Faith, Life Talk, Real Talk

I Wore My Illness: A Note on Mental Health

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I was honored to participate in The Heart Project, a project intended to end the stigma surrounding mental health. I decided to wear my illness and show it to the world, because I wanted to show what I am fighting each day, and come out from behind my mask of fineness and share my struggles, being honest with all of you beautiful people out there.

Depression: I was diagnosed with depression when I was in high school. It was my senior year, and I was struggling in so many different ways. Moods were constantly changing and I was more down than up, friends were worried about me, and scheduling meetings with school counselors to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I couldn’t pull myself out of the deep hole of sadness and uncontrollable moods that were constantly swirling around me. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and I could barely stay in school some days. It was hell, and I had no relief.

The diagnosis was the first hint of relief for me, the first sign that I had a light at the end of the tunnel of unknowing. The thing that I was fighting had a name, had a face, and had a community of people that fought to combat it every day. I had a support system, and a place to turn when I needed an ear, none of which would have been possible without that first trip to a therapist and a psychiatrist and trying to find a name for the beast.

Now, I have been on Lexapro for 7 years, been in therapy on and off, and am constantly working on my coping skills. By talking about my mental health, and the struggle I face every day, I am normalizing it, giving it a name and showing depression that it can’t beat me. Some days are better than others, as it is with all struggles, but I know that I can face each day confident that I am going to beat it because I have beat every day before it. The monster in the closet has a name: Depression, and I have a plan to defeat it.

Self-Harm: It was my number 1 coping skill for a long time, my way to escape from the world, and to give something physical to the pain that I felt inside. Too long I felt the pressure building up inside me, and taking a knife to my wrist was the only way that I could let it out. Hurting myself was how I expressed my pain; being mean to my body was how I felt better about the life I was living and the choices I made.

You don’t have to have a knife or a razor to self-harm. Even when I wasn’t cutting, I was calling myself stupid and worthless, wondering why I even deserved to live. Putting my body down, putting my choices down, and putting my life down every day, when I feel like I didn’t belong somewhere or my work hasn’t been up to snuff lately. Hurting myself took many shapes and forms, no matter if I had a sharp object in my hand or not.

March 13, 2015. The last day that I cut myself, put a knife to my wrist and opened it up. Not the last day I told myself something hateful (that was more like the night before last), but the healing journey is not a straight one. It has lumps and bumps like any other road. Every day I don’t cut myself is a victory for me.

PTSD: Was the diagnosis I got after leaving an abusive relationship. I was constantly having flashbacks of the torment I experienced, and once even thought I saw his car on the road, even though I now live 2 states away from him. He still haunts my nightmares occasionally, usually kidnapping me or looking for me no matter where I am. But I have moved on from him and his insanity, his putdowns and his insecurities. Sure, I am not perfect, but the flashbacks and nightmares have calmed down now, and I have learned new ways to combat them when they do arise. Of all the demons I’m fighting, his is the one I am best able to keep at bay.

Support: Here’s to all the people that are out there, struggling just like me. The people who feel they have no one else to turn to, who feel encased by the darkness, desperately looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s to the people who have monsters in the closet and inside of them, and who are seeking a way to fight them. Here’s to the people who get through just one more day, take life one day at a time, who hold the blade to their wrist and wish that they had the courage to open it up and let the blood flow freely, but make the decision to try to make it through just one more hour. Here’s to the people who hit a bump on the healing journey, who got off at a detour, or are just taking a pause while they recollect and try to see what happens next.

The semicolon that I have tattooed on my wrist demonstrates a reminder that a pause is not the end, only an invitation to keep going in a new direction. Just because there is a bump in the road, doesn’t mean the journey is over. There is no shame in taking a breather when you need to figure out what step to take next. The road is rocky, the journey is long, but it’s flanked with love and support along the way.

I’m here for you… You are not alone… I love you… You are strong… You are a warr;or, darling. Things will get better, just take it one day at a time. ♥

Stay fearless, friends (3)

 

P.S. I have joined a group of bloggers looking to put together a mental health awareness collaborative project. Have something you want to see? Have ideas? Fill out this survey and tell us! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HQ826JK

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