Letting go of being at war with myself.
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
It’s Monday, but it feels like day 1000 of quarantine, which I would like to blame on why I am feeling so trapped, but I know that’s not the case. It's mental health awareness month and I wanted to write an informative post about awareness but the only way I know how is to tell the stories first hand -- and I hope that by doing so, you will take away something valuable.
I grew up in "suck it up, someone has it worse than you" kind of environment. And I would like to start off by saying, for that I am grateful, I am as strong as I am today because of that upbringing. However, that is also why I did not recognize my struggle with mental health until I was in my early twenties.
My own journey with mental health became apparent in my senior year of college, so much so that I actually developed an autoimmune disease. Still, I did not truly comprehend mental illness until I watched someone I loved very deeply, fight their own battle with depression and be so transparent with it. For those of you who have experienced someone you love cope with mental illness, I commend you, because you know that no matter what you do or what you say it does not make it go away no matter how hard you try. Which is why I want to emphasize that those of you who are experiencing a loved one battle with mental illness, the absolute best you can give them is your SUPPORT. Nearly 60% of people with a known mental illness never seek treatment, and that is largely in part because of the stigma behind mental health.
The more I opened up about my struggle the more I began to see I was not alone, no matter how lonely it felt. Initially it was very difficult to try to explain that I needed help -- how could a girl like me, who grew up in a strong household, with awesome opportunities, have anything to be anxious about? I must be overreacting, I'm acting crazy.
That is not how mental illness works.
Let me repeat, that is NOT how mental illness works.
It often hits you with no rhyme or reason, at 2:00 in the afternoon or maybe 6 in the morning on your drive to work. Some days you live in a constant battle where your mind is at war with itself.
I'm here to tell you that it is OK to not be ok. It does not make you LESS.
Mental illness is not who you are.
You are far more worthy than your anxiety or depression has lead you to believe.
I will whole heartedly admit, I did not believe these things until I no longer recognized myself. Even though anxiety is a mental disorder, it's not just something that just affects you mentally -- both anxiety and depression can manifest physically. So it was only then, on the side of the road one morning, that despite my 9 hours of sleep my fatigue was too overwhelming and I could not keep my eyes open to get to work, that I realized I needed help.
My first therapist (recommended to me) taught me that I could take control of my life again, that there are mental and physical ways to cope with anxiety. She helped me to pinpoint certain triggers and recognize how and when to react. For her, I am grateful.
After about a year, I phased away from her and began to handle things, relatively well, on my own without a counselor. Then I lost someone very near and dear to my heart, to suicide. It was that day, I took matters back into my hands, making sure I made my mental health my number one priority.
My second therapist was someone I sought out on my own; I was ready to find someone that connected with me differently, someone who forced me to dig deeper. She changed how I conquered each day, and taught me how to soak in my good days and how to not wallow in my not-so-good days. She reminded me that my journey is just that, a journey; which includes living a fulfilling life not dictated by fear but by overcoming it.
and you can too.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, seek help.
Here are some great resources:
American Counseling Association | A professional home for counselors
Anxiety Disorders and Depression Research & Treatment | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA
It's important to note that there are ways to see a therapist or counselor during these times of quarantine and isolation. A fantastic way to do that is though the site Better Help. Here you can meet with a counselor anytime, anywhere.