Okay so. This is a tough one. I talked about sharing what I’ve been (and currently still am) going through and although most people gave a positive answer to my question (whether I should do it), it’s still difficult…
I want to share, partly because it helps to talk and write about it, partly because I want to help people going through similar situations. It often feels as if you’re the only one feeling bad, feeling like you’re the only one dealing with stuff that doesn’t really cheer you up. And it sometimes seems that it’ll never be okay again. I know this feeling all to well. And I know this will surprise quite a lot of people because hey, it’s me. Stephanie, always, well, almost always, smiling, laughing, joking. Dancing around at work, singing along to the songs that I’ve heard a bazillion times before that day. Most people know that Stephanie. There’s not a lot that know this other one, the one that’s been struggeling for a couple of years now.
WARNING! This is a long story. This is about me, my depression and how it got so far. I’m not sharing this in the hope of getting sympathy or having people feel sorry for me. This is because I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. I want to break through the invisible wall, the box keeping all the bad things cropped up inside. This is for me, but also for everyone out there struggling with their own problems. For everyone feeling alone in their pain, and for everyone who needs to share. If you do not care, PLEASE do not continue reading. Don’t read it just to make me happy. Read it because you want to know more about the girl behind the smile. And most of all. Keep in mind that it’s still me. I haven’t changed. You will just know more.
And for everyone out there feeling the same, please, feel free to share. It helps knowing you’re not alone.
Where to start though? It’s difficult for me to tell my story in such a way people understand what I’m going through. I’ll be writing in English because somehow, every time I try expressing myself, this is the language my brain switches to. Weirdoooo!
It started years ago. Well. I think it did. I can’t really put my finger on an exact moment in time where the road downhill started. I think I always had a bit of an inclination to what is going on now, it just never really manifested. Everything had to be good. I had to be the best. Failing was never an option. If I had exams or tests, I studied my ass off. I’m smart and I know it, but because of my massive insecurity and lack of confidence, I studied and studied and always stressed like crazy. Even after taking an exam I’d still feel stressed out, because, OMG, I should have put this down, or I think I got that question wrong. Back then (14 – 18 years old) I could deal with it though. I had good grades, had fun, had my hobbies.
Then I started university. Linguistics at KU Leuven. I never doubted my choice, this is what I wanted to do. I never ever had any second thoughts about it, this is where I belong. My first year went really good. Second year was okay, but I started missing classes because I fell sick quite often. I got a bit behind in Spanish, and I think that was kinda the real tip off.
I got chronic headaches (I had always been prone to it, but since a couple of years I have a chronic one. Still going strong in that department.) and went to several neurologists and specialists. They did all kinds of tests and scans, but couldn’t really find the culprit. Combine this with migraines and headaches coming from my neck (Thank you, 14 years of ballet classes! 😉 ) and you have yourself a nonestop hurting head.
It was in fourth year that I really started having trouble. I felt horrible and out of place, feeling scared to go to class in fear of being ‘the stupid one’. And well. If I missed one class, it just became a vicious circle. I couldn’t go to the next one, because I missed my first one, so I wouldn’t be able to follow what they would be saying. Yeah, I know how it must sound. Most people don’t really understand how this came to be. But being a perfectionist, I had to do good. For myself I raised the bar so high, it felt as if I shouldn’t even try anymore because how the hell would I get there?
The second semester of my fourth year, I became just. Lost. I couldn’t get out of bed because I felt so bad, but I blamed the constant migraines and headaches. For months I didn’t do anything except stay in bed and feel horrible. Summer came and I decided that I wanted to try again. I matriculated in Linguistics again, Spanish and English. At this point it was just Spanish that kept giving my a hard time. I had almost everything I needed from English, so dammit, I could do this!
Turned out I couldn’t. Well. Maybe I could have. But because of my own pride and the fact that never before had I needed help to get something done, I waited to long. In the second semester of my fifth year at KUL I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with a burnout and a pretty bad depression. I got medication that has helped me so far and talking about everything really helped. I felt a bit better, saw everything a bit brighter and asked the KUL for another chance. This time in Dutch instead of Spanish.
