Archive for the ‘Mental Health Awareness’ Category

Mental Health Awareness Month | One

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I’ve been sitting here at my computer running through my mind all the things I want to say about my personal mental health struggles:
“What is my story?”
“Why is it important?”
“What do I want to say?”  

The truth is, there are so many reasons to share my personal history with mental health. It has been challenging to organize my thoughts.  

For me, it all starts with understanding what I can control and what I cannot.  Mental illness, depression and anxiety runs in my family. It’s a genetic disease that has been passed down, not through actions and habits of my family, but through brain chemistry.  It took me a really long time to understand that feeling depressed and anxious is actually NOT something I can control. I struggled through many years trying to contain my emotions and then beating myself up when I couldn’t, it only made me feel worse. The tricky thing about mental illness (specifically anxiety in my case) is that sometimes an emotional reaction cannot be regulated by reason.  After years and years of ups and downs I met with the right psychiatrist. He helped me understand that some things are beyond my control. I was finally able to let go of trying. Rather than fighting an impossible battle with my brain chemistry, I was able to focus on the things I actually could control, like lifestyle, surroundings, situations and triggers that lead those feelings to surface.

So, What is my story?
It’s over 20 years of struggling with anxiety and resulting depression. Within those 20 years I experienced five episodes that completely debilitated me from functioning in everyday life.  HOWEVER, I want to reiterate, this is *not* a sob story. This is a story of someone who struggled and prevailed, and then fell and got back up again. I write this now from a positive, productive and rational place. In those moments of despair it’s the absolute worst. It feels hopeless and helpless and isolating and completely alone. But it has always gotten better.

So, why share my story? Why now?
I’m finally at a place where I feel like I have a much better understanding of myself and my illness.  With better perspective of my own story, I feel much better sharing what I know. Anyone else who feels similarly, I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

The more we talk about mental health the better we can understand each other, maybe together we can lessen the stigma and shame by sharing our experiences. I hope this blog series can help add to the conversation.