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The Day After World Mental Health Day

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.

 

I didn’t post anything. Not because I don’t care about mental health awareness, but because I was in a ton of pain and my physical health wouldn’t allow it. Today though, I feel a bit better, and I’d like to share with you some of what I saw online yesterday as well as some of my own thoughts.

 

Scrolling through my Instagram feed yesterday, I saw raw posts about personal battles with mental health. I read a powerful account from Lindsay Feitsma (@languageofpain), who was witness to a suicide attempt by a woman she didn’t know. And I saw lots of posts encouraging those who need help to reach out and ask for it unashamedly.

 

I was moved by each story and encouraged by the open and honest dialogue. It’s amazing that we live in a time where, slowly but surely, we are breaking down barriers of silence and destigmatizing mental health. Let’s keep that up! More of this!

 

At the same time though, I feel like we can do even more. Obviously, open conversations about mental health are important, but we can’t just post about it one day a year and expect anything to change. People are struggling with mental health issues just as much today as they were yesterday.

 

We need to learn to be intentional with one another. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to ask hard questions and demand truthful answers from each other.

 

The first few months of my marriage, what I believed should have been the happiest, sappiest time in my life, were some of the hardest I have ever experienced. Hubs and I had up and moved across the country, leaving behind a lifetime of friendships and family support. We didn’t know how to be grownups. We didn’t know how to be married. Looking back, we didn’t know much actually. We bit off quite a bit more than we could chew at once!

 

I struggled, but I told myself “you’re just adapting to all the life changes,” and “things will settle down and then you’ll be happy,” and “be patient with yourself.”

 

Time wore on though, and I grew gradually less patient. “You shouldn’t feel this way Mandy.” “Hubs probably regrets marrying you since you’re sad all the time.” “Nothing is even wrong. Why are you like this?”

 

These thoughts spiraled and spiraled, but I never thought to reach out to anyone, because I didn’t realize I was depressed. I thought depression is what happened when there was a funeral, not a wedding. Or when you lost your job, not when you were at the outset of your career. Or when there was some sort of trauma in your life, and what trauma had I endured?

 

But then one day I realized that I was fantasizing about throwing myself off the balcony of our fourth floor apartment.

 

So I told Hubs how I was feeling, despite the shame and insecurity and embarrassment I felt. We discussed it, and then we made changes. We made decisions that were hard, especially at such an early point in our marriage, but necessary. I gradually began to share with some family and friends. Eventually, I was able to climb out of that pit.

 

Here’s the thing though: it’s not like I was living in a box of isolation during this time. While I was struggling so mightily, people asked how I was. I told them I was “fine,” or “alright,” or “adjusting,” and then told them how crazy Colorado weather is. And that was that.

 

Very rarely did someone push me for more information. Even more rarely did I offer it up on my own.

 

Thankfully, I eventually realized what was happening and reached out, and people helped me. It ended up okay for me that I wasn’t pushed when I answered that I was “fine.” That is not the case for everyone though. A person can only be strong on their own for so long.

 

I was still well and healthy during my first go-around with depression. Since then, I’ve obviously been diagnosed with a Lyme and Co., and, as you can probably imagine, feeling like garbage 24/7 for years doesn’t help your mental state. If you know someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I can almost guarantee you that at some point, they’ve thought to themselves or even said out loud, “I am a burden. My loved ones would be better off without me. Why doesn’t God just put me out of my misery?” I know I have.

 

So what’s the point of this rather uncomfortable blog post?

 

It’s a call to action—for you, for me, for everyone. We need to be intentional. We need to talk about these things that are, honestly, really hard to talk about. We need to ask questions and then really listen to the answers…and sometimes we might need to push for more. We need to be compassionate. We need to quit promoting the idea that asking for help makes us weak. When we are struggling, we need to reach out. We need to put aside those feelings of shame and embarrassment. We need to learn to accept those outstretched hands offering support.

 

To get very specific, if you know someone who suffers from a chronic illness, send them a message today and remind them of the value they bring to your life. Remind them of all the reasons you love and care for them.

 

If you’re reading this and are in that dark place, I know. I understand. Remember that there are people who will walk with you through the darkness.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Or, if you prefer to chat with someone online:

http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx

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2 thoughts on “The Day After World Mental Health Day

  1. Bravo on sharing the “reality” and depth of your depression.
    As Christians we are accustomed to ” Giving our Burdens to Jesus;
    But The more difficult thing seems to (and this is an a paraphrase of a Clint Eastwood line).. you gotta know your own limitations.
    At some point most anyone can get beyond the point of self coping.
    I’ve been familiar with minor to severe/chronic and clinically dangerous depression in my family/friends for a long time (my 1st major glimpse was when I was 10).
    Getting through the initial emotional stigmatism of possibly needing professional help for our minds just as we may need professional help for physical ailments is no easy step to cross; but nonetheless needed when it’s beyond our self coping capability.
    The worry that I’m going crazy or it’s all in your head is reinforced by non-mental health oriented and insensitive professionals; and this occurs way too often.
    Depression as in other difficulties comes in a very wide spectrum of severity and when coupled with chronic physical problems makes healing that much more difficult and bith tend to worsen the other over time.The hard thing when self-diagnosing is at what point has it gotten beyond that nebulous threshold of needing expert help.
    Feelings are not right or wrong – They just “ARE”; the key is what actions do we take based on them.
    I once read that the opposite of Depression is is Not happiness; but Action.

    1. You do gotta know your limitations. And having them tested is, unfortunately, the best way to figure them out. I definitely agree that depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorder can definitely be exacerbated by those insensitive professionals. When you’re fighting so hard for them to believe that you’re physically sick and not just depressed or anxious, the last thing you want to do is admit that you are actually both of those things. That can make getting appropriate care a real challenge…much harder than it should be. I love that you said the opposite of depression is not happiness, but action. That is so true, and something that I think a lot of us miss. Thank you for sharing some thoughts and contributing to this conversation about mental health!

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