My sixth year at KUL. It turned out great. I started with a fresh mind, all set for the new year. I was positive and hopeful. I really liked my classes and was really good at it. I think now that maybe I should have gone with Dutch from the start, knowing what I know now but well… We can’t really turn back time, right?
Christmas approached. Exams came near. And I completely froze. I just. 2 weeks of studying, constantly thinking; OMG, what am I doing, why can’t I just study, I will never know all this stuff, I ‘ll never be able to do this. I did study though, and although I knew my exams wouldn’t be great, I really expected to at least have passed one.
And I didn’t.. This is when it happened again. After getting my results during the second semester, I just. I couldn’t anymore. I tried, I swear I did. I went to classes, I did the assignments (really well, I might add, I got compliments from my professors!) but it was not enough. I couldn’t bring myself to do the work necessary anymore.
Somehow it just… It felt like I did the work, my life literally stuck on hold for this, feeling completely miserable and having no energy to do anything remotely fun. I tried to take the exams in summer and I got sick for more than 3 weeks. I went to our doctor and he just kinda told me point blank: your body can’t take this anymore. You are so stressed out, stuck in your depression that you don’t have any resilience against diseases left. It’s to tired to fight the stupid cold, with than turned into a fullblown cough-fest.
A bit later, my mum asked me: Do you even still want this? And at this point I just started crying. They never made me go to univerisity, this was my choice. Just as it was my choice to keep on trying and not give up. I wanted it because, what the hell am I going to do without a degree? Everyone, and I mean everyone, expects me to have finished university and to have a degree. They all know I ‘m smart enough, and they just assume that I finished my school with flying colours.
I can’t really blame people for that, because it’s always been what I expected would happen. How the hell do you except the fact that… your body just can’t handle the pressure of school, exams and whatever else anymore? How the hell do you stop studying after 6 years of hard work, without any proof of what you’ve accomplished? Especially in our society, this is the hardest part. Whatever you do, wherever you go, they don’t ask about you and what you can do? No, they ask about your degree, and your accomplishments. They don’t care about how good my English is, or how well I understand Spanish, I don’t have proof I studied, so I’m not good enough.
An example for this is: I work at Hollister. Abercrombie and Hollister have a MIT (manager in training) program. Multiple collegues have told me that I would be great at being a manager, and that I would be a great canditate for the program. Not me asking, but them just telling me. I applied and all I got was: you don’t have a degree. The ‘bosses’ didn’t even want to know anything else.
I know that this is just one situation, but it is something that you see a lot. I feel bad about it, because I believe I would be great at it, and it would be a good opportunity. I don’t really know what else I would like to do, I used to think I could be a teacher, or maybe do what my mom does. But after my experience at Hollister, I feel I want to sta in that sector. Like, the Paris Fashion Week tradeshow I went to? That feels like something I would be good at!
Anyway. This was a long one. I just. Depression is a difficult thing to deal with. I didn’t even know I had one, before it was too late. It just creeps up on you and than one day, getting out of bed just feels like the biggest thing ever. My depression came from my immense fear of failure. I don’t let myself fail, which means that often I don’t even let myself try, for it feels as if I’m setting myself up for failure. In the end, this is exactly what I do.
It was very hard to get help, and in the end, I’m very glad I did. Right now I’m still going to a therapist and I’m trying to figure out what’s gonna be next. I feel very lucky to have my parents support me in whatever I do, so I’m very grateful for that. I am smart. I am strong. And one way or another, I’m gonna beat this thing.
Note: It’s not that I don’t have any joy or anything. It’s difficult to describe. Sometimes it just. It pops up. Like this weekend. I was at the movies with my brother and his girlfriend and suddenly I just felt the panick attack coming on. I spent all Sunday in bed, feeling absolutely crappy and ready to cry, watching series to forget about the bad feeling. Today (Monday)? I got up and felt okay again. Typed this post, typed some other posts, put up pictures in my room and just. Tried to forget about the uggliness. I have my ups and downs.
Okay so. If you have any questions, let me know. If you want to share your story, go right ahead. Please don’t be mean. I’ve had my share of ‘Oh get over yourself and just start studying’, ‘Just do it, grab your books and study’, ‘Why don’t you just go to class, there’s no problem, right?’. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be in this pickle, now would I? ^^
Enjoy your night, and thanks for reading.