You know what? It's ok
Over the weekend I posted on social media that we needed to improve the conversation on mental health. Well, I want to practice what I preach, so here goes nothing:
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Depression when I was 22 years old. I should have been diagnosed earlier but fear kept me from getting the help I needed. The thing is, I knew help was out there. My parents made it a point to talk to me about mental health, even at a young age. Still, I suffered in silence for a very long time. I knew I needed help but the desire to keep up the bubbly persona I was portraying on the outside was stronger. Throughout high school my anxiety would paralyze me from doing things that needed to be done. Negative thoughts kept me from feeling comfortable in my skin. I knew something wasn’t right but I thought I had it handled. Anxiety is a consistent problem for me but depression comes in waves. Each time I would get swept under the current I would pull myself out of it. I would tell myself, “Just keep smiling and it will take care of itself”. Back and forth, fiercely swimming while repeating, “Keep smiling, everything is fine.” Life went on like that for years while I got weaker and weaker. Trying to breathe underwater is impossible. Eventually, I got so weak that I couldn’t swim through the waves. I pushed people away and didn’t get out of bed. I let my problems stack up and couldn’t even fake the smile. I was drowning. Thankfully, this time, the desire to no longer feel that way outweighed the desire to be perceived in a negative light. I finally asked for help. My therapist at the time told me that I have a chemical imbalance, a medical condition, and that it is ok. Slowly, with her help and the help of medication, I learned the the tools necessary to swim effectively through those waves. I got stronger and my chest felt lighter. Ten years later my smile is genuine. Of course, just like physical health, there are relapses. I have had events in my life trigger those waves and the darkness has tried to creep back in. The difference now is that I check in with myself and do the work to maintain that genuine smile.
I was lucky enough to know that there is help out there. Eventually, I was honest with myself in order to accept it. The stigma around mental health is real and it’s stunting the solution to a serious problem. The stigma prevents people from getting the help they need and stops the conversation before it starts. There are some people that didn’t grow up knowing help is out there, others are trapped in the darkness because of fear. I’m opening up to let those people know help is out there and it’s ok to get it. Every time my daughter is upset I say: “You are safe and you are loved.” Recently, it dawned on me that I need to speak that truth to myself as well. Now, every time I feel an anxious thought entire my mind, I take a deep breath and say: “You are safe and you are loved.”
Everyone has moments of darkness. Your problems aren’t trivial, or silly--it’s all relative. Maybe you never had issues before but an experience sends you spiraling, it’s ok. Maybe you have been suffering in silence your whole life, it’s ok. You are 100% NOT alone. You have your true ride or die, your true BFF-- YOU! If your immediate reaction to that statement is a negative one do anything you can to make that statement elicit a positive response. It’s so important to be kind to each other, absolutely. If you are in the light, it’s so important to reach out to those in the darkness. But don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Check in with yourself. How are you doing? Is your answer honest? If your honest answer is that you’re struggling or even worse that you’re drowning, it will be ok. Find a friend/family member/therapist/doctor to be honest with and get the help you deserve. Let’s improve the conversation. Let’s tell each other it’s ok. Don’t go it alone, don’t fake that smile. Be honest with yourself. Love yourself.
Take a deep breath.
You are safe and you are loved.