~ Lyrics from “Talk” by Coldplay
Lately I’ve been hearing from people who’ve been reading my blog. I’m so honored to learn their stories. I read each of these emails, comments, and texts with a deep respect for the story they’re sharing with me. They’re trusting me with their pain, their struggles, their fears.
And I can totally relate because I’ve walked in their shoes.
It’s a scary thing to have to deal with mental illness. It can rock you to the core. Make you question your future. Turn your world upside down. Turn your family upside down. Your friends may even shy away from trying to help. Not because they don’t care about your well-being, but because they don’t know how to help. They are clueless as to where to start, even though they want desperately to have their old friend back. They feel helpless.
The same emotion the person who was handed the mental illness card feels: helplessness.
When a chemical imbalance occurs in someone’s brain, of course the first thing a person feels is helpless. A band-aid won’t fix this. It’s not something visible from the outside that a regular doctor can address. The brain is mis-firing. Something is deficient within the cells and synapses and it will likely take some time, effort, therapy, and a good doctor to figure out how to get things back to the baseline.
Is inevitably the question that screams out from within. This isn’t fair. What did I do to deserve this plight? It’s not fair.
Friend, I’ve been there. I’ve been through the pain and fear that comes along with hearing you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. I’ve trudged through the thick, seemingly never ending mud pit of despair that is clinical depression. And I’ve felt the prickly, rushing waves of anxiety roll over me countless times, rendering me into an immobile heap, unable to decide what to do next to squash the distress. My mind has lost touch with reality when mania caught hold of my brain with her fiery grip, only to be brought back down through injections of antipsychotics in a psych ward. I even wrestled with several bouts of suicidal thoughts, when I hit rock bottom.
That, my friend, is what it took. The lowest low you could ever imagine. Weeks of wanting to just curl up and sleep forever. I’d pray that I wouldn’t wake up. But each morning, the world kept turning and the cycle would start again. I’d loathe the chore of taking a shower and picking out clothes for the day ahead of me. I’d put myself on autopilot in order to get through my morning routine. If I thought too much about it, I’d crawl back into bed, my safe cocoon. Episodes of anxiety at work would cause me such stress I could barely eat. I internalized so much, keeping my hurt bottled up inside because I was afraid of what people would think if I told the truth. Countless nights of red eyes from tears that had flowed so hard, there was nothing left. My body ached with the weight of it all. It had become too much to bear.
That’s when I realized: I can’t do this anymore.
I was sick of feeling the way I was feeling. I made a conscious decision to listen to what my doctors had been telling me. I chose to try a new medication and I committed to a treatment plan. And do you know what?
It worked for me.
It took several months of seeing my doctor consistently, taking my meds religiously, and following up with feedback for my doctor so that we could tweak the dosages. Sure, there were plenty of unpleasant side effects. I’ll spare you the details. The important thing is that I got back to well. I got my life back. Definitely not the same one; my life is completely different now than when I was first diagnosed. But in my opinion, this life I’m living now is ten million times better.
Because of what I’ve experienced, I now get to help people realize that they can get well too.
I realize it’s not always that easy. Sometimes there are so many other factors involved. It’s not my place to give out medical advice to my readers. Ethically, I don’t think it’s right. But there is something I will always share with anyone who reaches out to me: hope. I believe everyone is capable of overcoming a mental illness. We can do this by learning to live with it, accepting it for what it is instead of letting it beat us down. And we can help each other by talking about it.
We can do this. We’re much stronger together than we are solo, wouldn’t you agree?
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust. Whether that person is a blogger you only know from reading online, or someone much closer to you. Just talk. It’s the first step to getting back to well.