The onset of the pandemic and it’s resulting devastation has marred the year 2020 for many. Its effects have deeply harmed communities across countries, physically, economically and mentally. However, last year did not prepare me for the shellshock I was going to receive in 2021.
This year began with a lot of promise. I had just moved out of home at the end of last year to a new country, which in itself was an exciting feat. I have more independence, more freedom, and a lot more opportunities around me. Things were starting to look up after the last year the world had. I had made friends and was prepared to face the worst university life had to offer with the best support system in place.
While I cannot point out the exact moment I realised something was wrong, It was around the middle of March when I felt like things were running away from me. I suddenly felt like my days were getting longer and by the time I went to sleep at night, I was absolutely exhausted. It got increasingly hard to get out of bed every morning and I tried to fit in as many naps as I could so that I did not have to spend the majority of my time awake.
The worst part of it all was that I failed to understand exactly what was happening to me and the extent of it. All I knew was that I had never been unhappier. However, I am naturally inquisitive, and not having answers bothered me very much. That started me on a dangerous journey of self-diagnosis.
I was obsessively googling everything I was feeling and until I could find exactly what was wrong with me, I could not bring myself to stop. I wanted every symptom accounted for and every diagnosis closely studied. The more I read, the more I could not understand what was happening. Before I even realised, I had gotten into a vicious cycle and was actively contributing to the decline of my own mental health.
By May, I had ‘diagnosed’ myself with various disorders and found myself struggling to keep my head above water. With my final term exams and submissions coming up, I decided I needed professional help. Mid-May, I had what I call a ‘Momentary Reckoning’ and in that week, I felt like I turned a corner and was ready to take steps to improve my mental health. I had reached out to my university’s Students Access to Mental Health Support facility and scheduled an appointment. However, by the time the appointment date rolled around, I found myself in a worse mental state than ever before.
Once my appointment was over, I was given a series of tasks to complete and programmes I needed to enroll myself into. By this time everyday activities exhausted me too much and I could not imagine going out of my way to get better. I did not have it in me to do more for myself.
That’s the thing about the combination of depression and anxiety, things I’ve already been diagnosed with. Most of my day is taken up trying to convince myself to do normal everyday tasks to be a fully functioning university student. Anything else is a luxury and something I cannot even afford to think of. Getting my brain to turn off is a task and a half. Outwardly, on some days it might seem like I am thoroughly unproductive and doing nothing, but what you cannot see is that all my energy is actually going into keeping that state of unproductiveness from deteriorating into a spiral.
A few months ago, amid my momentary spurt of productivity, I had also taken a QuickScan test recommended by my university’s learning disability service and got a premature diagnosis suggesting mild dyslexia. That led me to think about problems with my attention span that I have faced in the past, but did not always acknowledge. I asked myself if this could also be a sign of another issue I had not considered before. I did not want to jump to conclusions without seeking a professional opinion first, the anxiety due to the fact that I might be mildly dyslexic combined with my suspicions about possibly also having ADHD led me to go down internet rabbit holes in search of some definitive answers or any form of conclusivity to relieve my consternation. This did nothing to alleviate my worry though, and it just made me more anxious to see many of the symptoms I was experiencing so clearly spelt out before me, while I did nothing to actively combat them.
I know that many of you are expecting to read about how I had some moment of epiphany that made me decide to start seeking the help I know I need, or how I suddenly gained a new outlook on life and decided to start looking at things more positively. The truth is that I still struggle to get out of bed on days and do the bare minimum to get through it. I know that my journey with mental health is an uphill battle and there will be some days which are worse than others, but that is why I am writing this. I wanted to share that mental health issues are not a phase, but an ongoing scuffle between the fact that life moves on, and the knowledge that you have no energy to move on with it. An insistent part of me is aware that I need to avail the help that is required to manage my declining mental health, but there is also this heavier, more overwhelming fatigue in me that does not let me do that.
I do not want to appear foolishly optimistic, in that everything will be perfect in the long run, because sometimes things do not turn out like you want them to. I want some semblance of stability and to find my new normal amidst this chaos, but also to not let go of the hope that someday I might actually thrive mentally and emotionally, and not settle for being just okay.
I do not want to make tall claims about the milestones I want to set and achieve for improving my mental health, I just plan to take it one day, one small win at a time. I think that it is okay to get through life like that.