Today is uncharacteristically sunny here in Raincouver, I went out for a run, and there are many daunting books waiting to be read. My perfect kind of day.
It’s always exciting getting back into blogging after a break, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot–taking breaks. It reminds me of the time I understood the importance of saying no to good things to have truly great things, when I felt like I had to break myself trying hard, and living was hard.
Yes, it’s that little thing called depression.
I suffered from depression for the past five years. And while I wouldn’t say writers, in general, might suffer from it from time to time, it has been true for me. I wasn’t a depressed writer. I was depressed and wrote.
So pour yourself a cup of tea and take a deep breath. It’s not pretty, it’s really tough for me to write about this, but I hope that this can be encouraging to someone out there who might be feeling like me.
This is my depression journey.
Year 1 (Grades 8 jumped to 10)
We moved from Japan to Canada. We knew no one (everyone we knew lived in other provinces), my father’s job position was tough, and overall, we were struggling. I was feeling burnt out but didn’t want to acknowledge it. As the oldest sibling, I thought I had to have it all together to set an example for my siblings. Housing search, new homeschooling system, and various other things sort of choked out our weariness and I kept pressing on. Writing sustained me in so many ways through this time.
Year 2 (Re-grade 10)
I ended up ‘failing’ the entire year with the new online school system. (Looking back it’s kind of comical since we had a terrible internet connection and a low-speck computer. I think I’d fail a school year again if I had to use the same computer!)
This was a huge blow to me because a large part of my identity lay in my academic rigour and strength. We switched to another school and I was determined to pull myself back together. I met new friends and found solace in extracurricular activities. This was where I began my Japanese blog.
Year 3 (Grade 10-11)
Meanwhile, my depression kept festering. I worked hard, pushed myself to the limits in every part of my life, and in short, burnt myself off. My grandmother was in the ICU in the fall, so Mum flew back to Japan. I took on more responsibilities around the house. Even though my grandmother recovered and Mum came back, our family was falling apart due to many factors and I really wanted to rest.
But I thought I couldn’t.
If I stopped functioning in my dysfunctional home, I thought our family would fall apart. I met a really great writer’s community around the summer and finished my first novel’s draft. I went on to participate in my first NaNoWriMo and wrote my second novel’s draft.
This was where things fell apart.
A week before the end of November, I took 100 Advils in one day. It was a Sunday, I still remember it well. I was hoping someone at church would notice our family, notice me, but no one did. I felt really nauseous in the evening and told my family. I went to the emergency, but nothing was wrong with me. They sent me home that same night. To this day, I still think it’s a miracle.
Year 4 (Grade 11-12)
Because of my ‘suicide attempt’, I was sent to counselling. I think they meant it well, but I was in denial–I only wanted to rest, I kept telling myself–so I stopped going once they made sure I wouldn’t do it again. Plus, they kept on telling me there were worse people out there who was really on the brink of despair. Compared to them, my case was light.
I think what I really needed back then was someone who would tell me that it wasn’t okay. It wasn’t okay what happened to me, it wasn’t normal the way our family was functioning back then, it was okay to take a break if I was tired.
But I had no one.
I remember calling the health lines when things got really bad, but they were like the emergency people–they offered first aids, but nothing more. Every day was so hard, waking up was a challenge, I just wanted to rest.
Except I didn’t. I picked myself back up, went back to my insane study-extracurricular schedule, and began this blog. Yup, that’s right. Just when I should have been focusing most on taking a breath and recovering, I added more and more responsibility to myself.
Year 5 (Grade 12 + beyond)
I ended up switching my online school again. This, added with other big changes, was the final straw that broke me. My relationship with the people around me was going down the drain; someone I’d trusted with my future had disappeared, and I knew I had to get out of my home. Except, my old teachers were not willing to write me any recommendations to American colleges, and my plans of over six years in the making came crashing down.
Then the pandemic hit.
I feel so bad saying this, but this was what ultimately helped me stop. Like, literally, the world hit a break, and I was forced to stop. I had to take a close look at where I’d driven my life to–off a cliff.
Our family had officially broken down. I still tried to fill my life with more things–more blogging, more writing, more studying, anything, really, if only I didn’t have to think about what was happening–and this time, my family shook me awake. They banned me from doing anything. And I’m so grateful they did that, even though at the time I resented them.
Through lots of prayers and finally meeting someone willing to mentor me, I began to realise that I’d been severely depressed…and I wasn’t okay. I finally took time to rest, going back to where I’d started–back to God. I still struggle from time to time with being an overachiever trying to mute everything with hard work, yet through taking life at a slower pace, I’ve learnt this vital principle: It’s okay not to be okay.
The Things I Learnt:
- When you’re burnt out, stop what you’re doing at that exact moment. The world won’t end even if you stop.
- When someone asks you, “How are you doing?” and you’re not doing well, don’t say you’re fine. Sure, you might make other people uncomfortable, but that’s better than making it a habit of lying to yourself. It will take h**l of an effort to break with God’s grace alone. (Excuse my language. That’s how strong my sentiments lie.)
- Don’t isolate yourself from others. Always make sure you have someone behind your back who’s in a better mental state than you’re in. If you feel like you don’t, try being honest and transparent in your struggle with someone you know. This might open new avenues and strengthen friendships.
- If you’re a believer, go back to His Word daily. One of the biggest problems I had was that I stopped taking time to soak in the Scriptures. Remember, God’s word is light and truth, offering comfort to those in need of it. Let Jesus carry your burdens instead of doing it all alone.
- Also, try reaching out to a pastor or someone at your church. (My first church experience was bad, but my second church family really helped me out. If you feel like you won’t be able to get the help you need at your church, maybe it’s a better idea to contact other churches. They’re still your family in Christ.)
- Be mindful of what you’re consuming, not just food but also media, the people around you, &c. When I was depressed, I tended to take in super dark media just to assure myself my situation wasn’t that bad. This is a terrible strategy and I wish I can go back and shake myself awake. There were also a lot of toxic people around me. Since resting, I’ve learnt to draw boundaries and not allow these things to get to me. Sometimes, it’s necessary to follow 1 Corinthians 10:23–“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
Lastly, I just want to add this: If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or anyone else in your life. There are always people out there who genuinely care about what’s happening to you and will forever blame themselves if they couldn’t notice you needed help. But sometimes, you have to take the first step.
I see you. God sees you. You were created in His image with an immeasurable plan so wonderful we have no way of knowing its full extent. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made, even before you were born, you were given a purpose and life. Trust in that.
And that’s My Depression Journey & What I Learnt From It.
Thank you for reading! Are you habitually taking time to stop and reflect? Do you practise mindfulness? What are some things that have helped you when you were feeling burnt out? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!