A year and a half ago, I filmed a video interview about my experiences with anxiety and depression for The OU Daily. The response was more positive than I could have ever anticipated — I received Facebook messages from strangers and text messages from friends I hadn’t spoken to since high school, thanking me for speaking publicly about my mental illness and sometimes divulging their own struggles.
It’s been 16 months since that interview, and when I look back in my memory I can hardly believe how much time has flown by. I spent a semester working with a local nonprofit, an experience that gave me some of the best friends I’ve ever had and revealed my passion for public policy. I left the country for the first time and lived in Montevideo, Uruguay, for five months, an experience I cherish so deeply and intimately that I can’t even adequately put it into words. I started working at The Daily, something I had never considered before because of my lack of journalism experience.
If there’s a theme here, it’s that I kept reaching. Many days, I struggled — still struggle — to even get out of bed. At my lowest points, I let myself give in to the worst of my self-doubt. I convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to reach for the things I wanted, felt called to. If you’re reading this now — if the headline drew you in because you thought you might relate or a friend sent it to you with your well-being in mind — I have a feeling that you probably know what I’m talking about. You know what it’s like to feel yourself slipping away.
And that’s OK. You are allowed to feel however you feel, because your emotions and your body are yours and yours alone. You are allowed to have bad days, and no one else has the right to make you feel shameful or inferior because of your mental or chronic illness. What I won’t let you do, however, is leave this space thinking you deserve any less than what you know you can and should achieve.
Depression will hound you. It will often hinder and sometimes hurt you. But you are still you. Bad days happen, but so do good ones. The idea of “deserving” is hard when you’re depressed. But your depression is not the only unique thing about you. There are things you do that no one else can. There are pieces of the world that only you will ever see the way you do. I said it last time, and I think it’s worth saying again: “You are worth others’ time and respect. You are worth your own respect. You are worth treatment. You are worth the world.”