It’s My Month! ….Unfortunately.
Everything has a “month” these days. Breast Cancer Month. Polar Bear Month. Nuclear Nonproliferation Month. Left-Handed Ginger Month.
Unless we’re talking about Donut Month, there is a limit to how many tweets I can read about it. It’s just too much to be weighed down with everyone’s “month” sometimes. Compassion fatigue is, well, exhausting.
In addition to being the month for a number of other things, May happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. Aw, crap. This is where it gets really annoying because it means it’s kind of “my month,” when the thing that runs my life some days gets a little more spotlight.
I sobbed because there was no more ketchup.
My daughter spends days overwhelmed with depression and won’t get out of bed.
I probably would have taken my own life by now if I hadn’t gotten help six months ago.
He is just so mean to me, and I get so upset that I end up cutting my legs just so that it doesn’t feel like he hurts me as much.
These are just a few of the things my friends have said in the last few weeks.
It is sometimes the ultimate test of will to just get out of bed some days.
I still have times when I am suddenly afraid because PTSD is unpredictable. It almost cost me my horrible job two weeks ago.
The thought of living with my parents and working in this job for much longer makes me hyperventilate.
These don’t even skim the surface of the list of things I would tell you if I was brave enough. I don’t tell you because I’m a horribly prideful person who hates the thought of appearing weak in any way. The universe has a sick habit of pointing my weaknesses out, despite my best effort.
The graphics on Pinterest and Facebook blather on about how mental illness is not a weakness, and I get what they are saying, but they are kinda full of crap, too. Mental illness is a real thing, and it doesn’t diminish someone’s worth. But it does weaken you.
When you can’t focus, or you lose memory function, or your relationships suffer, or you start having physical manifestations of the problem, your strength just isn’t there. I think the problem comes when we expect to put on a brave face and function with strength that isn’t there. I don’t know about you, but having to operate outside my resource limit isn’t effective for very long.
We don’t like to ask for help. We fear it, so we look for solutions that don’t seem as obvious to others: alcohol, food, “essential oils” (my sister once saw a brochure for an oil that promised to help lessen the horrors of domestic violence), whatever. Just don’t let someone hear me mention a therapist or a pill, right?
I’ve always had generalized anxiety disorder, and developed PTSD a few years ago. The latter is far less intense or problematic than it used to be, but it still shows up once in a while. The prior is a beast. A nasty, ugly, lying beast that I deal with all day every day, to varying degrees. The last almost two years have taught me a lot about how to cope. Timeouts, “kindnesses,” cognitive behavior therapy, and sometimes medication are needed, and I’m getting better at using them at the right time.
An unofficial cousin recently wrote about how getting treated for a diagnosis that included anxiety has saved her life. She had thought that her misery was just how life was, but now, it’s like a new universe altogether.
I get it. Nearly two years ago, my baby cousin got married, just two days after I got my prescription for my anxiety meds. The first day on them was OK, but it was a pretty normal day. When I woke up and got dressed for his wedding, I was full of the “normal” anxiety I had before anything like that. They didn’t really want you to participate in the wedding. They only asked because they felt sorry for you. You better not embarrass them. Or yourself. There will be hundreds of people there. Just think of how fat you are compared to all the rest of the people who will be on stage. I took a pill as the personal berating I was accustomed to continued.
On the way to the wedding, it got quieter. It was like I forgot to hate myself, forgot to be fearful of judgment. By the time it started, I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about how grown up he is, and how happy he looked. By the time I got to the reception, I was a “me” I didn’t know existed anymore. I wasn’t afraid to talk to the people I’ve known all my life. I didn’t hold my breath when I considered approaching someone. I danced (terribly). I had forgotten that life could be like that.
There are days that still suck. When hours last eternities. Moments when I forget all my coping options and start to close in on myself. But thanks to professionals and the occasional (appropriate) pharmaceutical, good days happen, too. Hours that are so much fun that I wish they wouldn’t end.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Most people I know have experienced some variation of depression, anxiety, or other tribulation at one point or another. Some of you have been at this longer than I have. At least a few of you are likely to be where I, and millions of others, have been: drowning in an invisible tide of stress, fear, and depression, at the end of your rope, not sure how long before you let go. If not for your sake, get help for my sake, for your children’s sake, for whatever reason it is that will save you. If knowing that feeling better will help you be a better dog owner, take that and run with it.
It sucks to feel weak, and it’s humbling to ask for help, but there is hope and light and a whole lot of beautiful on the other side. I promise.