My happy place, Belize
What do you do when you don’t know how to ask for help? From a young age I learned how to help myself in many ways as I did not want to bother others, or would lose patience in waiting too long for help. Being able to help myself made me feel very independent; I learned how to assemble furniture on my own as a preteen, and could always conjure up a meal or snack in the kitchen with limited ingredients. This will to “make it happen” on my own terms is why I started A Life In The Day of Andrea five years ago; I wanted to have my own online destination where you could learn something new, view beautiful photos, and feel like you were present for all the experiences I have documented thus far. At the age of 30, I have come to the conclusion that this ability to help myself is a huge issue I deal with, and it has been quite detrimental in many facets of my life, the largest one being my own mental health.
In the past, I have written tidbits of my struggles with depression from dealing with the deaths of many family members and friends in four short years, and how stuck I have felt from losing jobs over and over again. I have had many temporary highs in that time, whether it be working with a respected publication, partnering with brands, traveling to a new city, and meeting awesome people, but behind my smiles and pristine photos, the high would end as soon as I got home. To attain more highs, I would keep myself busy, go on as many coffee dates, making sure to attend as many events and partaking in the open bar so I could temporarily escape from my existence of being unhappy. I can’t really pinpoint where this feeling of unhappiness and feeling of ongoing depression began, but as of late, I have really hit a wall. I like to think of myself as a natural born leader who has a strong vision for what she wants in her life, but I often fall short as my thoughts of self-doubt, riddled with anxiety hold me back. It is hard to really explain where it comes from, but it has been pretty consistent for years now.
In recent weeks, the combination of my depression (caused by lack of opportunities, and recent birthdays of the deceased) and anxiety have had me locked up in my bedroom for days. My sleeping habits changed, going to bed after 3 AM and awaking in the early afternoon. I have avoided meeting groups of friends as I did not want to answer the question, “so what are you up to?” In my avoidance, I have developed a feeling of guilt as I believe I have disappointed people. The idea of disappointing people is often worse than actually disappointing people. A few days ago while trying to draft a post here, it happened; I had a pretty awful anxiety attack that felt like my chest, specifically over my heart, was caving in. I cried for hours alone, drank water, and took pain meds to ease the pain that I had caused myself. I texted friends and family as a cry for help, and they listened, but what I really needed was a real life human in the same room as me, to listen and help me with what I was/am going through.
A few months back I attempted to find a therapist, but that search ended quickly as I became very overwhelmed calling a bunch of offices that were overbooked and unable to help me. I have looked into peer groups at NAMI’s (National Alliance of Mental Illness) NYC Metro chapter, but again, there’s a lot of info on the website and I do not really know where to start. I try to speak with friends and family members who are dealing with similar struggles, but hearing their own experiences usually gets a bit too heavy for me as I am an empath. I’ve tried to self-diagnose, read every self-help/spiritual/metaphysical book I can find to “cure myself”, but it doesn’t work. I am not ok, and I have finally accepted at this point in my life that I truly do need help. Just last week one of my favorite artists, Kid Cudi, publicly stated via his Facebook page that he was checking himself into rehab for suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. In reading his heartfelt post, I began to cry as I felt I was reading something that I had written. One line that particularly stood out to me was,
I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too.
These words are everything I have felt for so long. If I am able to, I love to listen to and help others in any way I can, from being present for a friend venting, to helping them buy some food when funds are low. I don’t even think about myself in these moments, and unfortunately over the years, there have been times where I have been taken advantage of for this reason. Feelings of not being worthy of having love or happiness for so many years have made me heavy spiritually, and I have finally reached my breaking point. I see how my depression and anxiety (although not diagnosed professionally) are holding me back in my career. To be a writer is to feel everything, and I have too many feelings on my own that need to be managed.
I want to feel light, and be able to enjoy each day as it comes, regardless of its high and low points. I want to be able to be happy for others without putting myself down. I have made it a duty to involve more self care into my days, whether that be reading a new book, sipping a fine wine, or eating my favorite chocolate; I need that time alone to recharge, and I am learning that doing so is not selfish. I want to be the best me for myself first, so I can be that for my loved ones and community. Admitting is the first step, and so, my journey begins.
*Photo by Andrea K. Castillo