I’m Living Proof: Shaun
So, I take it you’re depressed. This isn’t your first time being depressed, nor will it be your last. But something about this episode feels different, doesn’t it? You feel different. You’re confused. It’s okay. You’re reading this letter and that means this too shall pass, it always does.
If I know you and your depression, it’s probably sometime after 5 p.m. and you slept all day with the hope that your dream reality would somehow last forever, providing an escape from the reality that exists when you finally open your eyes and crawl out of bed in a lethargic haze, starting your day as the sun starts to set. You will probably have a cold shower, take the medication you’ve been prescribed and walk to a pizza store to eat your first meal of the day. It doesn’t matter what time you woke up, you’re up now. Take this letter to the floor next to your old blind pug and take a deep breath (and give him a hug – he won’t be around forever).
This is a pivotal chapter in your life. You’ve recently been diagnosed with Bipolar II, among other things. You had a hypomanic episode and dropped out of school in your last year. Now you’re at home living with your parents and in the midst of trialing different medications, searching for the combination that will provide you stability.
You no longer see the same Shaun when you look in the mirror. You aren’t sure who you see. You feel like your identity has changed, you are now officially “mentally ill.” Trust me when I say this, nothing has changed. You are the same Shaun you were a week ago, a year ago, and a year from now. You’ve always been Shaun, this diagnosis changes nothing. You are not your mental illness. This diagnosis is just a tool professionals use to help guide your treatment from now on.
Although it may feel like you are frozen in time, while all your friends progress in their careers and personal lives and you stay at home in bed all day, you are progressing on your mental health journey each day. Remember this quote whenever you feel like you aren’t where you should be in life: “comparison is the thief of joy.”
You are exactly where you are meant to be in life. In the grand scheme of things, this chapter is just a blip on the radar of life, albeit an important blip. You are in the process of finding the right treatment for you, a complicated process of trial and error. Trust in this process. Trust the professionals in your corner. You will find the right combination for you, thanks to an amazing support system.
You will soon see this diagnosis as a blessing and not a curse. You will wear this diagnosis as a badge on your chest with pride, being open and vulnerable in the hopes of showing others that they are not alone. You are not alone. This chapter of adversity you face ahead of you will only make you grow stronger and fuel the fire of your desire to advocate for mental illness.
Remember that mental health is a journey and not a destination, there is no medication or therapist that can flip a switch and ‘cure’ you. This is a lifelong journey full of peaks and valleys. While it may seem like two steps backwards and one step forward in the short term, when you zoom out and look at the big picture over the years, you are on a steady upwards trajectory, learning and growing through each chapter of adversity. Remember that you are not defined by your current episode, whether you are stable, depressed or manic, you are always Shaun and you are always capable of advocating for yourself and seeking help and support.
It is ironic that you are so vocal and such an advocate for mental health when you are up, but your first instinct is to isolate yourself as soon as you are down. Fight the demons that tether you to your bed and reach out to friends, family, and professionals. You are worth it.
Before I say goodbye and wish you good luck, take a look down at your wrist and look at your semicolon tattoo. You got this tattoo to remind yourself that this too shall pass. To remind yourself that you made a decision one night in your apartment in Calgary; you decided to choose life, to continue your story, to use a semicolon and not a period. You will have good days and bad days ahead of you. Life is messy. But you have a superpower. All you have to do is look down at your wrist and remember these words: “this too shall pass.” You are loved. You are worth it.
-Your 24-year-old self.
P.S. You should’ve chosen a different team to follow than the New York Jets when you were manic.
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I’m Living Proof Archive
I’m Living Proof created to share inspiration for young adults living with mood disorder. These archival posts represent the stories shared between 2015-2020.