When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder, which completely flipped my life upside-down. On the one hand, it was great. I finally knew what was happening to me, and I could then go forward and learn how to deal with it. On the other hand, it made it more real, and impacted me in a way I didn’t think it would. When I got diagnosed, I felt ashamed. I was angry that I ‘let’ myself get so unwell. I really started to despise myself. Every time I had a panic attack, I would berate myself for hours. I’d say to myself that I wasn’t good enough. That I was letting everyone down, and that I didn’t deserve the life I was living.
All of this was building up and up. The panic attacks increased. Thus, I began to hate myself more. Around this time, I was losing friends. And it was getting harder for me to maintain a connection with somebody when I just felt so worthless. I wouldn’t leave the house. I basically locked myself away emotionally and physically for 8 months under the guise that I was studying for my GCSE’s (exams at the end of high school in the U.K.).
Nothing was making me happy and I had no energy to do anything. I’d often lock myself in my wardrobe and sit there for hours just staring at the wall. This went on for weeks. It got worse when I finished my exams as I didn’t have an excuse as to why I was so withdrawn. As a result, I lashed out at my family to get them to leave me alone. And I still didn’t realise that I was depressed. I just thought I wasn’t coping well with exam stress or leaving high school. It was only when I attempted suicide on holiday did I think maybe I need to re-examine my feelings and start getting help.
Obviously, my suicide attempt wasn’t successful and this made me feel more angry towards myself. I felt like I was useless at everything, even trying to end my own life. This state of mind continued until I started Sixth Form and having to try and pretend to be okay took its toll. I broke down and cried for the first time in 8 months. This was a massive relief for me: finally being able to express emotion and admit that something wasn’t right. That was when I went to therapy for the first time and was told I had depression.
Luckily, I’ve never gotten as bad as I was back then. But occasionally when I get a bad panic attack, or things aren’t going right for me, the negative thoughts come back. And I’ll be stuck in a depressive rut. For me, this includes feeling worthless or not good enough. Often, I will sit in silence and stare at nothing for hours at a time, not even realizing how much time has passed. I find it difficult to eat, and have very little energy to socialize. Because I couldn’t sleep, I once spent an entire night just staring at my ceiling. I didn’t realize that I’d not slept until my alarm went of in the morning.
It fills me with hate when I feel like this. So I try to pull myself out of it as soon as possible.
My depression triggers itself when I’m feeling low. So to keep my mood up and to stay positive, I do something called “mirror work” every morning. “Mirror work” involves standing in front of a mirror, looking at yourself dead in the eyes, and repeating positive affirmations. This was one of the first stages of my therapy. My therapist explained to me I needed to build a strong foundation of love towards myself, to help when moving forward with things like exposure therapy.
I also try and write my feelings down. I have a journal where I write what triggers my panic attacks and how I felt going through them. It helps to get the thoughts out of my head and keep me calm. It really helped with my anxiety, so I started to do it when I was feeling depressed. If I felt low or if I was feeling suicidal, I’d list all the things I like about myself. All of the things I’d miss if I wasn’t alive. Things I would regret not being around to see. Afterwards, I would repeat some positive affirmations.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, my mind really does just want to stare at the wall for 4 hours. And if that’s what happens, then that’s what happens. The important part to remember, for me, is not to beat myself up about my bad days. They’re going to happen when I ‘let’ anxiety or depression rule my mind for a bit. But as long as I can take the reins and at some point bring myself back to an equilibrium, then I’m happy. There are going to be setbacks. That’s a big part of the recovery process. But it’s how you deal with the setbacks. Think of yourself like a hill. If you go down, you have to come back up. And if you go up, you have to come back down.
Let me know how you bounce back from a depressive rut. Leave a comment below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin