The importance of embracing being alone

Photo by Casey Gomez

Earlier this fall as I was doing a routine scroll through my social media and emails — when I should have been doing something more productive — I realized that it was World Mental Health day. Seeing Facebook events and emails about this day had me begin to look back on my experiences with my own mental health and how those experiences shape the way I go through life today.

Two years ago in the fall semester of my sophomore year, I was faced with one of my most mentally and academically challenging semesters. I was taking 15 hours in an attempt to regain my HOPE scholarship as quickly as possible, I was taking on leadership roles in a few organizations and I was trying to maintain my relationships and a healthy social life. All of the effort and stress that came along with doing those things became overwhelming for me and put me in a state of depression and anxiety where I would spend most of my days either asleep or in my bed constantly thinking about how I was failing on all fronts in my attempts at a well-rounded life.

After a tough semester where I failed my first class and attempted to hurt myself in front of my friends, I gathered the courage I had and went to a psychiatrist. I had made a post on Reddit dumping my feelings and thoughts about my situation and so many people were quick to hear me, comfort me and advise me. One of the suggestions was to reach out to a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist.

I went into an appointment with a psychiatrist thinking that my lack of concentration throughout the semester was because of ADD, but I soon came to an understanding that it was because of my depression; there was an imbalance of chemicals in my brain that affected my life negatively. From there, I chose to start taking antidepressants to help with my illness and dropped my leadership positions so that I could focus more on myself and my recovery. As a result, the effects in the following semester were great: I was going to the gym routinely, I wouldn’t get triggered into a depressive episode as easily and I was socializing more with my peers.

However, as time passed through a summer semester abroad into the fall of 2018, I started to notice that the effects of my medication were weakening. I would spiral into a depressive train of thought including thoughts of suicide and anxieties about my social life. After doing some research about my situation, I found that this was such a normal occurrence that there were names for it: tachyphylaxis, also known as “Prozac Poop-out”. After hours of Googling suggestions and anecdotes on similar situations, I chose to quit my medication because I personally did not want to be dependant on the drug to live a happy and fulfilling life. The semester then became a journey in which I learned how to embrace my own company and enjoy being alone.

I spent a majority of my time in the fall 2017 semester alone in my apartment with my thoughts. Though I underwent symptoms of quitting antidepressants — including relapse of depressive episodes — I also began to become more comfortable spending time alone while not feeling lonely.

The idea of being alone became something that I found comfort in rather than one I feared. It’s freeing: I found ways to confront and process whatever thoughts go  on in my head and enjoy the time I had with myself as a method of self-help. From meditation and exercise to going to the movie theaters alone, treating myself has definitely proven helpful in recovery from my depression. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy spending time with others. I just learned how to enjoy spending time with myself as well.

Being at Tech is hard. We have to balance our social lives, our academics and our career paths. Juggling all of these aspects of our lives leaves little time for us to check up on our mental well being. But don’t settle for the “it really do be like that sometimes” solution. Find ways to cope with your thoughts whether it be through exercise, meditating or doing whatever it is that you feel like doing.

Figuring out which self help techniques works for you is a journey and can be trying at times, but it is worth it. Let World Mental Health Day and this editorial be a reminder to be aware and mindful of your own — and others’ — mental health.