Mental Health

Managing Mental Illness – Will I ever truly be well?

Mental illness is a shit-show. To combat it, one must always be on the look out, watching for signs and symptoms of recurrence. When detected, one must pull out the big guns, as it were – the weapons of learned coping skills , methodologies, medications, and support team – with the constant hope that thusly armed, the event will pass with minimal damage left in its wake.

Grateful as I always am when the event does pass, I am often left wondering. Will I ever truly be well? Or, is this how things will be for the rest of my life?

I’ve been asking this last question for over two decades and counting and, as much as I want to believe that the last event was THE last event, so far, it has not been so.

Mental illness is real. It’s not imagined. It’s not something one can simply will away. I know. I tried – twenty years ago before I took my first antidepressant. The shame I felt then… the defeat… when swallowing that first pill. If someone had told me twenty years ago that I’d be sitting here today, on guard, constantly at-the-ready to fight this ongoing fight, I wonder what I would have said – or done?

I’ve had many ups and downs over the years. I hit rock bottom in 2012 when I came close to suicide. That’s how far and deep I’d fallen. It was the hardest fight of my life, getting out of that hole. But I did it – and I’m grateful every day that I’m still alive to tell about it. And, while seven years have passed since that dark day, I’m still fighting – like today’s seemingly for-no-reason symptoms of anxiety sneaking up on my psyche, ready to pounce.

Out comes the weaponry. I’m always on alert, remember?

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I will battle mental illness until the day I die. I will have to be vigilant. Because, the truth is, wellness ebbs and flows – a recovery/remission/recurrence, as it were. I must practice my skills while I am well so that they are well oiled and ready for battle when the next one comes. As I’m sure it will.

If you are reading this and you need support, please reach out. Get help! Don’t wait to hit rock bottom. Do it now. I’ve provided some links below.

CAMH
Crisis Services Canada
US Suicide Prevention Lifeline
healthyplace.com

Depression, Mental Health

#Depression knocks me on my ass!

It still surprises me that after all these years battling depression, it can still knock me on my ass! It’s frustrating and exhausting. But, it shouldn’t be surprising. Not really. Dealing with depression symptoms – something I’ve done for almost 20 years – is like playing the same crappy computer game over and over, and there are bugs in the program that put you in a seemingly endless loop.

In the grand scheme of things, my depression is managed. It never goes away, though. Symptoms come and go on the regular; some times they’re worse than other times – like now. I’ve spent the day doing practically nothing save for plenty of negative self-talk:

“You’re a fake!”

“You’re lazy!”

“Just get UP and DO some-thing… ANY-thing!”

“Stop staring at nothing!”

“You should go for a walk.”

“You should be grateful for your life!”

… and so on.

Worse yet, I hear my negative self-talk, know what it is and have coping skills to deal with it – but I don’t use them. I mean, what IS that? THAT, is a symptom of the depression. When you know all the things that help to alleviate it but you can’t bring yourself to do them!

This isn’t one of those blog post that will have a meaningful conclusion other than to perhaps say – “Hey, it’s okay to have these bad days. If this is all you can manage, then this is all you can manage and it’s okay. You have an illness and sometimes it’s hard to get through the day. Let go of your guilt. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Wait – I guess that was the meaningful conclusion. And if you’re still reading this, know – like I do – that you’re not alone.

Mental Health

It’s #MentalIllnessAwarenessWeek in Canada – Many still suffer in silence.

MHAWThe difference in awareness of mental illness now as compared to even three years ago is astounding. Social media helps a great deal in spreading awareness. I follow several mental health-related handles on Twitter including CAMH, Elephant in the Room, and Mental Health Platform, to name a few. They have been and continue to be great sources of not only information, but comfort as well.

Why comfort? Because there is nothing like knowing that you’re not alone – that others are suffering, just like you.

Many of us who suffer with mental illness suffer in silence.

I was no different. While I have been writing about mental illness for several years (though few people knew about it), taking the step to vocalizing it was a whole new nest of bees. Of course, I had told my immediate family and some very close friends, but I had never gone beyond that – specifically, I had never told a colleague.

Several years ago, one particular colleague and I struck up a rather good work friendship. We would bitch about, and purge our work-related woes to each other (as work friends often do), finding that we had a lot in common. I keenly recognized her to be a high-functioning depressive, like me. I had begun to trust her but still, I just wasn’t sure how she would react and even more concerning, if she would keep my confidence.

One day, while walking back from getting an afternoon coffee, and in reference to some of the things we had been discussing, I took a deep breath and calmly stated, “I suffer from chronic depression.” We stopped walking and she looked at me. This was it: the moment of truth.

We stood for another ten minutes while I shared with her my history with mental illness, both depression and anxiety. And then something remarkable happened. My work friend shared some of her journey too. Not as much as I had, but that was okay. It was a start.

When we got back to our desks, she thanked me for opening up to her. I took a big step that day and in some small way, I believe I helped her. It made us closer and while she has since gone her way and I’ve gone mine, I still think ever so fondly of her and that indelible moment.

It was a risk. I understood it then and I understand it to this day. You have to read the situation and trust your gut. Since that day, I have shared my mental illness journey with quite a few people and it becomes easier each time.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Anxiety, Depression

Surviving Depression – Help a Friend

I am recovering from depression. What I mean by this is that my chronic depression is well managed and provided I stay on my medication, I will remain in recovery.

Having had three major depressive episodes over the past thirteen year, I’m in a very unique position. I have lived through deep depression, gotten very close to committing suicide… and survived. In having survived, I feel blessed because I am now able to help a dear friend. She too suffers from depression.

This friend of mine is a “work” friend. Though we’ve known each other for over five years, likely suffering side-by-side in shameful silence, it wasn’t until about a year ago where I said the words out loud.

“I suffer from depression.”

It was part of my talk therapy, really. Talking about my depression. Which is hard enough with family and close friends but to admit to a work friend that you have depression can be daunting and scary and in some cases, career limiting.

But, as soon as I said it, I could see a calm, knowing look in her eyes. She has depression too. Finally, it was out there. Finally, we could talk about it.

The thing about being friends with people at work – you know when they’re off “sick” for a few days in a row. In my friend’s case, this has been a repeating pattern every few months or so – a pattern I know only too well having lived it myself. To her credit, my friend called me during the last absence and asked me for advice. She hadn’t done this before.

I openly shared my experiences with her and was happy to do so. It felt good to be able to help someone who is suffering as I have, though I wish the circumstances were different.

Recovering from Depression? Help a Friend.
By hin255, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I have, and likely always will have, chronic depression. It can be really tough, particularly in the long, cold months of winter. But I survive. Day after day, night after night, I survive. As the months and years of my life fly by, I survive. If every 1 depression survivor, reached out and helped another person suffering with depression… and then they helped someone… and then they helped someone… we could build a tremendous web of support and love.

It doesn’t take much. Just reach out…