There was a switch that went off in my mind and soul in the last month or so. I’ve decided to radically love myself. I look myself in the mirror and claim everything that I am: fat, curly-haired, wide nose, hooded lids, and absolutely breathtaking. This was after a long three-month depressive episode where not only did I absolutely hate myself, I was disgusted. You know those depressive episodes where everything you do, everything you put on, you as an entire person, means nothing to you? Your accomplishments mean nothing, your friends and family’s love and support mean nothing, all of it is meaningless, because there’s this ever-growing monster of hate and doubt whispering in your ear that you’re not worth fighting for. You’re not deserving of good things and good people. From July to early October, nearly every waking moment felt like I was going to war with myself. And when I had one or two good days, I was reminded by the monster that happiness will always be momentary with me.
Before the miracle switch went off in my brain, the thoughts of no longer waking would loom over me. The last few weeks of this episode were the scariest. At any given moment, I would burst into tears. Many nights ended with me whimpering quietly to not worry my roommate, as I cradled myself, stroking my arms, trying to feel something; some type of solace that I was so desperately reaching for. It hurts recalling this, these specific intimate moments with myself where I reach back in my memory and feel an ounce of hurt that I was living through. I wish I could hug myself. I think in those moments that’s all I wanted. An embrace that told me I was going to be okay. I know that won’t be the last moment I feel that deeply burdened by my own accord, but it was a special kind of turmoil to go into such a depressive episode in 2020.
You can describe 2020 as many things, but easy wouldn’t be one of them in my humble opinion. Everything we’ve known has pretty much been flipped on its head, and that means even our own coping mechanisms. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at seventeen. I’ve been seeing a therapist ever since. I have nearly ten years worth of emergency plans, coping skills, and terminology tucked in my back pocket for whenever I need them. But when I was sobbing in my bathtub letting water mask my tears at 3PM on a Wednesday, I realized everything I had learned meant almost nothing. Pre-Covid, when I felt an episode coming along, I would prepare myself. I’d go to my studio to work on some ceramic projects, grab a drink with a friend, do some solo traveling, get some yoga in, take a nice hot shower, etc. All the things you’d probably find in the sleuth of self-help books worked for me. So when I forced myself to shower the sadness away while listening to music, I was surprised and a bit worried when the next day I found myself back to square one. I didn’t want to get up. The weight of depression had overtaken me.
I am a person who is rooted in logic. I have to at least see the foundation of something for it to resonate with me, bringing it back to the rudimentary. The most worrisome part of this episode, for me, was the fact that I could not place where the sadness was coming from. I was healthy, had a job, and an incredible support system, so why was I so deeply sad? I told nearly no one about this. Who was I to complain about being sad for no reason when there were people who were living significantly more difficult lives? Where did I get off being so gosh dang privileged? Maybe that’s why it went on so long. I would barely tell my therapist when things got terrible because I felt that the only solution she would suggest was to go to a psychiatric unit. And when I did tell her I would attribute it to a COW (Crisis of the Week). So, I was stuck in this toxic battle of feeling terrible, and feeling terrible about feeling terrible. I didn’t deserve to feel sad, so I kept shoving it down, as deep as I could within myself to then be the shoulder for others to cry on.
The moment that I was able to piece things together was that Wednesday afternoon. I was sobbing in the bathtub, whilst life was moving past me, it all felt surreal. I no longer wanted to be alone, basking in the shame that my brain oh so willingly showered me with. I got dressed as best as I could, and went over to visit my old roommate. Her presence is my home away from home. She met me with open arms and a soft voice. I allowed myself to incoherently explain what had been going on. She took everything in and said, “Well, you’ve never dealt with this during a pandemic, a huge election, and literally everything else going on in the world.” She was absolutely right.
It’s easy to let yourself believe you are to blame. That you should have the forethought and strength to battle through this. While it can be true that you’ve been through harder times, “ it doesn’t mean you are not allowed to be affected by horrors of this year. It doesn’t mean you are weak or undeserving of compassion and understanding. What we’ve experienced and continue to experience has thrown what we’ve previously understood as truth out the window.
But if there’s one thing this year has given me is a new perspective. It’s put into question on a personal and global scale the “every person for themselves” mentality many of us have been born and bred in. It’s so detrimental to our collective well-being. Surviving 2020 has been a life lesson I never expected I’d have to learn.
Nancy Azcona is a 25 year old Salvadorian/Dominican New Yorker living out in Los Angeles since 2017. Queer and first-gen American, the intersections are truly endless. She has been working in the entertainment industry since 2016 and is currently a Production Coordinator at the digital company SMOSH. Her articles have been featured on Funknvibe’s previous blog platform and her spoken word has been performed at their live events. In her spare time she enjoys taking care of too many plants, working on her imperfect ceramic pieces, watching any and all reality TV shows, and using her voice to tear down systematic oppression.
top image photo credit: Clara McGowan, IG @claramcgowan