My Struggle with My Mental Health
If you would have asked me three years ago about my mental health, I guarantee that you would have walked away from that conversation knowing a few things about me. I was an eternal optimist. I was very happy. I believed that everything worked out. I was positive to a fault. My self-esteem was unbelievably high. I felt amazing and believed amazing things about myself and the world. I was stable.
There's a lot of talk out there now about mental health. Commercials encouraging people to "talk about it." Campaigns trying to bring awareness to the issue. Hats being put on to try to dismantle stigma about mental illness.
At the same time, two weeks ago, when I approached a superior at work about possibly needing to go on medical leave due to mental health concerns (as recommended by my therapist), I was told, "you should be careful as that sort of thing follows your career."
In our current society, the campaigns and commercials have helped to open the door to start a conversation about mental illness, but I fear that we are not nearly as far along as we would like to believe in regards to breaking down stigmas surrounding mental illness. Anyone who's avoided calls from friends, who's felt too overwhelmed to get out of bed, who's felt hopeless, who's felt embarrassed about their struggle might be able to relate.
I feel ashamed to talk about my struggle with my mental health. Many people still don't fully understand mental illness. As well, there is still a faint cultural whisper that mental illness equals crazy.
Over the past three years, I have dealt with a lot of pain and a lot of loss. I felt extreme trauma after the dissolution of my marriage. I lost my house. I lost any money I had. I lost friends. I lost family. My dad had serious complications with the treatment of his Parkinson's disease. I changed jobs. I am currently experiencing the most difficult and stressful year in my career. As I type this, I am holding back tears. It is extremely overwhelming to think about it all.
Mental illness does funny things to a logical and stable mind. I used to be the person who could cope with any situation. I was unbelievably easy-going. I was so laid back and nothing really got to me. Now, I have difficulty coping with even small disappointments.
I look at my ability to cope kind of like a battery. Every traumatic experience has drained my battery. Everything happening at once has caused an enormous drain. Now I am running on empty. And when your battery is empty, it is extremely difficult to charge.
I am fortunate that I have not struggled with mental illness for most of my life. My struggle has been caused by a number of traumatic situations that have happened recently in my life. I am currently suffering from situational depression, otherwise known as adjustment disorder. As opposed to clinical depression (there is a distinction), situational depression isn't necessarily a life-long illness. To fully understand the distinction, read the article, Situational Depression Versus Clinical Depression.
The fact that I have not suffered this illness most of my life makes me fortunate. There are many people out there who have suffered for years and I am thankful that my struggle hasn't been life-long; however, right now, I am struggling. I have been to some very dark, hopeless places in my mind. At the same time, I am trying my best to fight off that darkness and get better.
Deep down inside, I know that girl from three years ago still exists, but she's been drained, from three years of pain, grief, trauma and loss. That doesn't magically heal just because I so desperately wish it would. It's going to take some time. My battery won't charge overnight and my mental health won't drastically improve overnight.
When I started writing this article, I was embarrassed to even speak the words "mental illness" in connection to myself, but you know what, it's not embarrassing. I have a health issue that is currently affecting my ability to function and cope, which is similar to how a broken leg hinders someone's ability to function at full capacity. Fortunately, the great thing about my current struggle with mental health is that, similar to a broken leg, it can heal.
For anyone out there who is struggling with mental illness, you are not alone. I am with you during those darkest hours.
Sending you only peace and light.