Monday, May 20, 2013

It Gets Better

I'm not sure who out there still reads my seldom updated blog, but in light of May being Mental Health Awareness month I wanted to write a little post.

It's not exactly a secret, but not really public knowledge I suppose, that I struggled with depression and anxiety for nearly a decade. The years of my 20s were supposed to be filled with fun, adventure, figuring out who I am, enjoying singledom. And they were. But all of that was clouded over with the haze of depression and anxiety. It colored my decisions and made my life much much harder than it should have been.

I tried everything to fix it. As a type-A overachiever I of course read, consulted experts, and experimented with all manner of "fixes" with nothing working. Things helped, made my life easier, but there was still a haze of sadness over my life. It's like doing everything in your life while wearing those exercise resistance bands -- everything takes more effort to do and you are constantly exhausted.

I took medicine. I saw counselors. I tried to exercise. I tried herbal remedies.

All of those things helped but nothing made it better.

And then one day, I got pregnant and things first got worse (the first trimester was terrible and I really regretted getting pregnant)...and then suddenly in the 2nd trimester, better. For me, it was at least 75% hormonal. And the cycle of pregnancy reset my hormone levels somehow.

I no longer need medication. I see counselors only rarely if there's an issue I want to work through (as I think all healthy people should -- professional help can help you work through things faster and come to a better place whether you have diagnosed mental illness or not).

When I have a bad day (or string of days) I do feel depressed at times. And it freaks me out. And then I make changes (like I tried to for all those years before) and the difference now is that those changes help. I feel better. I can break out of those depressed funks. Exercise helps control my anxiety. And life has it's normal ups and downs and I no longer feel like each day is a total struggle.

I share all this for three reasons:

1) As a reminder to those who have known me, but not known this that you never know what someone has been through or what they are coping with. We all can do well to be kinder and more patient with each other.

2) If you know someone who struggles with depression the best thing you can do for them is be a listening ear. Show empathy and give them a hug. As with other trials - like infertility, for example - they likely already know all the things they can try that might help. What they need from you is understanding, acceptance, and withholding of judgment. And maybe a night out to a movie. Or a walk in the park. Or surprise flowers from Trader Joes.

3) If you yourself are struggling with an unshakable sadness, a foggy haze in your life you just can't power through, or abnormal worrying, guilt, fears, or anything else that could be described as a chronically unhealthy mental state - know this - it can get better. Even before I got pregnant and the hormonal shift really 'cured' things for me I saw major improvements in my life from seeking professional help. I hope you've sought help too.

And if you've sought every help you can find and still you are slogging through in a time of sadness and you just need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and some sympathy. Call me. Text me. Email me. Or come by my house. I get it. I totally get it. And I'll remind you that things are hard now, but they do get better. And I'll show up at your house randomly later with flowers, because I love you and I want you to know I'm thinking of you.

So that's my message for Mental Health Awareness month: It gets better. Even if it takes a long time, hang in there, it gets better. Way better.

4 little remarks:

Tannie Datwyler said...

I love this post - so honest. I love it when people are willing to talk about the hard things.

I knew you struggled with depression (we'd talked about it in the past), but I did not know that about the pregnancy with Evie - that's amazing.

Kellee said...

I also have depression and anxiety and sometimes it's so hard to make people understand that you don't WANT to be that way, that it's not like you're ignoring your problem or just hoping it goes away, but that it is a daily battle for some people.
Thanks for your thoughts. Sometimes people just need to hear that. :)

Ali said...

I don't think I knew a bit of this. You are good at hiding things...either that, or I was an awful roommate/friend. Probably very much the latter as I was in that super self absorbed engaged stage. I'm sorry! Love this post though...that is really interesting about the pregnancy resetting things somehow!

Helena said...

Yay for Evs then! I knew it got better when you were pregnant, but have forgotten to ask since.

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