At 21, I faced my first bouts of anxiety and depression. Surrounded by nature in one of the most prestigious schools in the country, how could one feel an immeasurable amount of anxiety? Panic, fear, self-loathing, and the pressure to do and be the best, smartest, and the most attractive consumed my thoughts so much that it affected my daily life. Self-doubt was also a daily struggle.
I learned quickly that life isn’t that simple and that it’s not all about those shallow pursuits, especially if it doesn’t make you happy or fulfilled. Now, seven years later, I find myself shying away from society’s perceived values of success.
What I’ve learned is that anxiety sometimes never goes away; it comes and it goes. It just becomes more manageable over time as you get to know your triggers. Ultimately, it is up to you to face your fears. (Just a disclaimer: if you have clinical depression or anxiety, you should first and foremost seek outside professional help and take the necessary steps needed to manage your mental health.)
Prior to leaving for college, I never had anxiety or depression, nor did I worry much about anything. As you grow older, stress is inevitable, due to work, school, and your personal life. Life won’t ever be easy, so it’s best to try to live the life that you want to minimize that stress. One important thing to learn early on in your adulthood is that life won’t stop for anyone, and as the Latin saying goes, “carpe diem”—seize the day.
Slow down and enjoy each moment for what it is. Try to be in the moment every day and let the negative feelings drift away. Try to be thankful, even if it means saying something as simple as, “Thank god I woke up this morning.” As horrible or as awful as you think you have it, it could always be worse.
Be thankful for everything you have and remember that every day you wake up is a blessing and a new opportunity to grow, learn, enjoy, fall in love, and laugh. Remember that everything in this world is temporary, even what you’re currently going through right now.
The “this too shall pass” quote always helped me to remember this.
I liken life to seasons, its impermanence like the dying trees during winter, the blooming flowers in the spring, and the vivid bright fall colors during autumn. And so it begins and ends again and again. A continuous cycle—a birth and rebirth of sorts.
I had to remind myself and learn to be grateful for what I had presently. Every day I would think of something I was grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant. I journaled daily, practiced regular exercise such as yoga and biking, started eating healthier, and developed a scheduled daily routine. Reading devotionals and getting deeper into my faith also helped my mindset and how I saw things. My perspective changed and my body changed too. Having regular meal times and a consistent sleep schedule helped my mind and body immensely.
This too takes time, so don’t worry. Take it as slow as you need to, as long as you’re taking steps to be proactive. Baby steps are okay! Writing down your goals also serves as a good reminder to keep you on track and focused.
My final advice to those struggling with depression and anxiety is that your faith and love will help you. Stay faithful, stay diligent, and you’ll find it. Keep writing, I told myself, and so I did. Keep dreaming and creating goals, I told myself, and so I did.
I now live in the city that I’ve always wanted to and my dreams are coming true every day. It wasn’t easy at all at first, but every day it does get easier. I’ve already accomplished most of what I set out to accomplish and have learned so much along the way. Take action and reach those goals, even if it not might look like what you always thought it would look like. Just do your best and don’t be afraid to open your mind to different aspirations or opportunities that come your way.
Now at 28, I finally feel like I’ve found my purpose, and I’m excited to keep reaching new goals and being presented with new opportunities.
More than anything, I had to learn to believe in myself. To believe that I had every right to be in love, to live in love, to be happy, to be respected, and to follow my dreams. You deserve it too, and who are you not to? Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, fabulous, and talented?
I will close with a quote from one of my favorite speakers, motivators, revolutionaries, and philosophers—Nelson Mandela.
“You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously allow others to do the same.”
So go for it dear ones—be unafraid and shine!