It is really not easy talking about having depression and anxiety, and writing about it does not get any easier either. In fact, doing this makes me a little anxious. But, I will try, because I want to let people know that there is nothing to be shameful or afraid of, and we should seek professional help early on when we feel that we are not coping well.
Just to give a brief background, I started realising that I was not coping when I was 15. There were issues going on at home and being someone who loved going to school, I lost complete interest in studying. I allowed myself to fail my Secondary 3 mid-year exams and I even thought of withdrawing from school. I started to have suicidal ideations; I made death plans and I have attempted suicide for a few times since. Deep down, I knew it was not normal for me to think of dying and even want to die. But, I kept telling myself “maybe it is just a phase”, “I will get over it”, “I am stronger than this”, and “I am strong enough to get over it”. Along the way, I started to push my limits excessively in terms of academics. Then, not only was I struggling with my negative feelings about my life in general, I was also constantly stressed and anxious. I was unhappy, angry, and easily agitated. For the past 6 years, I have seen 2 school counsellors for a short while. Seeing them helped me feel more confident in coping, at least for a while. Outside of school, I had contemplated seeing a professional when I felt really overwhelmed but I had always put it off because I knew that the negative feelings would go away eventually. It did. So I thought I would be ok. Well, putting off seeing a professional probably helped me to become a stronger person in dealing with situations, but it did not help me feel any better about myself. I was still struggling.
This year, I entered university. Even though I took a 9-month break before I entered university to learn to cope with my anxiety, I was still unable to cope once school started. I had enough of the constant stress and anxiety that was causing me to struggle with school. I was tired of constantly feeling bad about myself. I was tired of always feeling guilty when I fail to complete what I had planned to. I was tired of crying every single time I do my school work. I was tired of feeling like I just want to run away or kill myself. I was scared of the bad thoughts I harboured towards my family. I was tired of not being able to enjoy myself when I went out. I wanted to feel better, I wanted to learn to cope. Earlier on this year, I finally made the decision to see a psychologist. I was diagnosed with moderate depression and anxiety. Knowing my diagnosis was scary, worrying, yet a relief at the same time. For a while, I struggled with accepting the fact that I have depression and anxiety. I even felt like I was depressed and angry about having depression and anxiety. I really wished that I had sought professional help a lot earlier, when I first realised that I was not coping. Maybe my life would have been so much better. Maybe I would not have anxiety then. But right now, I would say that I am better at managing my negative feelings and anxiety. Being more aware of my feelings and thoughts have definitely helped me in coping. I am so thankful for the people who were there for me when I needed someone, especially a few of my teachers, the school counsellors, and my friends. I am also thankful for having a great psychologist. I am thankful for myself for taking the first step out.
What I would like to say is that it is always, always better to seek professional help early on, once you realise that you are not coping or that it feels too overwhelming to cope or even move forward. But, it is never too late, as long as you do not give up on yourself, on the opportunity to get better. Once you give up, there would not be any opportunity to feel better and move forward. Those who love you, will accept and support you. They will stay by your side, even if they do not know how to help you feel better. Appreciate these people, and appreciate yourself for taking the first step out!
Note: Professional help can refer to either a counsellor or psychologist. I am not saying that one is better than the other, it depends on the issue at hand. If you feel that you are unable to cope with daily stressors and that you need some advice and guidance to help you to cope, maybe a counsellor would be suitable. If you feel that you are unable to cope and are overwhelmed with things going on in your life, you feel that you need more emotional support, maybe a psychologist would be suitable. It really depends on what you need, you may realise that you need a psychologist instead of a counsellor, or vice versa. Take that first step out and you will know!