It’s never easy to open up about personal struggles, particularly something as sensitive as mental health. But part of the solving the problem is first admitting it, and that is where I have found myself. I’ve opened up before about struggling the transition from abroad to the States. And while I knew it would be a huge transition, I didn’t realize it would be this hard.
Almost everyone I have talked closely with that went abroad has experienced similar issues. There is a huge gap between the lifestyle of abroad and the lifestyle of a full-time student in the States, and I think that leaves a lot of people with a feeling that something is missing. I can say for myself that this is very much the case.
When you live on your own in a beautiful foreign country, everything is new and exciting. You become an independent and adventurous person, and learn to do things in your new home that make you happy; some of these things you’ve never done before because they aren’t options where you’re from. For me, that was finding new cafés, taste testing the different croissants and chai lattes, and doing work while people watching. That’s not to say there aren’t lovely coffee shops in New Orleans, but it’s hard to take time out of your day to travel to and from different locations when you have a full workload. Most days I end up doing work in my bed, which quickly became dull and monotonous.
I had been struggling for a few weeks before my Dad helped me put a name to the symptoms. I was sleeping all the time, and found it hard to get out of bed. I either binged unhealthy food, or barely ate at all. I felt a lack of motivation in my school work, and even entertained the idea of taking the rest of the semester off. I have always been passionate about school, so this was an obvious warning sign to my parents. After a tearful phone conversation, my Dad suggested that my depression was perhaps relapsing.
I have experienced episodes of depression since my junior year of high school. Over the summer I was prescribed a low dosage of anti-depressants, which ran out while I was abroad. I didn’t mind, because I was happier than ever and didn’t feel like I needed them. Looking back, I probably should have kept myself on the prescription. When addressing mental health, it is crucial to be proactive rather than reactive. I also stopped my regular session with my therapist, who I’ve been working with since I was a freshman in college. This also contributed to the lack of a safety net when I needed it most.
Since last week, I’ve done a lot of reflecting, and a lot of crying. It’s really hard to recognize something that makes you feel so shitty isn’t always something you can control. And as a control freak, that’s especially hard to swallow. But the good news is this: I’ve taken the first step in recognizing why I’ve been feeling this way. Without coming to the conclusion that I am once again dealing with depression, I would perhaps still be projecting the blame onto my classes, or New Orleans, or my friends. The truth is, this is something within me, and my responsibility.
So now what? The answer is easier said than done, but it must always be to help yourself. It has taken me a long time to learn that no one can fix my problems for me, and I must bear the burden to get back to where I want to be. From here, it’s a lot of adjustment. Integrating activities into my routine that make me happy. Being more proactive with my mental health, which means going back on my anti-depressants and re-instating weekly Facetimes with my therapist at home. It also means being more open with myself and others.
In the past I’ve struggled intensely with relapses of depression, mostly because I recognize the good fortune in my life, and don’t feel as though I should be sad when I have so much to be thankful for. I’ve experienced feelings of guilt, selfishness and copious amounts of self-blame. It’s important to note that there is no blame to assign in situations like this. It is simply a fact of life, and for many more people than one would think. We are not defined by the things we cannot control, rather we are defined by how we choose to act in response to these roadblocks.
Cover Photo: Yahoo