Conquering my anxiety and depression. The thought alone of doing that terrified me. For so many years, my anxiety and depression have kept me from living life to my fullest capacity and I’m realizing how much I missed out on. I decided to make this summer different from every other day that I’ve lived so far.

I initially made the goal of doing three things each week outside of my comfort zone. It’s allowed me to see just how introverted I am. In the times where I wanted to do more and my curiosity was crying out for something new, I allowed my mental illnesses to restrict me in every way. Now I know what you’re thinking. “You’re not allowing it! It happens. That’s just how your brain works.” You’re right. It is how my brain works. But after countless hours of overanalyzing myself, having internalized debates on logic and reason and trying to understand where and how my emotions fit in between it all, I realized that many days, I just gave up and didn’t even try to push past those things. I allowed my anxiety and depression to become defense mechanisms. The downward spiral of asking “what if”, moments of self-deprecating thoughts leading into “what’s the point?”. I was growing tired of it. I felt like I was at war with my mind and the person that I wanted to be. The person who I knew I could be.

I had a late start but 4 weeks ago, I decided to venture out and attend a writers’ workshop on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan. I didn’t know anyone, I don’t have any friends that were able to go with me, and I was terrified. I recalled a time in my life where I would do things independently and not even question who would be there. I missed those days. So I signed up for the event on Eventbrite and I showed up and wrote my heart out for 45 minutes. It was the first time (in a very long time) that I shared my writing and a special part of myself with a group of strangers. I felt free again. I’ve wanted to do something like that for so long but I just didn’t know where to start. So I let my fears consume me. In that moment, I was able to escape every one of them.

I didn’t go to the writers workshop for two weeks in a row. I had a hard time fighting to get out of bed. I felt myself beginning to wallow and I needed a push but didn’t know where to find one. I check and clear my emails daily. I actually get anxious knowing that I have so many unread notifications yet at the same time I often forget to respond. That’s something I’ve learned about myself during this journey of self discovery. I came across an email from the instructor of the workshop. He expressed how he wanted make sure that I was doing well. I briefly shared how I was feeling and made a promise to show up for the next two writing sessions. I pride myself on never breaking promises to people and as anxious as even uttering those words made me, I kept it. I didn’t want to let myself or anyone else who was rooting for me down.

This past Sunday I showed up and I had a great time. After we all shared what we wrote, we decided to go out for ice cream. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing and I don’t regret doing it. I had such a great time with new people who had the same interests as me. We even talked about mental health and how we were all battling similar things.

Fast-forward about an hour later, one of the writers I met from the workshop, Kritika, who was visiting from India, asked if I wanted to get something to eat for dinner with her. I figured this could be another opportunity to really branch out from that comfort zone of mine. We arrived at the Kati Roll Company, yet another place from my past where I had good memories, and went further into the discussion of depression. We talked about how we’ve been able to cope with what we’ve learned about ourselves. It was a bonding moment that I didn’t realize I needed. To share something so personal with someone I had just met, outside of the realms of traditional talk therapy or counseling, was refreshing. She told me about Vipassana and how it helped her find peace. When we said our goodbyes, I felt overwhelmed by sadness, knowing that it may be years before I see her again. We exchanged numbers and promised to stay in contact.

On my way home, I took some time to really look up into what Vipassana was and I found a few places that offer these meditative trips. They typically last for 10 days and while you are surrounded by other people, it’s done in silence. I’ve never experienced anything like that before but the more I thought about it, I came to terms with how much I needed something like that. The waitlist for the upcoming trip is really long but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to go. Hope. That’s something I thought I lost sight of. I’ll admit that in this past month alone, I have felt every emotion that I thought I’d never be able to feel again. Feelings that I recalled from joyful and also traumatic events from my past. Feelings that I truly believed I had gotten over when in fact, I just managed to suppress them to the point of forgetting.

I’m learning myself and I’m realizing how much patience I deserve to have. For myself, for my mind, for my emotions, for everything that I am connected to in some way. I may not be able to win every day when it comes to battling my anxiety and depression but it’s damn sure worth the effort to try.