Sitting in the doctor's office, those words sounded strange to me. Somewhere, deep down, I knew that they were true, but hearing a complete stranger say them to me felt so surreal.
Since losing my dad at a young age, I've struggled with depression. I don't remember exactly when I realized I was depressed, but in college I caught myself falling into harmful habits: sleeping too much, skipping meals, shutting people out.
I've seen counselors in the past but never got evaluated formally. After filling out information on my emotional wellbeing, speaking with a specialist, and seeing a psychiatrist, I got a prescription for Lexapro. Coupled with group counseling and one-on-one sessions, I already notice a difference from the beginning of my journey this past December.
For someone who struggles to take it easy on herself and acknowledge her accomplishments, medication has made a huge difference. I was so afraid of starting medication, but it's helped immensely, even in the subtlest ways.
1. I am starting to let the positive thoughts in more.
With depression, I always found myself listening to an endless internal rant. I wasn't doing this right, or that. This was why I failed at everything. How could I have done that? That person was totally going to hate me. When I started taking medication, I slowly started to hear another small voice fighting. That voice says calm down, it's going to be okay, don't be so hard on yourself. I'm working on creating more positive thoughts through writing exercises and my inner monologue.
2. I pay more attention to my body.
For starters, being depressed and anxious can be a brutal combination. Both of these, in my experience, make it difficult for you to listen to your needs, both physical and emotional. Now, I pay close attention to small things, like relaxing my body when I feel it tensing up in order to ease my anxiety. I've also been paying more attention to other ticks, like when I start shaking my leg uncontrollably (a sure sign of anxiety). I never really paid close attention to my body language, but now I understand it plays a huge part in my anxiety.
3. I am learning to be more assertive.
I have trouble saying "no." The situation doesn't really matter. I always live in fear of disappointing other people. I noticed that slowly I learned how to stop at my limit. I am still working on this, but it applies to many areas of my life — from avoiding taking on too much work to leaving that text or email unread for the sake of de-stressing time.
4. I am increasingly more social.
I will admit it: People often scare me. They are unpredictable and complicated. As much as I love people, I worry a lot about what they think of me or whether they are spending time with me only out of pity. I've been taking a lot more risks lately (much to my surprise) by initiating hangouts and striking up more conversations with strangers. Turns out it's easier to be more social when you're not super anxious or depressed.
5. I now know I am capable of getting better.
The first time I missed my medication I couldn't stop worrying. I made it through but figured that was because it was a low-stress day. Just recently, however, I forgot to take it during a work day that I knew would be busy. But I took a deep breath and told myself I'd made it through much worse, no thanks to my anxiety and depression. An eight-hour workday would be okay. I made it back home in one piece and realized that yes, the medication was helping, but I also owed a lot of my improvement to my own strength.