Taking time to recharge wasn’t the solution to getting back on my feet

The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213.

“It’s okay to say ‘no, I don’t feel like it’. Take some time for yourself to recharge.”

I’ve been told this sentiment by friends, therapists, and self-care pages on social media.

It was my confidence in this strategy to lift me out of my depressive episode that held me back. But eight months saw little progress, and I craved drastic change. In the end, following the opposite of this common advice was what pulled me back above the surface in September.

In January 2021, my drive had hit rock bottom. My already reduced course load seemed like it’d expanded to fill my days and nights. I had neither the time, energy, nor the interest for exercise, hobbies, and social interaction—even eating and sleeping were neglected. The signs of burnout and depression were there.

I believed all I needed was a break to rejuvenate and to build a routine. I’d take time off from things that wore me out, recharging in the safety of my comfort zone until I was ready to re-emerge from my cocoon. Well, that’s what I told myself.

In reality, I was “resting” for an unhealthy amount of time, waiting for the day when I’d wake up energized enough to resume life.

Surprise—months passed, and that day didn’t come.

Identifying and invalidating my excuses was the first step towards recovery. Shortly after moving to Kingston in September, I realized hiding behind my supposed healing plan was a harmful habit.

I’d developed a propensity to generate excuses against participating in activities essential to my recovery. I’d convinced myself that having some alone time was what I needed most, when it was only dragging me further down.

So, I ditched the rest-and-recharge strategy and instead went full throttle on activities that had escaped my comfort zone during my spell. My default response to a proposition shifted from “no, I’m too tired” to “screw it, why not?” This applied to being invited out, but also to solo activities I used to turn down automatically.

My days became packed. I started taking solitary walks, taking photos on my camera, and going to the gym. I owe my initial energy boost to these simple, individual activities. Then, I began to contact acquaintances I hadn’t spoken to since the previous year. I showed up to backyard parties. I went on dates. I led an orientation week group.

Paradoxically, the busier I was, the more energized I felt. I haven’t slowed, and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a year.

I’d already felt so much discomfort in the previous eight months that any disappointment, rejection, or failure hardly rattled me. The only way was up. Having experienced both worlds, I can say nothing felt more uncomfortable to me than having too much time to rest.

To anyone experiencing something similar, I urge you to reflect on what is and isn’t working for you. Maybe try getting out there. Why not?

Curtis is a second-year Computing student and The Journal’s Assistant Photo Editor.

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