In today’s society, there is a stigma placed around mental health and, in particular, depression and anxiety. Some people have a hard time grasping how depression and anxiety can affect someone so deeply that it leaks all over and affects every aspect of their life. As a 26 year old woman, I have dealt with depression and anxiety for over half of my life.
I’ve gone through and put my family and friends through the ringer at times whether it was my battle with self-harm or my questionable life decisions. I’ve been on medication for most of my struggles and continue to stay up-to-date with my prescriptions through my psychiatrist. While I stand by the idea that medication isn’t for everyone, it certainly has been and is for me…at least for now.
Having such an up-close experience with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety, there is one factor that, for me, seems to affect it the most: environment. This applies to both personal and professional environments, especially when one directly affects the other.
In the situation of my last relationship, it got to the point where I would no longer go out with my friends for fear of upsetting my ex. In my mind, I would rather sacrifice spending time with my amazingly supportive friends than deal with him being upset and verbally abusive when I came home. I couldn’t even truly be myself as he would constantly berate me for my “childish interests” such as enjoying Disney or playing on a community quidditch team. As a result, my frame of mind was severely affected.
I started sleeping more to avoid the stress of being at home. He could sense my depression and would insist that my mood was the cause of his temper and irrationality. When the verbal and emotional abuse first started, going to work became my refuge. It was a place I could get away and be myself without being judged or put down. However due to technology making everyone so frustratingly accessible, he soon began to consume me at work as well. My work performance suffered as a result and that is when I started to see that no matter how hard I tried, nothing would be good enough and that I couldn’t help him in the way he need to be helped.
After moving back in with my moms, it took a while to start feeling like myself again. I had moved into a more ideal home environment, but that meant leaving some people that I love behind. My friends were all very understanding of my decision to leave, but that didn’t make leaving them hurt any less.
Moving back to Pennsylvania meant finding a new job. The job I got as a mental health worker at a psychiatric residential facility for youth came with its own stress. While that kind of stress was one I had dealt with before at previous jobs, it wasn’t one I was keen on returning to. But I needed a job and this was a decent one that I could get quickly.
Working with kids who have constant suicidal ideations and/or erratic and aggressive behaviors puts a toll on the employees’ minds and bodies. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always super stressful and I really did enjoy the work I did with the kids. However the days that were stressful, were usually filled with enough stress for at least a week. I stayed at that job for a year and had definitely reached a point where I needed a less stressful job and one that pays better. The mental health field is one that is severely underpaid and that in and of its self adds a whole other stressor.
Last month I started a new job as a living well specialist working as an advocate and support for youth and adults with disabilities. It has been going extremely well so far and I have high hopes for my future in this position. I’ve been taking is so much new information that sometimes my brain feels like it’s going to explode, but I’m working on my organization along the way so that I can reference back to everything I’ve learned. I have already noticed a rise in my mood and have been experiencing less anxiety. There have been the occasional setbacks, but overall things have been looking up!
Another part of my life that I attribute to having been less depressed and anxious is getting back into quidditch again. Quidditch is a part of my personal environment that I severely missed and desperately wanted to get back into. Joining the Philadelphia Freedom team has made me happier than I have been in a very long time. I’ve been able to find a family in them and I’m so grateful for their love and acceptance.
So how do I live with depression and anxiety as a young woman in her 20s? While medication definitely helps regulate my symptoms, taking life day by day is the best thing I can do for me right now. I have a few friends that I can be completely honest with about how I am feeling and they have been amazing supports during my low and high points. I also talk to my mom a lot. She has her own mental health struggles and understands a lot of what I say on a personal level. I also attend therapy about once a month and I cannot stress enough how beneficial therapy can be!
There are definitely days that are much worse than others, and in those times the motivation to write and do the things I love is very low. But those days are coming less and less as time goes by. Focusing on myself this past year has been a roller coaster of emotions but I’ve made improvements and I know I will continue to do so.
My advice to other young adults struggling with depression and anxiety is to be honest about how you are feeling. Those around you can’t read minds and even if you just want to be left alone, tell them you’re not in the best space but would prefer to be alone for a bit. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This can be anything from a crisis hotline to a friend to vent to. I tried handling things all on my own for a long time before I finally reached out and trust me, it helps. If you feel you need a little bit more one-on-one help, I strongly encourage you to look into therapy. A lot of companies these days have Employee Assistance Programs that can help connect you with someone and maybe even provide some free sessions!
There is no “cookie-cutter” way to deal with depression and anxiety, this is just how I view my journey with them and how I try to keep myself going. Navigating your mental health can be frustrating and exhausting…just remember that even if today sucked, tomorrow is brand new and has the potential to be the best day ever!
Until next time…