I have dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. I think it started around middle school. I just remember being left out of my friend group a lot and just feeling really lonely all of the time. This continued throughout high school as well. I just felt alone. Like I was a burden to everyone, like I wasn't good enough, that people didn't like me...even my own friends. There must be something wrong with me for them to leave me out all of the time. At least that's what I would tell myself. But I didn't know I had depression or anxiety. I kind of just accepted that I was going to have really low points every once in a while and that I just had to deal with it. I was really shy in social situations, I hated talking in large groups or being the center of attention. My throat would close up and my stomach would get butterflies every time I had to do something out of my comfort zone. But I just accepted that this was how life was. And that feeling traveled into adulthood as well and I started to develop these unhealthy coping mechanisms like isolating myself.
I struggled through college and my grades suffered because of it. I had a difficult time focusing and my anxiety would take over. I put most of my energy into working part-time and going out on the weekends because those were the only things I could control at the time. After I graduated from college, I moved into my own apartment. I was so excited, because I always wanted to live by myself so I could have space when I needed it. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was more so I could easily isolate myself when things got hard. Whenever I would struggle, overthink things, or get embarrassed I could just go home and deal with it alone. But that became extremely unhealthy and it got to the point where nothing brought me joy and I just stopped taking care of myself. I slept all day and cried all of the time because I was lonely, but I didn't want to talk to anyone at the same time. Every once in a while I would get out of this funk and go out with my friends who never knew how much I was struggling to keep it together because I would mask it so well. I started having panic attacks when we would go out, because it was hard for me to be around people. So I isolated myself even more. Depression for me was debilitating. I rarely could get out of bed or focus at work. Anxiety for me was debilitating. I would dissociate in social situations and would have anxiety attacks at random times. I felt these things for such a long time that I never thought I would get to a better place.
It wasn't until 2020, when I decided last minute to go to a Halloween party and met my now fiance, that things really started to change for me. After dating for 5 months, we decided to move in together (when ya know ya know) and now I could no longer isolate myself or hide my struggles. My boyfriend new right away that I was struggling and he was so supportive during that time. He always made sure I ate something and gave me my space when I needed it. My boyfriend also encouraged me to go to the doctor and talk to someone. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was put on medication for both. I ended up taking a leave of absence from my job so I could focus on getting better. I will say though... I called and made the appointment and drove myself there. I made those decisions on my own. Even though my boyfriend was there to support me, I made the decision to want to get help and for that I am really proud. I think it's really important to note that we have to want to help ourselves and make the decision to want to get better. We can have support during our journey to get better, but we have to want it for ourselves. I think if I stayed in my apartment by myself I wouldn't have ever gotten myself out of that dark place. It was the fact that I finally had to open up about my struggles to someone else that gave me the strength to get help.
Fifteen years later, I am in a much better place in my life. I am engaged to be married, have a great job, and have started my own art business. Since being on medication, I feel that I have more motivation, am so much more confident in myself, and am so much happier overall. I've put a lot of my time into art therapy and my passion for painting, which has been a healthy way to cope with my emotions. Overall, I have found joy again and I didn't have that before. I'll be honest I still have my hard days, but I am much stronger now that I know what I'm dealing with and what triggers me.The reason why I want to share my own mental health journey is to let people know that they're not alone and to show others who are struggling how they can develop healthy coping mechanisms and hopefully find joy again too.
If you're interested in learning more about art therapy, I am hosting a live stream event on March 4, 2023. Stay tuned for more details on my Instagram @shannoneganart coming soon!