A Year Later (Personal Wellness Post)

A Year Later (Personal Wellness Post) April 10, 2022

A year ago, April 9th, 2021 was a rough but necessary day for my mental wellbeing. God pulled some strings to help me admit that my wellness had taken a massive hit. He also encouraged me to face the truth that I’ve been dealing with depression for several years.

Springtime Gloom

Last spring, I gradually became more aware of something wrong with my emotional well-being. I kept saying to myself and on Facebook that I was dealing with “seasonal affective disorder”. Looking back, I didn’t want to admit how depressed I was.

In hindsight, I’m glad I put all of that on Facebook. By posting those rough moments last year, I’ve been able to reread them in my Memories. I think that sometime around March, I started realizing how bad my mental health was at the time.

Part of it was our work situation. It was a rough transitional time after saying goodbye to my store manager of three years. Things were incredibly unstable, and we had a constant change of managers come in from other stores in the city.

Morale had taken a deep dive. Nobody knew what to expect, with every week bringing in different people and sometimes aggravating challenges. That level of unpredictability was crushing.

On top of that, we were all experiencing varying levels of pandemic burnout. As retail workers, we oscillated between stress over the virus and feeling like we had no more motivation.

April Tears

My emotional distress skyrocketed when April came around.

Earlier in January last year, two people I dearly love suffered a horrific personal tragedy. They made the brave choice to go public about it during the first week of April. Even though I’d already known about their loss, it was heartbreaking reading their testimony.

I remember how numb I’d been feeling since the start of 2021, after losing an old church friend to COVID-19. Somehow, me reading my loved ones’ testimony did something to break through my numbness.

After reading it, the next day at work, I came across a t-shirt somebody had placed up front. The words on that t-shirt were an unfortunate dead ringer for the tragedy my loved ones were healing from. Although the text on the shirt was completely innocent, reading it led to me having my first emotional breakdown at work.

It was like the universe had put it there to make me weep. My coworkers were amazing and comforted me after telling them why I’d broken down crying. It was terrifying feeling so vulnerable like that, but they were a rock for me.

Dream Grief

That same week, I had an upsetting dream based on two characters from American Horror Story: Apocalypse. In this dream, Michael and Cordelia, two of the main characters, were living together. Cordelia had taken Michael under her wing in a bid to help him see the good in himself.

Michael was emotionally exhausted and in a fragile state of mind. Either Cordelia or somebody else had scrawled an uplifting message on one of the walls in his bedroom. But in this dream, the Devil maliciously rearranged the words into something unsettling and likely cruel. It crushed Michael’s spirit, whatever the new message was.

Cordelia ran upstairs to his room just as Michael started to break down. He wearily told her something along the lines of, “It would be better if I’d never been born.” Cordelia shouted in response, “No! I’m not giving up on you!”

I woke up feeling sad, but only because of the story and the dream. At the time, I had no reason to assume that it had been anything other than a normal dream. Something about the plot unsettled me, but I didn’t want to dwell on it.

April 9th

When April 9th came, I was wiped out. It was a Friday, and it had been an emotionally turbulent week between that upsetting dream and seeing that t-shirt. No longer did I feel emotionally numb, and I knew that, for better or worse, I was capable of fully feeling my pent-up anguish.

At that time, the pieces of the depression puzzle had fallen perfectly into place. After realizing that I’d been clinging to old trauma-survival coping mechanisms, I had to consciously let go of my “people pleaser” mentality. It was terrifying, and it gave me a brief existential crisis because I’d held onto it for so long.

By Friday the 9th, I’d been reanalyzing the last five years of my life up to that point. I remembered how low I’d felt during my last year at college and how I heard myself wearily tell God that I wanted to die. I’ve never struggled with suicidal thoughts, but the despair over not knowing what the future holds has always conflated my emotional distress.

Back then, I’d been terrified that I’d made a mistake, that I would never find a writing job using my English major. Last year, that anguish came back after my constant efforts to find a new job fell flat. It was like things had come full circle.

Towards the end of my day shift, I had alone time that helped me meditate. My thoughts went back to that dream about Michael and Cordelia and what he’d said to her about his despair. Something in me clicked, and I finally realized that what he’d said was my depression echoing in my dreams.

Crashing Down

It was all I could manage to not break down sobbing on the sales floor when this realization hit me. There was no more denying the reality that I’d been dealing with untreated depression for five years. Coming to terms with the full reality of that emotional pain was crippling.

