Trigger Warning: Mentions of depression and anxiety.
I’m not a stranger to mental health, I had a bad time a few years ago and ended up on antidepressants. It was a shock for me at the time – mental health issues didn’t happen to young people like me. I mean, no one my age that I’d known had ever talked about it. It was one of those distant things I knew existed but didn’t really realize the depth of.
To be honest, I was extremely ignorant about the realities of mental health.
It turned out to be a learning curve for me and, in many ways, it has made me the person that I am. Initially, I was bitter, boy was I bitter – angry at the world, victimizing myself, and just hopeless for quite some time. I have many angsty journal entries from my “dark days” pages about how much I hated myself and everything about me.
So I took steps to change the things I didn’t like and it wasn’t easy.
I think I’m pretty great now because I’ve pushed past the “darkness” to become someone who is able to see the good in every bad, anticipate what the next trial will teach me and, in general, like myself more.
I know am not cured but I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve learned to enjoy the good days and deal with the bad ones. Mostly, I’ve learned to be grateful for both types of days; the bad days always teach me something new and there is always a new perspective to gain.
And now I am one of those people who talk about mental health – all the time.
I’m forever trying to start a sincere conversation about mental wellbeing and help others along the journey so they don’t feel as alone as I did. And I’m still learning, I’m learning that I can’t help everyone unless I’m looking after myself.
Recently, I slipped a little by taking on more than I was prepared for, in many ways.
I ignored it to start with. The anxiety that worsened as each day went by, the numbness that came along, the loss of interest in everything I had once enjoyed. These are my signals for when things are getting worse and, in the past, when one appeared, I picked up on it and looked after myself.
This time, I picked up on it too late.
And there I was – anxious beyond words, struggling to breathe and feeling low, so so low. A low that I had hoped to never spiral into again. I remember sitting down and feeling the worst I had in years. All the effort I’d put into learning how to avoid this kind of meltdown slowly seeped away, to the point where I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything but stay frozen, held captive by my mind.
Then the responsible part of me kicked in and I remember thinking, “Ok Mitta, you need help.” It took me a while, to push back the tears, control my breathing, and reach for my phone.
And then came the hard bit.
I’m blessed with a lot of great people in my life. Yet, as I sat and stared at my phone, I felt like I had no one to call. No one who I wouldn’t be a burden to. No one who I could easily just word vomit on. The loneliness set in.
I know it’s in my head because I’m sure my friends would have picked up and been there for me. But I’d been through such a shitty time before, I felt like I’d already been a burden once. It was hard to be that person again.
It also felt like admitting defeat.
It had taken me years but I’d gotten to a good place so how had a couple of bad weeks destroyed everything I’d created? I’d built this new Mitta who talked about mental health, who helped others, and I didn’t want to become the old version of myself again. The fear of becoming that anxiety-riddled mess who couldn’t see past that scared me more than I cared to admit. As much as I’d like to think I had grown, I was still scared of the stigma that came with mental health. Of being perceived as weak.
But I knew I needed help. I knew I couldn’t continue this way without falling down a rabbit hole of anxiety and depression.
So, I did the only other thing I could think of. I reached out to a mental health professional. I did something and I’m hoping it pays off. And I get it, asking for help when you need it is tough, but it’s so damn important.
It’s going okay, I think. It helps to know that I have a safe space to vent out my issues. So when my days get unbearable – I at least know I have a chance to dissect it all. I also like having someone change the way I see things. I’ll explain a situation and say “yes, I know I’m being dramatic” and my therapist will explain to me that I am actually not being that irrational. That A + B will result in me acting out in C. It helps, now when I am in a certain situation, usually a social one, the anxiety won’t necessarily go away but I can better understand what is causing it and that, at least, makes me feel a little better.
Talking to friends is important and great but I cannot emphasize that talking to a professional is so much better. I, of course, acknowledge that not everyone has that privilege.
Talking to a stranger who I know won’t judge me for the things I say, who I won’t have to see around every day and be reminded of all they know about me. That helps and it also helps to get a different perspective on your life. The people around me know me, they have an image of me they have already cultivated in their minds so any advice they give – they give taking this image into consideration. And maybe sometimes that image is a lie. I’m great at looking like I’m doing well and dying inside. So it helps to have someone who doesn’t have any attachments to me listen.
The most important thing here is listening, I’m paying this person to listen to me so they have to essentially do that. With people I know, offloading often feels like I am burdening them and in turn, I can’t always be as open as I want.
None of us can do this alone.
Take that scary step.
Ask for help.
You can run away from many things but you can’t escape your own mind.
If you, or someone you knew, is in need of mental health support, visit CheckPoint’s website.