This holiday season, I, unfortunately, contracted COVID-19 (No worries! I was vaccinated!). But, I did have to cancel my plans to see my family for the first time since 2016. However, I can’t say for sure it would’ve gone as well as I hoped since there’s a reason we haven’t seen each other since 2016.
Since November, I’ve chalked my bad attitude up to seasonal depression; it’s safe to say it’s not just a season, it’s all 121 episodes of Glee. I am luckily a die-hard Glee fan, and even though it has been removed from Netflix, I have the entire series on DVD with actor interviews included.
As easy as it is for me to joke about my depression, it has become considerably debilitating. As a junior in high school, I feel the need to take on more than I can handle because I have high expectations for myself, and it’s difficult for me to assess my own limits. Where these expectations came from, I don’t know. As an only child, I have always been independent, and sometimes my need to prove myself to others takes on a life of its own. Earlier this year, I asked a friend of mine if starting all of these clubs might be too much; his response was that we should keep going until we break down. I have broken down. After performing as Myrtle in The Great Gatsby with no prior acting experience, I skipped the cast party after a week of being intolerable to everyone who encountered me. I have since made amends with the people I have been too honest with, but nevertheless, spiraled into a deep burrow of guilt. I spent the night of my final show crying and asking my friends, ‘why is it that I have no friends?’ The irony passed me by.
It’s easy to fall into a pit of grief when you wear yourself so thin. As someone who sees independence as the greatest virtue, I’ve found that the best way to protect yourself is to perform a series of checks each day when you feel the depression creeping back in, because as comforting as the sadness may be, I truly want to be happy, and I know others do too.
For grounding, each morning, even when it feels unnecessary, for a solid week after a stressful event, ask yourself:
Where am I?
What time is it?
Did I have any strange dreams?
What is bothering me today?
Do I have any specific feelings? What are they? Why? What do they remind me of? What are three good things related to these feelings?
What are three things that make me happy?
What are three things I would like to accomplish today?
Prioritization is key when it comes to staying calm. I have gone through instances of being overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done to the point where I do nothing, only fueling my stress. Doing nothing is never a waste of time if it brings peace to mind, but often, for me, it does not.
I find it easiest to organize my to-do list by what has the closest deadline, and then from there, I pick out the easiest things and attempt to accomplish them one at a time. Remember to reward yourself by watching an episode of Glee, specifically season two (or whatever show you enjoy).
While the New Year has officially started, if you can’t shake your bad behaviors, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Everyone is struggling to bring an end to their bad habits. The greatest gift you can give yourself, whether you had a happy holiday season or not, is the gift of patience. In the words of some genius who most certainly is not me, healing isn’t linear. One bad day doesn’t terminate your progress.
It’s been difficult for me to stop being angry with myself for what I see as a waste of time. But it helps me to remember that putting duct tape over a broken window doesn’t mend it. It only keeps the wind out and holds the pieces together a little longer. But someday, that piece of tape will wear out, and the glass will need to be remade.
After grief, a challenging experience, off days or weeks, remember that human beings are fragile, and your pain is the most extraordinary proof of that. You can’t paint over wounds and hope they will change color. Any pain requires time and the willingness to understand its reasons to heal. Listen to your feelings and your body. Be gentle, know your limits, and take care of yourself.
Julia, New Jersey