So what's up at uni then?
I recently had a chat with one my tutors who wanted to borrow a piece of work that I made last year to use as an example for the current 2nd year group. The amount of praise for that project that she showered me with, completely blew me away and I gladly agreed. Honestly though, I wouldn't even need to hear any sort of compliments to agree to such a request.
Anyhow, she then went on to generally admire my uniqueness and talent as an artist, and having told her that I'm not quite sure what I want to do after uni, she stated she considered me as someone who should absolutely work in arts.
Being a ball of anxiety and shyness, it is always more than overwhelming to hear anyone to express such confidence and faith in me, and I left my tutor's office rather teary-eyed and baffled.
Something that came up in our conversation was certain part-time volunteer opportunities offered by a local photography gallery for young artists/ art students. Obviously, it would be beneficial for my future career to get some real work experience in the art field even prior to finishing the degree. Getting a job like that would be absolutely great; were it not for the fact that I'm trying to recover from the newly-diagnosed depression. Balancing work and leisure is already a challenge for me because I tend to make everything in my life a task to be accomplished to my best ability - preferably perfection - and so, at this point, taking on one more responsibility might be disastrous for my mental wellbeing. This particular tutor doesn't know about my condition (not from me anyway) but I just briefly explained to her how tough the previous semester was for me, and how I'm trying to take it easy this year not to burn out. She was really understanding and totally agreed with me, but even so, having to admit that I don't feel capable of reaching for an opportunity such as the gallery placement in question, continues to bother me to some extent.
Simultaneously though, I am getting into terms with not being exactly myself at the moment and just letting things like this go. Other opportunities will rise.
This realisation brings me to something that I find personally more and more important each day. Before finding myself seated in an armchair at a psychiatrist's practice, I used to be somewhat skeptical about putting diagnostic labels on mental disorders not to mention treating everything with medicine. But like so often in life, our perception radically changes once we are put into a new position - so did mine.
Having an official document stating that I have a diagnosis has given me a new perspective upon myself. There is a lightyear's difference between being constantly tired and being constantly tired as a symptom of depression. Having lived with the first of the two scenarios for god knows how long, and switching into the second one has had a major effect on the way I see myself.
I tend to judge prolonged, unexplained tiredness in my own case as laziness: a trait that under no circumstances could I tolerate as one of my own. Even the though of being or appearing lazy disgusts me to no end. And at the same time I've always known that I'm not an idle person at all. So before getting professional help, there has been a raging battle in my mind due to the contradiction between how I feel and who I think I am. This might be getting a bit obscure but for me being now able to separate certain feelings from the core of me, of who I am is essential. I am not depression, depression is not me. And the only way forward is the slow, hard, one-step-at-a-time way. So far, it is not even realistic to expect a change in my mood as I haven't been on medication for long, but at least this change in perception is pretty significant to me. It makes my daily life much less of a struggle and gives me time to just breathe, think and heal.
I can already give you a few very concrete examples of how things seem to be heading to somewhere better and brighter in comparison with a few past years.
- I wouldn't say my inner, somewhat problematic attitude toward eating and food has changed, but at least there has been no emotional eating, or even cravings for such during this first week even though I have been experiencing occasional anxiety and moodiness. In fact, I've been fully enjoying planning, cooking and eating my meals, which also manifests itself as a nice and balanced physical sensation in my body. Also, taking a few medically or otherwise
- I'm more than ever okay with being by myself. I no longer feel like I have to attend to any social event that I don't want to, nor am I afraid of making plans that may exclude me from possible, not yet announced social events. I am not naturally extroverted individual, so why should I feel pressured to be one? The fact is that I don't have my very best friends here, and that I will occasionally feel lonely and sad about that, but in the end, I know I can live with that and having a video call or even getting a brief message on one of the social networking sites is enough to soothe the ache.
Going back to the notion of medical diagnosis, I would say that in my case already the gesture of being marked as F.32 and prescribed a medication has helped me to see things in a different light. But what is important is that I am not carrying my diagnosis as a sign of valour or unique quirkiness. I'm aware that amongst some teenagers mental illness/ disorder is nowadays regarded as something to be proud of, something to make one stand out of the ordinary. And I'm not only referring to pro-ana/mia people but all kinds of mental disturbances (bipolarity seems to be especially cool these days).
There are no words to describe how harmful such a trend of romanticising mental illnesses is, and I'm not even going go to further down that path than this because the sheer length, width and depth of if would extend this blogpost into at least one novel.
What I guess my point - slowly dissolving in the ocean of other points about other subjects that I have in mind - is that for me, having it said on paper, that I'm ill in a way allows me to slow down and take care of myself instead of forcing myself ahead at any cost.
For someone else a similar situation may turn back to bite them by having a completely passivating effect, or present an excuse to act consciously selfishly and demand special treatment from others. Or whatever the 100 billion other possibilities are.
In the end, I suppose it's up to the medical system to offer people the kind of help they need to get better - a task in which it seems to fail a lot due to lack of resources, which would be a topic for a completely separate discussion too.
As an endnote I would like to say that even though I've brought up some vaguely positive looking things happening in my life along with the hopeful trust that I have for my meds, I have absolutely no idea how I'll feel in a couple of months. I simply can't know what, if anything will happen with my condition - and whether the possible change is for the better or for the worse. But as I mentioned earlier, the only way to do this is to take one step at a time and see where the road goes.