I think we can all agree that life is a rollercoaster. A saying that perfectly captures how I have felt recently. I want to write a candid exploration of a chapter in my life where the echoes of mental health challenges reverberated deeply. One that began with leaving the comfort of home. Then navigating the tumultuous aftermath of a near five-year relationship, and embarking on the uncharted odyssey of discovering solace in my own company for the first time ever.
As I recount my experiences, I’ve come to realise that the very challenges that once frayed the edges of my confidence have become the very threads of strength that define me today.
A Little About Me
I’m a 20-year-old woman who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the age of 15. In September 2021, I embarked on a new chapter by moving away from home to begin my studies at university. This marked my first time being apart from my unwavering support system, my family. The adjustment was undeniably challenging.
I sought support in my partner at the time to keep my emotional strength up. The extensive and exhausting social challenges that come with university for someone prone to anxiety are great. Though it was an uneasy feeling, the full weight of leaving home truly hit me a year later, in the aftermath of heartbreak.
Earlier this year, I went through a break-up after a nearly five-year relationship, having been living together at university. While our parting was amicable, my mental health experienced a whirlwind as I grappled with the task of finding contentment within my own company. A challenge I was encountering for the very first time in my life.
Naturally, I had the comfort of my friends, and the support of my family through phone calls and weekly FaceTime catchups. However, it was during this period that I began to shift my focus towards self-care and relish the liberation of indulging in moments just for myself. This gradual shift allowed me to foster a newfound appreciation for solitude and, in turn, for my own company. After all, we shouldn’t feel guilty for being a little selfish from time to time.
I have always been a people pleaser – a trait often intertwined with my anxiety. During moments of emotional distress, I’ve encountered difficulty in prioritising self-care. This realisation marked a significant learning curve, prompting me to embrace the fact that being inherently “sensitive” and “emotional” is not a cause for self-judgment.
In the realm of anxiety’s influence, I’ve come to understand that these attributes don’t warrant alteration; rather, they deserve acknowledgment, management, and ultimately, acceptance.
As I have learnt to live with my mental health, accepting that these mental illnesses have been intrinsic to who I am. It has been liberating.
It became a shift from fixating on “curing” my illness, to embracing it as an integral part of me. My mental health is a cornerstone of my identity. It’s through these struggles that I’ve unearthed qualities I cherish most. My deep empathy, for instance, shines brighter. I love that I can help people feel seen and heard when opening up about their own challenges.
Despite the hardships and times I’ve felt lowest, I can confidently say I wouldn’t change my emotional health. It has given me a strength I never thought possible.
“These are the days that must happen to you.” – Walt Whitman
For more stories of personal struggle and coping with mental health challenges, check out our Journeys sections.