My personal journey with depression

Going back through the past and owning it as part of myself has been a hard journey. However, I think it is completely necessary to face all of the ugly parts of ourselves but also truly feeling good about the good parts of yourself. Admitting all of it has been very healing and has broken some of those walls I have put up in my mind from repressing what I thought was bad about myself.

I have really been dragged through the mud these past few months. Though I may have reached a low point in my life, I feel that it accelerated the uphill healing that I needed. This is because for most of my life I felt numb. I would see horrible things and have horrible things occur to me and my family… but I felt nothing. Because of this numbness I started to self harm. I was about 13. I thought for some reason that it would open up whatever was blocking my emotions. Plot twist… it didn’t.

Self harming made me more closed off and I quickly fell into one of my first long depression spells. I did not care about what I looked like anymore. I blanked out for most of the day at school. No one ever mentioned anything, or maybe others assumed something was going on at home. I was just floating through life.

I remember the adults around me were always explaining to me how my life was going to go and how I have to do this and think about a college major. I most definitely needed to heal before I could run but no one knew what was going on in my head. I barely knew because it was my normal. I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Then came my anxiety.

I kept feeling like my heart was going to explode and though I was fit, I was running out of breath even going up a flight of stairs to a class I was stressed about. When I would hear heavy critiques from my mom or if a random guy was catcalling me at the mall, I would get this same feeling. The only things I felt at the time was this void or the feeling I was having a heart attack.

One day the dark cloud went away, and I went along with my seemingly normal life like nothing had ever happened. Years passed and I was suddenly 16. By this time, I really pushed away any thoughts I had that might upset the people around me, like my family or mentors. I looked like how I thought they wanted me to look and I did what I thought they wanted me to do. I received a lot of positive praise for this as well. I had this false feeling of peace. I still had the void and this numbness but life was good, I had no complaints.

When I went away to college and spent more time alone in my single dorm room, the dark cloud returned. Combined with stress and being at a college I did not want to be at, surrounded by people who had completely different views than me at a small catholic college, I became depressed again. I would just study and go back to my dorm without eating to just sleep in the dark. I performed well in school my first year but felt I was barely hanging on. I think my summer job as a lifeguard with all of my best friends that summer truly saved me to return me back to my “normal” self.

Up until this point, I thought it was completely normal to have constant negative thoughts abut myself. I did not like a single thing about myself and I did not know why. I constantly wanted to (and still do most times) be invisible. I thought I was not worthy of anything I wanted and I was not excited about life.

Sophomore year, the depression came back. Classes were difficult, I was realizing more and more I did not align with anyone I was spending my time with. I did not feel I had a safe space anywhere. Though shit was bad, this time the depression came with all of my emotions. I felt as if all of my repressed emotions over the years were spilling out and were out of my control. I was crying all of the time. Lying about why I was crying because it would come out randomly in class or in meetings. I was having constant migraines, neck and back pain, and grinding my teeth. My health was at its all time lowest point.

And though I was experiencing emotional roller coasters all day, deep down I was happy because I felt more human. I felt so much better to be able to genuinely cry and experience emotions other than that void. There was still so much fear in me but I was beginning my healing process. Memories from my past were coming up and I felt like I wasn’t blacked out all day. I felt present in my body. Through this intense period of my life, I decided to make major changes. I transferred colleges and made the decision to go against my parent’s wishes. I hung out with people I liked and decided to cultivate a life I wanted.

Beginning of junior year. A friend from life guarding committed suicide. I grieved. It was a wake up call that I need to do everything in my power to help myself when I am feeling my mental health is not quite right. I told myself I would not be ashamed anymore or tell myself it was not a big deal. I would reach out for help no matter what my pride and ego told me. I learned how powerful our connections with other people are. I slowly scraped myself off the ground and decided to keep moving forward.

Senior year. I was appreciating myself more. I was setting boundaries with the people in my life. I felt so happy this year. I was feeling accomplished and I felt ready to bloom into my next self. However, I was still unsure about what my next self would look like, and I thought the answer would magically come to me if I waited long enough. I was going to therapy. I was taking care of myself.

