We stopped looking for the monsters under our bed when we realized that they were inside us.
I have never openly talked about my depression and anxiety for a few reasons. One, because I find it embarrassing to talk about. Two, because I don't want people thinking that I'm searching for a pity party. But after thinking about it, I realized there's nothing for me to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
At the end of the day, everyone goes through something others know nothing about, so why judge? I want anyone else who may be experiencing or who has experienced something similar to know that everything truly does get better in time.
I used to not like the person I was in high school. For lack of a better term, I definitely considered myself to be the “DUFF,” if you will. For those of you who don't know, that's the "designated ugly fat friend." I had always been an extremely insecure person, and I felt as though I was trapped inside someone who I did not want to be.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone completely different than what everyone else saw. I remember one day during my sophomore year of high school, I made a list of over 100 things that I did not like about myself in less than 10 minutes. I bawled afterward and knew something was wrong with me, but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what I had done. No one knew about this until the beginning of this past summer when I finally opened up.
I was really anxious about starting college in fear of not being accepted or making new friends, as most incoming freshman are. However, I surprisingly adjusted really well and can thank my amazing roommate and best friend for that. Despite my surprisingly smooth adjustment, my self-esteem issues continued to linger. I began acting out in ways that were so completely different from the person I truly was.
I searched for attention in making regretful decisions and mistook that for acceptance from others, which only worsened the problem. I stopped eating completely in the beginning of my sophomore year of college and became anorexic for a brief period of time. I desperately just wanted to be liked and also learn to like myself in return. I searched endlessly for any way to find the acceptance.
My frustration kept gradually increasing because I hated everything that was going on inside of me. I could not find the words to explain what was going on because I couldn't even understand it myself.
I began to wonder if things would just be easier if I didn't have to put myself through it anymore. Finally, at the end of my junior year of college, I asked for help.
What's worse than being depressed? Being completely numb to any feeling at all. I remember my mind was completely empty 24/7, and I was careless about just about everything. I could not concentrate. I felt like an empty shell of a person going through the mundane steps of an old friend's life. I no longer felt connected to anything.
It was a scary feeling, and the one thing I do vividly remember was asking myself every day if I would ever be “normal” again. How I'd been feeling internally had escalated to a point that I could no longer ignore.
It was far from “normal” to feel the way I did on a daily basis. I completely forgot how to be myself. I forgot who I was before the monster that is depression completely took over me.
Depression truly is a monster that doesn't rest after it's consumed you. It takes over everything. It seeped into my family's lives, and their only concern became getting me better and finding me the help I desperately needed.
My depression had put everyone's life on hold. I felt like a stranger to my own friends, and I knew they didn't know how to react or talk to me because of how broken I am.
So, I secluded myself altogether. I didn't want to take the risk making anyone feel even remotely similar to the way I had been feeling. It was like I believed depression was an airborne illness.
Unfortunately, the best and only medicine is time. It took me about seven months to find myself again and to actually be happy with who I was as a person this time. Talking to a therapist was beneficial in ways I'd never believed. Having someone neutral to talk to and spill out my eight years of bottled-up sadness to was liberating.
Like anything, it wasn't easy at first. I still have to battle through it every day, but I'm proud to say I've come far from where I was. Like any other illness, there are “good days” and “bad days.” Good days are normal, just like any other. Bad days, however, include a feeling of overwhelming sadness and bitterness that don't necessarily have a root or an explanation.
I learned that seeking happiness in the approval of others is unhealthy and unimportant. Seeking happiness within yourself is where you have to begin. One of the greatest lessons I've learned through all of this is that the opinions and thoughts of others are irrelevant. The people who will judge and say mean things are the ones who don't know you, and you don't want them in your life anyway. So, why waste any time dwelling on them?
The biggest blessing and the one thing that I am most grateful for after through all of this was being able to be surrounded by my friends and family. No one has my best interests at heart the way they do. If it weren't for them pushing me to get the help I was denied, I would still be stuck in an unhealthy place. I cannot thank them enough for loving, encouraging and supporting me through this hellish ride.
I'm imperfect. I've made a lot of mistakes. I've learned from them all, and I've learned to not regret anything. Everything happened for a reason and brought me to where I am today.
I've become a better person through learning to accept everything that I am and everything I've had to overcome. Twenty-one years later, I can confidently say I am completely content with where I am, and I could not be happier with the person I've become.