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