Now. I have been learning, healing, taking steps forward and steps back for the past two years since I’ve been in grad school. I have accomplished things I never thought were possible and I am excited about the future. I am thinking about peace corps and yoga teacher training and more schooling and just how to live my life the way I want to. I understand my depression will always come and go but I can always rise above it. It can be a part of me but it does not have to define me. I have permission to grow. I have permission to heal. I can be whoever I want to be.

I love my thick afro

I love my skin

I love my hairy legs

I love my arms

I love my scar on my breast

I love how flexible I am

I love how far I can run

I love my voice

I love my eyes

I am smart

I am worthy

I am whole

Back in the office after burnout

I mentioned briefly before that I took a break from work due to mental exhaustion. Pushing myself and not setting the proper boundaries pushed me into depression for a short period of time. You would think having a two week break to just focus on you would allow you to be completely recharged and to be better suited for the emotional roller coasters you face throughout the work day upon your return… well you thought wrong.

During the break, I did put in a significant amount of time focusing on myself and learned a lot about what my body needed to function properly. I thought this would be all I needed to take on my stressful work environment. I also did ease my way back in with my first day just attending a training and doing no desk or lab work. Then someone tell me why was it that I wanted to just cry during my first meeting. I also felt even more nervous than before being around some of the people that triggered my anxiety in the first place.

After spending time in therapy, I uncovered that my response has been completely normal considering the amount of stress I have been through. However, that does not change the fact that some things that I was put through at work had been completely unacceptable. Learning to trust my instincts and acknowledge my anxiety instead of thinking every emotion I feel is wrong because of my mental health problem has been helping a lot.

I am slowly but surely feeling better in and outside of work and gaining more confidence. That does not mean I am not fearful that something will said to me might shatter it completely. However, I am working on facing those fears head on now instead of ignoring them. Why do I feel like I want to cry if someone insults my past? What are the objective facts of the situation? How do I view the situation? How might someone from the ‘outside’ view this situation? How can I confront the issue in a healthy way? I used these questions as well as some things I have learned during my break while I have been back to cope with all of my feelings:

Learning to separate work from your identity is a must. You do not need to be your work. You do not need to work 24/7 to feel accomplished. Life is so hard and messy and every aspect of it deserves attention. Listen to your body and learn what you want out of life. Work towards building that up. 100 years from now, you having a certain dollar amount in your bank account will mean absolutely nothing. Think instead about how you can incorporate what truly matters to you in your life and how much money you would need to do that.

I’ve also learned to stop holding onto material things. Have you ever had or seen a roommate who meticulously labels all of there things and is constantly accusing you of touching or even breathing near their stuff. Well, I actually haven’t but I’ve had friends who had and it seems so illogical. Ask yourself why a situation is making you upset and if it truly is the situation at hand or your own ego.

And last but not least, everything is temporary. These feelings are temporary, that boss is temporary, this moment is temporary…. the list can go on and on. So do what matters to you because the only thing that will be consistent in this lifetime is you…

This post might be all over the place but this is what has been on my mind. Getting back into work after time off is tough no matter what but it was probably the best decision of this year. Take care of yourself peeps.

Kondo-ing the mind

You can run from your emotions and let them catch you or you can build the container you want it to live in

To not run from your emotions does not mean fighting them, but articulating your thoughts and emotions. Conversing with them. Not letting them take over your mind with their lies. Facing the reality of the situation, accepting it, and conquering it. This is a practice that I know will take a lifetime to master, but I am determined to build a beautiful container for all of my seemingly scary emotions, thoughts, and feelings instead of running from them. They can’t hurt me unless I let them. They are not me, but a product of me. I just need to handle them as they arrive and clean up my mind before it turns into a bigger problem.

Afternoon walk

As I was walking down the sidewalk, just two blocks away from my home, I felt a presence behind me.

At first, I did not pay them any mind, but then they wouldn’t go away.

I would turn a corner and then they would.

I could hear the clicking of their shoes, the quickening of their pace as I quickened mine.

