Mental health is such a broad topic. People are taught not to talk about having mental health issues. There is no shame in living with mental illness. I myself suffer from several mental health issues. Living with mental illness is manageable. You can still have a “normal” life living with mental illness.
My father passed away when I was 17, right at the beginning of my senior year. That is where my battle with depression first began. The anxiety and PTSD came later in life. Luckily when I began suffering from depression, my mother saw that I was in trouble and tried to get me help. I was young and very angry. Therapy is something I wouldn’t entertain, but did begin taking antidepressants.
Today, I am on antidepressants and anxiety medications. One of the best decisions I ever made was staying on these medications. That doesn’t mean that it was easy, or that I never went off of my medications. There were times trying new medications that I gained so much weight, I only got more depressed and angry.
During the times I went off of my medications, I was so tired, depressed, and just ugh that I literally couldn’t even get out of bed. Suffering from depression and at that point anxiety was always embarrassing to me. Going to therapy was humiliating. Thank God I’ve grown past that.
Maybe it was when I’m was not allowed to take my medications anymore that I realized how important they really are. My ex was extremely abusive and controlling. He bullied me into no longer taking my medications because “they made me weak and were unnecessary”. I stopped taking my medications.
After a long time being off my meds, I was so anxious I could peel my own skin off, so depressed I couldn’t think clearly, I decided I couldn’t live like that anymore.
Without my exes knowledge, I went to the doctor and got new prescriptions. My ex went through my purse when I was sleeping and found them. The next day he let me know he found them. He berated and embarrassed me. Then, the final blow, he told me he counted all of the pills. My ex allowed me to hold on to them, but I couldn’t take them. He would count them while I was sleeping. Little did I know at the time, he did this so he could keep me “off”. If he kept me not at my best mentally, I wouldn’t leave. This however is a story for another day.
I eventually left my ex. First stop was to a therapist. Getting my prescriptions refilled was my next stop. Unfortunately, it was at this time that I was diagnosed with PTSD by my therapist. When a person lives in an abusive relationship, they are afraid to speak, laugh, or even breathe. Walking on constant eggshells like that is one of the causes of PTSD. Obviously, the screaming, fighting, and physical violence are also a big part. To this day if someone comes up behind me and startles me I can easily go into a panic. Loud fighting can put me over the edge.
It was at this point that the real work came. Medication is not a cure-all. Lifestyle is a huge part of keeping my depression and anxiety at bay. Exercising, sleep, and even diet play a part in staying healthy when living with mental illness.
My sister would walk with me every day. I began journaling weekly at least. Therapy was no longer something that I fought, I actually embraced it. There were numerous self-help books I read back to back. It was a long road, paved with heartache and tears.
But do you know what? It worked, I still struggle, but I am doing the best I ever have done. That is not to say that I do not still have bad days, believe me I do. When I have a bad day now, I am more equipped to handle it. On a day that I am depressed and anxious, I do not allow myself to stay in bed and feed my depression. I force myself to get up, go for a walk, and face the day. I fight falling back into depression.
Mental health issues are no longer as taboo. It shouldn’t be embarrassing. There are so many resources out there today. Living with mental health issues is not easy. It takes work and commitment. What worthwhile in life doesn’t though?
May is mental health awareness month. Mental health issues do not make anyone less of a person. Here is a list of things to know when living with mental illness.
1. You are not alone!
2. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it.
3. Your illness does not define you, your strength does.
This link gives resources to find the help you might need. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/resources
Until next time…