MELISSA ZEBOROFF: DEPRESSION HAS ARRIVED

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to YouAreMore. 

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Why? I haven’t felt the need to. 

I like to write when I am actively experiencing depression and anxiety because I personally feel that it’s when I’m best able to share the rawness and reality it brings. Well, that time has come. For the first time since my initial diagnosis, I’m truly depressed again. It isn’t the same as before because I know that I will get through this. History will repeat itself for me. But the painful process I have to overcome to get there is daunting. Typically I wake up at 7am, well rested, and eager to get outside and see my loved ones. This is no longer my experience. It has been a few months battle now of waking up feeling sluggish, fatigued and ready to go back to bed without having done anything. Once confident, my self-esteem has diminished. As you can imagine, this creates severe social anxiety in my academic environment, and personal life. 

It’s been months since I’ve felt like my world was crashing in slowly and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. Now that my nursing program has reached the half way mark, stressors are piling up and due dates are approaching quicker than what is needed for me to feel like I have a handle on things.

I get forgetful so every day when I plan something or tell someone I’ll have something done it must be written down because my mind like a tangled spider web. Naturally people would think, take on less, delegate to others; support is there. Logically, I know this. Being depressed is a different narrator to every sense of the word. I try and prove to myself that I have control over things and can accomplish things by taking on multiple tasks. In a way this is because I have no control over my emotions, and have lost my confidence in my capabilities as a student, a professional and a person. My thoughts have become irrational and confusing and I’m separated from my “usual self”. I have taken my lack of self-control out on others by shutting down and getting defensive; again, not my “usual self”. I preach lifting others up and supporting others till I’m blue in the face. But this is not something I’m able to do right now, and this was hard to accept. Every day, no matter where I am, even in my own space at home, I am extremely uncomfortable. While I know that things will change because history proves this to be true, I cannot see an end site with all of the stressors that are in my life at this time. I am in a very heavy academic program and unfortunately a busy course load is part of the game. However, what I can do is practice self-care every god damn day. This consists of going to the gym every day, and ensuring I have adequate “me” time to center, and simply take time to breathe to calm my nerves. Self-talk is also a daily ritual. I have negative thoughts entering my mind every hour stating, “I cannot do this”, “I’m going to fail”, “I’ll never get through this”. It takes me verbally saying “yes you can”, “yes you will”, and “this does not define you, this is temporary”. Visits to my therapist have become a regime because while it helps to tell myself these things, I need someone else to tell me so it solidifies in my mind and trumps the negative self-doubt.

I remember when I first started feeling like I was losing balance in my life. And it wasn’t until recently that I started to become distant with close friends, and family members; isolation was my first clue to how depressed I really was…. Again. I hyper focused and panicked on the fact that I was back in the slumps all over again. The pity and victim came out and I allowed it to be my reality. Being open and honest with my core friends and family was the best decision I could have made. We all need support. It is not a sign of weakness (as my depression told me), but a sign of strength (as my logical self knew).  Through open communication and support from the health care system and my loves ones I am now back on a journey to recovering from this. I realized that depression isn’t just a part of my history; it’s a part of me but doesn’t define me. It’s a minuet aspect of my personality and rather than allowing it to take over, I, and others out there, must prove that it is not in control. Because this is the first time my depression has come full circle since my diagnosis, it is hitting me hard. But realizing that it will come back in the future, and doesn’t need to be a daunting challenge, but an acceptance, is what has helped me get through this. I have the tools to get through it and I will be better able to overcome it when stress hits later down the road. You’re probably thinking, is stress what caused this relapse? Maybe,  maybe not. Depression can come and knock on your door at any time, and it is up to us to push back. How do I do this? SELF-CARE. SO whatever self-care looks like to you, do it. Motivation isn’t always going to be there, so discipline needs to happen. I force myself out of the house some days because I know that one of these days, I will start to feel more alive and rejuvenated. I will again want to be around a group of people because I want to, not because I feel I should. For someone who loves people and being around them all of the time, I constantly turn in and isolate. Is this a good thing? Sometimes, I feel it is. And Sometimes I challenge it. My point is, everyday isn’t going to be perfect, and that needs to be OK. While I sit here writing this, I hold myself accountable for telling my own self this every day. The reason I chose to post this now, is to preach the suffering that comes from mental illness, but also advocate and create a supportive community of people who are experiencing mental illness, or have family members and friends experiencing it. It’s a very sticky area to try offer support into with little knowledge around what happens to a person’s mind and behaviours, so if this brings any guidance and clarity, my goal has been met. If there’s anyone out there who wants to reach out and support one another, I’m always here, and you’re never alone.

