anything but easy.

well, that title about sums up the entire premise of this post – but it feels necessary to write. only a sentence in and the words to write this are already hard to find, because there’s no easy way to talk about any of it. but that’s why it’s necessary to talk about.

i am currently 19 years old, and since i can physically remember knowing what depression was, ive known that i suffered from it.

i remember being in 7th grade, and already at that age, looking up the symptoms in my bedroom of depression and anxiety and feeling the familiar build in my chest at the realization of something i didn’t want to admit to myself was true.

only crazy people are depressed. my thoughts and problems aren’t worthy of a therapists time – these are the kind of things that everyone goes through – they have real problems to worry about.

i was vehemently against telling anyone that i was depressed. i didn’t want to tell my parents how bad the bads really got, because they saw my good. they saw me succeed, they saw me push myself, they saw me happy. they saw the class president, the team captain. my friends saw that too. as did friends, other parents, peers, teachers, you name it. acting like i had my shit together on the outside got to the point where it was so easy that even as an 8th grader, not even able to drive yet, sometimes i forgot too what was just under the surface.

because the roller coaster usually didn’t stop once it started going down. sad wasn’t just sad, it was debilitating. when the spells hit, they lasted days and weeks. and they typically came with the same panic attacks that i wouldn’t even admit to being panic attacks until years later, the disinterest, the paranoia, the loss of appetite, etc., but they also came with the thoughts.

you all know what thoughts i mean. the “what if’s”, the “maybes”, the numerous “whys”. i remember laying in bed on so many occasions working myself into a panic attack, with the recurring thought of why can i not be normal ringing through my ears.

this is not normal. other 14, 15, 16 year olds do not do this. why do i do this.

and after that, the guilt, because after all, i really had no right to feel this way. i was class president, i was invited to sleepovers, i had people that wanted to sit by me at lunch. boys always liked me, my Facebook posts got like, 30 likes (because in 2012 that was the epitome of popularity), and i played on the a-team for volleyball. i was literally everything i could’ve put myself up to be & this was still my reality, laying in bed at 3 am on a wednesday sobbing uncontrollably for a reason entirely indescribable.

and it wasn’t always 3 am on a wednesday. sometimes it was 2 pm on a monday, or after a good game, or walking down the hallway on any insignificant day. what they don’t tell you is that depression doesn’t give you a warning. there is no “ring for service” bell and it waits in a comfy chair, reading magazines until you’re in the comfort of your room, alone, and at least somewhat prepared to deal with it.

no, this is not depression. it barges in during science class and you have to excuse yourself to the restroom because you can literally feel the panic attack escaping from your chest. you feel it in church, in the locker room, getting ready for school, and getting ready for bed. you can feel it anywhere, at any time, and it does not apologize for interrupting, because depression is the ultimate consumer.

of happiness, of futures, of love, and of lives.

depression has robbed me again and again, for years. depression still continues to pick pocket me, just as a reminder to never forget it’s presence. there are still days that it gets the upper hand, and to lie would be saying that i have lived through days where i didn’t believe it would ultimately win the game. but to this day, it hasn’t. and to this day, it is the hardest damn game i have ever played in.

at 19 years old, i have suffered from depression and anxiety since at least the age of 14, formally being diagnosed as a sophomore in high school. since this point in my life, i have taken medication to assist with my depression and anxiety. this is something that i have been incredibly ashamed to share for the last 4 years, because in a way it still felt like a loss. i didn’t really get over it on my own. finally, am i coming around the idea that this has been the opposite of a loss. it has been an important step towards the most important win.

every day is a battle. numerous days go by sometimes without hiccup, while sometimes the same happens in regards to the bad. and i will be the first to tell you that i know it is not easy to talk. it isn’t easy to reach out, but it is worth it. as someone who feels this stuff every day of my life, when someone reaches out to me, the last thing i think is anything negative. i want to wrap them in the biggest hug in the world and remind them how much i love them, how much everyone loves them. i want to remind them how many dogs there are to pet in this world and how many funny videos there are to find on facebook and how beautiful sunflowers are and what it smells like outside right after it rains and how big their grandmas smile is when they come in the house and how if they weren’t here they wouldn’t get those beautiful little moments that make all of the rest worth it. these are your weapons in this battle, found in the most unlikely of places. this little “island-of-misfit-toys-like” compilation of happinesses has literally saved my life. find yours. find it, write it down, keep it in your pocket, hang it on your fridge, and read it every god damn day.

you can win this fight. you will have set back and little victories alike. you can and you will cross mountains and valleys, and you will come out the other side. whether it be skipping, running, walking, or crawling, you will come out the other side. we will come out the other side.

to all that feel the radiating effects of depression & anxiety in so many countless ways, i love you. i don’t even know you, & i love you. i am rooting for you from the very bottom of my heart. i implore you in every way, stay.

