|| Today is World Mental Health day. Most World __________ Days I tend to ignore, but mental health is different. Even though mental health issues pervade every aspect of our society, it is still unfairly stigmatized, and the only thing worse than the current mental health care treatments in the US, is our past treatments of it. While there is very little I can do in overhauling medical care in the US, especially with so many powerful voices insisting on making it worse, I can at least try and ease some of the stigma.
I have suffered from depression for decades, but I have only started addressing it in the last couple of years. My depression has taken a huge toll over my lifetime, and it directly contributed to the failure of my marriage. For far too many of those years I was an “emotional brick,” and I allowed my job to claim almost the entirety of my emotional energy. I didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time, and just thought it was part of the process of being an adult. Through therapy I was able to accept my depression, most of which I ascribed to the difficulties of my situation.
It wasn’t until last fall that I truly accepted that my depression was deeper than could be treated through therapy alone. After talking with my doctor I started taking anti-depressants. It took a few weeks to really stabilize, but the change has been incredible. Part of my depression has been a feeling of overwhelming dread which made just getting up and going to work a challenge, let alone pursuing any of my artistic bents. The anti-depressants worked to greatly eliminate that cloud of doom, and my continuing therapy have helped me to “re-frame” most of my current challenges.
The anti-depressants have also helped me to address the “negative self-talk” that I have dealt with for far too many years. (I used to call them “negative voices” until that led to a rather thorough conversation with my doctor as to whether or not I was hearing literal voices in my head.) The negative self-talk really is just that. I judge myself harsher than I ever would anyone else, while also replaying past failures and embarrassments on a continuous, vivid loop. These tribulations from my life come from as far back as middle school and high school, and helping to undermine my confidence and directly contributing to feelings of “Imposter Syndrome.”
The combination of anti-depressants and therapy has given me the ability to literally talk my way through the negative self-talk. If it sounds as though I’m having a conversation with myself, that’s because I am. I remind myself how long ago my teen years were and that I’ve grown substantially since then. I look at the harshness of my self-judgments and ask myself if I would apply the same standards to anyone else. It has also allowed me to overcome Imposter Syndrome by allowing me to remember and embrace my accomplishments and skills, and not just my shortcomings.
Eventually I hope to be able to move off the anti-depressants, but it may be awhile. The election of Trump and the blatant corruption, bigotry, and incompetence of the Republicans in power has been incredibly disheartening and weighs on me every day. I am trying to let go of that as much as I can, since I am currently powerless to do anything about it, but until we’re able to overcome the diseased negativity worming its way through our country I will likely continue to suffer. I also know I’m not alone in mentally suffering from this infection of awfulness, so hopefully my sharing can help someone else.
If you suffer from mental health issues too, I wish you the very best, and you are most assuredly not alone. If you do not suffer from them, I would encourage you to listen to those around you who do, and believe what they tell you. Take care all.