Mental Illness Awareness Week
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.