I moved to Ashland Oregon in September of 2018 and it was the highlight of my year. I feel so extremely lucky to be at Southern Oregon University, and it has been amazing, yet I truly cannot count on my fingers the number of times I have cried, had a mental breakdown, or have been severely depressed here.
Keep in mind, this does not mean I regret going here. I feel blessed as fuck and love this place. But since I have been here I have found out so many things about myself that I never knew before.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was in high school. I think that bullying and having uncontrolled epilepsy was a factor of it and made it worse, yet I do believe I might have had depression earlier. Since then, I have been prescribed a medication for it and was pretty stable. If I wasn’t and was in a depressive state once again, I would get out of it eventually. Things were looking up. I was graduating, starting over and going to community college, spending the next three years working, going to school, and not to mention, be with my best friend and explore more of Los Angeles with her. The world was at our feet. It felt like that at least.
When I found out I had enough credits to finally escape the little town I was living in and move to the Pacific Northwest for school, I was stoked. I filled in applications last minute, and when I got acceptance letters in the mail I nearly cried in tears of happiness. My dad and I visited colleges in Oregon and I never expected to fall in love with Ashland, yet here I am! Life is crazy.
I expected myself to cry during move-in day, yet I was just too excited to be in a new bedroom that wasn’t under my parents’ roof. I was thinking, Is it going to kick in soon? Maybe this is a good sign?
Even though I didn’t have any friends I loved all of my classes and loved the campus and I was doing really well in school. I also was taking so many new photos and was so excited for new opportunities. I loved the education program and felt confident in my major. Then, it finally hit me. That I didn’t have friends. And shocker, I missed my parents. And I missed my best friend, and my sisters and my dogs. I thought to myself,
Don’t be like this, Jo. You worked so hard for this. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have friends! It doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth week it will happen! Stop.
But those feelings didn’t stop. For the next week and a half, I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to eat. I struggled to sleep or talk to anyone or participate in class like I was doing before.
Even after I made friends, there were many other episodes like this, and worse. I would stop talking to my friends and parents and stop reaching out for help. I would think I was a burden to them. I started hating my body and myself and didn’t treat myself right.
I’m sure so many people reading this have been here and experienced this and are thinking, Why are you telling a typical depressing story?
I am not here to talk about my depression or stories about my depression. I am not a therapist, a doctor, or a psychiatrist, but I do have both depression and anxiety and I have learned so many tips on how to get out of these ruts during this crazy rollercoaster I have been on for the past few months.
Keep in mind, this may not work for you, this is just based on personal experience.
I truly believe that loving yourself is ten times harder when you have anxiety or depression or any mental illness. I really do. Yet there are some things I have figured out to get around my personal obstacles, and maybe, just maybe they will work for people reading this too.
I am a humorous person and definitely use self-deprecating humor as a joking matter in some instances, yet there is a limit to how far one can go with that. I felt like I was putting myself and my body too much, and when you think self-deprecating humor could help at times, it can make things so much worse. I put an end to calling myself fat and dumb and really being self-aware of talking about myself. Because at the end of the day, if I already had a bad day, and tried to fix it with sad jokes, my mental health will just go downhill.
Another thing is just acknowledging my bad days, and knowing it is okay to have them. Everyone has bad days, and I learned to cry is actually healthy. It has been crazy how much I have cried while I have been here, but crying is so helpful. It’s part of processing how you are feeling. Breathing is important too. Especially with people with anxiety, make sure to breathe!
Inhale through your nose for seven seconds, hold it in for two, and exhale through your mouth for seven seconds again. Continue until you feel calmer and more relaxed.
If you don’t acknowledge your bad days, or you being in a bad mood, things won’t get any better. Some people say, “Fake it till you make it,” but I truly hate that phrase for this instance. Stay true to yourself. If you are having a bad day, don’t beat yourself up for it. Things will just tumble down and get worse. For instance, when you stayed in bed all day, are you going to hate yourself for it and think poorly of yourself because of it? Or are you going to acknowledge your feelings and think,
“Maybe it’s okay I was in bed all day, and I’m going to process everything. Tomorrow is a new day to start over.”
