Good morning! May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And guess what? I’ve found A TAG that I think is just perfect for kicking off a discussion of mental health and mental illness. Btw, I stole this from BG @ Getting Through Anxiety!
Creating conversations about these subjects is very important to me, so I hope you find that reading this post is just as helpful as writing it has been for me. Now let’s go!
What mental illness do you have?
I have anxiety, depression, and OCD.
When were you diagnosed?
I don’t remember exact dates, but I started seeing my old psychiatrist early in the summer of 2016, so it would have been sometime around then. Wow, that’s much more recent than I realized… still less than two years ago!
Who knows about it?
I’m pretty open about my mental health because I believe that decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses helps increase a sense of community among us all. So… a lot of people in my life know.
Tbh it would probably be easier to name the ones who don’t know than those who do? I haven’t really talked to any of my grandparents about it because I don’t want them to worry. Honestly, I’m not particularly close to most of my relatives, so I guess not many of them know either.
Otherwise, though, I write about it a lot, support others through conversations both IRL and online, and more. I certainly don’t hide it.
Do you receive treatment for it?
Yeah! Since the summer of 2016, I’ve been on one antidepressant or another, trying to find something that works. For a long time I was on escitalopram and did all right, but I’ve since switched to venlafaxine and that seems to work even better. Although it’s mainly thought of as an antidepressant, it also helps with anxiety and OCD which is THE BEST.
I go to group therapy once a week during school semesters and occasionally meet one-on-one with the therapist who leads it if I’m really struggling. Happily, though, that happens less and less often!
Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything?
I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities due to feeling too worried or exhausted to go, which is unfortunate. I go through periods where all I want to do is sleep forever or where my sleep schedule is turned completely upside down. It’s also very difficult to focus on… well, on most days, if I’m being honest. I’m trying very hard to be more “present” in my own life, rather than retreating into my head full of worries.
Is there anything in particular that has helped you?
Medication. The “happy pill” is a myth: Antidepressants don’t instantaneously cure you, but they do give you that kick in the butt that you need to start doing things, which hopefully results in feeling a little more motivated to tackle the strategies for recovery you learn in therapy.
Group therapy has also been immensely helpful. I was a bit nervous about it at first, but now I know how good it feels to find others who are going through the same things. Plus, it’s not nearly as dramatic + serious as pop culture portrays it… we have inside jokes and love each other a lot. In general, making friends who also have mental health issues has been great because we’re there to congratulate each other on successes and support each other through hard times.
What does it feel like to have your mental illness?
Anxiety feels… jittery. I feel like I’m always forgetting something. I’m trying to figure out if I’m blowing something out of proportion. I feel slightly out of the loop when people talk about feeling at peace because relaxation does not come naturally to me!
Depression feels like a foggy mind that just won’t clear… and legs that feel shaky or weak from hunger, since I sometimes forget to feed myself. I definitely have more good days now than I did a few years ago, but there are still times when I panic and wonder if there’s even any point to life since I feel like I’ll never stop being sad. I’ve lost the motivation and sometimes even the love for some of my favorite activities.
OCD is much trickier to describe. I guess it feels like… when you have a project due and the deadline keeps getting closer and closer, but you can’t seem to make yourself do anything because you’re paralyzed by doubt. It’s like being caught in an endless loop. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it makes me want to scream.
What is a common misconception about your mental health issue?
People seem to think that telling me “it’s all in your head!” or “oh, just stop worrying!” will magically make my anxiety go away??? I know some of my anxieties are irrational, but that doesn’t make my condition any less real. Plus, actively trying to not think about something often means you wind up thinking of nothing but. (Trust me, I know. THANKS, OCD.)
There’s a misconception that depression can be cured with yoga and sunlight and long walks alone. All of those things can help, but they’re not instant fix-its and it can be difficult for severely depressed people to drag themselves outside or onto a yoga mat to begin with.
Finally, people think OCD is cute. Quirky. Trendy. It’s not. It’s hell. I would do anything to get rid of it. It’s very difficult to treat. One of many, many reasons I’ve chosen to never have children is that I don’t want to risk passing on that gene to my kids. (Even if I adopted, I’d be worried that my OCD would make me too distracted to be a good parent.)
What do you find the most difficult to deal with?
My OCD, for sure. Anxiety and depression are no walk in the park, either, but in all my twenty-one years of life I’ve never once felt that I had the OCD under control. The jokes and misunderstandings (or even outright refusals to understand!) make it even worse. I’m grateful for the support and companionship I receive for my anxiety and depression, but my OCD still leaves me feeling so lonely.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Listen to the mentally ill. It isn’t always easy for us to describe what our lives are like, but we do try. Don’t talk over us. Give us autonomy.
Also, know that mental health isn’t just for mentally ill people. Everyone could benefit from practicing self care, setting reasonable + achievable goals, et cetera. You’re in possession of the only brain you’ll ever have. Treat it well.
I’m not going to tag people because this tag is so personal and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable! If you wanna do it, though, you should definitely feel free – and please send me the link to your blog post because I’d love to check it out!