Getting raw about my journey with mental health: ‘All about riding the wave’

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“Depression is like a black hole that creeps up on you, consuming the entirety of your mind. Crawling and covering the parts that make you feel alive, that remind you that you have a purpose here. It makes you feel worthless, alone- it permits you to take things for granted.”

I thought that it was appropriate for my first blog post to be about my journey with my mental health. If I am trying to cultivate this to be a place of openness and vulnerability, then I must lead with that. For anyone out there reading, first of all, thank you. And secondly, if you resonate with this in anyway, I am sending you love. Above all, I want you to know that it does get better. Yes, it may be something that you will have to deal with throughout your life, I know I will. Mental health and healing is not linear. But there are ways to manage it and control it, instead of the other way around.

Grade 10 was the first time I came close to a nervous breakdown. I remember it so clearly even though my mind has tried desperately to block it out. There were many factors in my personal life at the time that played a role, and I battled heavy anxiety and depression for the majority of that year. Even though at the time, I didn’t know that I was.

It happened over a period of three days. I remember telling my friends at school that I had come down with a bad case of the stomach flu- it wasn’t the stomach flu. In fact, at the age of 15 I was almost convinced that I was developing heart problems- this wasn’t the case. For three days, I suffered through chest pain so paralyzing that it felt like an elephant was sitting on me. I could barely normalize my breathing, and my heart palpitations were sure faster than normal. I didn’t sleep, I barely ate- I couldn’t really, I only felt nauseous. Then came the shaking, the shaking. Oh god, this is what must lead to a seizure, I thought- it wasn’t a seizure.

On the third day when I finally felt able to leave the house, I then visited my doctor. After running some tests, he checked everything over saying it looked normal and that maybe I had caught some weird stomach bug causing the other symptoms.

“Things do go around this time of year, you know. You should be fine and able to return to school tomorrow,” he said. Thankfully, I was able to return to school the next day. My symptoms had finally subsided, although I was still dealing with feeling short of breath and this weird tightness in my chest on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I started doing more research about my symptoms that I found what I was suffering from was actually anxiety and depression.

Depression is like a black hole that creeps up on you, consuming the entirety of your mind. Crawling and covering the parts that make you feel alive, that remind you that you have a purpose here. It makes you feel worthless, alone- it permits you to take things for granted.

Although what I suffered from were physical ailments, my mind was unwell, not my body. I was sort of appalled to come to the realization that my doctor hadn’t even asked me how I had been feeling mentally, or if that could have been a cause of my symptoms.

Fast forward six years later, and my journey with mental health has come a long way, but not without a long and exhausting series of constant ups and downs. That has always been the hardest thing for me. When you think that maybe you have finally “beat it” but then the nights of lying in bed short of breath return, the feeling of not wanting to leave the house, of having nothing to look forward to comes back.

The summer of 2017 I hit an extremely low point with my mental health. I felt lost and confused, I didn’t even recognize the reflection of the girl that was staring back at me in the mirror. And it scared me to death, because it had been five years since I had felt this low. The black hole was creeping up on me again, I could feel it. And it was powerful this time.

Feeling this low for such a long period of time can feel like it’s going to feel like this forever. I told myself that it had beat me this time. I couldn’t beat it. But I was wrong, and if you are reading this and feeling this way, you are wrong too.

Accepting that you may need to take medication for an extra dose of serotonin to normalize your mood and your thoughts, or finally making that phone call to see a therapist to help you sort through things and improve your quality of life- That is not failure. That is not weak. That is winning, that is strength.

I have taken both steps which have helped to completely changed my outlook on life. I am in a better place than I feel like I have been in years. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments ahead of feeling low, it’s all about accepting it, recognizing it and riding the wave. We only have one mind and one body for our whole life, so why don’t we try and show it as much love as we possibly can.

This means being kind to ourselves when we are struggling, and asking for help when it’s needed. A strong support system is absolutely necessary for all of us to have to lean on. This is why I ask and hope that if you have never experienced any of this yourself, to show compassion and understanding to family members and friends that are going through it.

Without a strong mind, it’s impossible to nourish a strong body. A healthy body is everything, but that only starts with a healthy mind. This is something we all need to recognize. It’s 2018 and we still don’t. We’re still not there yet- but I’m honored to be part of the journey of finally getting there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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