World Mental Health Day 2018: My Journey
In today's post I want to talk all about Mental Health in honour of World Mental Health Day This is a very difficult and personal topic for me, and because I've struggled with hardships, I wanted to share my journey with you guys and what it means to me and how my life has changed because of it. Some of you may be struggling with similar situations, and might feel a connection with my story and hopefully find the light and inspiration you seek.
I don't want to get too deep in my story but I'll give you a rundown of my personal struggles. It all began at a very young age. I didn't know this at first but I've struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts from as early as 11 years old. I always felt I was a sad person and very hopeless in terms of what life really meant. Nothing excited me, I didn't feel passionate about anything in particular and I had a tendency to never plan for the future, because I never saw myself having a future. Of course, I was able to learn all this about myself until I was an adult and started treatment for my mental health.
I know this may trigger some of you, but I had a very low period in my life where I attempted to take my life at least once a month. This toxic train of thought and behaviour continued for at least three years. I've never told anyone this. Not one single soul. This is the first time I'm making this part of my life known.
Growing up I was a very lonely person, not having friends, not going out, and finding it very hard to open up to people. So many of my hobbies, I did them in isolation. I was my own companion, my only friend. Till this day I still don't have a single person I can call my friend. And I know it's my fault for being isolated and not knowing how to trust people.
Being alone all the time, and not having anyone to share my thoughts and emotions with, made me bottle so much that it all caught up on me by the time I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Having an autoimmune disease was the cherry on top for all my depression.
While in my childhood and teenage years I suffered with depression, at 23 years old I suffered an anxiety attack for the first time in my life. I was sexually assaulted. I couldn't live with the pain, with the shame. I didn't feel safe, I didn't know peace.
Life and the world as I knew it came crumbling down and I instantly saw the world as a dark place where I would never be happy and protected. I cried and cried for weeks after the assault and didn't leave my bedroom. I was afraid to shower, afraid to move, afraid to leave the comfort of my bed. I even made a tent from blankets, and covered my bed with them because I only felt safe, by being completely alone. My mum wrote me a letter, and it was because of her love for me, that I'm sitting here writing my story.
This horrible experience led to emotional, physical and psychological trauma, which in a way triggered my autoimmune disease. My life was gone. And to this day I know I lost myself forever. Now I'm trying to rebuild myself and find my truth, my peace, my happiness.
Living with an autoimmune thyroid condition like Hashimoto's, in which the activity of the thyroid is going up and down, can sometimes cause excess thyroid hormone to be released erratically which can be a trigger for panic attacks or cause heart palpitations.
I remember that whenever something upsetting happened to me, like if someone asked me to do something out of the blue and i didn't have time to prepare, or someone changed my plans or pressured me into making decisions about my life and career, I would start trembling, sweating, my knees would get wobbly and weak, I started to suffocate and couldn't breathe..... my stomach felt shaky, I would get diarrhea and lose my appetite. I had a horrible gut feeling and couldn't concentrate on anything.
I couldn't even take my Husky to the vet because I was afraid she would get loose from the leash and get killed by a car. Things were really bad for me. I didn't have a life. And I didn't want one if it was going to be like that. After I finished Grad School, my health issues got worse. I spent months laying in bed not being able to move because of the throbbing body aches. I was depressed by my situation. No job, no health, no hope. I wasted all my savings in doctors, trying to heal from Hashimoto's and all they did was prescribe levothyroxine. I gained weight, I felt hopeless, I was broke and for days I didn't shower, I didn't brush my teeth or comb my hair. My life was a terrible mess.
But, I'm here, running this beautiful blog that I dreamt of doing since 2011. Life changed for me. I went online and started researching options for healing Hashimoto's. I read blogs and sites, and cases of people who have gotten into remission. I changed my diet and became a vegan. I was still struggling with anxiety and depression all throughout 2016 and 2017. Things were not good and at that precise time I saw no hope because I wasn't getting any better. But those little steps were leading me into a better situation.
I decided to give life a chance. I worked really hard at the end of 2017 to launch by blog. And on December I bought a domain and hosting plan and published this site. Blogging made me happy and gave me a reason to get up in the morning. At the beginning it was hard finding my voice. Things started to look good. I went on a different treatment for Hashimoto's at the beginning of 2018. I started taking supplements, slowing down on my intense workouts, eating mindfully, drinking teas and smoothies and learning to change the way I thought.
I found guidance and support, and many of my worries and negative thoughts, I learned were manageable. My outlook on life transformed. I found a longing to discover more about myself, about life, about my mind.
