Hey Beloved, So I've been toying with writing this blogpost for the past year or so. Anxiety and depression, is a massive topic, and it's something that most people don't discuss as much as they perhaps should. Having gone through this myself, I'm careful to tell this in a way that isn't damning or overtly pessimistic. I don't know how to crouch this experience in humour and wit... So no grandiose storytelling, no advice, no suggestions or lighthearted epiphanies. Just thoughts. Maybe you'll be able to relate, who knows.
I was a little more sluggish in getting out of bed and found myself fatigued and wanting to do as little as possible.
My bedroom got messier, my face broke out in horrible cystic acne, my hair started thinning, mood-swings and my hormones were so off that my monthly appointments with Mama nature kept standing me up. For as long as I'd been conscious of myself and my imperfections, which I'll say was probably round 5 or 6 years old, there'd always been this race I thought I was running. That if I just get past this point I'd be fine and this pervasive feeling of darkness would just leave. So naturally, I kept working way more than what was required of me; at school, then at college, then at university. At each stage, feeling vulnerable and completely depleted, I was sure that this working hard would "pay off" as I'd heard so many times. I thought that finishing uni would be my final hurdle, but it wasn't.
In the space of two years, I'd had 4 different jobs in different sectors of the design industry, moved house about three times, lost all of my savings, accumulated loads of debts and been in out of broken friendships and relationships. With each turbulent event, I never really gave myself time to recover or to rest—mostly because I couldn't. At 18 I'd moved out of my mother's place to London to both ease the financial burden on her and to study Design. I worked all throughout uni to support my family and pay for my sky-high rent prices in London.
"With each turbulent event, I never really gave myself time to recover or to rest"
It was around November 2014 when things began to plummet. I vividly remember this one night in November, I had an eery breakdown, one that I'd never experienced before. Having always been anxiety-ridden, this time felt very different, a lot different, actually. I don't remember exactly what set it off but I was supposed to be meeting a friend for dinner after a stressful day at work and I'd gotten lost. After walking around for about 45 minutes, my heart and back felt super heavy and I started crying for no reason. I threw my stuff to the ground and just kinda crouched on the wet pavement, heaving and coughing underneath the arches in Marylebone. I had no idea that this teary night would be the first of many. Sometimes these "things", as I would call them, would happen around 4 or 5 times a week. Some months I'd only have 3 episodes.
It was about 4 months of this battling that I finally called someone and told them about it. I had no idea that what I was experiencing was depression, mostly because at the time, I felt like the word was so overused.
"What do you mean you don't know how you feel"?
she asked bewildered,
"I mean I can't explain it, but I'm trying to tell you something"
I shot back angrily.
And it was true, I couldn't explain what I was feeling, I had warm and sharp pains in my chest, a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and frequent heart palpitations.
"Making peace with myself is easily the hardest thing I've ever done in my life"
If you've struggled with depression, you know it's this deep fog or mist that clouds so many areas in your life. You see things, namely yourself with critical eyes as though you're never enough. Your insecurities leave you at the mercy of others, creating a barricade between you and any real positivity. For me, my depression and anxiety arose from a lot of disillusionment from what people had told me about who I was and who I actually felt like I was.
Coming from the background that I did and handling my misfortunes in a supposed confident and forward-focused way, people imposed this 'superwoman' label on me.
"Oh Sherida, you're so strong", "You'll be able to really help your parents now", "Look at these other girls your age, they're so not like you, you're different". I'm sure that people mean well when they tell you of all the great things you'll do and the type of man you'll marry or the fancy car you'll drive. But I don't think they realise the pressure that this places on you.
I'd always been a pretty simple person in the things that I'd wanted to achieve. To live in a cute apartment with a German Schnitzel dog, a nice bike (I had these dreams at four years old, I swear I'm not a damn hipster) and a design studio in the loft or something. But, surely I'd want to be a leader of some kind? Surely, I'd need to be a big "boss" of some kind?
Truth is, I didn't want that life then, and I don't want it now. Making peace with myself is easily the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Learning to live and love myself is a complexity I have yet to fully conquer. But I'm content with the knowledge that I'm getting there, and that there's no one size fits all—taking each day as it comes.
I went to the doctors last week and I genuinely forgot how much I hated needles and tests! I think for me, getting professional help was a huge step to doing something about this whole thing. Superstitions aside, it's time to take mental health seriously. I never paid attention to my mental health until my body started showing physical signs. In hindsight, I'm glad it took an acne-ridden face, and a thinning scalp to finally start giving my head the care it needed.
Depression is a deeply personal experience, one that can be difficult to explain or "make go away". There are no one set of rules or strategies to get around it, but here are some of my thoughts—not advice, just thoughts.
- Screw their perceptions of you, even when it's good. People's perception of you can often be crippling. I've learned not to hold what people say about me close to my heart, even when they mean well.
- I'm not your saviour. I am nobody's hero. It's true, I'm trying to work this life out just like you are. Don't place me on a pedestal or be disappointed when my life doesn't go how you wanted it to.
- Dezrene. I told Dezrene, a very close friend of mine and my pastor's wife about everything that was happening. All these years that we'd been friends, and despite her encouraging and gentle spirit, I didn't really think to confide in her. But I did, and she set my heart at ease in more ways than one.
- Speaking to the wrong people makes things worse. It can be hard to know what to say to someone who is depressed, but sometimes you don't need to say much. For me, the worst thing you could've said to me at this time was 'you'll be okay/fine', 'just sleep it off' or 'just don't stress out about it'. These things made my blood boil because I had head knowledge, I just didn't know how to apply it.
- Don't ask me where it hurts. Because I don't know! It hurts here, there, but nowhere all at the same damn time.
- Zoom Out. This is one that I still keep close to my heart to this day. When things get hectic, worship calms me down. This year, I decided to let praise come before anything else in my life. By reading my bible and having coffee with God each morning, I just exhale my feelings of failure and shortcomings.
- I see you. Through this time, I finally felt God saying, 'Hey I see you'. This scripture in Hosea 2:14, which says "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her", helped me when I was in that dark place. It was really weird actually because all the things that would send me into a frenzy hadn't changed, but my perception of it all had.
- Finally, I recognise that there are no words that can make you feel better, but if there's anything you can take away from me, it's that you are enough.
You are enough.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Psalms 40:1–3