MELISSA ZEBOROFF: DEPRESSION, IS THAT YOU?

When you’ve overcome the depressed state you were once in, life itself is the most beautiful gift. I remember when I felt happy for the first time, it was like a foreign emotion that I forgot existed. I cried tears of joy for the first time in years, and I was for once happy to cry in that moment. In this moment crying was not painful, it was beautiful and before I knew it, it was a sequence of crying, laughing, and just feeling HAPPY and let me tell you, it felt GREAT. When you ask someone what it feels like to be happy, it seems like a silly question because it’s a natural thing… But when it’s something foreign to you, and it happens for what feels like the first time, speechless is the last thing you are. I remember the sensation of happiness running through my body, thinking “Is this happiness?” and being able to identify it, was beyond exciting.

Over the past year I have been a first year nursing student in the BSN program. Before entering the program I told myself that I would need to find a healthy balance in my life, and be mentally free of the locks depression holds on you. Well, I achieved this pre-school and have enjoyed this past school year more than I imagined. But, with anything reward, comes a struggle. My fitness coach always says to me, “If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done”. I live by this every day, and try push myself into trying new things as much as I can. With that being said, I have experienced some highs and low’s, depressing and happy states throughout the school year that really set me back a bit mentally. Around February 2016 of this year, I got to a point where so much of my energy and time that once went into creating a healthy lifestyle and mind, went into my academic life. Being under pressure is something that I’ve always thrived in, but in this circumstance, my mind had taken off on me, and I could feel the anxiety starting to re-introduce itself into my social, academic and personal life. It was the fear of relapse and falling back into dark patterns that controlled my mind. I sought counselling from the beginning of the school year, right until the last few weeks of school. Going into a demanding program excited me, and also scared me into thinking the stress would bring out the negatives that I had fought so hard to get passed, so I wanted to set myself up with all kinds of comfort measures. I strongly believe that through counselling and daily self-checks, I was able to get through my first year of school, and still remain a healthy minded woman, of whom depression does not control. Getting through the first of a four year bachelor’s degree, is exciting to begin with and being on the journey of becoming a registered nurse makes me motivated more than I’ve ever been.. but with the high’s and low’s, even though I kept thinking to myself every time I was stressed, emotional, and just ready for a break, depression did not control me and it took a while to understand that. I was insecure with the fact that I had been happy for only a few months before school started, that when I felt sad and stressed, I automatically jumped into thinking I was in relapse. I am writing this message to let all of you out there know who have a diagnosis of anxiety or depression that even though when you are stressed, and tired and simply emotional, does not mean that depression has come back all over again. This was new to me, so through counselling I was able to recognize the difference between the state I was in before I was healthy, the state I was in when I was healthy, a relapse and what I was experiencing from academic stress was normal. I’ve always seen an invisible tag on my forehead stamped “depression” because I wasn’t free from it. But now that I am, hearing someone tell me what I was experiencing wasn’t a relapse, but simply “normal” and a part of a demanding program such as nursing, lifted all of the weight off of my shoulders. I tend to over analyze everything, it’s my personality, but anxiety tends to take it up a notch, so this was beyond freeing. Depression IS something I will live with forever, but it is NOT something that will control me forever. It is simply a part of me, but not who I am. For some, first year of nursing may have been a piece of cake, some it’s challenging and others it’s a real struggle. For me, first year proved that I can get through anything with support, faith in myself, and self-care practices daily.  Physical activity has become a daily ritual that will continue to bring me positivity and happiness. Knowing I am doing something good for my body, mind and soul is freeing. It allows me to take a break from life, and take care of myself. Feeling physically strong, helps me feel mentally strong and this is my daily motivator. Though life brings stressful events that cause happiness, anger, sadness etc., it’s important to be self-aware of where you are in the moment, and learn how to re-direct your feelings to something positive so you can free yourself of anything that keeps you in the way of moving forwards. This is a hard muscle to build, and still in the process of figuring it all out. If I had read this message a year ago, I would wouldn’t believe any of it. For anyone reading this message, trying to get through a mental illness, BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT, because you can and you will. It will take effort, but believe me when I say, it’s BEYOND WORTH IT. I still have a hard time looking back on everything I’ve gone through, knowing that I am where I am today. Even when you are through the darkness, it will take maintenance and consistent practice to maintain that lifestyle, but it seems effortless to do it because feeling happy and healthy is worth the fight. If you practice something enough, it will become second nature, and though I am not quite there yet, I strongly believe in it and have made huge progress. Even now, after getting through the year and struggles I’ve experienced, I will be taking some much needed “me” time to get back into a healthier routine, and a much needed 3 month break to refresh my mind and soul, before I enter the second year of the BSN program. Even then, I will continue to lean on others for support, seek counselling, and do what I can to live healthy because WHY NOT? I use to feel embarrassed for seeking help because of the stigma that’s attached to it, and mental illness and now I embrace every ounce of it, and you all should too. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, fear, or judge yourself for going through something as tough as you are in any moment.

