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I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and various other forms of poor mental health for most of my life. My parents say I was anxious even as an infant, but the impact of my anxiety has certainly ebbed and flowed throughout my life. I usually describe my mental health struggles as having anxiety and depressive tendencies, because while I haven’t always technically fit a diagnosis of depression I feel that it’s been lurking underneath the surface for most of my life even when I wasn’t technically struggling from depression. I have always been easily distressed, and I have experienced symptoms of other specific mental illnesses in spurts along the way.
I made it through K-12 schooling and most of college without receiving treatment because I was seemingly functional–my grades have always been good good, and because I was successful and high achieving, I relied on sheer force of will to get through school even though I was falling apart on the inside and suffering greatly. That wasn’t sustainable, though, and I finally started seeing a therapist last fall.
The first turning point for me was when I left for college, leaving behind an unhealthy school environment and family dynamic. My new environment was so much better that I felt, at least for a little while, like my problems had gone away. However, eventually they crept back into my life. Another turning point where I felt like I was actually doing much better was during the first few months of the pandemic, when for the first time in my life I could make my priority taking care of my mental health and sleeping, exercising, and socializing without stress from schoolwork.
Right now, I’m struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic. Though initially the pandemic was an excuse to focus on myself, now I’m having to try to maintain my mental health while also working while existing in a global crisis. While I have learned much about myself, such as the fact that I can actually feel healthy and hopeful when I have the opportunity to prioritize my well-being, I’m struggling to apply that knowledge to the world we live in right now.
I used to feel selfish for prioritizing my self and well-being, until I heard a favorite saying of mine that I’ve since learned to be true: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Meaning, the more that you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others. In that sense, it’s not selfish to focus on taking care of yourself, because it’s much harder to provide love, empathy, and compassion to the ones you love when you are struggling.
I used to feel selfish for prioritizing my self and well-being, until I heard a favorite saying of mine that I've since learned to be true: You can't pour from an empty cup. Meaning, the more that you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others.
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