Around 25% of adults suffer from a mental illness. I want to raise awareness about this issue, and help people understand the different aspects of living with a mental disorder a bit better. That’s why I launched a series of guest posts called Mental Health Mondays, where I give other people the opportunity to share their experiences with mental disorders. This week Jessica shares her experience with depression and anxiety.
Being diagnosed with depression and anxiety felt like my world was caving in.
I felt suffocated, alone, lost. I felt like my identity had been taken over and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had a “dirty little secret” and felt like no one else could know or they would all change how they looked at me.
This was in 2011.
For almost 3 years I hid this diagnosis from everyone in my life. I was going through my life with this heavy burden; constantly feeling alone, constantly feeling different than everyone around me, constantly feeling like the moment I let it slip that I had a mental illness people would judge me, think less of me, or assume I was weak and had done something to bring this upon myself.
I felt ashamed and I felt broken. I felt like life would always be a struggle. I had pity parties for myself regularly – always wondering “why me?”
Then in 2014 something changed.
At the end of that year I had launched a new online business and it became part of my career to share my life all over social media. I hadn’t expected or anticipated that sharing my mental health journey would become part of my job as well, but not only did mental health and mental illness become a regular topic of discussion on my pages, people were coming out of the woodwork all over the place just to join in on the conversation.
I still remember the first day I ever openly talked about depression on my social media. It was Canadian Thanksgiving, 2014, and I was struggling to get out of bed. I was going through that combination of emotions when you feel so sad, tired, and listless, with a touch of anger and irritation. I’d had such a wonderful day the day before, hiking and baking cookies with my hubby, and there was no rhyme or reason to explain why I was feeling the way I was on this day.
Something clicked for me that day though. As I was laying in bed, it just washed over me that I didn’t have to accept this fate, that I didn’t have to let my diagnosis control me or my life anymore. I started to wake up to the idea that I could take back my life, and that having depression and anxiety didn’t mean I was broken or “less than” in any way. That day, despite how I was feeling, I went on social media and shared a post about what I was experiencing – about how I’d been dealing with and suffering from depression and anxiety by myself for years, and that I didn’t want to suffer alone anymore; and that I didn’t want to suffer anymore, period.
So much changed in that moment. The instant that I went live with my story and my journey, it felt like a weight had been lifted. (Well, actually, at first it felt like I was going to throw up from the fear of what others would think or say and the “what-have-I-done?!” vulnerability-hangover). But then, over the next hours and days, as other people’s stories and experiences and gratitude poured in, I found myself feeling less lonely, less burdened, and less lost than I had in three years.
I saw just how much others had been suffering in silence the same way that I had, and how we were all just longing to feel heard, understood, comforted, and not alone. The moment that I accepted and shared my journey was also the moment that I began to heal.
I spent the next 2 years beating my depression and anxiety.
By adopting a new healthy diet and exercise regime, working on my mindset and personal development, healing past emotional pain through spiritual and energetic work, and learning to love and accept myself, I began to experience a new version of myself; a version where “depressed” and “anxious” were words and diagnoses that could no longer be used to describe me. By allowing myself to actually feel and express my emotions (something we never did in my home growing up), I gave myself the gift of healing.
Today, in 2017, just over 6 years after my diagnosis, I am free of all antidepressants and medications, and am proud to say that I no longer experience depression. There are still great days and less-than-great-days, but those highs and lows are a natural part of life that I am now embracing. I know that with my new outlook on life and mental health, I will never have to experience the same depth of darkness that I went through on my own for years. Any time that I start to feel anxiety creep in, I am able to recognize the fear behind my thoughts, and catch those thoughts before they get away from me.
My intent is that this post inspires hope in you today. Hope that you are NOT alone, and that you do not have to feel alone anymore. Hope that you do not have to suffer, that you do not have to feel broken, and that you can find a light through the darkness, just like I did.
I truly believe that we go through all of our experiences for a reason, and because of that, I can now look back at my depression and anxiety with gratitude. Gratitude that I was able to go through such darkness and pain and come out the other side with a story to tell; gratitude that I am now able to turn around and help others who are going through the same thing; gratitude for the fact that, because I went through what I did and can share it, perhaps even one less person will feel alone and broken.
Just know that you are not alone. Believe that you can heal your pain, trust that there are so many others out there who know and understand exactly what you are going through, and have faith that you can find the light in the dark as well.
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