Today, I had a bit of a bad mental health day.
Now I haven’t had these as often since being in Thailand. But today reminded me that as someone who does have anxiety and as someone who has experienced depression, it is not something that can be run away from (or avoided, really).
It all started… a really, really long time ago.
There are one too many events and experiences that contributed to my onset of mental illness. I think it is important to note that these things evolve from many (or even just one very distressing) lived experiences. Mine from a young age.
And although I do recall being ‘unhappy’ from the mere age of nine, it was not until last year that I recognised I had a problem.
See, the thing about mental illness is that it creeps up on you. One day you truly think you’re fine, the next you’re wondering: “What the f*@k is wrong with me?”
The other thing about having a mental illness is that you unconsciously train yourself to ignore these thoughts and emotions once they’ve blown over.
Over a period of X amount of years, it might look a little something like this:
“Why do I always feel like shit?”
“Wow, I can’t believe I reacted like that yesterday. I am so happy right now – unstoppable.”
“I just want to stay home. Everything is too overwhelming to even try to attempt.”
“I love life. I love my friends. I love my family. I’m so blessed.”
“No one could possibly understand what I’m going through. I feel so alone.”
On and on and on this cycle goes…
You can imagine how exhausting this is. It’s like doing mental laps in your brain.
Which brings me to the next part of this story: when I realised I had a problem.
It was early last year, around this time. The state of my mind had gotten to the point where it felt like I would instantly break down if anyone asked me something as simple as how I was feeling. It really was as tragic as it sounds.
I finally took the step of seeing a local doctor in March.
Two whole years. That’s how long it took for me to even take this first step. Two years of battling with myself: should I/should I not? I’m fine/I can’t handle this anymore.
Sitting in the doctor’s office, I felt this huge weight in my heart. Not only that, it was as if I had this non-existent thing sitting on my back; growing, manifesting, scheming as the years went by that it was left unresolved. My mental illness was a person watching over me, eating at my head, my heart and my soul. Destroying me. It never left my consciousness.
I had never felt smaller than when I was in that office. Filling out surveys, answering seemingly mundane but extremely hard to answer questions, it all felt clinical. It was overwhelming, tiring. I felt this immense flood of emotion — a sudden urge to cry. What the hell! I thought. Keep it together for fifteen minutes!
In the middle of it all, at least I could be assured that I was getting my shit together, right? I would walk out of that office liberated and on top of the world. I’d walk out, finally, with a solution to my distress.
Or so I thought. That was until the doctor announced I’d be put on a public waiting list to start personal sessions with a psychologist. It might be a couple of months.
Again — that feeling. That fucking feeling! An emotion so strong, I could feel it cloud my head and induce my body with nausea. I wanted to cry again, or vomit. I didn’t know at that point. My heart sank.
Fast forward to now. I must be so good! Cured of all my worries, surely!
Here’s the catch:
I still have anxiety. I still get depressive episodes sometimes. Yes, even here on this great, awe inspiring, soul defining trip.
Here’s another fun thing about mental illness: it doesn’t just go away even after you’ve identified it and worked towards managing it.
Why would an issue that takes over (and literally takes) people’s lives be easy?
If mental illness has arisen from years of repressed trauma, then it will consequently take years of constant work — psychology session after psychology session, perhaps medication, even exercise or meditation or mindfulness therapy or this or that treatment — to reverse its effects. This also applies to recently acquired trauma. It’s a whole spectrum. And if it’s biological, that’s an added factor to consider when looking at one’s mental health.
So let’s suuuuper fast forward to now. Like now now. I’m sitting cross legged on a yoga mat writing this. I now feel ready to speak about my story; to turn this conceptual idea into a real, unembellished, raw as fuck, thing. And finally, to share it with the world.
Today I had a bit of a bad mental health day. It reminded me of how long I have come in taking the necessary steps to help myself. At the same time, it has reminded me of how much further I still have to go.
The flip side is, I am no longer suicidal or self-harm like I did when I was fourteen. I try my best not to engage in self-deprecating activities that trigger my anxiety and make me feel depressed (smoking heaps of pot and cigarettes, drinking, not eating consistently); activities I took a long time to acknowledge weren’t purely for leisure and fun anymore.
I am not completely at peace with my condition. A lot of the time, I really wish it would go away. Often I wonder what it would feel like just to feel normal again.
But I’m getting there. The more that I truly focus on myself — writing, reflecting, spending time with my family and those who truly respect and understand me — the more at ease I become with living with my anxiety beside me.
This was quite a lengthy post, so I’m signing off here.
If you’ve read this far – thank you. From the bottom of the deepest crevices of my heart. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a long, long time now.
And always… choose compassion.
This was only an account of my personal experiences. I understand and acknowledge that not every person will relate to this. Some may have an issue with my portrayal of mental illness.
Mental illness and mental health are not the same. It remains that in themselves, they are both very heavy topics. This is to be taken seriously.
Seeking help, professional help, was the best thing that I have done for myself. In saying this, I realise I am privileged enough to have obtained free professional psychology sessions under Australia’s national mental health plan. I was extremely lucky with the psychologist that I ended up with — she felt like a friend.
I also acknowledge that not everyone has had fortunate experiences with psychologists like I have. Again, each story is different in its own way.
I would, however, like to urge anyone feeling sad, depressed, anxious, or suicidal to seek help immediately. Whether that is a friend or family member, or professionally. There are also anonymous help lines. Below is a list of services in Australia:
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
SuicideLine Victoria 1300 651 251
Lifeline 13 11 14
If you would like to talk to me personally, please feel free to reach out.