May is Mental Health Awareness month.
I planned on writing this blog last month because of how I was feeling… I took a break from my page because of it, but the depression, anxiety, and a few other things I’m fighting, that I am writing about, also kept me from writing it. Even now, I’m struggling… but I’m going to try to finish this before the month is over.
Until about 2 years ago, I wouldn’t allow myself to admit that I had depression or anxiety. Even though I suspected the depression. Those words were worse than cuss words. Those words meant that there was something wrong with me… that I was defective. They were used to win arguments or make someone feel bad about themselves in my family “back in the day”.
Because of my thyroid, I don’t have a very good memory, but as far as I know and can remember… my family didn’t talk about mental health. I remember someone telling me that my Nanny had Alzheimer’s before she died? Maybe? But never about things that were happening now, to each other. Looking around at my family, now that I’ve been able to see the “red flags” in my life, I see them in others. I think it might be that it’s hard to self-evaluate, or hear things that are “wrong” with you AND talk about them with others. My side of the family likes to sweep things under the rug. I’m not bashing my family… a lot of people do it. But for me, it really hurt me in the long run. It took me a long time to see these things in myself and start to help myself grow and learn how to take care of myself because I didn’t know there was anything “wrong” with me. Which is why I talk so openly about myself and I will talk to my kids about their health (mental or otherwise) when they’re able to understand… and help them to know that it’s not something to be ashamed of.
Actually, it wasn’t until my middle son was diagnosed with ADHD and went home googling the crap out of it, so I could better understand it and him to help him the way he needed help, that I realized a lot of those “red flags” hit home for me too. Then I started talking to women on the Autism Spectrum and saw a LOT (alright, most) of those “red flags” in myself too, that I really started taking a look at myself and my mental health. That’s when I realized I also have depression and anxiety.
I’m sure for many people, it’s a heartbreaking realization. But for me, it’s like finally putting the missing pieces of my life in their place. Things make SO much more sense to me now. I’m learning why I do things, say things, or why I think the way I do… and why it’s a lot different than some others. Or why certain things are SO hard for me. Like phone calls, meeting new people, making friends, being happy…
I remember looking at my son, smiling at me while he was playing… and not being able to stop myself from crying. Because I wanted so much to be happy, to enjoy that moment. Even though I forced a smile on the outside, so he would see me smiling back at him… I hurt, I was sad, depressed, upset and all I could think about was wanting to kill myself. Not because of him… because I didn’t want to live anymore. There were days I had a handful of pills… staring at them… wanting to take them all and stop the pain… stop feeling completely alone, unloved, unhappy… and the only reason I didn’t, was because of my kids. I’d look up and see them playing, and think, who will take care of them? Who will understand them the way I do? Love them the way I do? Because my kids are nonverbal Autistic… and even their Dad don’t understand them the way I do. And because of my kids, I’m still alive.
But I wonder… if I had known I had these issues… that maybe it wasn’t because I just had a hard life, that it would have been helped, what my life could have looked like. What those happy moments with my children would have felt like to me had I had the right help. Had I not thought that mental health problems were insults. That it was okay to ask for help… to need help…
Like my anxiety. I didn’t like meeting people or “kids my own age”. My Aunt would force me to go on trips with our youth group from church. “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet” she’d say, trying to calm my worry. And the trip turned out not to be too bad. I didn’t make friends… but the trip in general, was fun. I did eventually make a couple friends… but had I known why I had such issues, had she known, I wonder what my teen years would have been like.
I don’t have health insurance, so I am trying to take care of myself the best I can until I do, so days are still hard… days, weeks, months… are still hard. I still have those moments I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to run away. I barely am able to get out of bed… put on a smile for my kids and do what they need. But because I better understand myself, I’m able to push through (most times) and face the day.
But even knowing I have these issues, I still struggle… because their Dad doesn’t really get me or understand what I’m going through. He doesn’t help me through my struggling moments… and I don’t like people feeling bad for me, or not knowing HOW to help me, so I don’t talk to people about it either. I don’t ask for help. Because unless I can afford pills or therapy… there isn’t MUCH I can do to get help, that I know of. Which also sucks.
Recently, I’ve been having a hard time fighting through the fog. There are SO many messages, comments on my page, blogs I want to write, things I want to do… but I just can’t. I only have so many “spoons” (if you don’t understand the spoon reference, click here.) I have for each day as it is (with my thyroid problem, fibromyalgia, and in general pain, exhaustion) that I can use to do things, but when those days I’m also fighting depression and anxiety, I have far less spoons to use throughout the day. So, I’m forced to decide between spending time with my kids and doing the dishes, or responding to comments on my page or homeschooling Tyler. I can’t do both, I have to choose… and my family will always win out. My health doesn’t always win out… some days I do way more than I should because although people tell you “oh leave the dishes, they’ll be there tomorrow.” Or “your house is fine, you should see mine”… when therapists for the kids show up, the owner to the house, or heaven forbid someone calls CPS on me (for loud noises, half naked kids running around or whatever) they’re not going to be so understanding. I try to post, so I’m not completely gone… but commenting isn’t always as easy for me either. Or if a LOT of people post, sweet and amazing things, but there are so many… that I get overwhelmed and anxiety builds thinking about having to respond to everyone. I read them all, I love all the comments, but I just can’t respond to all of them. So, I will always read them all, but I may not always be able to respond. But I do love having you all on our page!
But because I’ve had these issues… because I’ve allowed my mental health problems to “live in the shadows” of my life… and has only made things harder and more difficult for me, I try my hardest to be honest and speak openly about them now. So that others can read my stories, and possibly relate to them, and know that they’re not alone. That it’s okay to ask for help. To break the stigma… to break the silence.
I know I’m just one person… with a small “following” on facebook. But if just one person reads this, and doesn’t feel alone anymore, and sees that it’s okay to have mental health struggles, to see that it’s okay to ask for help… then that’s enough for me. Because this is NOT easy. Especially if you don’t have a strong support system or made to feel bad about it… or made to hide it.
“There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.” http://www.triadmentalhealth.org/what-is-mental-illness/