Mental Health Awareness Month: My Journey

Mental Health

With it being mental health awareness month, hosted by Blog of Erised, I wanted to participate and share my personal story, just as Miranda shared her story during LGBT month in April. I’ve hinted at my struggles in posts before, but I wanted to chronicle the five year journey I’ve been on, and be a bit more transparent with you all.

It all started when I was thirteen, and entering my freshman year of high school. I had skipped a grade, so I was younger than most of my peers by at least a year. Nowadays, it’s not such a problem, but in high school years, twelve months could have been another lifetime for all I cared. I was trying to fit in, and that’s where the self-esteem issues started, my biggest struggle being my weight. Looking back now, of course, I laugh, because I was a size 5 in jeans, and honestly had nothing to worry about but for a tiny tummy. But from the time I was thirteen to seventeen, I just about hated myself. No matter what diet I tried, or exercise program, I couldn’t lose those extra ten pounds, and I started to struggle with depression.

Some days it was hard to get out of bed, and others were a lot better. Actually, it wasn’t until I graduated when I was seventeen that I really noticed it getting bad. For the most part, I managed it in high school. The year after I graduated, however, was when I took a deep nosedive into a deeper depression. It was never so bad that I had to stop working, but I was isolated, quiet, and reserved. The best way I can describe it is this: I was there, present, but it was like I had shrunken to half my size, hiding away in my chest and piloting the shell of my body. Like I wasn’t in my skin, if that makes sense.

I battled this for a year, never really saying anything to anyone, and convincing myself that it was all in my head and I just needed to push through it. But then, in July 2013, my family experienced a serious upheaval. After that, the depression worsened, and then it was joined by anxiety and panic attacks. I had a hard time breathing every day, and the slightest overload would send me into an attack. But then I started to open up about some things that had been going on, and some secrets I’d been keeping. I had to realize that my relationships were unhealthy, and that I was giving so much of myself that I kept nothing for myself to remain healthy.

After that, I began the journey of recovery. I had visited an endocrinologist, who said that my thyroid levels were off, but not enough for them to do anything about it (I think the official term is “sub-clinical”). He wanted to have me on an antidepressant, but both my mom and I decided that wasn’t the route we wanted to take. After some research, we decided I would start taking a natural supplement for adrenal support. Little by little, we added some more supplements, targeting the thyroid and endocrine system in general. It wasn’t a noticeable change, but one day I woke up and thought, “I feel better.” It was this moment of clarity where I realized that I felt good and I wanted to get out of bed and go to work.

Once I had that peek at feeling better, I worked on my own mindset. It was partially my hormone levels being off that caused all this, but part of it was my perspective as well. My motto became “find some joy.” Every day, I had to think of the positives. I had to find the bright side and hold on to that. Some days, it’s harder, and the only thing I truly enjoy is the flowers in the planters by my workplace. But it’s something. And then I realized that I actually did feel better, and that I had a positive mindset without even thinking about it. I get dressed in the morning, and even though I don’t look exactly like I want to, I can still think that I look good in my favorite shirt. Or, maybe I don’t, but I shrug and move on, because I have more to do than worry if I’ve got a bit of a tummy.

Since February, despite the increasing problems in my family (and there’s no looking up anytime soon), I’ve felt the best I have in all the years I can remember. I’m able to exercise again, I’ve made friends, and I actually look forward to being around people and socializing. Some days are harder, but now I know how to fight it: music, pilates, books, and rest. It’s been a long, hard journey, but I have so much hope for the future, and I feel like I can face anything that may come my way. For example, just this Tuesday I wore shorts AND a tank top, and went grocery shopping in Sam’s Club (HUGE store like Costco!) all by myself, without having anxiety about not finding things or having to pay and talk to the cashier. I mean, not really a big deal for most almost-19 year old people, but for me it was pretty fabulous.

PS: if you haven’t guessed it, Perks was a HUGE anchor for me when I was about 16/17 and trying to push past everything. My copy is all annotated and marked up with all the quotes that inspired me to be better.

What about you? Have you ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who does? 

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26 thoughts on “Mental Health Awareness Month: My Journey

  1. I understand this. I had an eating disorder when I was depressed two years back and it took a load on me, mentally and physically. I guess reading helped me a little to get out of it and my life is steadily improving(the physical health is taking more time though).

    I’m glad you could share and you have all the support from me and many of us in the blogosphere! This post shows your bravery and your strength. *hugs* Honestly, when I first saw your picture, I thought you looked(and look) amazing! Like Jennifer Lawrence too, after that haircut! 😀

    Social places are so stressful though; I always come back red with embarassment! XD And Perks has read my mind in how I feel!

    P. S. You can email me WHENEVER you want, if you want to talk or rant! ❤

    • I’m so glad you’re doing better, at least mentally. The physical part will come back eventually 🙂 ❤

      Awww thank you! I love my hair too 😀

      And I'll remember that! I'm so bad at emailing or texting at my initiative, but I promise I'll be better!

