We Have to Talk About Mental Illness
This week, I have been exhausted by the heaviness of the world. The news of 2 celebrities committing suicide, and then the news of a local student committing the same act, tells me one thing: the world is hurting. More than that, the world is hurting and we don’t even realize it.
I am here to talk about mental illness. I hate that term. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t think it does any justice to what my story really is.
I AM SO MUCH MORE THAN MY ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND A.D.D.
We have to talk about it.
Let me say that again. WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT.
What I am finding, as I get more and more real with people about my own personal story, is that almost everyone, at one point in their life, has, or knows someone who has been in a very dark place. This indicates to me, even more, that we need to have more conversations.
My goal is to tell MY STORY – just a bit of it – and not anyone else’s. I can’t tell you I know what it’s like to be suicidal because I’ve never been there. But I’ll likely say things that may surprise you about me (if you know me personally). My hope is that by telling a piece of my story, others feel the freedom to do the same, and that ultimately, we begin to crush the negative stigma that holds people back from standing in their truth – however raw that may be.
Although I’ve been medicated – for a short period of time – for depression, here is my truth: I HAVE BATTLED DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY MY ENTIRE ADOLESCENT AND ADULT LIFE. Yup. I said it. Thanks for standing here with me. I hid it well, didn’t I? (That actually made it worse, by the way). I’m the kid that no one would suspect because from the outside looking in, everything looked fine. And I probably told you I was fine.
Until I couldn’t do that anymore – that moment came relatively recently, about four months ago.
After having Anthony two years ago, here’s what my anxiety did to me: What’s my blood pressure? It’s too high. I’m going to die. Does Anthony have a fever? What if he’s not getting enough food? What if I die? What if Mitch leaves me because I’m crazy? When does the “baby weight” start coming off? Why can’t I feed my baby? Am I failing as a mom? Am I doing it as well as my friends are? I might die today. What if I have to take blood pressure medication for the rest of my life? I never want to leave my house – I might die.
You get the point.
That was on a continual loop for four months straight. It was like a freight train of fear coming at me all the time. Just fear. The first four months of my son’s life is a blur and I feel immensely guilty about that.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t looking for any anxiety. I had only heard about postpartum depression. I didn’t even know postpartum anxiety was a THING. Combine that with a mild case of PTSD from a pretty crazy birth and postpartum experience, and you get full on crazy mama.
I held it in for 20 months.
I began noticing around last Christmas that things had changed in my life. My relationships were suffering – I was a shitty friend and shitty wife. I didn’t want to leave my house. Ever. I was disengaged, stressed, crying, zoned out, looking for comfort in anything that was within reach and I was what I’d call a couch mom. There, but not fully in the game.
The thing I noticed the most is that I was literally sad all the time. Like, every moment of every day. Sad. The heavy kind, that you can’t climb out of by yourself.
And that’s when I re-engaged a team of people to help me dig myself out.
Personally, I wasn’t ready to go straight to the doctor to get on meds. A dear friend gave me the best advice: get a full blood work-up and see what’s happening physiologically. And then fill in the holes after that.
So I did. And I also saw an energy healer and my chiropractor, and I committed to seeing my therapist on a regular basis. It takes a village, y’all.
The combination of all of these things – especially what I learned about what’s happening with my hormones (they’re so low that if I were older, my naturopath told me she’d be recommending hormone replacement) – helped me to understand what was going on with me, and that there are people out there READY to help us. In fact, there are people who were literally BORN to heal.
But we have to start by talking about this. Most people, when I tell them that I have dealt with mental illness for much of my life, are shocked. The truth is, I never felt like it was okay to talk about it. I felt like it was my fault, or that I had failed, or that I wasn’t enough (of a woman, a friend, a mom, a wife, or, or, or…). Not anymore.
I am enough, just as I am. With all my crazy, big feelings and worries and low hormones and big thighs and frizzy hair.
And so are you.
And we are worthy of healing and happiness and joy.
We are worthy of the world understanding and holding us close and showing compassion in our darkest moments.
I don’t pretend to have a life-altering story here. I just think that there needs to be more representation out there of people experiencing all forms of mental illness.
My story is not done. Neither is yours.
My story is not uncommon. And this isn’t the whole story. It’s a piece of it.
You are not alone. And if you feel like you are, reach out.
To embracing the hard stuff!