Mindful Journeys: My life changed a year ago

Anniversaries are usually celebrated and looked upon as joyous. Dates, weddings, how long you’ve worked at a job. Anniversaries can also have a bittersweet feeling, such as how many years someone you’ve loved has passed. For me, I have a lot of feelings about an unexpected anniversary that happened a year ago.

I went to bed on April 23, 2023 feeling off, but I brushed it off assuming it was the stress of finals. I woke up in the middle of the night, nauseated and sweating. As someone who pushes through colds to go to class, I stayed home sick that day despite the sweat and nausea fading as I went back to bed. The uneasy feelings stayed throughout the rest of the week. My head felt bogged down, I didn’t want to eat or participate in activities I used to enjoy and every day felt like I could die at some point. It took me two weeks of suffering before I went to a doctor and found out I had a general anxiety disorder with a major depressive episode. 

It would be another two and a half months before I saw a therapist and got on medication. During that time, I had to go about my days on an absolute roller coaster. I could go a couple of days feeling perfectly fine and others when as soon as I opened my eyes, I wished I was going to sleep. Getting out of bed seemed to be the hardest thing I had to do each day, not knowing how I would be feeling later on. 

While I consider myself lucky to have never had suicidal thoughts, there were several days when I didn’t feel like life was worth living anymore and hundreds of reasons why I was feeling this way floated through my mind. I had so much going for me in my life up until that point: a good career path, amazing friends and family and much optimism for where my life was heading. It was taken away from me overnight. 

Cut to where I am a year after anxiety changed my life. It’s completely altered the way I view life. Anxiety, while it had been a part of my life albeit not as bad, made me realize how grateful I was to finally experience good days. There is no yin without yang and to fully appreciate the good, you have to go through the bad. It’s made me realize how important mental health can affect your physical health and that finding healthy ways to cope is just another way of discovering more about yourself. It’s also made me resilient and built up my mentality to tackle whatever life could throw my way. 

I’ll admit, not every day feels like I won. There have been several days where I’ve masked my feelings, telling everyone I was fine when that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I’m no stranger to crying myself to sleep or laying in bed staring into the dark with my mind racing. On the days when it’s tough, I realize I’ve made it through every hard day in my past. I turn to my support system and they make me feel safe and comforted. Even though I’m in a much different place than I was a year ago, I’m still learning how to navigate my life like this and it’s likely to be a lifelong journey. 

To those who have read my column throughout this year and may be going through their own mental health struggles, know you aren’t alone and you haven’t seen the best days of your life yet. If I had chosen to give up, there are so many memories I would have missed out, people I wouldn’t have met and battles I’ve defeated. Your mental health is not what defines you or controls your life. There is always someone there for you and you can get through it.

Header photo: (Emma Johnson/The Reporter)

Write to Emma Johnson at Emma.johnson.5@mnsu.edu

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