When I decided to start a blog I made a promise to myself: I will always be open and honest. Reading through some of my favorite blogs, I found myself feeling like the girls had the most perfect lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in these picture perfect moments that everyone shares on social media. I’m guilty of it too, don’t get me wrong. Although I share some of the things I struggle with on a daily basis, I can’t help but feel like I need share another big part of my life. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to make a post like this, because I don’t want to overshare. I am very aware that once you put something out on the internet, it stays there…for everyone to see…forever. However, we got these orange Lokai bracelets at work about a week ago that support mental health awareness. They sit right on the counter, so I’m constantly seeing them. Something just kept telling me that I needed to write a post about why they’re important to me, but I was scared. What are people going to think? Are they going to view me differently? Will they think I’m just being dramatic? In reality, there may be people that think all of these things, but there also might be someone out there that needs to hear what I have to say.
I’ve been a fairly nervous person for as long as I can remember. The slightest things stressed me out and sent me into a full blown crying mess. I vividly remember sobbing at the kitchen table in elementary school trying to do math homework with my dad, because I didn’t understand how to do it and was afraid the teacher would think I was stupid. My nervous and worrisome nature continued throughout middle and high school and even into college. At some point, the nervousness and worrying shifted to something more serious: anxiety. School stressed me out, social situations stressed me out, anything new seemed like the end of the world. I’d hear a lot of, “Oh, you just need to calm down” or “It’s just nerves, everyone gets them.” Yes, that’s true. Everyone gets nervous about something at least a few times in their life. But I wasn’t just nervous. I would get so worked up over tests that I couldn’t eat before I took them, because I was sure I would throw up. Sometimes it was easier to go back to my room to eat than even attempting to walk through the cafeteria filled with people. I always think of the worst case scenario, no matter how irrational I know it is. It’s not something I mean to do, in fact I wish I didn’t do it. But it isn’t something that just goes away.
Anyone that knows me really well, knows that I’ve struggled with anxiety. But most people would never know. I started learning how to hide it, because the only thing worse than admitting to myself that I have anxiety is admitting it to others. I thought if I could hide it that it would eventually go away. Well, fast forward to my college graduation and moving home. It didn’t go away. My anxiety got worse than I could have ever imagined. I was able to find comfort before in the fact that I had a plan. I made a checklist back in high school that spelled out everything I needed to do in order to get where I wanted to end up. I had checked everything off, yet there I was sitting at home not doing anything I had planned. That’s when the depression started. Depression is often something people with anxiety deal with. It took me getting to a really low place to finally admit to myself that I needed help. That was one of the hardest things for me to do. It really hurt me when people started finding out that I was going to counseling. I felt embarrassed. I felt weak. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t make you weak! It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you! Knowing when to get help is one of the strongest, most brave things you can do. But here’s the other thing. It doesn’t make anxiety and depression go away overnight. It isn’t a quick fix. It takes work. It’s hard. But it is so worth it. It took me close to seven months to get to a better place. But you will get better. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I promise you it will. If you think you may be dealing with anxiety and depression, know you are not alone. It also doesn’t just manifest itself mentally, it is physical as well. These are some of the symptoms that people with both depression and anxiety can face:
- Constant, irrational fear and worry
- Physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, hot flashes, sweating, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing
- Changes in eating, either too much or too little
- Difficulty with memory, decision making, and concentration
- Constant feelings of sadness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Feeling tired and cranky
- Inability to relax
- Panic attacks
Mental illness is something that isn’t talked about very much. I think people don’t know how to approach the situation, which is understandable. But when someone does bring up mental illness, let’s listen. Let’s try to understand. Let’s try not to judge. I am so lucky to have such a supportive family that has done their best to research and understand what I’m going through. Many times, it’s not just the person experiencing the mental illness that is impacted by it. Their loved ones are also struggling as they try to understand how to help. Everyone gets better in their own time. It’s not something that you can put a timeline on. You can certainly set goals for yourself, and work on getting to a better place. But, you’ll have good days and bad days. Although I am in a much better place now than I was seven months ago, I still have times that I breakdown. It’s so important to have compassion for yourself while you are dealing with a mental illness. It is something that I have to choose to give myself each day, and I hope y’all choose to show compassion to yourselves as well. I truly hope that this reaches someone that is struggling and needs encouragement, so please share this post!
*Lokai will donate $1 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness for each Orange Lokai sold between February 28, 2017 and March 31, 2017 with a minimum contribution of $200,000.