of people became a permanent fixture by this time, with depression and social anxiety seizing complete control over every aspect of my life.
Getting through each day was like crossing a crocodile-infested river. I still remember that leaving bed every morning and heading to college was an agonizing experience. Once outside, it felt like being scrutinized by every single eye meeting my gaze. Every step I took to reach the bus stop was a battle against the unknown. I thought that I was ugly and everyone hated me.
Moreover, the ordeal never stopped after making it to college, as fear of attending classes became my next big obsession. I used to make sure I was on time to avoid being singled out and questioned by the teacher. All these events made studying and keeping up with my classmates impossible since my mind turned into a rotten prison. As strong and resilient it may be, our mind has certain limitations. When pushed to the brink, it becomes irresponsive, robbing you of your capacity to carry on. Mine was no different given my circumstances.
I started losing my senses and was in desperate need of psychiatric treatment. Continuing with studies at this point became a far distant dream. My parents soon realized that something was not right and took me to a psychiatrist. The doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression and social anxiety and prescribed a heavy dose of antidepressants.
After a few months of much-needed psychiatric care, I started getting normal. During the recovery period, I played a lot of cricket, made new friends, and read fiction. It was the time of my life when I felt what enjoyment is all about. During this period, I also regained the motivation to continue with my studies. The next three years that followed brought significant academic accolades to me until things changed for the worse, again.
My Mother’s Third Stage Cancer Diagnosis and How it Impacted Me
Breast cancer is one of the most curable cancer types if diagnosed during the early stage. Not in my mother’s case, unfortunately. She lacked awareness and never spoke about it. The symptoms worsened as the disease progressed, and a visit to the specialist became imminent. The final diagnosis was not promising after the biopsy test turned positive, but the doctor remained hopeful of complete recovery. The treatment started immediately, and my mother also responded positively, but not for too long. We soon learned that her cancer had metastasized to the brain. The entire episode of her illness, which lasted for almost two years, was a gruesome experience for other family members and me.
Meanwhile, depression and anxiety had crept in and continued haunting me long after my mother’s death. She had experienced an excruciatingly painful death as the last cancer stage made her gasp for every inch of breath left in her. Helpless to the gruesome tragedy unfolding in front of us, my family and I remained by her bedside only to wave her a final goodbye.
Depression, Anxiety and My Work Life
After my mother’s demise, life kept floating with all the ups and downs. Once again, the visits to the psychiatrist became more frequent. However, the medication kept my mood in check and helped me push against all the odds. Although the feelings of being looked at and judged by strangers prevailed, I landed a content writing job in a startup firm near my house. Since only three people worked in the company, it became easier for me to cope with anxiety. Besides, keeping busy all day long also helped me avoid negative thoughts.
I spent up to five years working for that company and decided to switch. My boss had figured out my vulnerabilities related to depression and social anxiety and coerced me into overworking without additional benefits. He knew that it was difficult for me to survive in a different working environment due to the stigma around mental health. That was when I realized that I had no choice but to join another organization despite my social limitations. Luckily, I did when I got shortlisted and received an interview call from another employer.
Upon securing the new job, it was the first time I was exposed to a different working environment. Unlike the previous workplace, this one had plenty of employees, a cause of great concern for me, owing to my anxiety. I was pushed into a do-or-die situation.
To my surprise, things started changing for the good at the new office. Not only my performance got better, my ability to interact with people without feeling paranoia improved too. Besides, I joined a gym where I used to spend up to two hours working out. Regular workout soon became my passion as it helped me feel great.
My Life at Present
It has been 10 years since my mother passed away and more than twenty years since my first experience with anxiety and depression in high school. The road to recovery has never been an easy one. At times, I felt like ending my life as it appeared meaningless. I literally had no purpose carrying on. But when I look back, I realize that overcoming mental health problems is about:
- Accepting that you have depression and anxiety regardless of the stigma.
- Looking for professional help–psychiatrist and psychotherapy in this case– just like when people suffer from physical ailments, such as diabetes.
- Taking medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- Keeping up even if you do not feel like it.
- Engaging in a regular workout like running or strength training.
This is my story, and I am optimistic that if I can learn to cope with mental health issues, you too can. Just cling to life and wait for the right moment to grab. Things change one way or the other! Trials and tribulations are part of life. They make you stronger by turning miseries into strengths. You need to be patient and wait for the right time to grab an opportunity.
Just believe in yourself. Be hopeful, and there is no reason you can’t emerge stronger!