Mental Health Check-In: My Story

by Claire DiOrio, CAWG Candidate Representative

In our last newsletter, Mindy Moss shared the story of her experience with depression and anxiety. I find conversations like these empowering and necessary to destigmatize mental illness and discussions around mental health. For this newsletter, I’ll share a bit of my journey.

I started seriously struggling with depression about four years ago. I can’t point to a particular catalyst (my family was healthy, my friends were supportive, I was doing well academically), but I can say that my depression developed from a place of self-loathing. I grew to forget the things I used to love about myself, and I became hyper-focused on my shortcomings and past mistakes. I dreaded waking up in the mornings because I’d have to live another day being someone that I believed wasn’t worthy of compassion.

My social interactions were always anxious. My mind was often spiraling with questions: Am I talking too much? Am I annoying? Did I say something mean? I started to dread leaving the house because I’d have to overthink every interaction afterwards. Nights would end with me feeling exhausted and helpless. I felt like existing was more difficult than not existing.

Developing my career was one of the last things on my mind. When I was in the worst of my depression, I couldn’t imagine studying for an exam. I didn’t feel like I had a future, so it didn’t make sense to dedicate time to work towards my future.

There are many reasons why today I’m in one of the healthiest, happiest states I’ve been in the past decade. The first is therapy. I went through multiple therapists before I found one that I connected with. It was a discouraging process, but once I felt like I was in a safe environment and comfortable with my therapist, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Therapy also provided me with different techniques to handle my anxious thoughts. My favorite technique that I learned is to question anxious thoughts by saying “what if”. For example, when I think “everyone must hate me”, I’ve learned to question “What if everyone doesn’t hate me?” It is a reminder that the declarative statements we make to and about ourselves might be exaggerations.

The second reason is open dialogue with my loved ones. For months, my mom was my primary confidant about anything to do with mental illness. Slowly, I felt more comfortable sharing my struggles with other loved ones, and I received an abundance of support and love.

The third is antidepressants. I was on antidepressants for a short period of time, but it was undoubtedly necessary to put me back on my feet. I resisted taking medication for a while because it forced me to admit that something in my brain was wrong. Focusing on the fact that something in my brain was fixable helped me, and medication presented a possible solution.

I still struggle with depression and anxiety today, but I feel more control over my mental wellbeing than I have ever in the past. The most important message I’d like to convey is that none of us are alone. The nights of insomnia, the self-loathing self-talk, the fear of never feeling good again – someone out there is experiencing the same thing as you. Don’t hesitate to reach out and find someone that will help you begin the journey to feeling better.