The Darkest, Twistiest Thing

ian-robinson-181741I am about to share something I am wholeheartedly tired of people (myself included) tiptoeing around. It is a very difficult post for me to write. But it’s something I don’t take lightly because I know I’m not alone and I share in hopes that you will know you’re not alone too.

Mental illness. Today just so happens to be World Mental Health Day. Here are a few stats around that:

  • 1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) adults experience mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 25 (or 10 million) adults experience a serious mental illness.
  • 1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% (or 6.1 million) of Americans have bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression.
  • 18.1% (or 42 million) live with an anxiety disorder.
  • 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.

And yet, we don’t talk about it. Words are taken lightly, like depression or anxiety just to name a few. As someone who has suffered from clinical depression and anxiety for almost all of my life… there’s a few things I would like to clear up. These are a few of my truths.

I’m going to warn you, this list isn’t pretty. It’s not cute. And above all, it doesn’t mean I’m combustible, fragile or need to be tiptoed around. If anything my broken bits let the light in and I’m a stronger human because of them.

From a very early age all that people remarked about me was my smile. Partially because it was too big for my face, but mainly because I did a lot of it. Be mindful that sometimes, behind someone smiling there can be hurt and a whole lot of lonliness. Happiness doesn’t always constitute joy, and sometimes people plaster on fake smiles for you to stop asking if they’re alright. Maybe just be there, be present, listen.

I want you to know these things because I am one in five. I am one in 18. I am one of 10 million. I’m just one. And there are so so many of us out there. But, the truth is… I’m lucky. In many regards I shouldn’t be alive typing out this post right now. But, I’m strong. And, I know that this is not all of me.

Here are some things you should know:

  1. Mental illness looks different on everyone. The signs are different, the reasons are different. The coping is different. I cope with “shut the door” phases and smelling the candle isle in Target. I mean, I never said I was a sane person.
  2. Being sad is NOT the same thing as being depressed. Sadness is an emotion, depression is more of a state of being. And there are many levels of depression. Sometimes people suffer from seasonal depression because of winter and whatnot, yes that is a real thing you should take seriously.
  3. Depression and anxiety can come out of nowhere, at least for me. Sometimes there are days that I know I’m not particularly feeling happy, but other times I can be the happiest ever and then all of a sudden have a panic attack or just want to crawl into a hole. It’s not a pretty thing to witness, but it’s an awful thing to experience.
  4. Suicide is not about you, usually. I don’t know everyone who has ever committed suicide nor attempted, but I speak from what I know. There are sometimes earth shattering things that occur that make people want to do that. But in that moment, no matter the reason, that person just doesn’t want to exist. It’s not a level of selfishness they are aware of, life is just all too much, all at once. A friend of mine explained it by saying, “People with chronic depression, it’s not that they want to die, it’s that they have to talk themselves into existing. Sometimes every minute of everyday, and sometimes they lose that battle.”
  5. Anxiety and worry are not the same thing. Anxiety is often irrational. I have a really hard time trusting people. I overanalyze everything, everyone and every situation because of anxiety. Sometimes, it’s exhausting.
  6. Sometimes you can help people, sometimes you can’t. People need to help themselves first. There is no amount of words that can be reasoned out if a person at the end of the day doesn’t believe that life is worth living. What you can do is meet them where they need to be met and love them the best that you can. Show them that you are glad they exist. Show them that they are loved and wanted. That’s what you can do for them, and if that doesn’t work…if that isn’t enough, there really isn’t anything else you could have done.
  7. Asking for help isn’t shameful. Talking about your shit isn’t shameful. It’s okay to seek help. It’s okay to take medication if there is a need and it will help. Sometimes it is hormones. Sometimes it is an imbalance. Talk to someone. Anyone. You are worth that conversation.
  8. It doesn’t need to be glorified. It took me a long time to stop using this as an excuse not to live my best life. There were days, weeks, months that I would lock myself away in my room refusing to come out other than to go to school or to any place I had to. A lot of that time I didn’t even eat. I used it as an excuse to cripple myself and waste time in my life. Experiences, opportunities wasted because I was wallowing. I’m not saying that you don’t deserve to feel the way you feel. You deserve to feel the full spectrum of human emotion… but it’s not all of you. Acknowledge that feeling and then move on. The deepest problems arise when we dwell on it, when we focus our whole being on it.
  9. You don’t have to understand. If you have a friend or someone you care about has depression or anxiety or any mental illness at all and you don’t… they don’t want you to understand. They want you to acknowledge that this is how they feel, that’s it. You don’t have to try to make it better, you don’t have to say that everything will be alright… just listen. Just acknowledge that this is how they feel, ask if they need anything, and listen.
  10. You don’t have to justify. Yeah… I’m a twenty something, moderately pretty, smart, funny, well-liked, moderately affluent, white woman… what do I have to be depressed about. Stop it. I feel the way I feel. My own family, some of my closest friends don’t even acknowledge this aspect of my life. Just because those you love don’t acknowledge or know what to do about it doesn’t mean you have to justify or explain it. It’s just your truth. This is your struggle. This is their struggle. You are not broken, this is just part of your story. Instead of allowing it to cripple you, use it to be better.

