Content warning: This article discusses depression and suicide. Please refer to the end of the article for resources on campus.
All of us experience difficult times in our lives — more than once.
When they occur, our general instinct is to bottle them up, to pretend that life is as easy as it seems to be for everyone else. Yet, it is in these times that we must allow ourselves to sit with the full range of emotions we are experiencing.
In these difficult times, we realize that self-care is not only simply taking the occasional mental health day. Rather, it is an ever-evolving process that requires our constant, careful attention. Sometimes, we have to let ourselves self-destruct so that we can learn how to self-repair.
The scariest part of finding our ways out of hard times is knowing that we will inevitably face more. Yet, this inevitability is why it is so important to pay close attention to what makes us feel better or worse at any given time. We must pay attention to how we are feeling, even when life is good.
For me, these difficult times often come in the form of major depressive episodes. I sometimes barely make it out of the last one before a new one engulfs me.
Three times, I have felt especially distraught, when my passive suicidal thoughts suddenly translated into actions.
I’ve learned that there is no magic formula for getting out of a hard time. Everyone is different, and more importantly, every time is different. Personally, I have not healed the same way after each of my suicidal incidents or major depressive episodes. My process of self-care has constantly changed.
After the first time I was actively suicidal, I coped by listening to musical theater soundtracks. Some of the songs resonated with me so strongly that they kneaded the deepest emotional pain out of my heart.
The second time, about six months later, I turned to the same musical theater songs, knowing that they had helped the previous time. Yet this time, instead of feeling like someone out there had understood my pain, I felt nothing at all. I needed a new way of recovering.
After lots of trial and error, I realized that spending time with people helped my mood. I made a conscious effort to be around people even when I felt too depressed to handle social situations, and that worked. Over a year would pass before I would be actively suicidal again.
The most recent time, about a month ago, my severely depressed mood and increasing social anxiety prevented me from surrounding myself with people. I no longer considered social activities as an option to try to improve my health.
Still, I am doing a little better now after seeking out a new self-care routine. This time, musical theater songs, poetry and recognition of how far I have come have helped me the most.
A year and a half ago, I would have told you that there was no way I was going to complete my degree. Today, I am on track to graduate this spring, on time.
Self-care is a nonstop project. Because our processes of self-care are not necessarily constant, getting through these hard times never becomes easier. It is always hard. We just become better at it.
We have survived all of our respective difficult times, and we must remember that whenever we feel ourselves entering a new one. We have conquered these challenges before, becoming more and more resilient each time. We can do it again.
To access mental health resources, reach out to Counseling and Psychiatric Services at 202-687-6985, or for after-hours emergencies, call 202-444-7243 and ask to speak to the on-call clinician. You can also reach out to Health Education Services at 202-687-8949. Both of these resources are confidential.
Brittany Rios is a senior in the College. TRANSFERmations appears online every other Monday.