Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I didn’t have time to write anything then, so here it is.
I hesitated to do this post. I’ve talked a bit about mental health before, but more in general, not specifically my own experience. It’s very hard to talk about, particularly considering the stigma that still surrounds it. But I was incredibly inspired by the bravery of people sharing on Twitter. If they can do it, so can I.
I grew up with a parent who suffered from severe depression, so I knew what it was. That’s probably why I fought so hard against the idea I might have it too – I knew firsthand how debilitating it could be.
I didn’t have many friends in school. I was always awkward and anxious, too eager to please, but conversely too quick to speak my mind. Because of this, and my home situation, I spent a lot of time alone. I remember telling myself over and over “I’m not depressed, I’m just sad. I’m just very, very sad.”
In my last year of high school I managed to cut my classes down to the bare minimum, so I could graduate but I only ever had half days actually on campus. This suited me fine, because then I didn’t have to be around people. Mostly, I hated people. I hated that they all seemed so happy, and that no one else seemed to have the same experiences and anxieties I did. (Oh, to have had social media then!)
I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 9, but I ignored this until I was 17. I was 19 before I agreed to take any medication. By this point I had already tried to commit suicide twice.
Now, I take an SSRI, which is meant to help me manage my depression and anxiety. My current situation – chronically ill, in pain, and unable to work – is clearly exacerbating my condition. I’m not sure that the medication makes that much difference, but I don’t know what I would be like without it. As it is, I still have panic attacks, insomnia, dysphoria, and suicidal thoughts.
I also have body dysmorphia. This is a condition where you become obsessed with one or more aspects of your physical appearance, and are unable to see it clearly. In my case, I’m obsessed with weight loss. I’m not quite at the point where I have an eating disorder, but I’m aware that it wouldn’t take much to get to that.
Today, I was lucky enough to have a massage. The masseuse was perplexed – she just could not get me to relax. I had hoped that it would help with my pain. However, the experience of someone else touching me was almost unbearable. When she massaged my stomach, all I could think of was “She thinks I’m fat. I’m so sorry she has to touch me. Why does she have to look at me??”
Fortunately, she was a very lovely person. She gave me lots of tips on relaxing and eating better. She was also clearly very intuitive. She said the tension in my body is caused by anxiety, mostly about lack of support. She suggested that I had someone who wasn’t supporting me enough – I think this person is probably myself. I know that there is a lot more I could be doing to help myself get well – but I get so tired that I can’t face it. Maybe some part of me is afraid of what getting well will mean.
She also asked me if I was a writer – haha – and suggested that I need to write more about the things that are causing my anxiety. So, here I am. Deep breaths, I guess.