Mental health has more validation than its past controversy, but it is still carrying this stigma amongst society. “Wow, everyone has a mental illness nowadays”
Mmm, well. Maybe we’re just more aware and maybe you’re right, when we obtain more knowledge certain behaviors do trend. But let’s talk fundamentally about what mental illness is, what it feels like, and how to help relieve the pain. Specifically this will target depression as I’m not one to claim experience in experiences ive never experienced.
As I’ve mentioned prior to today’s video, I suffer and shine with bipolar 2 – however I am incredibly self aware when it comes to the blues and becoming more aware of the highs-So I’ll do my best to coach you through the lows. Full disclosure this may be a trigger warning for some, because we’ll be talking about the experience.
Mental illness, depression specifically- is an involuntary emphasized wave of emotions. It is like putting a magnifying glass on an anthill.. Some days the sun isn’t so harsh, and some days the colony is on fire. As we know it, weather is unpredictable, and seasons change. And what can these helpless ants do besides run around screaming and taking cover in their dark underground tunnels?
Those who have never experienced mental illness have a hard time empathizing with those who do and in a lot of ways, we can’t blame them. Insensitivity is crude but like any situation, no one can truly know unless they’re in those shoes. There’s also the misconception that any sort of emotion that isn’t happiness and rainbows is mental illness. And it’s just so far from the truth. Any person aware with mental illness can assure you that being sad, and being depressed are two different feelings and perspectives. Being angry and being out of control are different types of madness. Being excited and being euphoric are separate highs.
What feeling low is like compared to sadness and anger- is picture (i’m sorry I can only explain in metaphors)- When you are thrown in the ocean, the waves are rough, you’re cold and wet. And then a boat comes and saves you, or you wash up on shore, or whatever a good day would symbolize. Thats normal lows. Mental illness is being in that same ocean, and you see the boat, you see the land, but you have weights dragging you so deep you can’t make it there and you just give up swimming, accept death, and drown to the bottom of the deep dark and freezing ocean.
There’s heavy pressure, not only mentally, but you FEEL this physically in your body! Being awake HURTS, you cannot bring yourself to do anything productive and not just things like organizing your kitchen drawer on a sunday, but you’re now on your 6th day without a shower, only getting out of bed to use the bathroom, and calling out of work constantly.
When you’re sad or mad normally- you have a crappy day and you move on with it. Someone cuts you off on the highway and you have road rage, but you still go into work and you don’t take it out on others. By the end of the day, you may have even forgotten about the bad driver from earlier that morning.
When you have a mental illness, an example would be. Someone cuts you off on the highway, you are so jolted and personally hurt that “why do people continue to disrespect me”. You sob in the parking lot because you believe its the start to another bad day. You go into work quiet and unapproachable.
It sounds really -fragile and stupid and dramatic but this is a tunnel vision state of mind that when you’re in it, you literally cannot see green on the other side, no light at the end of the tunnel. Your brain literally makes you believe – this is it, and this is all it will ever be, and you take everything personally. Your view is everything sucks, and you suck, and why not just end the pain now?
So- Pause, let’s take a deep breath because I know that just got heavy and can be hard to hear for those who know what I’m talking about. I just want people who don’t get it, or think they do, to know that they will never get it. And that’s okay. You don’t have to. Just know that it’s happening to others.
Before I get started on how to help relieve this pain I want to share my story with you. I knew I had chronic depression when I was about 14-15 and I knew that it came in waves. The first wave was obviously the worst. I had no experience, I didn’t know there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I just accepted defeat. I isolated myself from friends and family. I self medicated. I cried EVERY night before bed. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. I can’t emphasize that enough. 10pm – 4am was just me sobbing before school the next day and honestly I’m sure at the time I could have given you a million reasons why I was, but the reality was that I was involuntarily suffering and going, “oh it must be because of xyz”.
