I’ve been fighting anxiety and depression since I was nine years old. Through most of these years, of course, there were no official labels just very personal ones: “negative”, “moody”, “annoying”, “whiny”, “lazy”…
As I grew older, I kept within me the feeling of being utterly defective but was able to balance things out using my brain to perform tasks leading me on successful academic and professional paths.
A few years ago, when I was dealing with stressful situations at home and at work, it was relatively easy for me to engage in a dialogue with my doctor regarding reducing my anxiety symptoms. What I wasn’t ready to admit however, was my depression symptoms. I just hoped that in reducing anxiety, things would get better. I tried four anti-depressants. Some drained me so much that I would spend my work day desperately wanting to lie down on the repulsive flooring to sleep. One finally made a positive difference and I spent the good part of a year taking it, then the side effects (major weight gain, loss of any sense of urgency, loss of interest in life) were no longer tolerable. Since my personal circumstances had changed for the better in the meantime too, I thought the worse was behind me.
It lasted less than three years.
I got broken again this year. I had spent months trying desperately to avoid the crash. Worked on getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, seeing friends, put some fun in my life. But I was fighting a losing battle. Again, work and life stresses, brain chemistry and perimenopause did me in. I showed up at a medical appointment for prescription renewals and I finally admitted I was broken and could not get the pieces back into place on my own.
I still needed to make a living so I was back on medication, now with two new anti-depressants to keep side effects in check. What changed however, is that this time, I was ok requesting help to alleviate my depression symptoms. Bully for me.
If I was listening to this story, I would be 100% behind the story teller, assuring them that mental health challenges happen to everyone, but that not everyone has the courage to get help, that he/she should be proud. That people suffering from a mental ailment deserve the same respect as individuals suffering from a physical ailment, that he/she, in no way, created this situation for themselves and that there is absolutely no shame in taking medication to become healthy may it be physical or mental health.
When it comes to me though, I’m not always this supportive. I’m working hard on being supportive and compassionate for myself. I thankfully have help from very good and wise friends. One I spoke to every day during my worst weeks. She finished our conversations with “talk to you tomorrow” and this lifeline was invaluable.
Why am I talking about this? Well, I need to for one, but mostly, if I want the stigma of mental health issues to be a thing of the past, I need to make the first step and admit to my challenges.
Some of you know me, but most don’t so it’s clearly not a true public confession, but it’s a start.
Give me time.