*I certainly feel the need to state within this post that I am not a mental health or healthcare professional, and can not offer you the best advice in your next steps. However, there are so many people out there who can! I simply want to share my personal story on this subject and how I’ve come a long way in my mental health journey as of late*
Honesty hour: a few weeks back, I had a really intense flare-up of depression. Even now, I can’t pinpoint a specific reason as to why; it could have had to do with my increased stress after moving, but I’m not quite sure that was it. All I know is that this depression resulted in difficulty getting out of bed, irritability towards loved ones, and hours spent on social media (my default mode, if you will). I lacked motivation and joy in everything, even the things I usually look forward to. It was a constant state of feeling defeated and I didn’t know how to pick myself back up.
Like I said, there was a whole lot of new going on in my life at this time. I’d recently moved to a new state, began a new job, and I was struggling to fit everything into my schedule. I was also experiencing financial stress. The outcome of my mental health could have definitely related to that, and in fact that’s the best answer I have. In retrospect, I knew that all of these changes were going to impact me and my mental wellbeing. What I didn’t know was how drastic that impact would prove to be. The cause in severity of this state wasn’t exactly blatant, but in a way the reason doesn’t matter so much as my reaction it happening.
I began to feel incessantly frustrated with myself, and when my mom or boyfriend would gently suggest seeing my doctor to potentially up my medication, I got even more frustrated. I was determined to fix this “on my own”. It was as though I wanted to prove to myself that my strength was found in my ability to avoid help. That wasn’t true at all. However, my resistance to the option of increasing my dose of medication ended up making the situation that much worse. I think that so often, if the solution in front of us isn’t the one we think we want, we try to avoid it and continue to search in vain for the one we had in mind. I certainly did this over the summer, but upon reflection, I realized that my attitude and stubbornness in refusing the help that was right in front of me hurt me more in the long run.
So, I feel that this is a good time to give you a brief background of my relationship with mental health medication. I’d suffered with undiagnosed Generalized Anxiety Disorder for most of my childhood, the diagnosis only coming when I’d also developed depression following a life-changing injury. I started going to talk therapy in the hopes that this would help me resolve that depression and anxiety. It did help, however, it wasn’t enough to overcome the mental struggles. My doctor then suggested the option of medication, and my parents and I decided that it would be the best choice to give it a shot. I made the transition to being on an anti-depressant, starting at a low dose and increasing it at a healthy pace until I felt that the mental illnesses were leveled out by the medication, giving me a chance to make my own choices instead of depression and anxiety dictating my life. Currently, I’ve been on these medications in a variety of doses for the past five years, never coming off of them since I began.
I’ve come to realize recently that I definitely had a certain pride in these medications being “temporary”. Over the years, I’ve continuously been trying to wean off of them (with my doctor’s guidance, of course). However, I haven’t quite gotten there. A few months ago, the thought of possibly needing to stay on these medications long-term would have been devastating. As much as I want to be a part of ending the stigma around mental health for others, it turns out that I’ve been placing the stigma on myself. It is not a source of shame to be on medication long-term for chronic physical illnesses; we understand that people need to do what they need to do to function at their best. The same goes for mental illness. The same goes for me just like everyone else.
I did go to see my doctor about a month ago, and we agreed to up the dosage on the medication. I’ve been on that new dose ever since, and I feel so much better. I finally listened to my loved ones who were concerned, and saw that doctor visit as an act of strength in itself. Strength does not lie in our ability to succeed without help, but understanding when we need help and seeking it. Avoidance of an issue is not a sign of strength, and suffering in silence is not necessary. I’m still coming to understand, but I do know that these medications may be long-term, and that is okay. Right now, they are a tool that I use responsibly in order to live my life to the best of my ability.
Ultimately, I urge you to become your own #1 advocate. Our loved ones and support systems are very important, but we need to want that mental stability for ourselves. There is so much genuine knowledge and compassion surrounding mental healthcare in our world, and I hope you seek those out from reputable sources to find personalized solutions for yourself when you need them. I’d also like to tack on a sentence or two here about the fact that we can’t do everything, and we are not obligated to do everything simply because it is asked of us. We must make our self-care a priority in our lives alongside our families, work, school, and passions. Pouring into ourselves consistently creates a personal culture of mental stability and reduces the chances of ruts and burnout. I’m coming alongside you today in being open and passionate about our personal mental security. I hope you know I’m rooting for you in finding the solutions to help you live the life you imagine. You’ve got it in you!
Please feel free to share what you’re comfortable with or feel compelled to regarding your journey toward mental health in the comments. Also, there will be more content on advocating for ourselves very soon… check back on Friday to continue the conversation!
Much Love, Quinn
Crazy cat lady. Exploratory writer. Much love.