by Olivia Sanchez |
It's early Saturday morning and the world is still asleep. I've been up for three hours because I forgot to close my window and the garbage truck was loud and once I was up I just couldn't seem to quiet my mind. Now I'm sipping burnt espresso with wet hair, clicking away at my computer that is covered in stickers. You probably just walked past me. I am writing to you from the intersection of depression and PTSD.
I can't stomach the broken muffin that is sitting on the table in front of me. I've been trying and trying to write this but I haven't been able to. I think this is because I have been desperately trying to write you a story of resolution but that story isn't mine. I could have typed up a neat and tidy account of my brief and bloody battle with depression, from which I instantly recovered when I made some good friends and started allowing myself a creative outlet. But that's just not true.
My battle was not brief and although I finally have a strong support system, other people aren't medicine. I am a work in progress. I have known the desolation of depression since I was 14 years old and experienced the trauma that prompted an 800 mile move last May.
The thing about episodic mental health conditions is that they don't suck all the time. When they do, when you are in the midst of an episode, it is unfathomable that you will ever again know peace of any sort. Mine are characteristically lonely in a way that I did not know possible.
I miss the me I know I am outside the confines of illness. I have felt like a foreigner in my own body. I ruined relationships. I hurt people. I hurt myself. I ate and I didn't eat. I slept and I didn't sleep. I cried often. I didn't let people hug me. When I originally drafted this piece, I wrote, "I am writing to you on a day that every cell in my body feels exhausted from being so sad and scared for so long. I feel haunted but also numb."
But during the blessed days and months that I have been free from the haunting, I have experienced myself and my life in a way that is more beautiful and more satisfying than I ever hoped for. I have laughed and cried and loved and loved and loved. I know now how and when to ask for help. I know how to let people be there for me. I know how to listen and be empathetic without monopolizing the conversation and drowning people in my problems.
The good days have been so good and even when they haven't been, to be free of the haunting is enough. I would never wish the torment of trauma or darkness of depression on anyone. But I really believe that I would not be as grateful for the good days if I hadn't endured the bad ones. I understand that the rest of my life will likely be a trajectory of highs and lows but the peace I have experienced is something I cherish and seek out, endlessly. And I hope you will, too.
We all struggle, let’s struggle together.
Olivia Sanchez is a sophomore psychology major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Olivia is a member of Active Minds, a group on campus dedicated to educating our community about mental health and demonstrating that people are not alone in their mental health struggles.
Mental Health Resources:
UP Health and Counseling Center: 503-943-7134
Multnomah Mental Health Crisis Line: 503-988-4888
Active Minds: email@example.com or facebook.com/activemindsatup