Staying in bed for several days, that could be a different story. The other thing I want to mention is to listen to your body. Do you need food? Are you eating meals throughout the day? Have you had any water? Would you feel better after a hot shower? Will vitamin D or fresh air help you? Have you had any human interaction yet?
Human beings are truly meant to interact with one another. Some talk about this thing called solitude, being alone with one’s self, and how important it can be, yet being with another person and talking to others is extremely important as well. It can lead to more connections.
Speaking of connections, think about asking for help. No, I am not telling you that you need therapy, but talking to someone and opening up can be very beneficial! Lately, this has been my main struggle with self-care, not knowing who might be there for me and who will not. Lucky for me, I have amazing friends and family I can talk to about my issues and they are great listeners and some give great advice. Therapy is truly helpful though and I really want to start again soon.
For some reason, the typical self-care photos I would see online wouldn’t really speak to me. For example, the fancy bubble baths, the manicures, and pedicures, the facials, the shopping therapy, buying yourself flowers and plants, getting ice cream to treat yourself, I could go on and on. I find myself calling this self-indulgence rather than self-care, yet some may think differently.
For me personally, I like to write in my journal and get everything out on paper. I know so many people who don’t journal anymore, but I swear if you do it even just a little bit, it can feel so good and refreshing after. I feel like it is a kind of therapy for me.
Exercise. Oh my dear lord exercise. Getting a runner’s high after having so many deep emotions after a long day can be so beneficial and relieving! Even if you aren’t a person who regularly exercises or works out, find a partner to go to the gym with and I swear, one hour can be life-changing. Going to the gym here at school has helped so much.
I’m going to say it again. Cry if you need to. Going through a rough patch? Let it all out. Bottling it up can be bad for your body and your mind in the long run, trust me. But after you let those tears out, drink a shit ton of water, get out of the funk, and move onto the next step in your day! You never want to stay stagnant. Do you need to do errands? Will you be meeting with a friend later on? Do you have a class to attend? Laundry to wash? Dishes to scrub? Emails to reply to? Wipe the tears away and take the next baby step.
All of that being said, being productive can help your mentality immensely. Although, while being in a depressive state, it can be quite difficult to get there. I would suggest taking baby steps with this. If things are so bad to the point where getting out of bed is almost out of the question, think of making one goal for yourself. This can pertain to anything that can benefit you. While I was very depressed last summer, I decided to make myself get out of bed and do at least one thing for myself. These things included very little things, like taking a shower, going downstairs to say hi to my parents, eat dinner with the family, start cleaning my room and eating healthier. These tiny tasks lead me to do bigger tasks like finishing final housing applications for school and starting to talk to my friends and family and socializing again.
With all that being said, self-indulgence can make you feel great! Feeling extremely lousy during a depressive episode? Take a hot shower and put a face mask on! Start binge-watching a new TV show! Go out and buy yourself some ice cream and share it with friends!
Remember that last part: “share it with friends”. See, I believe self-indulgence in itself is nice at an extent yet it can only benefit you for a temporary amount of time. I truly believe self-care is more important, as well as self-respect. As for self-respect, I believe that involves the care of others, and I think that can be a huge part of this entire journey.
If there is anything that truly made me feel better throughout my entire lifetime, it was giving back to the world. I love doing things for other people, and when I am in a depressive state, it really gives me a huge distraction from what I am depressed about because I am focused on giving that specific person something.
There was this one day where I felt awful, and I had to leave my friend’s dorm because I still felt like I couldn’t open up to her. I wanted to go back to my dorm and just cry myself to sleep. I was about to cross the street but instead, I ran to 7 11 and bought a sparkly pen, a notebook, fancy paper clips that said “LOVE” on them, and Bubble Yum. I called her, lying, saying I forgot something and then surprised her with the random collection of gifts. Seeing her smile made me smile. It made me feel 70% better than before.
It’s spring term now, and having a fresh start is always refreshing. I have so many goals. I want to eat more, drink more, look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I love myself more, I want to practice everything I know so far about my body and my mind.
This may not apply to everyone, but I hope someone out there reads this and maybe takes something good from it.
I know I will… when I want to stop being depressed… the not so easy way, I must say.