October 10, 2015 is Mental Health Awareness Day and on this very important day, I thought I’d share my very important story.
I had a rough childhood, as a 10-13 year old I had to deal with things that children should never have to go through. My complicated childhood made for terrifying teenage years. I was angry, destructive, confused, sad, frustrated and all of those emotions in a body that plastered a smile on her face made for terrible teenage years. My life has been a series of unfortunate events but it wasn’t until March of 2013 that I finally understood why I was the way I was. Why I was prone to make self-destructive decisions, why my walls had been built tall and sturdy, why I struggled to truly connect with anyone. In March of 2013 I was at one of my lowest points. I remember being a shell of a person, I wasn’t present and one tiny misstep could cause an emotional breakdown. It got to the point where I knew I needed help but I had no one to talk to.
On a random day I had a doctor’s appointment, I had made the appointment because I had been getting really bad headaches and I was certain that I had a brain tumor (spoiler alert: I didn’t). I also made this appointment hoping that I would build up the courage to ask for help. So the doctor is taking my vitals and asking me questions about my headaches and she sits down next to me and asks me if I’m okay. I nervously and hesitantly reply and say that I’m fine, she then says “oh okay, you just seem somewhere else”. So she proceeds to ask me questions about my headaches and I just blurt out, “I think I need to go on anti-depressants”.
That is how my journey to acceptance began. Reality was, I didn’t actually want to go on anti-depressants; I just knew that I needed help but I didn’t know how else to ask. My doctor ended up sending me to a psychologist who then sent me to a psychotherapist, who then assigned me my own therapist to go to every other week for 8 weeks. The psychologist diagnosed me with clinical depression and anxiety disorder.
When I first started going to therapy, I remember thinking: “This is it. 8 weeks and I’m going to be brand spanking new”. Cut to one week later, when I still struggled to open up. 3 weeks down and my therapist finally heard about my recent struggles. 5 weeks down and I had a set back, I shut down and felt certain that therapy could not and would not help me. Week 8 was when I had my first break-through; I cried, I spoke, I got angry – I let it ALL out. My 8 weeks of session got extended to 15 weeks and 2 years later, I still go and see a therapist when I feel like it might be getting to be too much to handle on my own.
Clinical depression can be a difficult diagnosis. It takes time to realize that you will be living with this for the rest of your life; you expect to receive the diagnosis go to a few therapy sessions and be “fixed”. The truth is that you will have good days, you will have really good days but sometimes (sometimes often) you’re going to have bad days. The most difficult days are the ones where everything seems to be going right and yet you still feel sad. The thing is some people are sad and they just feel like a black hole is following them around all day; living with clinical depression makes you feel like you are the black hole! My anxiety disorder is something that I am aware of every single day. My body is in a constant state of alert, some days are better than others but the anxiety is always waiting to alter my day.
It’s easy for people to say,
“just stop being sad” “it can’t be that bad” “just get over it” “why are you so nervous?”
As a 26 year old woman, I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at living with my diagnosis. I no longer shy away from my emotions, if anything I proudly wear them on my sleeve. I’m a crier (something my friends like to constantly make fun of) but I like crying. Crying reminds me that I am very much HERE and in the moment. So this is me, Clinical Depression, Anxiety and all. I make no apologies for the person that I am and I will constantly work towards making these issues that we can all discuss openly.
Clinical Depression and Anxiety are very real mental health issues and we need to be better about acknowledging them as such. We need to open the conversation in a safe and welcoming way. These issues are not something that we should shy away from, if more people were open about them maybe there would be more resources out there and more acceptance of each other.
Happy Mental Health Awareness Day, here’s to opening a conversation and to helping each other better understand these issues.