Editor’s Note: This month, that is October 2019, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Mental Health And Well-Being, where we invite various articles narrating people’s experiences of living or living with someone with mental health issues. If you’d like to share your story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My brain is a strange thing. It’s supposed to be a part of me, but then why do I have to keep fighting it?“
I was diagnosed with depression in July 2018, anxiety in September 2018 and obsessive-compulsive disorder in January 2019. Depression and anxiety are two opposing forces that worked together to destroy me. It was a vicious cycle of sadness, suicidal feelings, anxiety, anger, and guilt. Rinse and repeat. I started losing the ability to feel like myself, process any information rationally and function like an adult. I used to constantly feel like I was going to die, and that feeling took over me. I belonged to that feeling, I was that feeling and I didn’t think that I was ever going to feel better.
I saw a tiny sliver of hope in February 2019 when I finally found medication that worked for me. The dosage of this medication has been steadily increasing and I reached full functioning capacity in July this year. What a long road it’s been just to find medication that would work, but medication has helped me climb out of the hole that I’d made for myself. It helps me get out of bed, go to work, see my family and friends.
I still have days, like today, when I’m consumed by depression and anxiety and I can’t face my responsibilities or my family, but I understand these feelings now. I don’t hate myself for these days. I know that I won’t die and I will recover. But what do I do when I feel like this? Mental health is perhaps a bigger taboo than sex. My mother, a doctor, said, “Why don’t you just snap out of it?” I wish I could, Mom, I really do. And forget about calling in sick and exercising self-care. Mental health days are unheard of at law firms. The law firm that I worked with earlier considered mental breakdowns (after all-nighters or verbal abuse by bosses) to be a sign of weakness. Toughen up, life is hard, I did it when I was your age—these are all things that I’ve heard from my superiors when I felt like I was unable to cope. It’s a cliché that lawyers drink the most, but it’s probably because of years of repressed feelings and undiagnosed mental health issues!
My most wonderful discovery of the last year has been therapy. I was taken for a few random sessions with a therapist when I wouldn’t study as a teenager but nothing real, nothing long-term and definitely nothing helpful. If it takes you time to become comfortable with your therapist or find the right therapist, know that you’re not alone. Ride out the first few awkward sessions when you’re not sure what to do or say or whether you can trust this person. It’s worth it, I promise. For example, I finally had the space to explain a feeling that I’d been feeling for years, an unexplained phenomenon that perplexed me and had been dismissed by others. Dissociation, she said. It made so much sense and when you finally know what’s been wrong with you for so many years, why you behaved strangely, why you’ve felt differently – oh, the RELIEF!
But, please know therapy is hard work. I often feel like I will never get better; there is so much work to do; every time I learn how to deal with one thought, another came up. Can’t I just be better, can’t I Just be ‘normal’? I used to dread going to therapy for the first few months. I now look forward to it, I do my homework, I work on myself. I have the hardest time comprehending the fact that my thoughts have to be controlled by me and I am still learning that my thoughts do not define me—a concept that is still confusing for me. I am learning to lock away ugly thoughts.
The other disclaimer—the one that is always lurking in the corner—is that access to therapy, like all other health care, is a privilege that is available to those who can afford it. Therapy sessions are generally quite expensive and the cost really adds up if you need to see someone for months on end. I do understand that therapists have a particularly taxing job and deserve to be well paid, but the cost of therapy could be prohibitive for those who really need it. But that’s perhaps a topic for another piece.
Therapy continues to help me process my trauma, my mental illness and sometimes seemingly irrelevant parts of my life. It is a space like no other—it was so wonderful for me to have someone who is on my side, who is not looking to argue with me or push her own agenda. It is a safe space. And you don’t have to have been diagnosed with a mental illness to go to therapy. You don’t even have to reach your breaking point to finally seek help. It can be so helpful to just check in with someone, work on parts of you that you want to improve, find confidence or do whatever it is that you need. It is just as important as finding the right gym, fitness centre or yoga class. You deserve to learn how to make yourself mentally healthier. You deserve that space of your own.
Featured Image Source: TheBVNewspaper