I had attempted to pass over when I was 15 and I failed. Which made me feel even more- useless to be honest. But after that, I’m not sure how long after, things got better and I was feeling more myself – whatever that meant. And then I FELT another wave creeping up on me and I was like omg… its going to happen again. I don’t want this no no no.
So here’s the part where I help you relieve your pain- and it starts by ripping the bandaid off:
I realized: No one cares. I mean people care but not like you want them to. No one wants to be around the angry sad person. No one wants to ask how they’re doing if it’s always negative. No one wants to surround themselves by that energy. And you realistically cannot blame them. Healing starts within. No one can do it for you. No amount of hugs and kisses and pep talks can cure you. It starts within. Once I realized that harsh and crushing truth.. I said. Okay.
So when I felt that new wave approaching. I said to myself, obviously whatever I did last time wasn’t helping. This time, were doing the exact opposite. So I forced myself to smile, even in the mirror which was as corny as it sounds but actually does work over time. I invited myself and forced myself to accept invites to hang out with people I loved. Even on my worst days I FORCED my body to do it. For a while it was autopilot. For a while, I was just watching myself do these things because my mind really wasn’t in it. But after a while.. Little by little, I started engaging in my surroundings. It felt natural more and more until i was authentically having a good time. You would think it was the hardest part, but really the suffering was in that first wave.
So take this as a lesson if you can- that if your mental health is getting worse or staying stagnant. Whatever you’re doing is not working. And although it feels impossible- trust me, i know- you have to FORCE yourself to do things you’re not used to doing. It will get easier subtly over time and you won’t even notice until one day you dissociate and go “WOW. I feel alright!”
It’s okay to let people know you’re not okay, but keep in mind the more you talk about how bad you feel, the more it drags you. Talk to someone you trust once in a while about this. But don’t tell the whole world, because it draws more negativity. Please do not take my words as “don’t tell anybody you’re not okay” because I promise that’s not at all what I’m implying. Just be mindful.
For years after that, I started and continued therapy and i was in and out of waves but it was never as horrible as the first one and every new wave, i learned more about it so it was easier to tame. Self awareness is the best gift of all. Please pay attention to your body- it will save you in every scenario in and outside of mental health.
It wasn’t until my second hole of despair where i was having thoughts of leaving earth again when I decided to do another flip and end whatever was in the present. That was about 5 years later. I left my boyfriend, my friends, self medication, my apartment, my job. Everything ended without much notice and I still stand by my decisions. I found a new therapist, and I started medication for the first time because I was just. Exhausted. This is when I was diagnosed with bipolar 2.
My life, exponentially got better and better from there. I had put myself first in the most important moment I needed to and for those reasons- be as selfish as you can if it means saving yourself. I am now engaged with a job I love, I understand my lows fully and can get through them, and I feel like I am finally living a fulfilled life not just temporarily but for the long run.
I want to make it clear that meds do not work for everyone. Everyone is different and I did have to experiment in order to find my right mix. But I will say that some people can learn how to manage without meds and I applaud them with admiration. But some people cannot and that is okay. Some people say they feel like a zombie who isn’t really living on meds but personally for me, I feel the complete opposite. Please don’t med shame. You wouldn’t shame a cancer patient for seeking radiation would you? Radiation isn’t good for you, but if it means there’s a chance to relieve the illness *shrug*
Anyways, I hope this not only gave insight on what mental illness is, but how to try to overcome the heaviest days.
If you are in a dark place and you need someone to talk to, please tell someone you love and or call the Suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255. In fact, If you have ever been in a dark place, save this number in your phone just in case you ever need it. You do NOT have to be on the verge of killing yourself to be a caller. You can call if you’re having a rough day or you need to cry to someone. If you don’t like the rep, hang up and call again. It is honestly the best resource and they will not call the police or put you in a psych ward it’s not like that at all. They also have an online chat with a live agent if you don’t want to talk but from my experience it takes a while to get a hold of them that way and time is of the essence in these moments.
If you have any questions about mental illness or questions for me, please leave a comment below. Next week, we’ll be talking about how to declutter your life – which also relieves mental stress.