If you would have asked me three years ago about my mental health, I guarantee that you would have walked away from that conversation knowing a few things about me. I was an eternal optimist. I was very happy. I believed that everything worked out. I was positive to a fault. My self-esteem was unbelievably high. I felt amazing and believed amazing things about myself and the world. I was stable.
There's a lot of talk out there now about mental health. Commercials encouraging people to "talk about it." Campaigns trying to bring awareness to the issue. Hats being put on to try to dismantle stigma about mental illness.
At the same time, two weeks ago, when I approached a superior at work about possibly needing to go on medical leave due to mental health concerns (as recommended by my therapist), I was told, "you should be careful as that sort of thing follows your career."
In our current society, the campaigns and commercials have helped to open the door to start a conversation about mental illness, but I fear that we are not nearly as far along as we would like to believe in regards to breaking down stigmas surrounding mental illness. Anyone who's avoided calls from friends, who's felt too overwhelmed to get out of bed, who's felt hopeless, who's felt embarrassed about their struggle might be able to relate.
I feel ashamed to talk about my current struggle with my mental health. And I can't imagine I'm alone. It's because people still don't fully understand. And there is still this faint cultural whisper that mental illness equals crazy.
This past three years, I have dealt with a lot of pain and a lot of loss. I was in a verbally abusive marriage. I went through a traumatic separation. I lost my house. I lost any money I had. I lost friends. I lost family. My dad had serious complications with the treatment of his Parkinson's. I changed jobs. I am currently experiencing the most difficult and stressful year in my career. As I type this, I am holding back tears. It is all so overwhelming to think about what I have dealt with and continue to deal with.
Mental illness does funny things to a logical and stable mind. I used to be the person who could cope with any situation. I was unbelievably easy-going. I was so laid back and nothing really got to me. Now, I have difficulty coping with even small disappointments.
I look at my ability to cope kind of like a battery. Every traumatic experience has drained my battery some. Everything happening at once has caused an enormous drain. Now I am running on empty. And when you're battery is empty, it is so much harder to charge.
I am fortunate that I have not struggled with mental illness for most of my life. I would argue that my struggle has been caused by a number of extremely painful losses that have happened recently. So I guess, in that way, I am fortunate. But right now, I am struggling. I am trying my very best to get better. I have been to some very dark, hopeless places in my mind. I am trying my best to fight off that darkness.
Deep down inside, I know that girl from 3 years ago still exists, but she's been drained, from 3 years of pain, trauma and loss. That doesn't magically heal just because I so desperately wish it would. It's going to take some time. My battery won't charge overnight and my mental health won't drastically improve overnight.
When I started writing this article, I was embarrassed to even speak the words "mental illness" in connection to myself. But you know what, It's not embarrassing. I have a health issue that is currently affecting my ability to function and cope. Similar to how a broken leg hinders someone's ability to function at full capacity. But the great thing about my current struggle with mental health is that, similar to a broken leg, it can heal.
For anyone out there who is struggling with mental illness, you are not alone. This girl is there with you during those darkest hours. Sending you only love and light.
Founder of the site Divorced at 30, Alexandra is a blogger who is passionate about speaking her truth. She is on a healing journey as she enters this new chapter in her life. A mental health advocate, she is passionate about motivating others to find “the light” and attain peace.