Mental Health Awareness Day Was This Week, So Let’s Talk About It
World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th of October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.I missed it this year, but it's something we should talk about. I think a lot of us just brush our own thoughts and feelings aside to get through the normal trials of a day. I can't really speak of your personal efforts, but I can talk about mine. So maybe that will be something you can relate to, or not.
Depression is something I have dealt with for long periods of my life. I'll just be blunt about it. I think it's directly related to an incident that happened when I was small that I do not care to disclose here (I hope you'll appreciate my boundary on that). It probably didn't help that my third grade teacher was very hard on me. I remember crying in class at some of the things she said to me.
It's an odd feeling for a kid to deal with. I thought I must be the worst person in the world. I thought that God was punishing me for being so bad, that there was nothing about me that would ever be good. I remember crying myself to sleep at night. I remember thinking about suicide at that age, as well. My Mom caught me with some cold pills and NyQuil one time in my Grandmother's basement (I didn't know it wouldn't work, I was a kid). I felt bad about myself every single day. It was embarrassing. It was tiring. It was frustrating.
Eventually I got the message that expressing this feeling was unacceptable. I was to cheer up and move on, already. So, I did. I just put on a mask and went through the motions. I didn't talk about it with anybody. It wasn't all bad all the time, after all. I called them "troughs" that I would go through, where there were months when I felt alright, and then months where nothing could possibly be right.
As I got older, I heard people talking every now and then about depression and connected my feelings to it. At least it had a name, and it wasn't just me. But that didn't mean I could talk to someone about it. I read books. I tried to "focus on the positive". I developed this habit, of trying to funny and make people laugh. It was something I wanted to do, to try to have something of value to offer. If it didn't work, I was a complete and total failure. If it did work, then I earned a moment for that day.
I continued to hear people over the years, in middle school and high school, talk about medication and counseling and all sorts of different things. I didn't believe I deserved that. I thought, "What's the point? Why save this, there's nothing worth saving here." I had no concept that anyone Really liked me, I thought most people were just putting up with me because I was still existing. I thought, in the back of my head, that one day I would just do it and get it over with. One day, it'll stop. Because I will stop it.
There were at least five incidents that I can remember, but I'll focus on one. There's one incident I remember quite clearly. I was in college. I was driving to a job I had at the time that was a short commute. I had begun self medicating at the time, nothing too serious, but it still wasn't right or what I needed. It was dark, and I was on Highway 13 in Warrensburg. That road, as you're heading out to Highway 70, as a few twists and turns in it. My thoughts that night were particularly dark because I had a full school schedule and a full time job, I wasn't getting enough sleep... and to be completely honest, I was on illegal drugs. I drove along the road, looking at the different ditches and huge trees... thinking, "It would be so easy to just go off the road. It would look like an accident. No one would have to feel bad for me. I bet I wouldn't even feel anything." I drove. I sped up. I changed gears. I took off my seat belt. I saw a very large tree to my right..... But, obviously I didn't do it. I was distracted by a car in the opposite lane and scared myself. I'd like to say it was the love of my family that made me slow down, but... it wasn't. I was just scared. I hated myself even more for not having the guts to do it. "You worthless excuse of a human, you know the world would be better off. Can't even do the world a favor, can you?"
Over the years, I've worked hard to try to like myself. It wasn't easy and I didn't really completely succeed. But there was a turning point. I finally reached a point after I was diagnosed with MS (my mid twenties). My neurologist (third one at that point) told me that depression and anxiety were common in MS patients, and he looked me in the eye and asked a simple question.
"How's your mood?"
I don't know why, but I just.... gave up on hiding it. I told him the truth. I wasn't alright. I didn't like myself. I had considered suicide more than once, from a young age. I wasn't sure if I could say I would never consider it again. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me it was going to be alright. He wrote me a prescription and continued our conversation.
Since then, I am proud to say I've made strides. I'm not perfect, and that's okay. I have flaws, I have vices, I have bad habits, I have shortcomings. I can't say that the negative voice in my head is gone. I'm really hard on myself and find my thoughts are often... scolding me? I'm not sure if I'm putting that right. I'm definitely still a pessimist, but I haven't seriously considered suicide since then. I take medication daily, and it helped. It continues to help. I am thankful for that. I never did go to a counselor, I'm not sure I want to. At this point I feel like I've wrestled with myself enough.
I hope that if you did read this, and you're struggling with something in your journey, that you will seek help. Asking for help isn't a bad thing. You are worth the effort. If you're doing fine in your life, I hope you'll take a second look at the people around you. They may need you and not have the ability to tell you. It can be so hard to come forward, you feel like a burden, like a failure, like an inconvenience. Please, listen.
Thank you for listening to me. If you feel comfortable, please share your story, and I will listen in turn.