How I Feel the Best I Can Despite My Struggles with Depression and Anxiety
“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” ~John Green
I remember being fifteen. I was a high school freshman who loved drawing, books, Harry Potter, and Taylor Swift. I hated math class with a passion. I had a loving family and a small white dog named Maddie. I wanted to be a writer, and to have a boyfriend. I also wanted to die.
It started in seventh grade, when my best friend, Meghan, dumped me. You hear about romantic breakups all the time, but no one seems to talk about friendship breakups. They hurt a lot. This person who you thought would be by your side in life suddenly isn’t.
I remember the phone call. It was a January night in 2007. We were fighting, as usual. We’d been fighting for a while by then. About what, that particular night, I can’t remember. I do remember, though, her pausing, then saying those words that changed everything: “I don’t think we should be best friends anymore.”
I remember feeling shocked that she’d say that. Then angry. I replied with a quick “fine then” before hanging up the phone. Then the pain hit. I went into my parents’ room, crawled into bed beside my mom, and cried.
I’d never felt this kind of pain before. There was a lot of emotion going through me, but the biggest thing that stuck out was a feeling of betrayal and loss.
We’d been best friends since first grade. Seven years. We were supposed to get through middle school together, then go on to high school and share the experiences of prom and homecoming games. We were supposed to help one another through the stress of SATs and college applications. And then we were supposed to tackle adulthood together.
There had been a comfort in trusting I’d have one person beside me as I went through life. Now that comfort was gone, and I felt abandoned. A more pressing matter hit me too. How was I going to get through the next day of school without her?
School became hard. She had been my only friend. Sure, I’d had other friends growing up, but those friendships had naturally fizzled out or the girls had switched schools. I tried to make new friends. Some lasted a little while, but ultimately, none panned out. I was looking for that lifelong friend. Such a friendship, I began to learn, though, was rare.
I started to feel hopeless. School was lonely. My social life was nonexistent. I felt isolated and became depressed. As my ex-best friend seemed to thrive in her new friend group, I sank deeper into depression. Finally, I hit a breaking point and began a journey to treat my clinical depression.
I went through treatment in a psychiatric hospital followed by an outpatient program. The psychiatric hospital was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I felt so alone and trapped there. I didn’t feel a connection with the other patients and just wanted to go home.
I’d spend most of my time crying or trying to sleep, hoping that when I woke up, I’d be back in my room, with its bright pink walls and Twilight posters, and in my own comfy bed. When I was finally released, I went on to an outpatient program.
In the outpatient program, I met kind and compassionate people. We were all going through our own mental health struggles, and I began to feel less alone. I started opening up, and after about a month, I was ready to go back to school.
Going back was challenging. I felt anxious that people would ask where I’d been for the last month. No one did, though. For the most part, I was left alone, which was good, but at the same time, incredibly lonely.
I got through high school the best I could and then went on to college, where things started to get better. I began to thrive academically and got a job as a children’s library assistant in a public library. I met a good friend through work and decided to pursue a master’s in library science to become a children’s librarian. Eventually, I landed a full-time job as a youth services librarian. I then met my current boyfriend and fell in love.
I still deal with episodes of depression, usually triggered by feelings of loneliness and isolation. There are times when I wish I had more friends, more people to turn to when things aren’t going right in my life. But I’ve learned to recognize when depression symptoms crop up—decreased energy, feelings of hopelessness, and a loss of interest in things I usually enjoy—and start addressing them immediately. I get outside in nature, spend time with my dog, and lean on the people I do have in my life.
I also still struggle with anxiety at times. Some mornings, I wake up and don’t want to go to work because the anxiety is so consuming. I worry about what will go wrong that day. I worry about how I will handle it if something goes wrong. It’s hard for me to stay present, to focus on the here and now.
Thanks to therapy, though, and the tools I’ve learned in it, I’m able to push myself to go to work on those anxiety-filled days, and it’s never that bad.
Sometimes things do go wrong, like I forget to cut out enough craft supplies for a program, or a patron is unhappy about something, but I always handle it. I try to remember those moments when anxiety lands her claws in me, to remind myself that even though I feel like I can’t handle the day, I can.
I’ve come a long way from that fifteen-year-old girl. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but I know how to handle it. I practice yoga and deep breathing to stay calm. I tune into my five senses when I’m caught up in my head and struggling to stay mindful. I go to therapy once a week and take medication. I do what I have to do to feel the best I can. That’s all any of us can do.
About Marianne Brennan
Marianne Brennan is a writer and children’s librarian. She has a master’s in Library Science from St. John’s University, and a BA in Literature from Ramapo College. Besides writing, Marianne enjoys yoga, hiking, art, and spending time with her family, friends, boyfriend, and dogs Abby and Paula. You can find more of her writing on her blog at https://www.mariannebrennanwrites.com/