This photo marked the first week of the road to my recovery of a summer that shook me to pieces. It was a summer I didn’t know if I could, or wanted to live through. It was one of major depression and literally crippling anxiety. This photo represents the woman who conquered that summer but still had a ways to go. This was a person ready to gather her courage and pick up those pieces.
Some of you have been with me since at least last summer. Last summer I spoke about my battle with anxiety and confronted the stigma for myself that depression did indeed plague my life at the time. Speaking out about my struggles helped me heal as I realized so many others struggle with it and so many were coming to me with loving words and we were able to help each other in a small way. Then...if you couldn’t tell, I just stopped all that talk. I stopped posting as often, and personally I shut down a little.
This post isn’t about bringing up the crazy summer I had of mental instability, but of how I coped with life after, and what steps I took to allow the grasps of anxiety and depression to loosen. Last August was the beginning of putting my mental health into balance.
What did I do? I slowed WAY down. I was seeing a therapist, trying to better communicate with my loved ones, and not focus so much on my artwork.
I stopped being on my phone so much, and at this point had unfollowed anyone who would make me feel less about myself and rarely looked at my feed. I took time for myself to do more yoga and really just relax. I am the type of person to pile on expectations for myself and to pile on the projects because the stress of getting those things done was almost exciting to me. For that reason (and of course others) the anxiety started to creep in. So I striped everything away and got back to the basics.
The first month of healing was really hard because I took it to the extreme and did nothing. I wouldn’t paint as much, I watched a ton of Netflix, slept all day and felt barely responsive. Slowly my feelings of daily anxiety was gone but the depression was lingering. From there I slowly built my days with things I know make me happy even if I didn’t feel like doing them, I had to take a big step back in my life to take a step forward. It’s a refining process. I painted when I didn’t want to but having finished pieces motivated me to keep going. To enjoy the process again.
Well, throughout the whole Winter and Spring, I started feeling myself again. I found myself genuinely laughing at things, and motivated to do things. I found myself easily smiling again. I started really working out in February and still am. I’m loving it. I’m surfing again because I want to, and not just forcing it.
I’m still taking it slow by not getting on my phone everyday and posting (even though I know that if I post everyday my following will grow), I’m not piling on the art projects and even have turned down some opportunities for art/travel to keep the stress levels down and anxiety at bay. And during all of this stripping down and building back up I’m finding such gratitude for those that were there for me during that time and who still are there for me. I’m finding newfound gratitude for the simple things in life and not taking those small happy moments for granted.
I am in no way healed, as anyone who has gone through a traumatic life experience or someone with mental health struggles could ever really be 100%, but I am happy with the progress I’ve made. The road to healing isn’t perfect and I won’t say go at it alone because when you stumble you will want someone there to catch you. Cue my amazing husband and man that has been by my side every single day.
I wish I could just sign off this post and say yay me, all is well goodbye! Nope! Ha. Just a few nights ago I started feeling it creep back in. Where my mind races and my heart starts to feel empty and that feeling travels down to my stomach. I can’t/don’t want to sleep. This was the beginning of the feelings I was having last summer. This nightly anxiety leads to slower days, less of an appetite and more stress all together. Maybe I thought all was good and dandy and that I wouldn’t feel these feelings anymore, but that was naive of me. I am confronting it head on this time with not looking at my phone an hour before bed time, taking lavender bath salt baths, starting to move into that space of self-care and most importantly talking about it the moment I feel it happening. I feel the feelings of negativity fading again as I am more conscious and more balanced this time around.
I think I will always be healing in one way or another, but I want to hear from those that have dealt with any form of anxiety or depression. How do you not let this impact your loved ones? How do you make that feeling go away? How do you let light in, and are you able to then shine your light outwards?
Thanks for reading, thanks for being there for me, hope in some small way I can be a help to you. So much love.
(Thank you for these wonderful photos Abish! We love your work!)