We all have a beautiful mind. And that mind can either be healthy or challenged with an array of dis-eases that restrict us from being fully functioning, emotionally balanced humans. If you’re wondering if something doesn’t feel right, you may be onto something. I hope my story offers a mirror to see parts of yourself so that you can get the help you need or simply start asking the questions about why you feel the way you do.
My mental health challenges started young. I started getting hives in 2nd grade. In 3rd grade, I had a panic attack. In 4th grade I wore dark grey sweatpants and waffles shirts everyday. In 5th grade I found soccer and that helped, that is of course after I cried and hid, afraid to go to the tryouts.
All the signs were there but in the 80’s and 90’s, there were no mental health conversations happening in the mainstream and very little representation to show me I was not alone. In 6th grade, my dad had a massive stroke and not until recently I got clarity on the fact that this huge trauma also had a major impact on my mental health.
Diagnosed 10-ish years ago with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety, I needed meds to function. I had just started K-DEER and I remember my sister Erika finding me curled up on the futon in my office one day and that was the moment she said, “It might be time to call a psychiatrist”. I hit a breaking point, 20 years after symptoms began, and thus started the uphill battle to find the source of all this pain.
I went through many dark nights of the soul. Many of my depressive episodes were caused by traumatic life events, but intrinsically I knew something deep in me needed to shift in order to get any relief. I found moments of relief as I questioned my discomforts. Getting uncomfortable is the key to breaking through shame, fear and old stories so I went deep in the work of calling out my own judgements of myself.
Healing depression and anxiety starts with the awareness that it’s happening. I avoided coming to terms with it, mostly because I didn’t know what it was and felt overwhelmed and ashamed by the stigma around needing help. Eventually I just started using it as my badge of honor, an excuse to stay hidden. I assumed ‘depressed’ as part of my identity and accepted that for myself for almost all of the past decade.
I grew up rejecting help, I was a hyper independent people pleaser while being very codependent. What’s interesting is that what I’ve surmised as reasons for my depression have also become the root causes for coming out later in life. I feared I would displease others. I feared I would be rejected. I thought I may hurt my relationships and my business. I assumed my truth would not be accepted or understood.
The discomfort of hiding and lying was getting more painful. My spirit was fighting me. My body was resisting me. My mind was at war with me. And as soon as the words came out, “I’m gay”, relief came over me. The shame slowly started to melt away. Things I feared became laughable. The dark turned to light. And to my relief, my family, friends and K-DEER community showed me love and support and acceptance in the most spectacular ways.
I am healing my depression by loving exactly who I am and no longer hiding it. I’m grateful for the medication that has been the vehicle to take me from the darkness into the light, but it takes more than just a pill to heal the wounds of childhood and adulthood that keep us stuck in patterns of shame, doubt and fear.
What I know to be true is that I have spent much of my life in survival mode. And I was breaking down from the exhaustion. The symptoms along the way presented as depression and anxiety but the root cause was not knowing myself. Get to know yourself. Do the work. The greatest kindness we can give ourselves is the time and attention to love and appreciate ourselves. It is not selfish, it is your duty. Stop abandoning yourself, sacrificing your needs and most importantly, stop judging yourself. You were not made to be hidden, you were made to be seen, loved and celebrated.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, find resources and help in the US at helpstartshere.org or mentalhealth.gov or call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727).
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