Our next submission comes from another dear friend of ours, miss Ashleigh Davids.
I was a depressed teen and adolescent. As a result, I had a few mediocre years according to my own standard. Most people thought I was doing fine, great even. Besides the harrowing pain and anguish, I managed to pursue fragments of myself which were enough to get me ahead in some respects, but not enough to make me whole and well.
I’m sorry if this blog post makes surviving and thriving with mental illness seem easy or simple. It is complex, intricate and difficult to do. It means different things to all of us. But lately, as I caught a glimpse of tell-tale signs hinting at another bout of depression over the horizon, I realized that I am proud of myself and thankful for the forces which have collided so far to bring a peace the world does not give me.
My kinship with mental wellness began with faith and ultimately, self care. I live without a diagnosis and I’m deeply thankful for the persistent hope which has been embedded in me despite my imbalances. Though there are no longer suicidal thoughts and extended periods of low, matted life – it is still important for me to look after myself. Even when “self-care” is no longer on trend and pop culture is back on a work-horse, grind loving, hustle hard wagon.
Am I the only one who has watched how pop culture romanticizes self-care? A box of chocolates, a long bath, retail therapy, beauty treatments… I enjoy each of those things but making them the poster child for self-care would mean something weird. It would mean that I wasn’t privvy to self-care when I did not have those things or that it is more about the fun pleasures of indulgence than it is about the necessity thereof. I’m not just taking the afternoon off to sit by the beach because it’s has become a thing. If I don’t do it, I might very well have some nasty consequences to face tomorrow. It was not so long ago that we were bashing “self-help” books.
But I digress.
My father’s death in October 2015 made me aware of how I maintain my mental wellness, and though I am not on top of my game or short of flaws, I’m so blessed that I sat up and took stock of what was happening with me (not just to me) several years ago. I’m glad that I resisted stigma and didn’t brush off the signs and symptoms as a simple part of life’s complexities. I’m thankful that I picked up on the cycles, triggers and root causes of how my story was unfolding and acted on them in order to change its course. I am happy that I sometimes failed but ended up rich with knowledge of how I tick and how I could live well despite the presence of these delicate parts of me.
If I hadn’t initiated my own therapy and treatment by adopting principles, boundaries, habits, hobbies and routines which worked for my unique set of attributes, I’d probably be walking around in a few million pieces right now. Distraught, barely coping, hanging on for dear life, longing for help and getting nothing of the sort because our society is still so divided and oblivious about mental illness.
I can now make choices which will improve my state of mind and my quality of life. I can do things which build me up and refrain from anything which will deepen or lengthen my lows. I am not always confident and bold in these steps because of all the unlearning I have to do. Because sometimes I have to tell apart the exaggerated and the actual. Because sometimes I have to interrogate myself to be certain of what is real. And because sometimes I worry what other people will say and how my self-care will disintegrate into the rest of my community.
I don’t know if there will ever be a diagnosis or if I am content with what I know. I’m not sure if there will be medication or psychiatrists…but I know there will be self-love, self-care and all the support I can offer myself and others like me.
Ashleigh Davids is putting her own spin on lifestyle blogging at www.dalasini.co.za, a space she created while traveling to Malawi, Tanzania and New York for philanthropic activities. Ashleigh is a writer by heart and endeavours to publish more written work in future. She is self-employed as a personal assistant and dabbles in song and poetry. Ashleigh is also the founder of a work in progress support network called Writer’s Block which serves emerging writers. Recently engaged, Ashleigh is in the heart of her 20s experiencing the intersections of life we love to compartmentalize and reduce to black and white. Through her work, she would love to narrate and celebrate the complex yet enriching nuances of life.