I kept seeing their shadow out the corner of my eye and could almost feel the warmth of their body, sending shivers down my spine.

I was walking faster and faster, my mind clouded. I was tripping over my feet, my mind was racing.

I felt my heart in my chest, my vision started to cave in…

I felt like I was never going to outrun this person.

I made it to the front steps of my apartment.

I started pulling hastily at my keys but felt an urge to glance back, still afraid of what I would see.

I was then greeted by a couple of leaves dancing in the wind. I stared at my empty street and chuckled to myself.

There was no one there all along. I should’ve just enjoyed the walk.

Living in a fantasy

I am done wishing my life away or wishing to know the future of my life. I am done wishing I was white or had straight hair. I am done wishing I got perfect grades, went to X college, and did X-Y-Z after college. I am done wishing I did not have a toxic relationship with my parents. I am done wishing my mother wasn’t a narcissist or my dad was not an alcoholic. For the first time in a while, I realized how much I was living in a fantasy world in my head. A world where I was perfect and I made everyone around me happy. I have been entertaining these fantasies since high school. It makes me feel good as I got my hit of dopamine thinking about these perfect worlds. But this is not reality.

The reality is I am an imperfect person living in an imperfect world. None of that is my fault and I should not blame myself for not navigating it perfectly. I needed to forgive myself. I forgave myself. I make up excuses and I am very forgiving of other people, understanding that life is messy and these small mistakes are okay… But for me, if I do not have a perfect morning routine, I beat myself up for the rest of the day. Or if I wake up later than I am supposed to. There is no use in ruminating about it, I forgive myself, and I am not going to let it control me for the rest of the day.

The intense shame and guilt I feel when I am making these “mistakes” are just feelings brought on by my upbringing and personal experiences. It does not mean I am a terrible person or I will never get anything right… this was just how I was treated in similar situations growing up, but I can change that thought pattern. I can break the cycle.

I am allowing myself to sense my feelings without resistance. Feel what they are doing to my body. And start taking note. I am getting curious about how my body responds to my thoughts, and if it is something I want to continue doing. Because after all, it is my body and I have a choice on how I act in it. I know I can make the choices I want throughout the day and get to where I need to be if I listen to my body and listen to my thoughts.

I want to start relying on myself. This does not mean I am going to refuse help when I need it, but relying on myself to cultivate the life I want. I am not going to rely on someone to make me more fit, or smart, or happy. Other people might provide me with the tools but ultimately it is up to me to pick and choose what I want, and I will do so consciously and willingly.

I want to bring positive thoughts to the forefront of my brain to tell those negative ones to fuck off. I want to put myself and my loved ones first. Before objects, money, jobs, etc. Also, I don’t expect to live a perfect life free of problems, but I want to live life on my own terms with problems that I am grateful for.

I’ve been living in a fantasy for too long. It started as childhood dreams but now it is holding me back. I am grateful for my current life and wouldn’t want to change a thing.

Is it possible to stop hating your 9-5?

As I do have a job that is not strictly 9-5 (more like 7 to whenever you get finished), I wonder why on earth we are prepped to live this way. I thankfully came from a diverse and rich with life undergraduate institution where I felt free to express my opinion and ask as many questions as I pleased. When I entered my graduate studies 2 years ago and started as the youngest in this lab I am currently working in, I felt excited to start dressing up and acting like a “young professional.” I am always a respectful person, but I still have my goofy traits and I also have opinions. I speak up (even if I am shaking with nerves) about things I see that I feel are not right with an explanation and a conversation to hopefully follow. I enjoy getting to know every person work with and I normally trust that mostly everyone at work just wants to do a good job at the end of the day.

All of this might be naive, but most people in my field I have interacted with up until 2 years genuinely wanted to learn and grow. Well, now I can tell you these beliefs have been challenged again and again during these 2 years. And right now I am at my breaking point. I never wanted to say this but I hate my job. And it is not that I do not enjoy what I do for my job, I actually get a lot of satisfaction from working. But the office culture, constant discrimination I face, and feeling so dehumanized every day is taking its toll on me.

