my mentality on world mental health day

i ran over henry’s brother my last semester of college. i was on the way to my marketing internship to finish my bachelor’s degree, and i heard a loud pop. my heart sank to my guts. i saw my kitten, owen, struggling there as sam and henry looked up at me. i ran inside for towels, wrapped him in my arms and drove him to my uncle’s vet office.

he was dead.

my anxiety was born.

compulsive, obsessive thoughts. literally uncontrollable thoughts of guilt and why. over the cat at first. i read books on coping with anxiety and guilt. i used the strategies sometimes. other times, i gave into my thoughts. it’s hard to explain unless you experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder. my demon is my comfort. my endless, cycling thoughts are my blanket. i get lost in my tight-chested, rhythmic thinking. it helps me connect strategies. sometimes, it’s super me, until it’s tired me. until it’s sick me. until i’m tired of visualizing the awful, terrible sight of that cat dying there. as if me reliving the moment will somehow change or save something. my mind rationally knows that’s an impossibility, but anxiety persists.

it started with the cat and intruded into all areas of thought. eventually, i decided to try professional help. i had a boyfriend for a short time who shamed me for trying to take medication and for discussing it openly like i’m doing right now. so, i let that shame in, and i quit a great course of psychiatric treatment (i mean, we’re talking like a low dose of antidepressants — not straight jackets, here). i won’t go into all the years of suffering i did inside. everyone else loved my high-performing personality. only my close friends saw the truth of the ugly depression when i couldn’t get out of bed to keep my plans when i knew they would forgive me.

mental health became a more taboo subject in our society, and i resolved to myself that everyone has issues of some form, so as long as i was aware and coping in some form with mine – i was doing “all right.” i finally tiptoed around it with my general practitioner when my job got so high stress four years ago that i needed something chemical. i started trying some low dose antidepressants with her. three panic attacks, a case of shingles, a round of antibiotics, which led to a surprise pregnancy later [on no medication]: here we are today.

today, i have been seeing a freaking awesome psychiatrist for the better part of a year. it’s one of the best decisions of my life. i talk to a counselor on top of that when i feel like it. also one of the highlights of my life. therapy has given me the ability to reach mental wellness heights that make me want to kick past-me. therapy is the bee’s knees. it’s just as cool as it looks like in the movies. the thing is, i spent so many years in denial about needing to focus on the wellness of my mentality that i never was honest enough to be evaluated by a mental health professional. now that i have been, i am free. i know who i am, i know my boundaries, and i know my truths.

yes, i am extremely open about my journey. i want others who struggle with anxiety and double depression, like me, or something greater or lesser, to know it’s easy to seek a course of treatment to feel better. in a matter of months, i felt better. i dare say, i’m mighty close to feeling my dang best. i haven’t had an alcoholic drink in 140 days, and i take two medications a day that make me feel balanced, clear, and productive. i’ve lost thirteen pounds without trying. i feel like a child again inside. i feel like the me i was before i was bullied in middle school. that’s how clear and lifted the heaviness in my heart feels.

there were years i couldn’t paint because i couldn’t see through that eye in my soul. that has been so opened to me now. i cannot convey to anyone how beautiful that feels to me, except through the life i’m living today and through this message. and it’s not just a chemical adjustment. it’s knowing i have been strong enough to embark on this journey and continue walking through it with strategies from a spiritual and practical counselor i can entrust with my life. it’s knowing i have that accountability, support and history when i have no one else, even though i have so many more in my support system beyond my counselor and my psychiatrist. there have been people like that ex-boyfriend who have literally shamed me, made inappropriate comments about me and my journey recently to me and my loved ones, and that’s just the name of this game. but i’ll tell you this, nothing feels better than victory over what has weighed down my mind for 7-9 years. i’m leaning into the positive stuff and the positive people who share the same goal. here’s to being more me than i’ve been in a decade. nice to meet you to all those who are confused at the girl you’re seeing lately. Happy World Mental Health Day 2017.

the fog

it happened a week or two ago. i inexplicably just started feeling better. i have the drive to be involved in my life again. i sense a familiar optimism about the future and about today.

i spent many months in a strange depression that i haven’t shared with many people, because i haven’t understood it myself. losing my job put me through a range of emotions. i invested so much, but i loathed what the investment cost me. time with friends and family, missed memories, a missed life. my life was simply planning events in a really negative environment that never gave any slack. the rest was a blur. but i loved the trade, how i got to build memories and create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for others on a regular basis. it was my opinion that you couldn’t really beat that. and there were other, more personal, details that were both relieving and hurtful that i also released with my previous position.

i can’t really explain the feeling i have felt since last may. while i have experienced great things, i’ve experienced them through a fog. maybe i was subconsciously protecting myself. who knows? it just felt like i spent six months on my couch looking through my phone. i didn’t want to become attached to my new job, my relationships, etc. and everything i did, i felt an undercurrrent of loneliness, anxiety, sadness, regret, and really just anger that i couldn’t enjoy the moment like i was used to experiencing it.

my boyfriend, justin, urged me to feel better throughout this time. and really, without him, i can’t see myself feeling as fortunate as i do today. he is in a place in his life where he is following his dreams with everything he has. he went through some tough circumstances a while back, and instead of regressing, he put all of his energy into his music business, threeforty creative group. and since then he has been a part of bringing some of the best music to an area that hasn’t seen positive in a long time.  and what’s nice is that i didn’t have to be miserable while watching him live his dream. he included me in it. i got to share in all of the experiences with the georgia throwdown and other great events. and though i wasn’t in the frame of mind to enjoy it completely, it helped in keeping me positive through a hurtful time of picking up the pieces.

a bit after christmas, i was visiting with my mom and she shared with me the story of ann reese grote, a sweet little girl who passed away on christmas eve during a tragic swing set accident. i followed the stories on a facebook page honoring her memory, and it stirred this familiar feeling in my heart. a feeling of loss and deep anguish. the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ made me angry, but i couldn’t quit looking at the photos of the sweet little girl who lost her life. what struck me most was the family behind this little girl. ann reese’s mother, specifically, was mentioned giving some flowers from funeral arrangements to a local nursing home, thinking of others in such a horrific time. she has been posting uplifting,encouraging words of thanks to the Lord on this facebook page since her daughter’s death, and i couldn’t wrap my mind around the strength she was displaying in this terrible situation. and then i remembered. i, too, have that strength in my heart through Christ.

how easily i had forgotten to see the beauty in today. the hope in tomorrow. and how trivial my woes seem in relation to what i was scrolling through online. my life isn’t perfect, and there will be trials ahead. but if i can keep the right Goal in view, i can experience peace and joy beyond explanation. i have been praying for ann reese’s family, and i hope that you will, too. i hope if you happen upon this post or the facebook page honoring that sweet little girl that you, too, will feel moved to experience more of the next moment than you did the one before.

as for me, i am continuing to fight the past that haunts me–but it seems trivial when i look at a bigger picture. everything in life is going to change for me at some point. i will experience losses and gains. everything will change, except one thing–Christ. which makes me eternally grateful to know his peace and joy. so, so grateful.