As you may have seen on social media, including mine, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And this year, it’s an important month for me.
In the past, I believed that while we do need to increase mental heath awareness, I wasn’t in a capacity to do anything about it. But now that I feel more comfortable talking about my mental health experiences, I realize I can make an impact.
No, I’m not a mental health professional in any way, but my words and my platform can still be used to make a difference, even if it’s only to one person. When my depression was at its worst, I felt so alone and defeated that I didn’t know how to move forward. I felt paralyzed and unable to see the way forward.
While I still have difficult days and I’m learning to accept that my mental health will be something that I always need to keep an eye on, I know that facing my anxiety and depression has made me a stronger person. And more than anything, knowing that I’m not alone in my fight has given me the courage and strength to keep it up.
This post details some of my story and how my view of mental health has evolved over time.
Coming to terms with it
When I was first coming to terms with my mental illnesses, I felt completely alone. I didn’t know how to talk about it. I was worried people would judge or think less of me. I kept it all to myself and worried so much about others finding out.
Now, I realize that everyone faces mental health challenges to some degree. I feel comfortable talking about the fact that I take medication and go to therapy. If people want to judge me, that’s their problem and they’re probably the type of people I don’t need in my life.
Not the only one
I think I’m still in denial about how bad my depression got, especially when combined with my anxiety. I still went to work everyday but it was so exhausting that I could barely do anything else. I also felt like I wasn’t doing my best work and that my managers would know.
At the time my depression and anxiety were at their worst, I also had a difficult manager to work with. Although I like to think it was unintentional, it felt like she was constantly putting me down and making me feel small. I didn’t have the support I needed at work and my now-husband was still learning how to support me at home.
How bad it got
I don’t think I ever understood that depression could be classified as a disability until I was nearing the point of not being able to work. My therapist even broached the topic on an in-patient facility to me.
I was so desperate to believe that I wasn’t “that sick” that I likely set my own treatment back. I was so resistant to medication for years and had trouble finding a therapist I felt comfortable with. I got to a point where I was barely functioning. I felt like I was just existing to exist, with little to no happiness or excitement, just fear and anxiety.
I was battling a deep depression for over a year before I finally started seeking help. And even then, it was partly because I felt like it was ruining my relationship with my boyfriend (now husband). To advocate for myself was scary, overwhelming and panic-inducing.
Although getting help seems like an obvious solution to an outsider, it’s not so easy when you’re in the thick of things. There are so many competing thoughts – I can do this myself; there’s nothing wrong with me; they’re going to just give me drugs that’ll make me a zombie; I don’t even know where to begin. It took a long time and I almost back out so many times
To have one mental health illness is difficult enough, but to have two is a tricky balance. In my case, I suffer from both depression and anxiety. It’s like two competing forces within my own brain. The depression wants me to hide away from everything and everyone, while my anxiety obsesses about everything that might happen, what everyone else thinks and what a failure I am.
I still feel as though both sides of me are at odds at time, especially this week which was tough all around for me mentally. Medication has helped me gain the headspace to confront my mental illnesses slowly but surely. It’s still a daily battle but I feel like I’ve come along way in the year and a half since I began seeking treatment.
One thing that I’ve talked about with my doctor is that my depression seems to come in waves, or periods of time. But my anxiety, on the other hand, is a constant fight. To have a constant stream of negative and worrisome thoughts go through your mind is difficult and exhausting.
One of the hardest things about my anxiety is the attitude of other people towards it. People close to me have gone as far as to suggest that I choose to have anxious thoughts and let them overpower me. It’s frustrating to not feel heard, but I’m starting to slowly learn that other people’s opinions do not matter. I’m living my life for me and I’m the person I need to make happy.
Final Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness Month
Whew, that was a mentally exhausting post to write! It takes a lot for me to dredge up my true feelings and fears regarding my mental health, but I feel it’s important to share and process what I’ve faced and how far I’ve come.
As this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I hope you can find your inner strength to keep battling whatever illnesses or struggles you are facing. You are strong and you are worth it.