Updated: Apr 10, 2022
Hi everyone, I am here to share my story as someone who has been touched by mental illness. As we all know, mindset is a key component of any wellness journey, and a positive mindset relies on a healthy mind. I have struggled with mental health and self esteem issues most of my life. I have been living with depression for almost 25 years, however, I am also the daughter of a mother who suffered from bipolar disorder, thus mental illness has had a profound affect on my life. I am humbled to be able to share my story with you, the good and the bad, the darkness and the light.
“Start as you mean to go on” is a phrase I read in a parenting book many years ago. I interpreted it to mean you should establish good habits with your children as early as possible and be consistent. This idea really resonated with me and while it didn’t make me a perfect parent, I realized it can be applied to any new journey you embark upon in your life. I kept this idea in mind when I started my most recent wellness journey 17 months ago, as I wanted to develop good habits that would carry me through my wellness journey and beyond. I saw it as a way of establishing a good foundation from which I could build a healthier life. Now, I want to establish that same foundation with this blog and I am going to start by sharing my truth about mental health. This foundation consists of three pillars which will always be at the heart of my story.
A mental health issue is a genuine health issue. As someone who suffers from depression, it can be frustrating when people think you are just sad and they tell you to “cheer up” or worse, they think you are too sensitive and that “you just need to get over it”. Ugh! However, if I put myself in the shoes of someone who has never dealt with a mental health issue, I get how it could be difficult to understand. Mental illness is not something you can see. It is not a broken bone or other physical wound that can be bandaged up. It is not the kind of illness that can be detected by an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI. There is no blood test. But just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Mental illness is real and having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body.
I am reminded of a story I was told about my mom, who suffered from severe postpartum depression after the birth of my older sister in the 1960’s. When she told her doctor about how she was feeling, he basically patted her on the head and told her she just had the “baby blues” and that it would pass. Well, it wasn’t just the “baby blues” and it didn’t pass and my mom’s mental illness went undiagnosed for another 20+ years. I often wonder how different her life would have been if her feelings had been taken more seriously and the doctor had recognized the signs of her mental illness when she was young. I’m so grateful to be living in a time when mental illness is being taken more seriously than it has been in the past, but unfortunately there is still a stigma associated with it. It can be seen by some as emotional weakness or that somehow, it’s not a real illness. I am here to tell you that’s simply not true. A mental health issue is a genuine health issue. That’s why I feel it is so important to speak about my mental health struggles and why I would encourage others to do the same. Let’s end the stigma and recognize the importance of mental health.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Imagine waking up everyday wanting to feel positive and energetic and having a brain that does everything it can to work against those intentions. That’s what depression feels like to me. It’s a horrible feeling. It can take you to dark places and hinder your ability to see a purpose to your life. I know this because I have lived it. I have been to those dark places where I did not see a future for myself. It’s a scary place to find yourself, but there can be something better out there if you choose to ask for help. I know it’s not easy. Asking for help can be one of the hardest things that you do. Some may not want to share details of their lives because they are too painful. Others may believe that if they just think positive or look outside themselves to find things that make them feel good, that they we can somehow “cure” their mental health. That’s likely not going to happen. Asking for help to make your mental health a priority takes strength and courage. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can result in a new outlook on life and give you the tools you need to live your best life. I am fortunate to have had a couple of great therapists throughout my life. I may not have always looked forward to my appointments with them but I always left their office feeling better than when I arrived.
Having a mental illness/health issue does not mean you are broken. I don’t like having depression. Not only because it can play havoc with my mood and my emotions, but because it sometimes makes me feel like I am less than. I am less than someone who doesn’t have to take daily medication. I am less than someone who doesn’t have to see a therapist. I am less than someone who doesn’t have to explain their illness to a potential partner. When I feel this way, I must remind myself that I am worthy. I mean, do I think that someone who suffers from diabetes and has to take insulin everyday is less than someone who doesn’t have diabetes? No. Then why do I think it about myself and my depression? To be honest, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s all the years of fighting my illness and pretending to be okay? Maybe it’s all the times I had to crawl out of that dark place and use every ounce of strength to keep going? Whatever the reason, these thoughts creep into my head at times and in those moments I have to fight back with the truth in my heart. I am not broken. I am not less than. I am simply someone who has her own individual struggles and deals with them the best way she knows how. No more, no less. I am worthy. We are all worthy.
So that's my foundation, my truth. I can't wait to build on it and share more of my story with all of you.
I have chosen to share my story to help illuminate the importance of talking about mental health, however, I am not a mental health professional. If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek the advice of a mental health professional.