Rocky Road, and I'm NOT Talking About Ice Cream...
Let’s take a brief moment to talk about mental health.
First, let’s address that there is stigma surrounding mental health topics.
Second, let’s deal with mental health honestly and compassionately.
Third, let’s talk resources.
I posted something on Facebook:
I want to be very clear that I debated for hours before posting that. I have received compassion from my community, and I appreciate that greatly. But I do think—though I have no way to be certain— that people may come across that post and scoff, assume that it’s pity-seeking, assume that it’s attention-seeking, and/or feel it’s inappropriate for someone to post, particularly when I'm trying to build a business. And they are free to think that, but a lot of those thoughts are based in stigma.
Now, I made a decision. I wanted to be upfront about my mental health, because I want my readers, my friends, my associates, etc. to know me. To know me is to know someone with mental health struggles. But I also wanted to let other people know they are not alone in these struggles.
There is a fear of being judged when talking about mental health, because some view psychology and psychiatry as woo-woo garbage, some think it’s just for the privileged, some think it’s best left behind closed doors, and some think it’s best to ignore.
I happen to disagree. While the sciences of psychology and psychiatry are still young, they are sciences. They employ the scientific method, they perform research, collect data, and try to find answers to questions that are quite difficult. There is an amount of assumption to it, and there is an amount of subjectivity to it, but there always is, regardless of what kind of research one is doing. Unfortunately, as the human mind is so variable, there’s a bit more subjectivity and assuming.
Mental health concerns are not just for the privileged, but care often is. That needs to change, and that change is beyond the scope of this post.
Struggling with mental health is not best to ignore or hide, because ignoring and hiding leaves it to fester. Opening up and revealing your truth requires a great deal of vulnerability that people perceive as weakness, but there is inherent strength to it. There is a fortitude of refusing to submit to pain, trauma, and fear. To hide and ignore is to be afraid. To admit and deal is to persevere.
People will still disagree, and that’s theirs to deal with. What I know is that I won’t let their judgments stop me from being me, I won’t let their assumptions stop me from speaking out, and I won’t let their issues become mine. I already have enough to deal with.
Now, for a bit of honesty. I have dysthymia, a.k.a. persistent depressive disorder. Basically, I’m low-key depressed all the time, and I have been since I was about six years old. The last time I tried antidepressants, I had allergic reactions to several of them. I decided to not try anymore, because I really didn’t want to end up hospitalized.
You may wonder how I live every day with depression for almost thirty years, but I can’t really tell you how, l can just tell you that I do.
To make things easier on myself, I employ cognitive behavioral therapy tactics. I am mindful of my thoughts so that I can isolate the depressive thoughts and address them.
See, my brain is pretty mean to me. Every day, I battle thoughts that my brain repeats ad nauseum. Thoughts that I’m worthless. Thoughts that I’m an inconvenience. Thoughts that I’m a failure. Thoughts that I don’t deserve to live. Thoughts that I’m unlovable. Thoughts that I’m a terrible person. Thoughts that I should give up and die. I have faced these thoughts every day of my life since I was a young child.
You might be thinking—and rightfully so—that a six-year-old shouldn’t think those things. But I was taught to. That’s what it comes down to, and the particulars of my traumas are irrelevant. But I was taught to think those things from the time I was very young and developing. My brain is basically wired to think that way, and I have to prevent myself from falling into those thought patterns multiple times every day.
It’s taken me a long time to come to a point of acknowledging that those thoughts were taught to me and that they were based on lies. I can say that out loud, but I don’t know if I will ever feel the truth of it. It sucks, but I’ve come a long way to be able to admit the lies of me being worthless, an inconvenience, a failure, unlovable, a terrible person, undeserving of life, and that I should kill myself.
Acknowledging lies and knowing truth are two different things. That’s what I’m working on. When my brain starts spiraling through these thoughts, I confront them for the lies that they are. It is exhausting, but I do it daily. Frequently many times throughout the day.
Sometimes, though, everything piles up, it gets to be too much, and I don’t have the energy needed to do it. That’s where I am, right now. My energy stores are so low that I can barely get out of bed. That’s why I’m struggling not to succumb to a chasm of self-doubt and hatred. But I’m still struggling.
What I am faced with, though, is a choice. And I’m making the choice of breathing. I rather like it, even when my brain is telling me that I don’t. Liking breathing is a truth that I do know. I’m trying to know the truth of the other things, too, but it’s tough and taxing.
That brings us to me writing this blog post. I want to be a part—even if it’s a small part—of overcoming the stigma of mental health struggles, and I want to let people know that they aren’t solitary on their journey, even when it feels like you are. (That is a good example of your brain lying to you, btdubs. You’re not alone. Your struggles are real. You are valid.)
Again, some people are going to find my Facebook post and this blog post inappropriate, and good for them. Making myself vulnerable is a powerful tool to remind myself of how far I’ve come, that I’m still growing, and that even if I am continually depressed for the rest of my life, I’ve been through worse shit. And if me being open about my journey helps one person, then it’s fucking worth it.
I have learned to live in service to others. I have learned to live in gratitude. I have learned a sense of perspective that worse can always come. (I mean, look at 2020. It’s been a complete shitshow and keeps devolving.) But service, gratitude, perspective, forgiveness, and time have helped temper my depression. It’s still there, but emotions are transient, even if our brains want to lie and tell us they’re not.
I hope that—if you are questioning my purpose in my posts—that you will read this with compassion. I don’t want pity, attention, or carte blanche to behave any which way. What I want is for people to see that those who struggle with mental health are—first and foremost—human. You don’t need to understand what it’s like in my shoes, but at least acknowledge that I—and every other human—have shoes that have seen miles of road you don’t even know exists. Same with your shoes and me.
Life isn’t just. I don’t think there is any justice in what I’ve been through, but I think we need to try to be just. Justice requires compassion, and compassion goes a long way down a rocky road.
Now, for resources.
I’m putting the suicide hotline here, because it’s important that we have that number. I hope no one ever has to call it, but it exists for those who do need it. And it’s okay to need it.
As for the tools that I mentioned, some of them I got from worksheets, which I will link here. I can’t afford to go to a therapist, but these can highlight some patterns that make the struggle tougher. If you work on the patterns, you can work on undoing them, and that can lighten the load a bit.
The last tool that I use isn’t really specific, but I pull up Youtube and search Alpha Wave music. It helps me center my focus when I’m having an especially tough time. That might work for you. Or it could irritate the shit out of you. But find something that helps you center your focus and engage in mindfulness. It can be pretty painful to confront the lies you were told, but it can be vindicating when the lies are accepted as what they are. Find things that soothe you, whether it’s tinky music or cuddling a stuffed animal.
There are other things you can do, but it’s really a guess and test sort of situation when you can’t afford therapy. But have a support system while you face what you face. It’s tough to let people in, but when you find good people, that’s where they belong.
Speaking of support, I want to thank everyone who sent me kind thoughts and reached out to me. You didn’t judge me or ridicule me. You showed me compassion, and know that your compassion is making this bout of difficulty a bit lighter than it otherwise would have been. Thank you for your help, your support, and your kindness.
Now, I’m going to go cry. Shower, and drink some water. If I feel up to it, I might eat something. But then I’m climbing back in bed, and I’m going to veg for a few days. I’ll read and I’ll process. And then I’ll restore, and I’ll be back to spreading smiles, because that’s one of my favorite things to do.