In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be appropriate to finally rip off the band-aid and share a little bit more about my own story. Whether or not you are mentally ill, we all have a story under the umbrella of mental health and I think it’s important that more people speak up to share their experiences to end the stigma.
So I suppose it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, huh?
I’ve avoided writing about this topic in too much detail because, to be completely honest, I’m still nervous about how it will be received. I have grown to accept my diagnoses and variety of symptoms I experience as a result, but I still face some fear when it comes to fully putting myself out there, in terms of sharing my mental health story.
I have struggled with adhd, anxiety, and depression for the majority of my existence. There have been years where it has been worse than others, and times in my life where it seemed like I made a full “recovery” and would never face symptoms again. I’ve come to learn that my depression patterns are cyclical and my anxiety leans more toward situational, but of course, that can and has varied over time.
For me, depression hits me strongest during winter, which is not uncommon in this part of the world. During the winter months, I can be filled with utter hopelessness making it a miracle that I’ve even made it out of bed some days. I have needed medications during some years and other years I’ve been able to take vitamin d supplements and work through my depression a little easier. Anxiety can make me irritable, agitated, and want to be left alone. But sometimes it looks like me not texting back for days in a row because I’m so stressed out about the right words to use or not joining in on group activities because the thought of leaving the house and socializing becomes absolutely paralyzing. Thankfully, it’s not always like that though.
Some of the most important things I’ve been able to learn have come as a result of my struggles with mental health. For example, I’ve been able to explore the deepest parts of my being by experiencing some true inner darkness. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my husband loves and accepts every single part of me because he has stood strong by my side through the worst of my mental health battles. Also, the minute that something goes wrong, my family is completely there for me, even if they don’t understand what I’m going through.
I am truly lucky to be surrounded by a network of loving and supportive people who come from a place of compassion and love.
However, this does not mean that I face no stigma.
I’ve had family members and friends say things like, “What do you even have to be depressed about?” or “Can’t you just snap out of it?” or even, “Have you tried to just stop being depressed or anxious?”
Luckily, I’ve always had a pretty thick skin and know that when my loved ones say things like this to me, they don’t entirely realize what they are saying. Sometimes they truly don’t understand what it’s like to live inside my head and are asking from an honest, loving place. Which, for me, is exactly what I want.
I want people to be able to ask the questions they are curious about. I want to be able to answer questions about my experiences and the challenges I face with people who may not understand. It can be a weird and uncomfortable conversation for some people, but the way I see it – we are never going to improve the stigma around conversations about mental health if all we do is avoid it and exasperate the situation by never talking about it.
Depression, anxiety, and all other mental health issues look different for each person.
Not everyone needs to take medication, but some people do.
There have been times in my life where I have needed medications in order to function and I’m more than okay admitting that. I don’t see my choice and need to medicate as a weakness. If anything, my ability to advocate for myself and communicate with a doctor in order to help myself make me stronger in a way.
Allowing mental illness to control your life because you’re afraid to speak up sucks. I’ve done it and I know many people who continue to do it, even when they know they want to see a doctor or therapist. It’s hard! But it doesn’t have to be. Mental health professionals are some of the most accepting and understanding people I’ve come across and their actual job is to help support you and your mental health. They’ve seen it all. So even if you feel silly calling the doctor about something, just give it a try.
Again, posting this is still hard for me, even though I always want to be an advocate for mental health and support others who are. It’s hard to share even this smallest snippet of my innermost personal self on the internet with God-knows-who. I’m afraid of the judgment even though, Lord knows, I can handle it. These are parts of myself I tend to save for one-on-one conversations with people instead of the things I put on blast in my little corner of the internet.
But I can’t expect things in the world to change if I’m not willing to change first.
Cheers to changing the world by changing yourself!
And pushing the “publish” button for this post… whenever I eventually muster up the guts to do it, ha!