 

Don’t treat your people differently. Just acknowledge that this is a part of them. For some of us, happiness takes effort. For some of us, we have to reason out our existence. For me,  this aspect of my life has made me kinder, more empathetic and more understanding of humanity as a whole. Just listen and acknowledge your people’s truth.

So yeah… I am a lot of dark and twisty. I feel a LOT of things. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just true.

I don’t need you to take care of me. I don’t need you to fight for me. I need to fight for me.

 

My Anxiety Isn’t Truth

john-towner-117309I have a few friends who come to me with weighty things, well I have a lot people who come to me with weighty things. I am THAT friend. The mom, the listener, the one who can give you sage advice. This is not vanity, I just know that role I play in a lot of my relationships. I can handle the heavy stuff. Sometimes.

You deserve to feel the full spectrum of human emotion. This is my sage advice. This is my mantra. When days get really tough, for no apparent reason, this is what I tell myself. But, even though it is true… I don’t believe it in my bones. I still hide behind falsities of cheer and fake smiles because fake it ’til you make it right?

The past few weeks I have been so inspired by those who have talked about their anxiety in a real and authentic way. So , in an effort to bear more of my authentic life; an effort to make you understand that most people who appear to have it all together don’t; and an effort to let you know you’re not alone, I share my heart.

At the end of the day, a lot of thoughts are still my own…because well, they are crazy. I know that my anxiety is just lies, my depression is just lies and that I can do a lot of things to make it better; but in this moment, in this point of time — before all granola visualizations and prayer — before all of that, this is what I feel. This is my inner monologue. I know it isn’t true.

Anxiety & Leaving the House: I am 5-10 minutes late anywhere I go when I am the last to leave the house. I get in my car, then I realize that I used the straightener and maybe this one time the automatic off switch will malfunction so I go in to turn it off. Then unplug it. Then I make sure I turned everything else off. Did I use the stove this morning? Did I lock the back door? Is Fitz secured in his cage? (He almost never gets locked in his cage.) Does he have a toy? Are there any electronics near the cage? If there are any cords around the he will chew them and electrocute and die. If there is anything chewable around, he will pick it up and choke on it and die. If the house catches on fire, he will be stuck in his cage and die. I should just stay in. Now I’m late to work, oh my gosh did I close the garage?

Anxiety & Work: My boss looked at me funny today. What does a non-smile but smirking actually mean. Oh, I’m getting fired. I have nothing to do today, oh crap, I’m getting fired. In my consulting… I’m really bad at media relations. No one is responding. No one. These press releases are damn good and no ones responding. Fired. I’m going to get fired from everything and end up living with my parents and then eventually on the street, forever.

