Author: Julianna T.
My name is Julianna Tsokanos and I have depression and anxiety. For years I have not been able to admit those things to myself, and maybe that’s why I’m here, why I’m writing this. I have been so unhappy for so long, and I think I should be able to come to terms with that.
I can’t remember when I started to feel this way, but I can remember the first time I hit my breaking point. All I remember is that I felt sick. I felt hungry enough to eat, but every time I ate I would feel nauseous. I would sit on my bathroom floor for hours into the night because I felt like I was going to throw up. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was developing a nervousness about everything in my life and was making myself sick.
I dreaded waking up in the morning, and the thought of having to leave my bed for any reason was even worse. I stayed home from school for a week because I “was sick.” The real reason: I didn’t think that I could leave my bed. Everything felt like it was too hard.
When I was finally forced to go back to school, I was late for weeks. I would sit in my mom’s car in the parking lot and cry before school every day. The worst part is that even after all this I went to school every day and smiled. No one noticed.
I got better, though. At least, I thought I did. I was feeling happier. I could push myself out of bed in the morning. I was okay. But inside, I really wasn’t. I faked my way through the day and tried desperately to convince myself I was happy, but I wasn’t. I felt empty inside.
Every day since 7th grade I have gone to school and smiled when I have felt like I was dying inside. There have been times in which I was so sad that I often wondered if it was worth it. Why was I struggling? I felt like I had tried everything to make me happy, but nothing was working. I felt like I was drowning. I often said that I wanted to die.
My mom had heard me say I wanted to die, but she didn’t take it as lightly as everyone else did. She saw the whole thing, and unlike the rest of the world, she saw how I really felt: broken. She knew that I needed help, so she took me to therapy.
They told me I had depression and anxiety, and I was scared. I didn’t want that. My friends, family, and even my parents had told me I did, but I didn’t want to believe them. I had been hiding behind a happy mask, and I just wanted it to be real. I wanted to be normal, to be okay, to be strong.
I still struggle with mental illness and I still go to school and smile, but things are different now, for real this time. I am starting to realize that my illness does not define me or make me weak. I realized I only smile because I don’t want others to be exposed to negativity. I want people to be happy. I wouldn’t wish what I’ve gone through on my worst enemy. I realized that I am not faking a smile all the time because I am able to have happy moments.
But most importantly, I realized, that no matter how many days I wake up feeling like I am nothing, and that there’s no point in getting up, I can’t listen to that voice. Even if my mind betrays me, I need to remember that I am worth something, that I am good enough. Because I am.
I want everyone to feel worthy, to know they are good enough. And as I learn to love myself, I hope others can too.
I believe the first step in helping others practice self-love is to break the stigma on subjects like depression and anxiety. I don’t want people to feel ashamed like I did. I don’t want people to feel like they can’t speak out because it will make them seem weak or helpless. I want people to know mental illness for what it really is, even if that reality is a harsh one.
Everyone should feel like they are worth something like they belong. No one deserves to feel lost, alone, or empty. Everyone deserves happiness, and we cannot stop working until we achieve that.
If you have felt anything remotely similar to me, you are not alone. No matter how alone you may feel, someone is always there. Someone cares.
As I continue to grow and learn to love myself, I want everyone reading this to do the same. I want us to go through this journey together, and if you ever feel alone, please don’t hesitate to text me, call me, or email me. Even if I’ve never spoken to you, I genuinely care about everyone and want everyone to experience happiness.
Thank you for listening to what I needed to say and help me take the first step in recovery. Although this is the end of one chapter, it is just the beginning of my story.
– Julianna T.