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Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week

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I am late to the party on this one, since Mental Illness Awareness Week was last week, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. Every year during the first full week in October, the National Alliance on Mental Illness brings attention to this topic. This year the emphasis is on being stigma free, which is something that I strongly believe in as a recovering addict.

My addiction is something that I wear as a badge of honor, but I think that’s because I made it out and I am living a better life. I’m one of the success stories and so talking about it makes me feel like I can make a difference and that I have accomplished something. What I didn’t expect to add to the list was the diagnosis of depression that I received earlier this year.

I am a perfectionist, which means that most of the time the things I do are never enough. I compare. I overthink. I overanalyze. I try and reach for an ideal that is never achievable. I am a statistic that has a higher likelihood of suffering from depression. I know this, and I have been putting in work to bring myself back down to an average (and perfectly acceptable) state of being.

Hearing that I was depressed was one thing, but hearing that I may need medication was another entirely. My brain revolted and told me that I was weak for not being able to handle these things on my own, I compared to others who did and did not need medication, and I felt that I had failed myself.

The thing is, I believe in medication. I have no problem with others who have to be on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. I know how important it is, but I can’t seem to reconcile what I know in my brain and what I reflexively feel as a result. This makes it frustrating as I talk to people and hear that “it’s not a weakness” and “there’s nothing wrong with it.” I know this objectively, but I don’t think I’ve gotten to the acceptance part of it for myself. This adulting is hard.

This week is my mental illness awareness week. I haven’t published a blog post in two days. I actually made it part of my schedule this summer to only post four times a week, but I had some good weeks and was able to knock out Monday through Friday posts again for awhile. I started medication last week and am adjusting. It’s weird to go from taking nothing at all to a medication that plays around with your brain. I had a couple rough days and I’m still not out of the woods, but I wanted to write in the midst of this journey because I don’t always want to be writing from the perspective of looking back. Although the official week has passed, my awareness of mental illness is all too palpable this week.

I don’t always want to suffer in silence until I’ve made it through and then turn around and yell “I DID IT! YOU CAN DO IT TOO! IT’S SO MUCH BETTER OVER HERE!” In the way my mind works, by doing that I start to lose touch with the pain of the journey, and for me that’s the most important part. I certainly garner hope by hearing accounts of overcoming obstacles, but the times that are the hardest are when I feel like I’m alone and I will never make it to the other side. It’s harder for me to find things written in the middle, and that’s when I need encouragement and optimism the most.

So hey, I’m in the middle. It’s a scary, imperfect place to be, but I’m continuing to walk. I have faith that everything will be ok and that this is just part of my path. Things will get better. As they do, I will make sure you know about it.

Just so you know, it’s ok to be in the middle. Just keep walking.

A big thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud and for having a link up that is important enough for me to force myself to sit at the computer until something comes out.

21 comments on “Mental Illness Awareness Week

  1. Really interesting to hear about your experiences – I have been aware of myself as someone with mental health issues for over a decade – probably before then too but never really understood what was going on. In recent years I have been working to help reduce/end stigma about mental health and have gradually become more confident about speaking out about it whenever I can.

    Glad that through your writing (and mine too) we can fearlessly help to move this discussion forward – and hopefully reassure others on the way!

    1. Great job trying to spread the word! I’m glad youre finding your voice. Keep writing and speaking and thanks so much for reading!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it will help folks who are going through a similar situation. It takes A LOT of guts to admit you need help and then to actually follow through. You deserve an excellent quality of life (as do those around you) and thankfully there is medication available to help achieve that. Several people in my husband’s family deal with mental illness and based on what I’ve seen the most important thing is to keep advocating for yourself. If you think something with your meds isn’t quite right don’t give up. Keep working with your provider until you find the right medication or dosage for you. Be patient with yourself, you’ve got a lot of people supporting you!

    1. Thanks Keli. I’m definitely maintaining a dialogue w my doctor to make sure that I get the best possible care for what’s going on. Thanks for reading and for the the support as always!

  3. I love that you posted this. I’ve had anxiety (or at least, have been diagnosed with anxiety) since I was six years old. I also have mild OCD (mild in the sense that it’s not a constant thing, not mild in the sense that it barely affects my life), which is not at ALL as cutesy and silly as pop culture would like you to believe it is. Trust me, there’s nothing cutesy about having to check the oven every night to make sure it’s not on fire, or fearing buying new bedding because what if your old bedding had been protecting you from harm?, or having to go through extensive rituals before you go to bed so you don’t die (or to reassure yourself that you won’t die). And though I’ve never been diagnosed with it, there have also certainly been moments where I’ve wondered if I have a touch of depression, too. Point is, mental health, mental health awareness, and getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental health are all EXTREMELY important to me. I think one of the most difficult parts of mental illness is the isolation that comes along with it–feeling like there isn’t another soul in the world who understands what you’re going through, or that if you tried to explain it to your loved ones, they wouldn’t get it, would lose patience with you, etc.–and I think eliminating, or at least reducing, the stigma surrounding mental health would go a LONG way to remedying that feeling of isolation. So, kudos to you for speaking out! The more people who talk about it, the less stigmatized it becomes, and the more we can move towards real solutions.
    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions recently posted…Thursday ThingsMy Profile

    1. Thanks Bethany! I can definitely understand your frustration w people using certain terms so loosely. Thanks for being so open about your struggles as well! Hopefully talking about it will not only help me but others too.

  4. It can be scary when you’re in the middle of it. Just remember, wherever you are, you’re not alone, and you’ll make it through somehow. Take care!!

    1. Thanks Beth. I’m starting to feel better but it was rough for a couple days there. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  5. My dad has been living with depression and anxiety for the past maybe six years? It was a really difficult adjustment for all of us (and I can’t even imagine what it was like for him). I’m so glad you realize that being on medication is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of bravery that you’re okay with getting a little extra help 🙂
    So much hugs and love for ya over here.
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Vegetarian scrambled tofu bowlMy Profile

  6. Erin-

    Thank you so much for posting. I too am in the middle of something, I’m not quite sure what yet. Call it a fall funk or lull in projects at work or the fizzling out of a relationship or acceptance that I’m getting older and my needs/self care routines are different now but it’s been a tough week. I’m going to keep walking and it feels really good to be reminded that there are others walking too.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Zoe. I hope you have a better week this week and let me know if you ever need anyone to talk to 🙂

  7. thank you for being so one about this! it’s more common that we all know. I think people are afraid to talk. I had my first bought of depression this year. But thank God for HFTP! Faith is key, you said, yes!

    1. I think I’m paranoid about not talking since it led me to some bad places before. So now I just vomit everything that’s going on haha. It can be overwhelming but I usually feel much better after opening my mouth. Glad you found something to help you through a tough time!

    1. I know. It was super hard bc I didn’t even feel like doing ANYTHING. it’s so easy to look back and write, but I wanted to try and get it out as it was happening. Again, thanks so much for reading!!

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