In an effort to help end stigma attached to mental health, I wanted to just quickly share a few things about me and my own mental health journey.
I wouldn’t say I suffer with constant mental health troubles but I have been diagnosed with high-functioning depression. Meaning, for the most part, I’m pretty good at adapting to constant stress, pressure, and anxiety but from time to time it builds up to a point where I can no longer handle anything at all, I give up, I feel hopeless, and my life can feel like it’s completely falling apart.
Thankfully, I’m getting better at recognizing the signs (can go days without getting dressed, don’t go out, sleep a lot, don’t shower as much, eat large amounts of sugary things, my surroundings get cluttered) and I’ve always been open to talking to my psychiatrist who has been great at giving me the tools I need to get back on track.
The first time I ever remember hearing the term ‘depression’ was when I was in High School. I had been dealing with a lot of overwhelming things at the time. I didn’t really understand it at the time but I had been mentally abused by my boyfriend who had recently dumped me for one of my “best” friends and I didn’t know what emotions to feel about all that so I was just handling it as best I could in order to keep going. One day, after coming back from lunch, I was in the middle of one of my afternoon classes when I looked down to the ring on my hand that had belonged to my great-grandmother. It was missing the pearl in the center. I literally screamed, jumped up on top of my desk chair, and yelled that we needed to stop everything because the pearl was gone. We NEEDED TO FIND IT! I was in complete hysterics. I felt like everything came crashing down all at once and I snapped. I was sent to the guidance counsellor, my parents were called, and I overheard the counsellor saying I was most-likely suffering from some form of depression.
Back then, nothing was really done. We didn’t talk about it as a family. We didn’t really know we needed to talk about it, truthfully. I saw the guidance counsellor for one session but that was it. You just moved on. I moved on—embarrassed and hoping that no one would ever bring it up.
For me, living with high-functioning depression means I look and sound normal until I don’t because my decline is slow and then sudden. One second I’m taking notes in class, the next second I’m jumping on my chair, crying in hysterics.
“I’ll handle it” it something I say a lot to myself and to others but over the last few years I’ve learned I have my limits but it’s a constant struggle for me to set those limits for myself without feeling like I’m a failure of sorts. Saying “no” to something is hard but I have to, so I don’t have a breaking point where it all goes to shit, basically.
Thankfully, as I said, I’m getting better at recognizing MY signs. When they happen, I’m usually able to take a step back and try and figure out, as best I can, what I need to do to improve my situation. Many times that does mean talking it out with someone who is neutral and detached from the goings on in my life, who can listen to me and then give me some sound advice and some perspective.
If you have mental health issues, then the key is to figure out what works FOR YOU. You need the right tools in YOUR toolbox.
If you don’t struggle with mental health issues, then the best thing you can do is try to recognize changes in behaviour in your family and friends and approach them first—don’t wait for them to talk to you. Ask them how they are, how they’ve been, what’s been going on in their lives. Be a good listener and don’t shy away if they do open up. Venting helps and sometimes we just need someone to vent to.
Today is World Mental Health Day but, really, mental health is something we all need to pay attention to every day. I do, and I hope you do to.