Zoe! It’s a pleasure to have you on YS.com and a part of this series! Tell the YS.com clan a little bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Zoe, and I’m a 24 year old mental health blogger from Ireland. I write about my day-to-day struggles with mental illness on my blog ‘I Believe in Romeo’, and the steps that I am taking for a positive and healthy mind.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Zoe, when did you first realize you were battling anxiety and depression? When were you diagnosed?
Six years ago I was a fresher student in university, I was diagnosed with depression. Moving away from home to an entirely new structure and place had been really difficult for me. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was irritable. I was hurting and alone. While these were feelings I had while in high school too, they escalated when I left home and moved to another city for university. In time, my thoughts turned to self-harm and suicide.
I got help. I saw a doctor who referred me on to a psychiatrist and a counselor. A diagnosis gave me relief and comfort. I learned I was not alone. Every day since has been a journey as I try to live with my mental illness. I will not let it define me.
Many people have mixed feelings about taking medication to help with depression and anxiety. I think it’s a combination of the side effects and feeling less in control of our minds. How do you feel about the usage of medication to aid in working against depression and anxiety?
I totally get why people fear taking medication. There are a lot of misconceptions about being on medication for mental illness not only in the media, but among medical professionals as well. And as with all types of help for your mental health, what works for one person might not work for another. I started on medication for my depression six years ago. There was a rocky start of changing dosage and type of medicines. And I gave up after about six months and quit taking my meds, only to have a major depressive and suicidal relapse. I’ve been on medication since then. With medical help, I found a combination of medicines that work for me. They provide a balance for me. I’m placed back on the equilibrium. Rather than being down constantly, I am in a neutral state and react to sad things by feeling down, and react to positive things by feeling happy. For me, medication is the foundation, allowing me to build my recovery upon it.
What does your depression and anxiety look and feel like?
My depression is a dark place. It’s filled with terrifying nightmares, self-loathing, no chance of help or recovery, and people hiding in crevices telling me I’m a failure.My anxiety is a knot in my stomach, it’s the paralysing fear that keeps me awake at night and snatches away my appetite.
These days, I try to manage my depression and anxiety. Not only with medication, but with changing my way of thinking with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and practicing self-care. I’ve learned what works for me, and I’ve learned to keep trying, no matter what. Now, I have more good days than bad days.
Tell us about the Romeo Project! How do you feel the project has contributed to your healing process?
The Romeo Project was a ten month challenge I set myself for 2016, built around ten resolutions. I threw myself into challenges such as finding authenticity, exploring my darkest and lowest points, positive thinking and embracing creativity. I spent the year reading self-help books, taking affirmative action, and applying the tips and tricks everyone else is raging about. It was cheesy, but I committed as fully as I could. And you know what? The Romeo Project changed my life. It gave me goals to strive for, and for the first time I took positive steps towards my own future happiness.
And that sounds absolutely amazing! So now that the Romeo Project has been completed, how do you plan to continue to use your platform to encourage the conversation around mental health and self-care?
In both my online and offline work, I continue to talk about my own mental health. Despite some positive changes in society’s attitudes in recent years, there remains a stigma around mental illness and I aim to break it. With stigma comes silence, and with silence we stop people seeking help. I don’t want anyone to ever feel as alone and helpless as I did as a fresher. We need to keep the conversation going until everyone feels comfortable saying ‘I’m not okay and I need help’.
Where can we find you (websites, social media, etc.)?
Make sure and come say ‘hi’ to me on any of my social media channels. You can find me blogging at http://www.ibelieveinromeo.com/. On Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZoeAlicia101. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/IBelieveInRomeo/.4