I started using affirmations, I started journaling, I started telling myself mantras, especially when someone tried to force me to make a decision, or they wanted to control something in my life. I repeated: "I have the power to say no. It's my life. I get to decide if I want this to affect me. I can walk away from this feelings because I have control over my life, not anyone else. I will only do things that bring me peace and joy." And this simple thought has made a huge difference in my life. Learning that I have total control and accepting that I call the shots. People can say what they want about what to do or how to live my life, but the decision is mine, and I have the option of discarding what doesn't serve my peace and happiness.
I'm not going to lie, I still get horrible feelings, now and then. Sometimes I feel I can't live anymore. I still feel hopeless that I can't seem to find a way to completely regain my health back. I worry about my career, my life, how to find a way to trust people and open up about my struggles. I have bad days, I have terrible days, I have good days and I have normal days. But I know I've made progress and I feel content in my heart. I learned to value myself and give me the place I deserved in my life. I value my emotions, I validate my feelings... I take time to write down how I'm feeling and trying to understand where it's all coming from.
It has been a difficult, long journey but it's getting better every day. Sometimes when I have an anxiety attack or a depressive episode I beat myself for not progressing. It feels like a setback from all the hard work I've been doing. But I feel different about it. I have a reason to love myself. I want to get to experience life. I have a long way to go but what's different this time is that I actually want to do it. I want to live.
The purpose of this post is not to get your pity and sympathy. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I want to show the world that even though I'm just 26 years old, I struggle with mental health issues. And many people from my generation do too. Even older people, younger people, men and women do. Mental health isn't selective. It can happen to anyone at anytime.
Mental health isn't a fad, it's not laziness or attention seeking. Its a real problem that needs to be destigmatized. We all deal with pain, with loneliness, with traumas, with hormonal and neurological imbalances and most of us are silent. My problems started at a very young age and got worse over time. I even had to deal with an autoimmune disease that would directly have an effect on my mental health. So by sharing my journey, I want you to know that mental health is real. It should be treated with the same concern and interest as any other disease.
If you are experiencing a similar situation or have concerns about your mental health, don't feel like you're unworthy or that there's something wrong with you. Don't lose hope. Life can get better. Sometimes it takes time and effort.
My Advice & Tips
1. Get a complete medical checkup. I'm talking blood work, thyroid exams, adrenal testing, psychological evaluation, vitamin deficiencies. Having an understanding of how healthy your body is can help determine what is causing some of the symptoms usually associated with a mental health disorder.
2. Eat a healthy diet, drink water, avoid alcohol and drugs. If you need to take vitamins, minerals, probiotics, do it. Your brain needs micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients to stay healthy.
3. Get your feelings out. Maybe you have people you trust that you can talk to. You can go to therapy or you can write down what you're feeling. You can even make a video journal. It's important to get it out. Saying or writing it can help you understand where your feelings are coming from. Bottling everything up is a terrible mistake that can cause a lot of harm in the future.
4. Have some time to meditate. Repeat mantras or affirmations. Breathe and relax. Speak kind and uplifting words to yourself. Learning to value and love our self is the most life changing thing that will happen. Know that you deserve happiness, peace, passion, love.
5. Find an activity you're passionate and excited about. For me it was blogging. You can try that too. Or maybe do crafts, or sing. Doing something fun and creative will instill purpose and joy to your every day and your mind will be stimulated
My Wish for World Mental Health Day
I want people to know that anyone can suffer from mental health issues and that this doesn't have to be extremely visible to be valid. Mental health isn't too big or too small. It happens to anyone and it is caused by a myriad of situations. Whatever someone's background is regarding mental health, know that it is real, it is valid and it is important.
Stop telling young people who suffer from mental health issues that they're just being lazy or dramatic or that they don't know what real problems are like. No pain is more deserving than the other. We all go through different situations and live different lives. Suffering hurts just the same.
If someone you know is suffering, take them seriously. Reach out and show real concern. Don't just smile and check in once. Be present in their life. Sometimes they won't be able to tell you what's wrong or they will be difficult but please try to be patient and understanding. What we need is love and kindness, and for people to show us they truly care.
Resources to Check Out
If you are in crisis, and need immediate support or intervention go the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call the lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It's free and available 24/7.
For members of the youth LGBTQ+ community who need support, The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention methods. Visit The Trevor Project for more information.
If you're a survivor of sexual harassment and assault reach out to the national Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network RAINN. Call 800-656-4673 or use the live chat online, to discuss your experiences, obtain medical and legal information, and receive additional resources and support.
If you're looking for additional information and support on which steps to take if you or someone you know is experiencing mental or emotional distress visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Thank you so much for reading this post. I hope you found something helpful out of me sharing my personal journey. I want you to know that your life with all its good and bad matters and has value. Never stop chasing peace and happiness. You deserve it.
Until next time.