Keep fighting, you can do it.

Until next time,
Mel

Melissa Zeboroff

Mental Illness is not clean. It is not simple. It’s creative and likes to hold all of the power. It changes the way you think, behave, perceive the outside world and therefore changes one’s self efficacy. The most important thing for those to know who are going through mental illness battles is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

I was diagnosed with depression two years ago. I went through a spectrum of aids from the health system; from a clinical counsellor, to my GP, psychiatrist and a therapist within mental health I have come out the strong woman I am today (or at least I try to be). Depression creates a dialogue in a person’s life and takes over the narratives. It chooses the way you think, creates insecurities and a sense of forever loneliness that you, in those bad states, feel you will forever be buried in. I remember telling my family for the first time about what I had discovered, and I clearly remember the feelings I had, and the mental state I was in when I said, “There’s no way I will get through this”. I was so far gone that I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was so stubbornly convinced that depression was now my life, forever. Well, I am here to advocate for all individuals who have ever experienced depression that you WILL GET THROUGH THIS. I strongly believe that we are given the life we are strong enough to live, and I am more than accepting of my illness. Depression took over my life for a long time, but it no longer holds that power. I embrace my illness because it has enabled me to begin creating the life I want, and the person I want to be in this world. I have a new perception of life, and the environment I live in. I view and treat my relationships differently, and have a kind approach in how I view myself. Depression does not go away. You get stronger. You learn new habits. You learn how to accept things for how they are in certain moments, you create a plan, and move on in a way that positively helps you grow. This has been a hard muscle for me to build because I had depression for nearly 6 years before I got help. But I did, and so can all of you out there who are reading this, thinking that you are worthless, and don’t deserve to get better. YES YOU DO.

I was in a new relationship when I decided to fight the sadness, and I waited a while before I had the courage to share this with him. I feared losing him, because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to hold onto. Though at first he was confused as to what exactly depression was, because I had always portrayed a happy outgoing version of myself, he was unsure what it meant. I often found him researching articles online trying to educate himself on depression and how he could help. He turned out to be the biggest support for my mental health. I was pleasantly surprised, and once again the voices that depression had created in my head, were proven wrong. I’m lucky to have had an amazing family and close friends for support throughout the entire process. 

Never feel alone in life no matter what you are going through. Life throws us many curve balls, but you have the strength inside of you to push through it, you just have to find it. 

Until next time,

Mel