Five years ago, my grandfather died. He was among my biggest inspirations and longest constants. I realize now that I expected him to be around forever. His death was sudden and shook me to my core. At only 15 years old, I’d already experienced more deaths than I was due, and over time I coped with them. This was different. My grandfather’s death brought with it a severe anxiety and depression that I’ve struggled with since.
At the deepest point of my depression and anxiety, I couldn’t stand to be without my mother and boyfriend for longer than it took me to shower. If my boyfriend went 10 minutes without sending me a text, I would panic and start cyber-yelling at him for abandoning me. I would lock myself in my room and just hide under the covers, unable to face the world. I cried in secret, hating myself for being so weak (as my father taught me), and refused to accept what I was going through. I nearly ruined my relationship by being, to put it politely, histrionic.
Nine days after the three-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, the same father that taught me what it meant to be “weak” abandoned my family. In addition to a heightened sense of loneliness and despair, I suddenly felt incredibly bitter and cold. I was changed, again, and not for the better. If things didn’t go how I expected them, how I wanted them, I would get shaky, angry, tense, and impossible to deal with. I do not know how my boyfriend and family dealt with me, much less stuck by my side through the mood swings and unpredictability.
It’s now been just over two years since my father left and I can finally say: I was, and am, dealing with depression and anxiety. I have begun to face these illnesses head on. I have begun to see a therapist, asked my boyfriend (who’s still around after five years) and family to be honest with me about the effects of my condition. What’s been the most helpful in all this, truthfully, is asking simply for their help. I “came out of the anxiety closet.” I was upfront about my suffering and now realize I can’t get through it on my own. For the first time in five years, I know there’s true happiness in my life, and waiting for me in my future. I know I’m not cured, but I have made progress, and I will continue to do so as long as I keep my eyes on what’s important. I may have fewer people in my life, but those who are still around are those I know I can count on. I know, despite what my illness wants me to believe, that I am not alone.
I suffer from depression and anxiety, but they are no longer what defines me. I am becoming me.