Growing through your twenties is hard. We all feel a little lost at one point or another. We struggle to differentiate our true sense of self from the never-ending expectations projected upon us by others. In my case, I have found myself spending a lot of time trying to redefine my purpose in life and my reasons for living.
Recently, I started a new job. The new experience consumed me. I loved everything about the adventure and thrived on the feeling of being constantly challenged. Overtime, I started to find my feet in the workplace. I was developing my own self-confidence, while discovering how I fit into the business. I felt comfortable. I felt happy. And so, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next.
I remember first questioning my mental health in a classroom in seventh grade. The guidance counsellor walked into the room with a stack of questionnaires. She asked us to answer each question truthfully, further stating that all answers were anonymous. It’s unfortunate to acknowledge that this was perhaps my very first encounter with the words “mental health” or “mental illness.”
Over the past 5 years, I have been greeted by it within my workplace, my university and even my own doctors office. Sometimes the harsh reality of stigma sets in as I find an individual unknowingly stigmatizing me. It’s not because they intended to do so, rather they didn’t even realize their actions in the first place. Education is where we need to start.
It was Christmas Day.
Following our morning family traditions, I jumped in the shower, ensuring I had more than enough time to put myself together for our evening meal at a family friend’s home. Just as I turned on the water, my body began to tingle. A sensation of lightheadedness overcame me, so I gripped onto the shower walls in hope of some kind of support. My heart began to race.
“Describe a moment when you failed, how did you pick yourself back up?”
Failure is hard. Openly talking about failure is even harder. It’s a constant part of life, yet we have such a difficult time accepting that failure is normal. It’s okay to fail.
Ever since I can remember, my own notion of success has solely focused on fostering a career. In high school, I developed a long-term plan which touched only upon future schooling and employment. My perfectionist tendencies pushed me to believe that success was only one sole entity; this being external success rather than internal value of ourselves.
Today, I took a positive step in my journey of healing. It was far beyond my comfort zone, a new experience in my life that, unlike my mental health, fills me with shame and fear. This morning I felt this intense emotion of vulnerability and it terrified me. It was quite similar to the feelings I experienced when I first considered seeking support, looking outside myself for my mental health.
Whenever a patient is referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, their initial appointment is known as an "intake" appointment. This provides an opportunity to discuss personal concerns and expectations of the counseling process. The therapist performs assessments and determines the services that will assist you best. A brief history is covered, with questions regarding psychological/medical status, family history, alcohol or substance abuse, previous experience with counselling, etc.
Four weeks ago, I had a week of accomplishments: running my first half marathon and graduating with a university degree. Two goals that once upon a time seemed close to impossible. Then, just like that, everything was over and I had no idea where I was headed next. So my depression jumped at the opportunity to take control and pull me into my third relapse.
My relapses have always been somewhat hard to explain. I think it’s because my day-to-day fight with depression makes understanding what a relapse actually is, quite hard. Often, I have sad days where I feel down and lack motivation for pretty much anything. This might lead to me bailing on plans last minute, or avoiding any type of conversation for that specific day. This is normal every day life for me - a sad day in trade for a few good days. It’s an ongoing cycle of my depression.
And so, although two years behind schedule, this year I came back stronger and healthier in order to accomplish the one goal that kept me alive at my lowest - running in the Ottawa Half Marathon. Reaching the 20 km mark was quite emotional for me. I wasn't thinking about the pain or exhaustion of making it to the end of the course. Instead, my mind was filled with the memories of what I had overcome in order to run this far.
“Wow, this is SO not an Anna thing to do.”
It’s true. This was my most spontaneous adventure to date.
Three years ago, I never would have pictured myself heading into the unknown with 50 strangers and nothing more than a back pack. This just goes to show how capable humans are of change - a notion that is often taken for granted.
When I first stumbled upon Chasing Sunrise, all I could think was “these are my people” - a community that understands that with each sunrise, we are given a choice: we can either stay in bed waiting for life to come to us or we can get up and get after it, chasing what we want. The latter is about wanting more out of life. More memories. More adventures. More mind-blowing experiences.
“You have anxiety.”
When I first heard those words, it was safe to say that I was completely caught off guard. I had entered therapy in order to tackle my long-term depression, however, when screened for an anxiety disorder, I was startled by how many of the questions related to my everyday life.
When I was clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, I had to take on the responsibility of sitting down with every individual who made up my support system (i.e., my family, my roommates, my close friends, my boss). The first person I told asked me, “What does that even mean, to have a mental illness?” As I was only just coming to terms with the notion of having a mental illness myself, I struggled to explain how I felt.
Daily Insanity is my story. It will feature the ups and the downs, with stories for others who may suffer from mental illness and for those trying to be a support system for their own loved ones.