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the balkans in 7 days: serbia & macedonia

the last recap in this series is a mashup of the last two countries we visited during our week around the balkans. due to the extremely short amount of time we spent in macedonia, and the reasonable amount of time we spent in serbia it seemed easier to combine the two.

belgrade, serbia was much different to me than the other areas we visited throughout the week. belgrade had a vibe much more of a modern city than any of the others. belgrade was booming with busy streets, towering buildings, and the overall feel of a busy city. while other areas, namely albania and montenegro, had a much different feel of a more calm and relaxed city, almost from a different time, serbia was much the same but also much different.

our first night in the city of belgrade was spent exploring. we found a mcdonalds and embraced our true american-ness by having it for supper. the next day was much more of an event. we departed early the next morning to visit the House of Flowers, along with its accompanying museums. this memorial to the late Josip Broz Tito, former leader of Yugoslavia, was brilliant. it was absolutely beautiful and gave a comprehensive history of the former Yugoslavic nation.

in the middle of the memorial lies tito’s tomb, while off to the side, and scattered throughout the house and museum, are all of the batons from the relay of youth. this event was carried out in yugoslavia annually. for the relay, an original baton would be carried from town to town throughout the town before it was finally given to tito on the day of his birthday, may 25. this event became incredibly popular throughout the nation and even became a national holiday. a large number of these batons are showcased at the house of flowers and they are all incredibly unique. we also made a nice furry friend outside of the house. of course, pictures. 🙂

we next met with artist vladimir miladinovic of belgrade. we spent time in his studio where he informed us of his yugoslav based projects, in an attempt to showcase a history that had the possibility of dying out if not preserved. vladimir’s studio was incredible and there were numerous different projects going on all throughout the building.

we went out for dinner that night at a nice restaurant and had the absolute best time. the band played throughout the entire meal, giving us lots of laughs and serenading some of us more than others (Isabella). after the meal we went out to the zone club on the barge. having never been to a club in the states before, this place was wild for me to say the least. we got back to the hotel incredibly late from this club, but rose again bright and early the next morning to make our way to macedonia!

due to some difficulties, being a sharp stop that led to Dr. Dan having to visit the hospital for stitches, our trip to skopje, macedonia largely consisted of eating lunch, walking around a bit, and getting back on the bus to finally end an incredible but tiring week back in prishtina! the city was beautiful and if not for the unfortunate events of the day we’d have gotten to do a bit more exploring, but i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t so ready to go back to kosovo for a rest and to start classes the next day!

getting the experience the balkans region through the course of a week was an incredibly unforgettable experience. never before had the balkans been on my radar as an area where i wished to visit, but is not one that i am so thankful that i got to experience. each country was so unique in its history and its culture. i learned so much from this week that i could never get from a textbook. i almost feel guilty for the amount that i gained out of this first week alone, because it really is unparalleled. i met life long friends, saw the most incredible places, delved into new and interesting history, and got to experience growth in a new and fascinating way that i have been yearning to feel again since i got back to the states. my newfound travelers heart is sure to find new adventure soon, but for now, my first year at UNI has begun! i am studying psychology and political science (an area i found passion in due to my experiences in the balkans) and i am making strides towards my future career!

stay tuned.

hh

the balkans in 7 days: bosnia and herzegovina

short hiatus on this recap thread- but i’m back!

bosnia and herzegovina was one of the more historically rich areas that we visited in our week around the balkans. we spent time in the cities of mostar and sarajevo getting to see countless sights, taking tours, wandering around downtown, trying way too many types of cakes (pictured, of course), and indulging the moment.

the first night we arrived in mostar really late. we slept at the hotel then made the bus ride to our first meeting of the day. afterwards we got to see the Old Bridge. the view from the bridge is incredible. of course, i have pictures. 🙂

we next made our way to sarajevo where we spent more time. the night of our arrival we were given a tour by easily the BEST tour guide i’ve ever had on any occassion. his name is enes, and he laid out the history of the city for us in such an incredible way and in a way that is different from most tour guides you would come across. he showed us countless areas of historical importance (i.e. the place where archduke franz ferdinand and his wife sophia were fatally shot, the eternal flame, etc.) and gave us an incredibly deep context to associate with these places. he pointed out things as well that i would not have picked up on otherwise. we saw the bullet holes in the side of buildings, evidence of the siege of sarajevo that only happened in the last 30 years. this raw visual of a city that had undergone such hardships of war was incredibly moving and eye-opening. to think people had lived, and continue to live today, in an area where the history is very much still plastered on the walls is a really indescribable feeling. enes offered us such a unique view of the city and opened our minds up in such a way to its history – i would absolutely recommend him if you ever find yourself in sarajevo and wanting a tour! i even included a picture of him. 🙂

we spent the rest of that night getting dinner, getting more gelato (of course), and exploring the old town. after meetings the next day, we did much of the same. we had the awesome opportunity to meet with he office of the high representative and at the OSCE offices!

the next day, we visited the memorial site for the victims of the 1995 srebrenica-potocari genocide. this was an event that i had no been previously aware of, but was one that deeply moved me as we walked through the memorial, learning the history of this awful event in history. if you’re not familiar with this event either, i would encourage you to do a bit of research and familiarize yourself with the genocide. while it is distressing to read about, knowledge is power and it is better to familiarize ourselves with these events in order to prevent them from happening again. another added wonder was that our tour guide at this memorial site was a survivor of the genocide. as i mentioned, it only happened in 1995, and what really struck me as our guide was talking was that he was not much older than my parents, and not even as old as my grandparents. to think such an atrocity had happened within their lifetimes was such a gut-wrenching thought.

bosnia and herzegovina was a state rich in historical context. this area sticks with me more for the atrocities we observed there, but still the beautiful way the city has been rebuilt. though a beautiful city stands still in sarajevo to this day, the hardships it has faced are very plain to observe if you look. even as much as the eternal flame, which serves as a memorial to the military and civilian victims of the second world war, serves as a constant reminder of a dark past, but a bright future for the region.