May is mental health month and I’ve been working on my annual post since the 1st.
cw: talk of suicide, self-harm and eating disorders
I’ve struggled with mental health issues since I was in middle school and had no words to talk about my struggles. I just knew there were a lot of days I didn’t want to be alive and I caused myself physical pain to try to stop the emotional pain before I even hear the phrase “self harm.”
Today I use all of the words all of the time.
I have been on dozens of medications, seen many therapists, and have had an assortment of diagnosis since the first time I fell into darkness. After years of getting a handle on my anxiety and depression I finally started tackling my eating disorder and most recently my psychiatrist has been working on perfecting my ADHD medication because managing my ADHD is a huge factor in managing my anxiety disorder.
Through it all I’ve learned a few things and I want to share them with you.
- Everyone struggles with something and everyone is desperate to know that they’re not alone in their struggles. I’ve been so blessed by connections made with others by simply opening up about my struggles. So many people will relate to something I talk about, reach out about it, and then suddenly neither of us feel as alone anymore.
- Different things work at different times, so it’s important to keep trying. There was a point in time where yoga really helped me start my day with a calm brain, but lately I’ve been painting instead. There are different external triggers in our lives almost daily, especially during a pandemic, so don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work anymore. This also works for medication and therapists. Be willing to recognize with something needs to change. Don’t assume because it works now it will always work.
- Do not oversimplify your mental health. No matter how much media wants to tell you it’s what you’re eating, or it’s your screen habits, or it’s your will power…it’s always going to be a little bit of everything and a lot of things you can’t directly control without medication or therapy. You contain multitudes and your mental health is not just a simple A to B linear progress chart. Human beings are complex individuals with many biological systems in play and sometimes changing one habit will help and sometimes medication will help and sometimes therapy will help but don’t ever be tricked into thinking it’s just ONE thing that you need to fix your mental health. We all want quick and easy solutions but when that one medication doesn’t magically cure us, the disappointment can be crushing if we don’t keep in mind the diversity of our magical little brains.
- Ask for help. I’ll never regret the day I finally said, “Um. I think I need therapy or something because my mental health has been shit.” If you are drowning in loneliness or blinded by worry or if the pain of your despair is tainting your every breath…that is not how you were meant to live. You were meant to shine sometimes, and if you can’t ever find that shine, reach out. I’m not going to lie and say my every day is just me frolicking in the sun. But I do sometimes frolick, and more importantly, I know I can find the light. I have hope that even on the dark days, the light is still there. My brand of mental health disorders are life-long, I’ll always be working on some facet of my illnesses and there are still plenty of hard days, but I now know when it’s time to reach out again to my healthcare team or my family or my friends.
Some of the things that have been working for me? Morning painting (it’s the closest I’ll get to meditation), reading books by smart people, my meds.
Find what works for you.