I have struggled with both depression and anxiety for the past five years. As difficult as the struggle has been, I would not change it for the world. I became the person I am today because of my hardships, and I have learned more about myself and life along the way. Here are some lessons I hope every person who has undergone similar struggles can learn and share with others.
1. It is okay to let it out.
Bottling up emotions is without a doubt the worst thing you can do. Not only is it unhealthy but it will ultimately lead to greater pain and suffering. Letting out your emotions in a healthy way is key to relieving anxiety and letting go of negative emotions. This can be anything from exercising, listening to music, talking to someone you trust, or having a good cry.
2. You are stronger than you realize.
It may be hard to grasp at times, but what you have gone through has likely made you stronger than you ever thought possible. Depression and anxiety are some of the most difficult hardships anyone can go through in life. Beating them and coming out on top means you can deal with anything life throws at you. Own your newfound strength.
3. Others go through it too.
You are not alone. Countless other people go through depression and anxiety every day. It is likely that many people you know have struggled as well. Of course, no one experiences depression or anxiety in the exact same ways. However, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. There are others to support you and you can support others as well.
4. Your past doesn’t define you.
Just because you have struggled in the past does not mean there is something wrong with you. You are not broken, nor are you the struggles you faced. You are still you, a beautiful person that has overcome the most difficult of obstacles. Don’t let depression and anxiety define you.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When you’ve undergone depression and anxiety, little things that may have bothered you before become seemingly insignificant. Let go of the stress they may cause
6. Relaxation is key.
Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Count to ten. You’ll be fine, I promise.
7. Medication is not always the answer.
Our society is more and more focused on treating every little thing with medication. Many medications for depression and anxiety give unpleasant side effects that may make your condition worse. If you don’t think medication is the answer for you, don’t feel like you need to take it. There are other options
8. That being said, it’s okay to take medication if you need it.
Don’t feel stigmatized just because you need medication to stay balanced. Depression and anxiety, after all, can be caused by chemical imbalances. Therefore, some people really do need medication to fight their symptoms. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed; there are plenty of other people who need it too, including me.
9. Who your real friends are.
Genuine friends will stick by you through anything. Their support is necessary for your recovery. You will quickly learn who is there for you and who isn’t. Don’t let those who aren’t supporting you negatively impact you. Let them go.
10. Family is everything.
As much as the support of friends helps, it is nothing compared to family. Family, as they say, is forever. You will learn what family genuinely means. They will give you endless support and unconditional love. Show them how grateful you are.
11. What you want (or don’t want) out of life.
Depression and anxiety are almost like a near-death experience; in fact, they can actually be near-death experiences. When faced with them, you will realize what is truly important to you. And what isn’t. Let go of what you don’t want in favor of what you do.
12. To appreciate life.
Once you have truly experienced pain, you will learn to appreciate joy. As much as the bad days will suck, they will make you realize just how amazing your good days are. Don’t ever forget the value of happiness. It is something to strive for every day!
13. There will always be someone out there to help you.
Whether it is a family member, friend, teacher, coach, or higher power, there will always be at least one person that is willing to help and support you unconditionally. Seek them out.
14. There is no cure.
Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are not illnesses that can be treated or fixed. Recovery is continuous. You will have good days and you will have bad days. Keep fighting.
15. Life goes on.
No matter how painful life is for you right now, it goes on. As hard as it is, this is only the present. You have to remind yourself that what you are feeling is temporary. You can move beyond it. As cliché as it sounds, time really does heal all wounds. All you can do is deal with the present as best you can and move forward.
Every time I am asked my major, I wait for the inevitable, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” This is usually accompanied with a look of pity or even distaste. Some even throw out the ever original “Would you like fries with that?” comment. Well, I can tell you what I won’t do with a degree in English: be unhappy in a dead-end job that I loathe.
In a world embroiled with thoughts of monetary success rather than spiritual, it is not uncommon to choose a major based on a myriad of reasons unrelated to genuine passion. I have asked many people why they chose to be their specific major. Almost every single one responds, “It pays well.” I’m not saying factoring in the job market or earning potential when deciding on a major is wrong; in fact, it is necessary in the world we live in today. But to pick a major based solely on monetary gain? I couldn’t do it. I want to have a career that brings me happiness. Some may think that is unrealistic, but it is what I have always strived for. We need to stop thinking that money is equivalent to happiness and success. It isn’t.
If I did base my major on money, I sure as hell wouldn’t have picked English. Believe it or not, I began my college career as a psychology major. Pretty much everyone, including myself, seems to forget this because my entire being screams, “ENGLISH MAJOR.” I won’t lie; I picked psychology mainly for the high salary I knew I’d receive by eventually becoming a clinical psychologist. Of course, I was interested in the subject as well, but I can’t say that I was driven solely by love of psychology as a discipline.
As I entered my sophomore year of college , I began to waver. I didn’t have some awe-inspiring epiphany that made me see the light of English. I just knew psychology wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t my passion, and I wasn’t happy pursuing it. I listened to my gut and decided to see what else was out there. When faced with unhappiness, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. So I did.
English was staring me plain in the face the entire time. All my life I was the girl with her nose in a book. Rather than grounding me from television or playing with my friends, my parents would take away my book for the day. I had towering stacks of books piled haphazardly around my room year-round. I went on to take every English class offered at my high school. Teachers would jokingly say I was trying to steal their jobs. I won English Student of the Year my senior year. Everyone knew I would end up being an English major except me.
So why didn’t I choose English from the get-go? Simple: I didn’t want to do what was expected of me. Our generation is so weighted down by expectations, whether it is from our family, friends, teachers, or the media. It is natural to want to rebel… but rebellion isn’t always right. Sometimes the expectations others hold for you, annoyingly, are exactly the ones you should hold for yourself.
Once I decided on English during my sophomore year, everything else fell into place. Everything I was learning became suddenly interesting. I actually looked forward to doing my reading assignments and going to class every day. I found kindred spirits not only in my peers but my professors. I was finally embracing my genuine self, and it felt good. I knew this was how college should feel: exploring a subject you are passionate about and learning about not only the material at hand but yourself. This kind of happiness and self-acceptance was something I always strived for but never truly obtained. I can only hope my future career brings me as much joy as my major has brought me over these years.
I will graduate this December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Am I one-hundred percent certain of what I want to do in five years? No. Am I one-hundred percent certain of my decision to pursue an English degree? Yes. I genuinely hope every college student can say the same about their major. Don’t get caught up in the money, expectations, and fear. Go with your gut and do what you love. Everything else will follow.