It feels like just yesterday I was celebrating my first quarantine birthday, wondering what was in store next. Looking back on the last 365 days I can say that this has undoubtedly been the hardest year of my life, so It’s fitting that writing this message has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I’ve been living with clinical depression since 2016. The last 5 years of my life have been a rollercoaster of emotions, as life naturally is. I’ve experienced incredible highs and made memories that will last a lifetime. I’ve also experienced some of my darkest moments. I’ve seen people I love go through the most difficult of situations. I’ve lost 3 friends who had their whole lives ahead of them.
Usually, my depression would come and go in waves. I would experience the usual winter blues (some years worse than others), but for the most part it was manageable. Barring a major incident, I rarely experienced any symptoms of depression through the Spring and Summer months. In March of 2020, right around when Covid-19 started to have an impact on day-to-day life here in Ottawa, I began experiencing some minor symptoms of depression. I chalked my increased anxiety it up to the uncertainty that surrounded the world and did my usual stress relieving routines, which helped for a bit. That Summer is when I was pulled into the void of hurt and emptiness that I’ve been struggling to get out of for the better part of this calendar year.
Like many of my family and friends, I was overwhelmed with the stories, videos, audio clips, and more, detailing Black death and trauma.
I spent my nights crying, scared to death of the possibility of losing a family member to illness.
My body adjusted to bearing a constant feeling of grief, and I saw and felt the physical consequences of it.
There was not a place that I could go, or a person I could bring myself to talk to give me peace of mind. I didn’t feel comfortable or safe and there was nothing I could but watch my body and mind slowly deteriorate.
My symptoms continued though the Fall which resulted in my worst academic term in my post-secondary career. Winter came and brought with it what has been the most difficult 5 months of my life.
Since January I’ve gone to bed in tears more times than I can remember. I had severe depressive episodes, with such frequent and intense panic attacks that at times it felt like I was having a heart attack. I’ve struggled with my confidence – Lost motivation – Lost and found my faith several times – Neglected my physical well-being.
I would look in the mirror and be scared, ashamed of, and disgusted at the person looking back at me. And the most terrifying part was that I couldn’t see a way out of all of it. To be honest sometimes I still don’t.
Today is my birthday and as I reflect on this past year, I’m finding it hard to overlook all the pain and grief to talk about the good. Good moments have fallen few and far between. I have learned more about myself in this past year than I’ve probably ever known or have been able to properly articulate, and for that I am grateful.
I’ve learned that I’m scared to die and even more terrified of losing another person I love.
I’ve been reminded time and again how precious this life is and I’m learning to appreciate it more and give the people in my life the flowers they deserve, while I still have the chance.
I’m learning to love fully, and boldly and loudly. I’m learning the importance of feeling loved.
I’m grateful to be alive and physically healthy during a pandemic that has done irreparable damage to so many across the world.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share my story.
Honestly, the fact that I’m here today, writing this is a miracle.
This is me in my most vulnerable state and deciding whether or not to share this has been an extremely long and difficult process but I’m doing so for a few reasons.
As bad and hard as this past year has been, I made it through. I know that the fight is not over but I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come, and I wanted to share that feeling with all of you.
More importantly though, I want to reassure anyone reading this who can relate to these words that you are not alone. You are loved and appreciated and strong and worthy of every treasure on this earth and beyond. I love you.
I love my family and my friends so much.
To Emma, Zako, and Arso, I love and miss you. You are forever in my heart.