Today’s post will be a difficult one to write, but a necessary one. Transparency is difficult in the best of times, but more so when the topic of discussion is something that is so stigmatized. I do not write this post to seek pity or attention, but to bring awareness. If mental health were more widely discussed and less stigmatized, I believe more people would seek help for their mental health issues.
To some degree, I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have always had struggles with perfectionism, what others thought of me, and social anxiety. I was still able to accomplish a lot in life, but I do believe that my anxiety struggles have also held me back from trying new things or doing things I wanted to do. While others may notice an increase in problems and difficulties as a teen, or with the onset of puberty, I can honestly say mine peaked as a young adult.
My first year of college was a difficult one. I was 275 miles away from home for the first time ever. I had a hard time adjusting to this and my GPA reflected it. I threw myself headlong into a social life with people who really weren’t good for me. I dated and became engaged to someone who didn’t have my best interests at heart. We had a very codependent relationship on which I heavily hinged my self-worth. In my second year of college, my freshman 15 weighed heavily on my confidence and I began to abuse laxatives and extreme dieting. I lost forty pounds, and it wasn’t until a close friend and family member realized what was happening that I acknowledged an eating disorder. During this time, I also stopped attending church or having anything to do with the things of God. My faith had been a constant in my life up until this point, and I think my lack of faith also contributed to my struggles.
I lost two family members I was somewhat close to, I graduated college, and finally, through a lot of prayer and self-searching, I found the strength to end my toxic relationship and engagement. It was a painful decision, but I knew it was the right one. I also began working my first job out of college- it was nerve-wracking. I was very young, very immature, and not really ready for my entrance into the adult world. I made lots of mistakes.
Eventually, I found my way back into church at a church that loved and accepted me. I met a new man who proved to be just as toxic as the one I’d broken things off with. I decided to leave my love life in the Lord’s hands and just pray for what might be. I met a man who loved me, flaws and all. We got married and are still married today.
We birthed two beautiful, healthy little girls but lost three babies as well. My dad and my grandfather, to whom I was very close, both passed away four days apart. My dad’s death, which was from metastatic colorectal cancer, was expected. My grandfather’s was not. This is when my mental issues took center stage and began to derail my life as I knew it.
You see, my entire life I have tried to bury my mental struggles or simply just “deal with them.” To me, this meant ignoring them or pretending everything was ok. This is the wrong approach because you simply can’t deal with everything on your own. Sometimes, you need a break, or extra support, or an impartial third party to help you get through things. My inability to correctly deal with my dad and grandfather’s deaths caused me to slip into a fog that nearly cost me my job, my marriage, and my life. Almost five years later, I can’t think about that time in my life without my stomach knotting up. Watching her mother go through a nervous breakdown caused a host of mental struggles with my oldest daughter. My husband came home each day to a messy house and a woman who resembled his wife in appearance, but in no other ways.
After reaching what I believed was the end, I desperately met with two trusted people at my job. Admitting just how bad things were gave me the strength I needed to seek help. I began attending therapy weekly and taking SSRI’s. Sadly, I determined later on that I cannot take the medication due to some horrible side effects. I have learned to use exercise, mindfulness and journaling to support my mental health instead. Even today. I attend therapy biweekly.
If you get nothing else out of this post, I want you to hear this clearly: there is NO shame in mental health support. This includes therapy, medication, taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, etc. You are not everyone else and everyone else isn’t you. No one else gets to decide what you need and what is best for you. PLEASE don’t worry about what others think, or what others might say. It’s not important, but YOU are. Find what works for you and make a commitment to making it happen. YOU ARE WORTH IT.
I am not a therapist. I am not a mental health professional. Anything I have learned about mental health has largely been through my own experiences. If you’re struggling, PLEASE find the help you need.