Working to be who I am


  Every year as it gets cooler and days get shorter, everything turns a bit gray for me. The leaves fall the sun sets at 5:30; and suddenly l feel exhausted. I can’t do anything except sleep and eat. Some days my appetite leaves me as well. A gloominess overtakes me. I make a call to my therapist and send an email to my psychiatrist; it is that time of year again.

  I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

  SAD is a form of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). I was diagnosed with SAD and eventually MDD because during my sophomore year as winter came and went, the depression never left. It squirmed its way into the summer; I got anxious about the endless amount of time I would now have, without school, to be sad. My depression had touched the one thing that was supposed to be a break: summer.

  I decided it was enough.

  That year, my friends and I had a pool party after the last day of school. I remember tightly holding myself together whilst everyone swam. It was as if the less I spoke, the less they could see was going on inside. I got in my car to leave, and as soon as I turned away from the pool, I was sobbing. I cried for hours on end. I cried because I was crying. Wasn’t the last day of school supposed to be the happiest day of a high schooler’s life?

  I decided I needed to make a greater change. I needed to fight back. I was going to therapy every week but clearly, that was not enough. I was fed up. I asked my therapist about antidepressants. The word was bittersweet. Antidepressants. I couldn’t really believe it was something I needed. I always thought my depression would never be that bad. I never wanted it to be that bad. My therapist picked up on my hesitation.

   So I started to take medication.

  About a month later I woke up, immediately rose out of bed and looked out the window and smiled. I smiled. For no reason whatsoever. I cracked open my window and breathed in the fresh air. It was as if this whole time, I hadn’t really been breathing. I took a deep breath. For a moment I felt real again. A tear fell down my cheek, a tear of joy. I knew I had made it out.

  Even after that first smile, I still had my bad days. Which is 100 percent, completely natural. I still had moments where I didn’t feel like myself. But what mattered the most was that I was having moments when I did. My coping mechanisms had finally began to work. Everything I was doing to try to get better had worked. Slowly but successfully I had begun to build myself back up.

  I work really hard to be who I am. It sounds funny but it’s true. I have to. And that’s okay.

   I’m asked all the time how I can be so cheery and positive: I’ve worked for it.

  I have four alarms that remind me to take my medication. Every day in the winter from around 5-7, I use my light box- a special lamp that imitates the sun’s light. I exercise at least three times a week. I make sure I always eat and drink enough water. I have a bedtime. I journal every day. I go to therapy. I go to the psychiatrist. I smile at others. I tell people if I don’t feel good. I don’t keep my depression a secret. I don’t put school work before my mental health. I say no to people. I say yes to people. I have an anxiety bag full of knick knacks that help me calm down. I carry my journal with me in case I start to spiral downhill. I combat my own thoughts. I write down messages to myself:

I am smart. I am beautiful. I am not my depression. I will be okay.

You are not alone. I, for one, I am with you.

If you need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text START to 741-741.