It really bothers me when people treat mental illness like a switch you can just turn off and on. Ignorantly self-diagnosing themselves whenever there’s a twinge of inconsistency in their mood. Depression is more than sadness and anxiety is more than butterflies in your stomach.
How am I able to speak on this so confidently?
After many psych evaluations from three different mental health professionals, I’ve been diagnosed with both moderate anxiety and depression (A&D). Anxiety was first. Then came depression. It took me a while to process and accept my new reality. As someone who likes to be in control of — really everything— you could only imagine how defeating it felt when I had no control over my own emotions. One way in - No way out. I refer to it as mental incarceration.
2020 was the year everyone's mental well-being took a turn for the absolute worse. A year where so many lost so much. Where pretty much everyone was on lockdown with an inability to rely on outside factors to distract them from the chaos the year brought. This was the year A&D showed me exactly who they were. One attack, after another breakdown, after another self-isolated state...after another night of suicidal thoughts. Yes, these two conditions combined almost killed me.
Anxiety and depression have a way of making you feel as if you are not in control of your own mind; altering your reality like a psychedelic drug and manipulating you like a narcissistic ex. You feel trapped inside of yourself - with no way out. I struggled in silence, then I struggled in confidence with those close to me, then I struggled with my therapist, then it seemed like less of a struggle. It began to feel like a hike in the Pacific Northwest that was harder than expected but once you reached the end of it, you found solace in how you conquered it and reflected with relief at the beauty of the journey.
One thing I’ve learned about mental health is that you have to own it. It’s a battle that only you can fight and win. For me, one of my weapons is journaling. But not in a traditional sense, where I write down a summary of my day. I’ve started being more cognizant in moments where I’m at my happy highs. I write down who and what is around me. What it looks and smells like. What it sounds and tastes like. Making note of what sets my soul on fire - and always having it within arms reach. I do the work because I’ve realized I’m stronger than what my mind tells me when I’m at my lowest. I understand who I am and whose I am. I lean on my faith as my guiding tool. I go to therapy. I articulate to the people who love me when I need help and when I need space. I bought a puppy. I spend more time with what I love and invest none in what disrupts my peace. Most importantly, I make a conscious choice everyday to fight for my well-being. To stay alive. Some days, that’s all the fight I have, other days - I may have a little more.
In the end, I realized, the only way out was letting myself in.