Journaling for My Life: Battling with anxiety and depression in your 20s.
To my family if you are reading this, please do not freak out, I promise I am fine, alive and breathing.
It’s been almost two years since I first self-diagnosed depression, yet, I am still healing. I have fallen in and out of depression since then, but I have also become better at helping myself heal. Though I am going through yet another rough patch, I thought I should still share my self-care methods with you.
Here is a little on how I discovered I was depressed:
I had had random anxiety attacks in my classes, emotional breakdowns at work, and deep senses of sadness in my room for almost a month before I sought help. I am naturally an emotional person, so I did not think much of these incidences until their frequencies increased. Like a true millennial, I took to the google first and asked what are signs you are depressed. The google -what a magical place it be- offered answers and even online tests one can take to determine the severity of their depression. So, I did. The scores were somewhere on high teens out of 20 or something so I was clearly at a deep state of depression. I was a residential assistant then, so I knew of depression and had directed a lot of my residences to the counselling centre but had never thought of going there myself. If you ask me why I didn’t go as soon as I suspected feeling down, I couldn’t tell you either. But one morning, I gathered the courage to call the counselling centre and finally set up an appointment for myself. This is probably the best decision I have ever made in my whole entire existence. I started seeing a psychologist immediately and begun my journey to healing.
Two years later, I am not healed yet. It is a long time. I had times that even I was impatient with myself asking, “why aren’t you better yet?” I even went the lengths of declaring myself healed and getting off therapy at some point. As you can imagine, it didn’t take too long to fall back into depression with that attitude and soon, I was back in yet another psychologist’s office.
Lesson one, healing takes time; you can’t undo years of trauma in a few hours long sessions. Lesson two, healing needs to happen inside and outside of a counselling session.
This is where my self-care tips come in handy. Disclaimer: these may not work for all, but they have certainly helped me.
Tip #1: Keep a Journal, you need to make sense of this experience.
As the title of this article suggests, my main self-care method is journaling. I name my diary mufti and share with her all my thoughts. The reason why it is necessary for me to feel like I am explaining things to another person is that I am an introverted extrovert, so as much as I tend to be in my head most of the time, I make sense of things through speaking. Therefore, while I journal, I say the words I am writing out loud so that I can hear myself. It helps me release the thoughts in my head while also making sense of them. This is perhaps why I have been able to be even more in tune with my emotions and feelings through it all. I often journal before I see my therapist and after. Before, so that I can have a meaningful conversation with her, and after, so that I can have an honest conversation with myself on what it all means and determine what I’ll do to feel better.
Tip #2: Have a plan; the more you imagine yourself in tomorrow, the more motivated you will be to stay alive.
I am naturally a very optimistic person. I see only bright futures even amidst all my depressive days. So, it works in my favour to plan when I feel down and drained. I have a document called life plan on my laptop that is essentially a reflection of where I see myself in days, months and years to come. Going back to this document always reminds me that this is only but a phase. I look at the bright future I imagined for myself and find reasons to live another day. Therefore, maybe not plan when you are depressed necessarily, but have a plan for life so that you can wake up another day to live for it. It does not have to be an elaborate and timely plan like my life plan, but it needs to be future focused; it must imagine you alive and thriving tomorrow. Lavendaire has two amazing goal person imagining methods that might help. One is the Vivid Vision which is this reflection prompt to imagine the life you will be living in the future. I did my vision 2020 with this prompt and I read it every other week to encourage me to walk towards living that life. The other one, which I think is my favourite -mostly for its visual aspect- is drawing a current you against a future you doodle where you write your current reality against your future #goals person.
This brings me to my next tip
Tip #3: Watch YouTube lol.
I don’t mean wonder around YouTube aimlessly watching all sorts of videos because that too can be depressing. I mean find people who have similar experiences who you can relate to and listen to, or people who emulate the life you imagine for yourself and imitate them. You can certainly find these people offline as well, but I prefer YouTube because sometimes, seeing people who have their sh**s together in real life while yours are falling apart can be hard to bear and can cause envy. The remoteness of the YouTubers sort of makes them inspirational rather than aspirational. Here are some people I watch in no particular order:
Tip #4: Get off YouTube -and all social media for that matter.
I know this is counter my previous point but sometimes you also need to imagine your own reality that is not similar to anyone else’s. Social media can be really detrimental -coming from a person who has had multiple social media-induced anxieties- to your mental health if consumed unconsciously. That whole inspirational, not aspirational shpill I just gave is not always the case. It is possible to feel envy for strangers online in ways that cause you to feel worse. I am very deliberate in who I choose to follow and who I choose not to online because I understand who I am and my own reality enough to be sure which kinds of sites may cause negative emotions. Hence if we are friends or know each other in real life but I do not follow you on social media, now you know why lol.
Tip #5: Get out of your room; new spaces can trigger new energies.
I say this more to me than to you. Like I said, I am an introverted extrovert, so I am generally always entertaining people or wanting to be surrounded by stimuli but require some time to recharge and be alone. However, I have found that on my lowest lows, alone is the opposite of where I want to be. Neither do I want to be surrounded by people who are actively engaged with me. So, I have developed the habit of going to places where there are a lot of people, but they are people who wouldn’t engage me in a conversation like libraries, coffee shops, parks, buses and trains. The people around me simulate the idea of being with people without actually needing to engage with them. The relocation also allows me to feel different emotions. Because my room harbours a lot of my own energy, whenever I feel like I am drowning in low energy I move to go bask in different energies, and to stop the low energy from pervading my space.
There are a lot more ways you can practice self-care when feeling depressed, and these are not all I do to heal and by no means, the end all be all. However, these have certainly helped me in my healing journey and I thought it would be nice to share. Plus, this was a less dramatic way of telling my siblings that I have been overcoming depression without actually having that conversation.
Feel free to share with me in the comments below how you practice self-care, who you watch on YouTube and anything else you want me to know.