I have stood up for my co-workers and myself regarding behavior I have found inappropriate by talking to the person directly in a calm and respectful manner. In this professional environment, every blatantly disrespected comment that I have argued against down falls back negatively on me. Especially if the person I am challenging is white like all of my management, I am probed to think how I am making them feel uncomfortable by saying I feel uncomfortable by their racist comment… I have been told several times that no one cares about me, I should be grateful to be here, and I could be fired at any second. I have been told several times to know my place, though all I want to do is learn how to be a better worker. I know this is not how it might be everywhere but it is unfortunately too commonplace at my university, especially for minorities.

I have had other jobs in customer service and have been an RA, TA, disability tutor, and worked in other labs.. Though I have worked with so many people in many different ways, I never felt so little support or so little regard for me as a person before like I do now. I have heard countless times growing up in my family, on how my aunt or uncle’s bosses did not care about them and how they hated their jobs. I used to think that they were perpetuating the negative environment by their attitude, but I am learning now that no matter how hard you try, the bosses will make sure you can’t go above and beyond if they don’t want you to.

I have been lied to countless times with no proof to show, been sent around in circles for whatever reason, and have had serious needs ignored. When I came back from work after my two week medical leave, my work was given away. They make us stay late too often and are on us if we are more than 5 minutes late the next morning. The schedule is not effective and I feel like I am working for nothing sometimes. Everyone is miserable, and I was usually the positive ones that kept trying to uplift people and tell them it would get better but it just got worse. Multiple people of color were fired or left because of arguments with white colleagues. Even white people are uncomfortable with what goes on in the workplace but are too scared to speak up because of what happens when you do. People of color are continuously undermined and sometimes jokingly called the “help.” The jokes are too much and hour “HR” department does nothing about these issues. Management actually brags about how close they are to them.

After a lot of thinking and working through a lot of my anger in therapy, I realized that I am always going to be this emotionally invested person. I care about the company I work for, the people I work with, and the cause I work for… and I fight for it. This is not always the norm and I should probably work for a place with similar values that I have, and not because of the topic.

I still don’t understand why people are not first when it comes to every company but I have come to accept that not everyone thinks this way. I personally have always thought if you take care of the people, then the job will be done more efficiently and better than if you don’t. And when I say take care I mean make sure they have time to take their lunch breaks, use their time off, listen to them, discipline is fair, and acknowledge that people’s personal lives matter.

I worry if I will be able to ever find a “9-5” that will fit my needs. I thought I would easily be able to since I always enjoyed working in the science field and spending time in lab, but now I am unsure. I will be starting a yoga teaching training program soon, and I am not sure if I will actually teach but it will be nice to not only have the option of a more flexible job but get to learn in a supportive environment.

Maybe 9-5s will be thrown out the window sometime soon. Maybe I am just not meant for that. Who knows, it is just unfortunate overall. I am learning to accept that it is not a failure that I feel trapped and cornered in this full time work life, but hopefully a push into a better direction.

I really just feel like people do not see all of these roles that are put on them at work are just roles they need to play and not who they are at their core. I think a level of formality is needed for certain settings but we are also people with so many layers. I feel like unless we are currently doing brain surgery, people of all different backgrounds should feel comfortable being themselves without having it held against them. Again, maybe I am just being naive.

River Date

The yellow glow of sun

on my skin

Taste of coffee

on my lips

The booms of laughter

in the air

You pull your scarf off as we venture out of the city

I can see you so clearly

I watch you as you speak so passionately

Completely captivated by you

We get lost, turn around

Laughter again fills the air between us

We pull up to the trail and set out

On our tiny adventure

Smelling the barbecues, hearing the voices of children, seeing the colorful hammocks

We both feel at home

We see the water

Off come our clothes

Her eyes gazing into mine

We float in the water

Gazing up at the sky

Picking rocks, holding hands

Hours may have gone by

But we still sit here

Gazing into each other’s eyes

Showing up for myself

For most of my life I was taught to not feel my feelings, to not express my feelings, and to not act on my feelings… probably like most of us. It was seen ideal if I stayed a cool “neutral.” If I was too excited or happy I was told by my elders to calm down, and if I was feeling sad and expressed sad I was told to cry in private or just to not even start crying. These regrettable actions were not just my parent’s wrongdoings but everyone around them who also taught them this as they were growing up. What I do think is strange that I don’t think anyone on this planet has benefited from trying to suppress their feelings. So I really do not understand why it is seen as okay to choose or teach anyone to ignore something that makes us fundamentally human.

