Let’s have a little chat today about mental health. This seems to be on the forefront, as two major celebrities committed suicide last week. I am the farthest thing from a celebrity… just an ordinary mom, wife, stepmom, daughter, sister, in-law, friend, teacher.
However, I live my life every day with mental illness. I have major anxiety issues, and had serious depression in the past. I have lived life on medication, and off. I cannot even begin to tell you where the issues I have had with anxiety and depression began. It seems as though it has always been an enormous part of who and what I am. I try not to talk about it. Mostly, because if you don’t know what it’s like, you just honestly cannot understand it.
Mental illness is an illness. It is just as much an illness as cancer, pneumonia, diabetes, heart disease. The difference is, instead of my body cells fighting the rest of my body, my brain fights the rest of me. Every day.
There are days where I wake up and honestly think that I just cannot do it today. I cannot exist. I cannot live in a world where there is so much hate and pain and loneliness. I force myself up, force myself to get dressed, and to do whatever it is that is required that day. There are day where I wake up and I feel fine and I move throughout my day as planned. There are days where it is crushing, and I consider it a win to just get out of bed. I have been off my medication for a long time, and I have found ways to cope with the way I sometimes feel. When my depression or my anxiety show up and try to crush me. I, however, am not the norm. There are tons of people in this world that need medication to get through their everyday. THAT IS OKAY. I did, for a long time. I began to resent my need for medication and I refused to continue on it. I do have medication for my anxiety that I can take as needed, but I try as often as I can to keep from taking it. No one who takes medication for cancer or diabetes is seen as weak, or assumed that it’s used for a crutch. Why do we, as a society, treat mental illness this way?
I can remember my first BIG anxiety attack. I was in high school, I was going through a lot, and a good friend of mine and I had just had a HUGE fight. He was so angry and yelled at me and I honestly just broke down. After I was crying for a bit, I started to notice that I was having a horrible time trying to breathe. I couldn’t do it. It was like my lungs would not take in the oxygen needed to continue life. I was dizzy and sat on the floor. Thankfully, I had another friend with me. I know though, I scared her. I scared me. I had never, in my short life, had a hard time breathing. I didn’t know then that I was having an anxiety attack, but I knew I didn’t want to feel that way ever again. I have had other times in life where I have had trouble breathing, feeling like my lungs just will not allow air in… but thankfully for me, that is not usually how my anxiety manifests.
Depression is a whole other beast. I was depressed on and off in middle and high school (and even into adulthood). I’m awkward and anxious, not good at making friends. I had quite a few friends that were not the best. I would go into long, deep bouts of depression, and think about all the people who would be better off without me. I know there are people who have no concept of depression or how someone could get down that far. How someone could be in the mind-frame to commit suicide. Honestly though, for me, and for a lot of people who get to that point… you just truly believe that you are the reason for everyone else’s problems, and that they would be better off without you. Without having to check in on you, be around you, tolerate you. You honestly believe that your friends and family are just tolerating you and would not need you around. It is scary and horrible, and I remember thinking things that I would never share. When I had my daughter, I was asked constantly in the hospital how I was feeling, and they wanted to know my pain level, etc, but they were constantly checking on my mental status. Having a past history of anxiety and depression puts you at a higher risk for post-partum depression. I can honestly remember thinking how much I just don’t want these issues to be passed down to my girl. She was just born, so innocent, and I can’t imagine her having to go through these things.
Now, most often, my anxiety is shaking, mild difficulty breathing, crying, etc. I try to hide it as much as possible. I don’t like to share it. I don’t want anyone else to have to take it on. My husband does not understand it at all, but he tries to do everything he can to help. Sometimes, I take help and tell him what I need. Sometimes, I don’t even know what to say.
Anxiety can hit anywhere at any time. It can have a reason, sometimes it can be for no reason at all. Recently, my anxiety has been frequent. I’m being surplussed from my current school, that I had no intention of leaving any time soon. I just finished my dance year, and recital is always a very anxiety driven time. It’s the end of the school year, so we’ve had our closing ceremony, and there are a million things to do.
So here I am, just living as a giant ball of anxiety, nice to meet you…