On Mental Illness and Recovery

As I’m stuck inside on this beautiful snow/ice day in Charlotte, NC, I’m realizing how much I’ve enjoyed staying busy lately. I’m working two jobs, and though I’m still barely scraping by, I’m somewhat enjoying the fact that I don’t have too much time to be bored. There are so many things going right in my life right now, and I feel incredibly grateful that I am as fortunate as I am. But sitting here on my couch with no other options but to stare out the window and surf the web (because Taylor is podcasting in the next room, and I can’t make any noise until he’s done), has really got me reflecting on the past couple of years. So much has happened, and unfortunately I don’t think I can say that I’ve been in a good place mentally or emotionally for the majority of that time. I’m thankful that things have been looking up the past few months, but I wanted to take a few minutes and write out my thoughts, so I can hopefully wake up tomorrow with a clear mind. So, here goes.

 

If you are one of the three whole people that actually follow my blog (that I update maybe once per year), then you’ve read the piece that I wrote a while back about my abusive relationship. Writing out my story from start to finish was my method of coping at that time, and finally taking a step toward healing. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, it worked. I’m much less affected by those experiences now, and I’m handling my anxiety about it a little better. I still have nightmares, and there are still so many triggers that bring back the fear, self-hate, disgust, and humiliation. I have to give credit to my current boyfriend, though, for putting up with my baggage. At times, he can unintentionally trigger my anxiety about the abuse with certain words, jokes, or even sometimes when we get in small disagreements. By no means is Taylor abusive or controlling, but he can be quite the sarcastic jokester. Sometimes, those jokes make me feel tense, but Taylor and I have such clear and open communication that I’m able to express those feelings to him, and he’s able to help. I commend him and love him for putting up with it for two years now. (He’s literally the best. I got incredibly lucky to find him.)

 

The reason that I bring up my past relationship is because I feel like it was the true start to my struggle with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety shortly after escaping the relationship, and I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of those diagnoses ever since. When Taylor and I moved up to Pennsylvania in May of 2015 is when these illnesses hit the hardest. I wasn’t able to find a job, I was away from my family, and I never saw Taylor due to how much he was working. I felt alone in a new place, more than 500 miles away from any friends or family. I slept more than 12 hours per day, I cried constantly, I was always sick, I lacked the energy to even walk to my car, and I felt like my brain was completely fuzzy. I could feel the blood moving through my veins like tiny insects taking over my body. I would close my eyes to sleep, but the noise in my head was so loud that I felt like screaming. (I would always equate the noise and feeling to the fuzzy black and white TV screen when there’s no signal.) I was falling apart piece by piece, and I felt like my life was stagnant and stale. When I finally decided to go see a doctor, I was able to start on some anti-depressants and anxiety medications. As much as I hate relying on medication, I felt it was my last hope for normalcy. After about two weeks, I felt like my old self again. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was to a point where I could function. To me, that was a success.

 

Ever since then, I’ve been steadily improving. I still have my bad days, but the amount of energy I’ve put into finding my true self again was definitely not wasted. I have goals, and can see a bright future for myself. Am I where I wanted to be at 25? No. Not remotely. Am I worried about the future? A little. Am I confident that everything will work out for me in the end? Absolutely.

 

Speaking of depression and anxiety, I’d like to take a second to discuss the topic. These. Are. Real. Disorders. They are not some figment of the imagination. When people say that they have depression because they had a bad day, or feel sad sometimes, it makes me feel like true “depression” is discredited. Depression is an emotionally and physically painful thing. It is draining. It is unforgiving. It is feeling like the weight of the world is sitting on your chest. It is hard to overcome, and impossible to fight alone. Depression doesn’t always look sad. It doesn’t always look like introversion. It is a silent disease, and because of that, so many people don’t take it seriously. Please trust me when I tell you that it is one of the most intense internal battles you will ever fight. It is not to be tossed aside.

 

When it comes to anxiety, I could say the same thing. I don’t have the worst anxiety on the planet. I don’t suffer from daily attacks, and I only take my anxiety medication on an as-needed basis. But I can say this: anxiety is not shyness. It is not over-reacting to a situation. It is not crazy. It is terrifyingly painful and scary. Again, a disease that mostly exists silently, and not one to be taken lightly. It can come in many forms, and manifest itself in many different ways.

 

Just because someone suffers from anxiety or depression differently than yourself, doesn’t mean theirs is any better or worse. I wish people would stop comparing their problems, and instead reach out a helping hand to fellow sufferers to show that they’re not alone.

 

Dealing with depression and anxiety has been an uphill battle – one that has not been easy. I’m proud of myself for remaining positive through my healing, and actively pursuing the things I’d like to accomplish in my life. I’m still working on figuring everything out, but things will fall into place. They always do.

 

It used to be a challenge to sit down and make a list of all the positive things in my life. Now, it’s hard to make a list of the negatives. I’m exhausted from working more hours than I’m used to, but I’m thankful that I have not just one, but two jobs. I’m close to my family and can see them whenever I like. I have the sweetest puppies in the world. I have the nicest boyfriend in the world. I have a beautiful apartment (that I can actually pay for, due to working those long hours). I have good friends, good coffee, and a snow-covered balcony. Today, I am happy.

 

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One thought on “On Mental Illness and Recovery

  1. I have not been to the blog in a while, and I apologize for that. I am so glad that you have been able to overcome some of the issues you have been facing. I went through a mild bout of depression (I don’t mean to compare my meaningless problems to yours) a little under a year ago due to my self-esteem being at an all time low, extreme stress, weight gain, and body image issues, so I do feel I can identify with what you go through and I am very sorry that a great person like you has to deal with them.

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