For me, my feelings, such as shame and my self-judgement, and my mostly destructive behaviors go hand in hand. Whether they were behaviors where it is obvious how I deliberately self sabotaged myself or if they are the little every day decisions that I do to try and block out my seemingly harmful thoughts, my thoughts and feelings always seemed to control my actions. Because of this self-taught behavior, I thought I had to push down my feelings to act like a normal person in society. It took me years to find out that my feelings were like a beach ball in a swimming pool.. and the harder I tried to push them down, the faster and stronger they come up.

So all of these thoughts started making their way up again because I am facing a long-term bad habit of mine, being late. Now, the reason I want to change this is because not only is it something that I do not like about myself, it is something that I despised in other people… making me hate myself even more if I was late. My mother and several others in my family have this problem of being severely late everyday, like 2 to 3 hours late. My mom has forgotten me places as a kid or has been hours late picking me up from school. It drove me insane. I always get to a point where I am better at being on time for things like work, school, and social events, but I always fall off the wagon.

This morning as I woke up at 8:30am when I told myself the night before (as I do several nights) that I am going to wake up at 6am to meditate, do yoga, go for a morning run, save the entire world and make it to work before 8….I finally realized that I can’t possible do all of these things I tell myself, it is just not reality. I am just over these methods I have been trying to get myself to get up and out the door earlier. Just yelling at myself to just wake up earlier and setting an alarm was not working. Even going to bed earlier was not giving me the motivation to get up and start moving. But this was what I was taught my entire life. I should just tell myself to do something and do it right? I should’ve known even simple things like waking up earlier would take a different approach.

Well firstly, I started to admit that shaming myself into doing something is not motivating. Screaming at myself to just wake up earlier is not going to make me feel happy to wake up the next morning. All of these choices I am making are for myself, so I should take it at a pace that seems comfortable to me and not beat myself up for not going from 0-100. I realized I needed to take smaller steps in the direction I wanted to go. I needed to start actually relying on myself. I needed to be ready to fail but to not give up or criticize myself. I needed to realize that my life is changed by small consistent efforts. I did not become a vegetarian overnight or a runner overnight. I need to remind myself that I am capable of so much and every small step in the right direction will move me forward to the life I want. I also need to see that my brain is lying to me by telling me this should be easy and I should just get over it when really everything in life is just hard. Waking up early and consistently showing up for myself and no one else is hard. Building up my self esteem is hard. Building up that trust in myself is also hard. Basically I realized building up the relationship I need and want for myself is a lot of work and I should not be ashamed of my struggle. I want to fully embrace the struggle.

So how on earth am I actually going to change this habit of mine. Well the first thing I am going to do is separate myself from the habit. Just because I show up late sometimes does not make me any less smart or less of value than any other person. Just because I showed up late to two events in a row does not mean I am going to never be able to be on time in my entire life. It is not going to make me the person that is always late forever. It will take a consistent habit rebuild the trust in other people I may have been late for in the past, but change is always doable. I have already gotten how my past has influenced my opinions about lateness, but they are just opinions. I don’t have to succumb to those harsh thoughts about myself and I know I have the ability to change.

I am going to try waking up at my preferred time, let’s say 6:30am. And just getting out of bed. Even if that is laying on the floor, I think that will be my next step. I don’t even want to think about how I should be doing a thousand things because I know that will make me just not want to crawl right into bed. That is going to be my first goal to get myself out of this habit long-term. I want to be intentional with my actions and not let them be controlled by deep, repressed feelings such as anger, shame, or guilt. This is a simple example but I am hoping by tackling this seemingly small challenge first, it will launch me into forming more habits I want in my life. Because I am worth it.