#StrongerThanStigma: How X Gets Things Done With Depression is a series featuring different people handling productivity while battling a mental health condition. Hopefully, you and I—mental condition or not—pick up tips and lessons to help us be productive, and fight the stigma that to be depressed means to be useless.
Today, we’re interviewing one of my best friends, Allyria.
Tell us about yourself.
I just turned 23 and I just graduated from university. I’m from a small town in the Philippines but I am now in Canada for the foreseeable future. I work as a technical specialist fixing phones, but my interests vary. In a couple of years, I’m looking to be more involved in the finance industry. I have a lot of hobbies in my spare time. I train mixed martial arts, I read, I paint whenever I have the time, and when I feel like it, I write. I am also a thrill-seeker, which means I am that person who wants to go to all roller coasters in a carnival.
Tell us about your condition.
I was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety in late December of last year. I knew there was something up, but it took me a long time to ask for help because I felt ashamed. I was terrified because the moment it gets diagnosed, then it will feel concrete. You’ve probably heard of high-functioning anxiety. That’s what I have. I am able to do all the things I have to do in a day, but it drains me because I always look for my mistakes. It takes a lot to calm myself down at the end of the day because I keep running scenarios through in my head.
I am a very organized person, which means that when something goes wrong, that’s when things happen. My breakdowns are composed of panic attacks. I sought help because I had my first panic attack at work – I couldn’t breathe, my hands were shaking and my mind wouldn’t stop running scenarios in my head. During this, I wasn’t able to do anything and I had no one.
These days, my symptoms still include the panic attacks, along with the feeling of dread, the fast heartbeat, the feeling of everything closing in around me. Sometimes it gets so intense I have to find a wall or a corner that I can lean on to or a tiny room where I can lock myself up. It takes me a while to calm down, so these episodes affect my work.
It used to affect my education too. I skipped classes because I couldn’t fathom just sitting there and worrying about other things. I wanted time to think things through. I wanted time and space to breathe instead of leaving halfway. My grades didn’t slip, I was too prepared for that to happen. But my mental health did, I went everywhere looking drained, exhausted, and constantly looking for a break. I needed more ‘alone time’ than I ever thought.
What’s your back-up plan for days like these?
I ground myself. You can look it up if you want to know what it entails. It’s what I have to do to refocus. If someone I love is with me, they do a good job of calming me down. Sometimes I message my best friend. Their support means the world to me, they alone understand and assure me that things are going to be okay. The feeling doesn’t go away, but I can finally breathe. Sometimes I sleep a lot. Like I would go through 7 days straight of school, work, family and then I’d have a panic attack and I would sleep for a day. Some recovery times took longer than others. It took a while for me to keep my life up.
Strangely enough it isn’t my family. They don’t know. It consists of my boyfriend, and two of my very best friends. Both of them are not here geographically and I can only reach them through messages, but they’re always there to answer when I need them. My system is getting bigger, and I’m grateful for it everyday.
Does your workplace have a system in place to help people with mental illness? If not, what would be a good policy to have?
Yes. We have a helpline to call if we are seeking further help like seeing a psychologist, etc. We also have leaves available for any mental health breaks e.g. A stress leave or you can use your medical and emergency days for it. I love that we have this but I wish we had local connections to support group. The helpline connects to a third party company and has a list of references, it just doesn’t seem personal.
What are your top 3 rules for getting things done while depressed?
1 | Try your best to do what it takes to feel better (talk to someone, take care of yourself, sleep, distance yourself if necessary)
2 | Don’t hurt anyone. I know it hurts and I know it sucks, but its never an excuse to lash out. It will only make you feel worse.
3 | You have to get up. It’s not easy and everything weighs down on your shoulders but you have to get up. You keep going, you have to believe that there’s a brighter day coming up. That’s the only way you survive.
Photo: Alexandra Baggs, via Creative Commons
No matter what you believe about mental health conditions, I encourage you to be kind in the comments. If this inspired you to be a mental health advocate, or if you’d like to be featured next, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help each other out!