• Hassanatu

Why did I take a break?

Depression is debilitating.

Some people may understand it; others may think it's a call for attention. For me, depression can be the face of those smiling, telling jokes, and seemingly happy, which I am often. I am alive, and I am grateful, so why would I be depressed? I realized suffering from depression became debilitating as I couldn't find happiness in the little things I used to enjoy doing. Over the years, I've been struggling with understanding why I always feel sad deep down, even though I have so many great things happening in my life. However, I've been lying to myself, friends, and family that I am okay. When in reality, I have been hurting and masking the pain with smiles.

Most times, when I am upset, I am called dramatic. While sometimes, that may be the case, it has also become one of my triggers. I am often moody and sensitive, so the littlest things usually get to me. It becomes harder to speak about my feelings when I tell someone I am feeling a certain way, and they say I am dramatic. I looked up the term dramatic in a dictionary; it means "sudden, extreme, attracting attention, and greatly affecting a person." It uses examples to talk about a significant shift, an exciting plot, and even an outfit; however, nowhere does it state it used to refer to someone's emotion. Each time I felt upset, it became more challenging to open up about what I was going through when I didn't understand what was happening. In the last few months, I've been experiencing a rush of different emotions. On days when I am happy, I am delighted. On other days, I isolate myself and cry to sleep. I never understood why. I remember mentioning to someone I was feeling depressed. They called me dramatic because I am alive, and I do not lack necessities, so I asked myself, why am I?

We can all agree 2020 has been one of the most challenging years to get through. It is a blessing to everyone who has made it through this day in September. The year started with high hopes, but now you're likely to see people facing an unprecedented increase in stress levels everywhere you look. With the global pandemic comes a barrage of daily health anxieties, rising death toll, physical isolation, and increasing unemployment. All of these on top of intense feelings of anger and frustration as people protest against injustices across the United States and globally. This year is on a whirlwind roller coaster, with each month exhibiting a catastrophe.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything. I had big plans for this year. However, when the news broke about the pandemic, I started feeling unhappy due to everything shutting down. I also had to get myself through my final semester of college. When entering the year, I remembered saying, "2020 will be my year," but as the saying goes, "As humans we plan, but the outcome is in God's hand." The spring semester was very draining; I took two of my most demanding classes added to the other twelve credits. I started pulling all-nighters, and I would barely sleep during the day. I was sleep-deprived, sad, stressed, and my anxieties peaked. I found myself constantly checking my phone's notifications. It became a never-ending cycle because the more I dived into my social accounts, the more content I craved. Social media became a distraction that turned dangerous; I used it to procrastinate on my assignments and escape my emotions. Every time I used an app, reading and seeing news about what was going on in the world became exhausting. I started getting painful headaches due to too much screen exposure and pointlessly scrolling through my social feeds. It started affecting my mental health. I knew I needed a break. Even then, I knew if I took a break, It wouldn't be until July.

In June, a few exciting yet stressful things happened to me all at once. I got confirmation that I was graduating on the same day as my birthday. A dream came true. However, It became a lot, and at times overwhelmingly hard. The ideas I had months before graduation on how I wanted to celebrate had to be changed to fit into the pandemic restrictions. I decided to have a small gathering with few people, but even then, it became harder to plan because of the quarantine. There were so many hassles of getting the right Airbnb, decorations, and outfits. Looking back, it might seem minute, but at the time, it was a lot. Nonetheless, I found myself invigorated by the stress that accompanied my significant milestones. However, at the end of the month, my energy drained, and I completely shut down.

I decided I would take at least two months break from all my social media accounts. Before this, my most extended break was for two weeks, and even then, it was hard. This time, I was determined to go through this cleanse and get to the bottom of the emotions I've been feeling these past few months. I started by deleting all the distracting apps from my phone. Then I ordered a few books from Amazon. I still remember getting through the first day without re-downloading any of the apps on my phone. I felt accomplished, but, as days passed, again, my anxieties and mood swings didn't disappear. I started overthinking a lot. I had scenarios playing over and over in my head. At one point, I was awake for 24 hrs straight, with no appetite. I had lost all types of motivation and became a prisoner of my mind.

I realized that I had lost my sense of self. For years, I was comfortable with being alone and enjoyed my own company; being an only child, I was used to it. However, after years of being addicted to my phone and connecting to people I grew fond of online, I had not realized that when I finally took the first step and logged out, I would start experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). There were days I wanted to quit my self-discovery journey, log back in, and act like everything was perfect. Then I read an article that stated that to lose an addiction, a person must go twenty-one days without dependence. It was after I read the article, I started feeling like this was something I could do. As the days went by, the thought of signing in became distant. During this time, on some days, while I could get up from my bed and go to the living room, there were other days when I didn’t leave my room or open the house’s front door. Each day had its struggles.

Over the last months, I learned a lot about my strengths and resilience. For example, in the face of a global pandemic, and against all the odds, I still finished my bachelor's and graduated with a solid GPA when I didn't think I could. It is amazing what humans can overcome and achieve, even in the face of adversity. I realized that sometimes when the emotions hit you strong and you're overwhelmed with thoughts, you just want to talk about it to get it off your chest. However, because there's so much going through your mind, you sometimes can't seem to convey your thoughts as you'd like to ideally. Over the last few months, this happened to me a lot. Then I'd get even more upset because I couldn’t make people understand how I feel. I'd think because I couldn't convey what I was feeling; no one would understand what was going on in my head. In the end, I kept quiet, cried, then waited till the thoughts and turbulence of emotions somehow calmed down, and then I’d talk to a close friend or my sisters about it, but most of the time, I'd push everything deep down and pretend like it never happened.

Another important thing I’ve learned during this journey is that the first step towards taking control of your emotions is knowing how you feel. How you feel determines the quality of your life. Your emotions can act as a powerful guide. I am confident that the moment I started talking about my feelings was the minute things started getting more relaxed. As cliche as it is, a problem shared is a problem halved. I am thankful for those people I continuously communicated with over the last few months. They've been a massive help in analyzing my emotions and triggers. Taking this sabbatical from social media has changed my life. I feel like I am much more intentional with my actions, and I can now focus on what I genuinely love. The scariest thing I found about suffering from depression is its effect on every aspect of my life; it’s not just what’s inside my head, but also the impact it has on some of my family members who witnessed me going through these changes. My mom was patient with me; on days when I didn't have any energy to speak, she was there. I am forever grateful and sorry for dragging her along my turbulence.

Lastly, I've learned that everything seems, feels, and tastes better when you feel good. Your energy levels are higher, and the possibilities are limitless. Conversely, when you feel depressed, everything seems dull. You become unmotivated and have little to no energy for the things you used to enjoy. You feel stuck mentally and physically. These past few months have been trying times, but I am grateful to have a great support system to get me through it. Today, I wouldn't say I am 100% better or cured from how I've been feeling these past few months, but I know I can't keep letting my emotions control me.

If there's anything I can advise anyone who’s been feeling unhappy, it is time to look after yourself. In whatever way you choose to look after yourself, be it exercising, visiting a friend, or taking five minutes to sit quietly, just remember it is essential. It's necessary to talk to friends and family you're comfortable with about what you are going through. My positive coping strategies include: listening to my favorite music, eyes closed, and slowing down my breath for a few moments. Writing my thoughts and feelings became a massive escape also, all while trying to get the hang of working out and taking walks. One last thing that has helped me tremendously is that instead of spending so much time internalizing your emotions, take a break, speak out, and ask for help.

Comment below, and let's talk about your emotions. Let me start by asking you this:

How do you feel right now?

Love Hassanatu xo


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