Mental illnesses are often seen as short-lived, singular events, from which we move on as soon as we see signs of recovery. In fact, healing takes time and support is needed. Like any major life event, mental illness leaves a mark and becomes a part of us.
There have been increasing discussions around the diagnoses of mental illnesses; however, what remains after the initial stages of the battle is not discussed enough. How does one continue to support a mental illness survivor? What does the healing process look like?
Katelyn bravely and openly shares with us her story. To understand the life events that contributed to this story, please read the previous three chapters: Chapter 1: “Crushed and Misunderstood” on the author’s arrival to Canada again at the age of 13, Chapter 2: “Depression is Treatable, Doctor Said” on her hospitalization, and Chapter 3: “Stuck in the Purgatory” on a continual journey after leaving the hospital.
Author: Katelyn (pseudo name)
Written in 2020
Now if this was a movie, this would be the part where I learned a bunch of life lessons and found my happily ever after. I landed in Beijing with so much excitement and hope, enrolled in an international school with the thought of forgetting everything that had happened, as if it was all just a bad dream. I would start clean and fresh, make new friends, get good grades, graduate from high school and move on to college.
This illusion was soon shattered as I learned that depression is deeply ingrained in my brain. It is always creeping around, every thought and every action shadowed by this growing and immovable force. Depression feasted on my pursuit of perfectionism and on my fear of failure. With every passing day, I grew more paranoid, more insecure. After four months as a junior in high school, the new environment completely burned me out.
I began to lose all sense of time. I dropped out of school and lived every day like a zombie. I wasn’t entirely alive but wasn’t dead either. I was losing the war with depression, so I tried my best to conceal and numb my feelings. As I lay hopeless on my bed, in the darkness of my room full of laundry and litter, I saw no possible future in which I could live a happy and meaningful life.
“Breathe in, two, three, four, breathe out, two, three, four.” My stomach rose and fell in sync with the soothing voice of the guided meditation. As I meditated deeper, I could feel the fogginess in my brain disappear, unveiling a serene and peaceful sensation that I rarely feel. As someone who’s been in countless therapy sessions, I am familiar with CBT, DBT and meditation. I never gave the latter a try though, until recently when a long-time family friend passionately introduced me to it, believing it would benefit me. She said it helped her recover from her brain injury after a car crash.
And she was right. Before I never dared to take a deep look at my thoughts and my feelings, afraid I would give in to depression. Meditation is merely a form of guidance, gently casting a beacon of light, scaring the shadows and darkness away to reveal the scared little lone girl. She only begs for forgiveness and love, and I vowed to take care of her.
“HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY!” My family shouted in glee, the warm candlelight on the birthday cake giving their faces a soft glow in the dark. I smiled, thanking them for their support, and blew out the candles.
It’s been two years since I last went to regular school. I’m homeschooled and do online classes now. I’ve been going to therapy every week, taking my meds as prescribed and trying to maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule. My pondering nature often blurs the line between sadness and depression, but I’ve started to appreciate my unique view of the world. I still have a long way to go in my recovery, and I have yet to know my place and meaning in the universe. But this will be a colorful journey that I’ll cherish dear to my heart, because I know I will always have the love of my family, my friends and myself.
Right now, the tranquil night is transforming into a dreamy blanket for the city. The moon so shyly shimmers in the dark as I hear my pet hamster excitedly run on his wheel, and I’m grateful for all of these things. As I write these last words, I thank you, dear reader, for reading my story.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Mental Health, nearly one-in-five adults live with a mental illness. When it comes to depression, specifically, every person’s path to recovery differs. Some take a few weeks or months. But for others, depression is a long-term companion. In about 20% to 30% of people who have an episode of depression, the symptoms don't entirely go away.
However, many are rushed in the process of healing. It is understandable that all involving parties long for a swift recovery. But those who suffer may find it not only a difficult goal to achieve, but also a lonely battle they must fight alone.
Looking on the bright side, it isn’t rare that many living with depression still find deep joy and meaning in between and sometimes during episodes of suffering. As Katelyn described, these journeys are indeed war-like; nonetheless, we must also acknowledge that there are victories despite the casualties.
We recommend you to check out stories under #Emotions&Stories in the CandleX official account to further read about adults who manage to both live with depression and appreciate life for its beauty.
“An Overview of Depression Recovery.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/depression/recovery-overview.
“Living Well with Serious Mental Illness.” SAMHSA, www.samhsa.gov/serious-mental-illness.