What you tell yourself matters

Graphic by Keven Vaillancourt @kindaokev

Working on myself and learning to love myself saved me.

I have a history of depression and have always been an anxious person. When I hit rock bottom in 2019, I had a choice to make: I could restart medication after being on it on and off over the years, or challenge my mind to be stronger. I chose the latter. Using the practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I learned to explore and challenge my automatic thoughts.

I started each day by watching a motivational video on YouTube and taking notes in my journal so that I could better process and adopt the healthier mentalities I was learning about. I worked out at the gym three times a week. Every time I didn’t feel like going, I told myself that this was the exact reason why I needed to go. I eventually developed discipline. I read more self-help books than I can count, and I would read a few pages every night. I listened to podcasts about mental health. I gave myself pep talks whenever I was feeling low. I made sure I had time to socialize despite being a student and a volunteer. And I always went to bed thinking of at least three things to be grateful for.

These tasks became my new habits. I followed through with this routine every single day and night for about a year and a half. I really had to learn to love myself. It was this love that forever changed the way I now treat myself and how I live my life.

I knew that it’d be easier in some way to be on medication and not have to stress about the potential decline of my mental health. But I chose to be stronger than I had ever been in my entire life during the absolute lowest period of my life because I knew the person I wanted to be and the life I wanted to lead. I believed that it was possible for me and this thought alone helped me transform my path of recovery into reality.

I knew that if I was on medication, it would help alleviate some of my symptoms. Being aware of its side effects and the effects of withdrawal, however, I didn’t want to be on medication if it absolutely wasn’t necessary. I never liked taking medication, so I had to learn to actively change my mind. I trained my brain to think positive thoughts—I constantly repeated them to myself. I practiced CBT on my own. With this technique, I was able to find reasons to help me believe in my new thoughts. I made sure to take the steps needed to achieve my goal.

What I learned was that what you feed your brain matters more than you think. You can truly effect change if you have the will for it. Even though I eventually got back on medication, I never regretted that year and a half of my life. I was proud of myself. Because of this time in my life, I now believe that anything can be possible if you set your mind to it.


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