Mental Health Awareness Month
Let's talk about some things that you may not know.
First: May is Mental Health Awareness month. By now, you MIGHT know that I'm a huge advocate of providing help for those who suffer mentally because I'm one of those people and I believe that something totally treatable should be more affordable and available to people who need help.
Second: My struggle with my mental health has changed a lot over the course of my lifetime. A short summary: born -> things are generally good until high school -> oh shit, I hate everything -> college -> I like some things but I cry a lot -> nothing makes me happy -> I have a hard time managing relationships with people I love and care about because of my disconnect between my head and my heart-> I let my 20s go by -> my 30s roll around and I realize somethin' ain't right up in here.
SMASH CUT: I'm 31. I'm scared, I'm anxious, I'm TERRIFIED of things that will probably never happen to me. I've been triggered by some upsetting experiences. My mind becomes obsessed with bad thoughts, things you couldn't even say out loud. I'm convincing myself of things that didn't happen, aren't true and I'm tired.... like, REALLY tired of fighting whatever's happening in my skull.
And so I took to the web to find some help. Step one was Janet. For the last few years Janet has been my LCPS and a sounding board. It's one hour a week where I can go talk shit about everything and anything with no consequence. And I stick to it. If you know what it's like to have anxiety you know that breaking plans is one of those easy-outs to avoid things that will trigger what upsets you or things you don't want to deal with, but Tuesdays at 1pm for the last 3 years has been an appointment that comes before everything else in my week and I stick by it, always. Talk therapy was only the beginning of learning what was actually happening in my brain and why my receptors were NOT having it.
I started reading more about my symptoms. I found another doctor that tested me for deficiencies and thankfully we found out that my vitamin d level was toxic (no surprise from someone who prides themselves on loving THE GREAT INDOORS). Vitamin D deficiencies are easily fixed with SSRIs but for the majority of my life I really believed that anti-depressants, SSRIs and other drugs that touched your brain were not only terrible for you but EXTREMELY embarrassing.
I was out of options. I decided I was going TRY to attack this problem in more ways than one and if meds were going to help then I was all about getting that help. Also, unless you've been there, and you know that desperation, it isn't explainable to people who can't feel it.
People who don't know what it's like to panic, cry or live with the longing of always trying to grab happiness, won't ever get it. And they don't have to get it. Part of this LONG journey has helped me realize that I don't need them to change their actions, I just need to change mine because that's all that I'm capable of controlling....
But soon I started controlling other things- like the plugs in my apartment. It was virtually impossible for me to leave my condo without making sure there was no chance I could set this place on fire. The heaviness, the weight of being responsible for 58 floors of people killed me, every day. I drove to work in a panic, calling people who would listen to me rationalize that everything is off, everything will be okay- me, telling myself that I know the stove was off, I touched it three times before I left...
Obsessions and compulsions go hand in hand and I wasn't about to let the D (disorder) complete the OCD title that was headed my way.
When the thoughts started to outweigh the actual compulsions, we found a new avenue to explore called SUPER O- Super O/ or PURE O happens when your thoughts are too much but the compulsions aren't really there. Outside of unplugging things in my condo, I didn't really exhibit any other signs of rituals or actions that would qualify. Because I can specifically understand why I was afraid to set my place on fire (the obvious need to handle all problems and be in control all the time stems from my work and my desire to take on more than I can honestly chew, keep people safe and make sure that everyone is happy) I focused on the thoughts and why they were so heavy.
I found a few articles that were really relatable and helped me get some relief knowing that I wasn't the only person who felt this way. There's such a small part of the population that suffers from such a specific form of this disease that the comfort of knowing I wasn't alone took a weight off my shoulders that I hadn't felt in years.
My medicine was adjusted to something that specifically targeted these obsessive thoughts and after a few weeks my ultimate goal of 'lighter' actually happened.
With two parts of the puzzle in place I decided to keep moving and add the last piece by making (and keeping) a goal to be active outside or at a gym for 30 minutes of my day for at least 5 days a week. No exceptions, no excuses regarding my schedule or plans, I was going to make sure the endorphins were flowing.
And my days are lighter. They're better. I smile and laugh more than I even think about crying. I function happily, I'm open to things that scared me before. I'm brave when I need to be honest and I'm hopeful when I'm faced with despair. I'm even, where before I was turbulent, and I'm happy to be seen as steady, balanced, level and full.
But by no means is every day a good day- just yesterday I spent 2 hours sitting on some stairs outside my condo crying on the phone in desperation because sometimes it does feel like it's all falling down- your family, friends, work, relationships... therapy, medicine and exercise aren't erasers, they are maintainers and sometimes you are just going to have a really, really shitty day. But here I am, the next day, living to tell the tale.
My story is probably totally different from yours. And if you struggle with anxiety, OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, manic behavior, whatever it is that keeps that brick on your chest, I feel for you. I truly do. My heart understands and relates to that feeling of hopelessness that words could never describe. I know that cloud that follows you and I know how badly you want it to disappear.
And if you don't struggle from mental health problems I think you should know that we appreciate you being people who are understanding and helpful to those of us who can't see through dark when we really need light. Though it may seem repetitive and a burden to always shoulder the sadness to those of us who need help, you have no idea the weight you've lifted, the day you made lighter, and the problems that you've saved us from on numerous occasions. We know that you can't feel what we're feeling but we are grateful, grateful, grateful for your understanding and patience as we try to figure it all out.
It takes a lot to be honest on the internet, especially about things that leave you raw or subject to scrutiny, but I'd like to think that anyone who might be reading this is the kind of person who provides no judgement, just support.
Thanks for reading.
And even though you I know you can't see it, you are definitely loved.
Repeat it until you can feel it. <3