I've felt compelled, but also a little nervous to write about this. And in celebration of my second counseling session, I have a lot of feelings and wanted to work it out on paper (or the computer but you know what I mean). But since it's weird to talk about, I'm going to side-narrate with Bridesmaids GIFs. (You're welcome).
Ultimately, and even if only for myself, I wanted to breathe life into my process and maybe it will touch someone in return. Maybe not. But if not, that's okay too. Sometimes it's more important that we simply speak our truth for that fact alone.
I'm recognizing that my mind and sense of self have slipped pretty ungracefully into strange territory over the past few years. It's funny that when you're younger, you get asked so often, "So, where do you see yourself when you're 25?" To which many of us replied with ideas of home ownership, marriage, children, (meanwhile now I'm like what, what, and UH what?) Needless to say, at 27, I still have jack-shit figured out - less now than ever it seems.
In such a short life, as many of us have, I've loved hard, lost harder, cried until I couldn't breathe, punched holes in walls, laughed with friends, leaned on family, loved God, lost my faith, made some terrible mistakes, grew a sharp tongue and a quicker temper, gained 30 pounds, tried my damnedest to learn self-love, and got a little lost along the way.
Sometimes sadness takes a slow progression and you can't really see it. I have friends and family who have been through the ringer, who have experienced things that are so devastating, so difficult, that I can't fathom how they're still standing. Some suffer in solitude, others speak out, and sometimes their feelings are too much to much for one other person to fully understand. The main way that I've experienced depression was through my interactions with loved ones who suffered - and I mean really suffered - in their experiences.
It wasn't until the end of July, as I was scrolling through Instagram (lord help us all - *eye roll*), when I came across the post of a woman that I follow - and it flipped me right on my head.
She was openly acknowledging that she was experiencing a bout of "down" days that had just knocked her on her ass.
Aside: I've been following her for a while and she's very open and vulnerable about her particular experience with depression, counseling, and attempts to better her mental health.
She narrated the different things that she experienced during these "low" periods.
As I read it - tears welled up in my eyes - and I burst out crying uncontrollably for about 10 minutes. In that moment I realized that everything that she was describing was what I had been experiencing on a near daily basis for more than a year and a half - and I honestly didn't know what to do with it.
I realized only in that moment that I had been - for lack of a better word - lying to myself for an extended period of time, pre-dating that year and a half mark, about my own mental health. It was a... pretty humbling experience to say the least.
I have seen, lived with, and deeply loved friends and family who have struggled with various mental health disorders, and because many of their experiences were similar each other, that was what I knew. It was another thing to realize - and this may seem overly obvious - that not everyone manifests their condition in the same way.
I still haven't really come to terms with using the word "depression" in association with my sense of self. I tend to say "I'm sad" or "I'm experiencing reactions or emotions that feel of my control".
At the same time, my brain seems to have developed a serious guilt complex along with this which tends to switch over to questions of, "You're so lucky. You have your health, a good family, good friends and a peaceful home. What do you have to be sad about?", or, "Look at what _____ is going through. You've never even experienced anything close to that and they're still showing up in their lives, why can't you?" While that's rational - and true - it's important to note that while you can acknowledge those facts, it's equally important to provide yourself with grace in your own experience.
> YOUR EXPERIENCE DOESN'T NEED TO LOOK LIKE SOMEONE ELSE'S TO BE VALID <
I also struggle often with the ongoing inability to find balance between acknowledging the damage that someone has done in my life or emotional state, while also maintaining that it doesn't make them a bad person. Or does it? Or doesn't it? - Maintaining that usually there's equal blame to a degree and is it valid or fair for me to feel this way? Or in past years coming to terms with the fact that some of the very worst things that I can imagine being done to me - I did to other people because I was [poorly] dealing with my own pain. - If you want to read a poem I wrote on that subject, you can check it out HERE.
MEANWHILE, MY BRAIN:
Another thing I've noticed, is that ever since I allowed my brain to recognize the patterns that had been consistent in my life for such a prolonged period of time, I'm much more aware of it now. Every minuscule change in emotion or energy level is heightened. And I can control my emotions with far less ease than before.
I can't say enough how thankful I am that I came across her post and that all of the pieces came together.
I can't say enough how thankful I am that I decided to reach out to people in my area to get some recommendations for a therapist - that I actually set up an appointment - and that I've gone twice already!
[UM, just a few more things, okay Maya Rudolph?]
It's SO important to know that you're not alone in your experiences. And that your feelings are valid; you have every right to experience them. It's okay to reach out and ask for help, and acknowledge that you can't do everything on your own. Sometimes it's going to be too much for your friends to handle on their own as well. I think that counseling can be a priceless resource (if you can find someone who is a good fit for YOU).
It's also important to note how incredibly thankful I am to have the privilege of seeing someone as often as I need as I move through some necessary healing. I happen to have an insurance plan that covers everything aside from a very small co-pay. This is not a luxury that everyone has - which to me is absolutely inexcusable - but that's a whole different topic.
Thank you to the people to answered me when I reached out for recommendations. I LOVE my new counselor and I owe that to your openness and vulnerability in sharing your opinions and experiences with me.
We're all only human. We can only do so much alone. Maybe, just maybe, let's try to be kinder, gentler and more open with each other. Claim the opportunity to be the warm smile, or the kind gesture that turns around someone's day.
For now, I'm just going to keep trying my hardest to go about life a lot like this -
With a lot of love,