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?