Anxiety & Coaching: People don’t believe me. I haven’t really lost that much, right? Do you think people thought I wasn’t “that fat” before and so now they don’t really care? I just messaged her, OMG I offended her. She thinks I think she’s fat. She thinks I think she’s lazy. Am I wording this correctly? I’m really terrible at this. Oh crap, I forgot to post today, people think I’m slacking. I really did work out, I really did eat healthy. I really do believe in this. Can’t they tell? What if I’m too overzealous. What if I post TOO many selfies? Omg, I hate selfies. I’m becoming one of THOSE girls. Who are THOSE girls? What a terrible thing to think. Crap, it’s 9:30 and I didn’t post anything today. I’m the worst. Do I really post enough to be authentic? What if I fail? I want out.

Anxiety & Dating: Oh, he’s cute. Oh he looked at me. Crap, I have something in my teeth. AVERT GAZE immediately. Look away. Ok, now you made it awkward. Oh, you like me, you’re asking me to dinner? How in the world can I get out of this? Okay, I’m going to go. I don’t like any of my clothes. Okay I’m dressed. Okay I’m here ten minutes early. That’s overeager. I’ll just sit on my phone in the car. *Checks makeup, checks phone.* Crap, I’m a minute late. What if he thinks I’m rude because I’m late? Oh geez, I’m going to die alone. I. AM. SO. AWKWARD. Oh, this is going great, nothing to fear. I am the best at dating. Crap…long pause. Oh, no I talk too much. He’s bored. What to say? Say literally anything. ANYTHING. Why aren’t you talking? *Panic attack*. This is the worst. Oh no, here comes the check. CRAP. Do we go dutch? Do I pay? Do I let him pay? We’re not dating,there is no expectation of him paying. He pays. Whew. Next time I pay. But what does that say? I’m too independent? No, I just want him to know I don’t expect anything. Crap. What if he doesn’t know thats what I want him to know? Oh, now it’s awkward again. Sheesh, this is the worst.

Anxiety & Friendships: This person hates me because I flaked yet again. I don’t want to go out of the house. I’m going to lose all my friends. They think I’m the worst. They are going to die and I’m not going to get to tell them I love them. I am going to die and none of them will come because I flaked out…yet again. Flake. Flake. Flake.

Anxiety & Traveling: I’m going to forget my passport. I’m going to get Taken. I’m going to fall off the boat and die. I’m going to get lost and then taken. I’m going to forget my credit card and be locked in a foreign prison unable to pay my debts. Plane crash. Tapeworm.

Anxiety & Health: My heart just fluttered, heart attack. *Panic attack about heart attack*. Brain hurts in a weird spot, brain tumor. Forget something, early onset AlZ … I’m going to get this. But when… (…mind plays out diagnosis of ALZ & subsequent life…should’ve kept more journals.)

Okay, I’m going to stop there because my anxiety is making me anxious. These are a lot of the real thoughts that go through my head in some of these situations. I was in college before I realized that the very real debilitating episodes I was having were panic attacks. I remember very vividly being crippled with a fear that came out of nowhere about nothing in particular  and seeing spots and trying to calm an anxious heart. I was stuck in that spot for what seemed like eternity, feeling completely and utterly alone in the world. I’ve always had high anxiety and because I am a creative, the scenarios are very real and thought out to me. I understand now that I am not alone in these thoughts. I also understand that coming out about how I feel doesn’t mean that I also don’t believe I am one badass lady boss. I totally still believe in myself. I know that I can accomplish anything but at the same time, I will play out all the scenarios of defeat before it gets accomplished. Because, insecurity is not the same thing as anxiety.

That it is just part of my *flawsomeness* that makes me, me. Hi, my name is Kate and I suffer from mental illness in the form of depression and anxiety. Much like alcoholism or any other addiction, it can destroy your life if you let it take over. But when we talk about our struggles and we do things to ease their presence over us, like exercise, prayer, personal development and practicing self-care…we can have more good days than bad.