Everything came grinding to a halt for me at that moment. All I wanted to do was quit on the spot, run home and shut myself away from the world until I’d finished processing this realization. My thoughts were an anguished whirlwind, and I came dangerously close to dwelling on suicidal thoughts.

One of my coworkers randomly came up to me to tell me about the praise a customer had spoken about me. That alone was an uplifting surprise. But then, she said to me, “You’d be dearly missed.”

That was the tipping point for my tears. I wept more out of gratitude than anguish, touched by this surprise. It felt like God had spoken through her to anchor me during that awful afternoon. It worked, and I’ll always be grateful for this blessing.

The Sun Will Rise

When I went to bed that night, God gave me a cinematic dream about finding hope even in the lowest of moments.

The scene from this dream that I remember the most was when my “dream character” stood by a body of water by her city, weeping in despair. Her father came to her, cried with her, and gave her powerful words of hope and courage that helped her face her fears.

I think that both this father and Cordelia from the other dream were incarnations of God speaking to me. Both times, they expressed a strong, protective desire to watch over me and encourage me.

Just as he finished his rousing speech to me, the Sun rose over the water, igniting it into a dazzling sight. This wondrous sight looked a bit like this lucky beach sunrise I’d taken a few years ago:

Image by Connor Brennan

With both her father’s encouragement and the sunrise lifting her up, my dream character went off to face her enemy. She flew over the waters and clashed with the demonically-possessed woman that had been hunting her. Her best friend came to her aid with a bottle of holy water, and together, they defeated their opponent. St. Michael and St. Gabriel, the Archangels, freed the woman, seized the fiend that had tormented her, and sent it back to Hell.

Renewed Hope

Later that Sunday, after feeling like a zombie at a family gathering, I decided to ask my doctor for help. My family cheered me on, reminding me that they were there for me like they’ve always been. A few days later, I got to talk with my doctor, and she helped me get on Wellbutrin, a great antidepressant.

This little blue pill turned out to be more like the “red pill” from The Matrix.

Just on the first day, taking my Wellbutrin freed me from much of my anguish. I could feel everything I needed to feel without being overwhelmed by my emotions. On top of that, I gained crystal-clear awareness of how miserable I’d felt for months at my job.

Once I started taking Wellbutrin, I gained a deeper appreciation for nature. Somehow, taking pictures or video footage of the beautiful things I saw around me helped me stay grounded. Encountering wildlife became something magical for me.

Image by Connor Brennan

One of the most beloved encounters I had last year was with my “neighborhood bunny”. This adorable fellow showed up in the exact same spot on my walk to work, twice in one week. When this bunny saw me approaching on the sidewalk, instead of scampering away, they hunkered down and seemingly posed for me.

I wonder, is this the same joy St. Francis of Assisi felt when he interacted with wildlife?

Rising Up

Last year, before I got the help I needed for my depression, I couldn’t imagine a positive future. It didn’t help that we’d only begun getting ourselves vaccinated and having a defense against the pandemic. On top of that, it felt pointless trying to get a new job when I kept getting ghosted despite my best efforts like so many other job candidates.

I kept denying the reality of my depression until it practically blew up in my face. I’d seen and felt the signs, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit the truth for whatever reasons I had.

Looking through my dream journal entries leading up to April 9th, I’ve realized that my dreams had repeatedly warned me that I wasn’t doing ok. There were multiple dreams about me desperately searching for hope in the middle of crushing despair.

After I’ve spent time understanding the signs of depression, I’ve had a much easier time managing my symptoms. Here’s a supremely helpful video on this by my favorite mental health YouTube channel, Psych2Go:

After accepting that my job was constantly fueling my symptoms, I put my foot down and quit in December. It was one of the bravest and scariest things I’ve ever done for myself.

When the new year came, I believed in myself and asked the editors here at Patheos if I could join the community as a writer. They said yes, and here I am!

For so long, I beat myself up for not getting a writing career right after graduating from college five years ago. But now, I understand that God meant for me to be in other places before coming here as a Patheos writer. God’s always been faithful to me, especially how He’s helped me face my depression. A year ago, I never could’ve predicted escaping my old job for something uplifting like this.

My depression kept clouding things, preventing me from seeing hope in the future. I’m forever grateful to God, the people in my life, and Wellbutrin for helping me get where I am today.

Friends, never forget that even Elijah the Prophet once begged God to let him die. Depression is far more common than we think, and there’s no shame in asking for help. You are loved, and the world is so much better with you in it.

Peace be with you, friends, wherever you are.

Featured Image by Connor Brennan

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