  2. I understand the anxiety issues. I recently went on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds and started therapy for my anxiety issues. Anything with crowds push me over the edge. And on a side note – I’ve been on meds for me under active thyroid for almost twenty years. Thanks for sharing!

    • I really hope both methods work for you; I know how stressful it can be! If you don’t mind me asking, do the thyroid meds help? I was considering being retested, since those results were from a year or two ago now.

      • I’ve been on the thyroid meds since I was 12 and I’m now 30 so I can’t really remember what it’s like to not be on them. I do remember several years ago where we played with the dosage for awhile and I felt a little off until we settled on the right amount so it might be worth it to get tested again.

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us Kayla. I’m sure it was hard but you did it and you are getting better every day just by taking the steps that you are taking whether it is going to the store or sharing your struggles with hopes to help someone else. HUGS! So happy to have “met” you.

  4. Amazing post, Kayla ❤ You're so strong. And I'm so proud of you for being able to write about this. I know that it's not easy to open up and share those scary parts of yourself. But, seriously, you're such an inspiration. You have taken control of your life and, little bit little, it's getting better for you 🙂 And that's so awesome to watch. I've noticed a difference in just the short time I've known you and I'm so happy that you're able to do things like go to that store and not have it be overwhelming or send you spiraling. That's a big step forward.

    I'm here to talk if you need me 🙂

  5. You are very brave sharing this and I really admire that you are facing your fears. It isn’t easy to admit to having problems, and it is even harder trying to deal with them, but it looks as though you are really taking control of the situation.

    I have struggled for years with mental health issues (including depression, anxiety, and OCD) and it took me a long time to come to terms with it all. Thank you for sharing your story – it gives me hope that one day I might be able to turn things around for myself. 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing your story, Kayla; it’s extremely brave for you! I’ve never dealt with real depression and my heart hurts for anyone who has, because I think of low moments I’ve had and think just how much lower they feel on a much more consistent basis. It’s great that you have found some different ways that have helped you along, through the supplements and through finding joy in everyday life, and I think the latter is something we should all definitely be doing more of!

    • Thank YOU for reading it! I was hoping no one would get all offended by it and think I was just asking for attention. I guess the funny thing is that I didn’t realize I was THAT low until I got out of it. It’s definitely hard to get the right perspective, whatever side you’re on

  7. Oh gosh I feel like I’m going to leave the dorkiest comment of ever, but I really feel for you and *hugs* I’m so glad you go through it. It’s so so so hard to struggle with anxiety and depression, and it’s harder because it doesn’t look like anything’s “wrong” on the outside, and lots of people don’t understand. SO I GET THIS. I struggle with anxiety. >.< Gah, just this was a very inspiring post for me, and I also love and adore Perks. Huzzah for books in our dark times!!

    • Dork away! I’m all for it 😀 *hugs back* YES, exactly! It’s hard to describe what’s join on in your head because for everyone it’s different. I’ve gotten the “it’s not as bad as it could have been” since I don’t actually go to a therapist or take antidepressants or anxiety meds. But it’s STILL depression and anxiety, I’ve just handled it differently.

      What techniques do you use to get past the anxiety? I’m always looking for more, since it tends to pop up every now and again still.

  8. *hugs* Thank you for sharing your story with all of us… I know that everyone is saying that and I’m not saying anything new, but really, thank you. And I am so happy to see that you are now a happier person who is finding things that make you happy, even if some days are more difficult 🙂 Oh, and yay for wearing shorts and tank tops! I’m sure you looked awesome! 😀

    And ‘Perks’ is a wonderful little book, isn’t it?

  9. Pingback: Weekly Recap 30 (June 8) | The Thousand Lives

  10. Aww thanks so much for sharing your story Kayla!
    I can’t really say I understand what you went through, because I haven’t really been through anything even remotely similar, but I can definitely say that I admire how you were able to turn things around! I’m so glad you’re feeling much better these days, and I hope things continue to improve in the years to come 😀

  11. Thank you for sharing Kayla! I know it’s hard to talk about these kinds of things in general, and to share with so many people online is so brave. I’ve never dealt with real depression, but it just breaks my heart when I hear about people who do. I have down days, where all I want to do is stay curled up in bed, but they’re few and far between. It’s so admirable to hear that you were able to work past your struggles and that you are so much better now! For a lot of people (myself included) going anywhere by yourself feels hard and it’s just something that comes with practice, so it’s awesome that you were able to go to Sam’s without anxiety!

    Sending hugs your way! 😀

  12. Thank you for sharing your story! ❤ I'm so happy to hear that things have been looking up for you this year. (:

    I personally have not really struggled with many mental health issues, but my boyfriend has depression and pretty severe anxiety, and with someone that close, it obviously has a huge impact on my life. As I was growing up as well I had several close friends on the Internet who suffered from depression and eating disorders and other stuff like PTSD. So yeah, mental health is something I really care about.

    • I hope your boyfriend is doing better, and finding some coping techniques. I know how scary it can be! But really the best thing is that you’re there supporting him; having someone just be there for you makes a total difference. I don’t know where I’d be if my mom hadn’t been so patient and insistent even after the doctor said nothing was wrong!

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